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Back To the Moon — In Four Years 292

braindrainbahrain writes "Gene Grush, a former division chief at NASA Johnson, has written a series of articles on how the U.S. can return to the Moon in four years. He says not only can we land there, but we can actually build a base on the Moon as well. How is this feasible? A public/private partnership between NASA and a private space company. Quoting: 'The biggest obstacle is the lack of a rocket, called a super heavy launch vehicle, to lift it off the planet. NASA is working on one, called the Space Launch System, but the agency is constrained by its budget and the likelihood of it flying in that time frame is slim. But there’s an interim solution: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which will have its maiden flight this year and can supposedly launch up to 53 metric tons into orbit.'

'[I]f NASA makes lowering launch costs its highest priority, escaping the bonds that hold us to Earth will be financially feasible. We don’t do this by controlling the design so much as the frequency -- we are the customer, after all.' 'The development of a lunar base could be a catalyst for lowering our launch cost to space and accelerating the development of automation and robotics. ... If America doesn’t step up to the plate, China’s ambitions for the moon may establish it as the “go-to” nation for space exploration. Many nations of the world privately say they want the moon to be the next step in space exploration -- but they can’t get there on their own. They need a technically savvy and resourceful country to lead.'"
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Back To the Moon — In Four Years

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  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:01AM (#46543385) Homepage Journal

    I won't claim that NASA isn't serving as a conduit between the dollar printing engine and SpaceX and providing some land facilities, but aside from that, NASA hasn't been able to get back to the moon in 40 years. Assuming there's a good reason to do so (H3 is good enough for me, even if it's a bit soon) SpaceX can conceivably raise the funds on their own and find a jurisdiction friendly to their launch requirements. Even if NASA weren't interested, SpaceX would still get to the moon in relatively short order - even if only as a testbed for Mars landings.

  • by adric22 ( 413850 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:03AM (#46543405) Homepage

    You know just 1% of our military budget diverted to NASA could do amazing things.. imagine if we diverted half of that budget!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:10AM (#46543463)

    It's not the fuel that's expensive, it's the thing you put it in. And that rocket has to function perfectly, 100% of the time, across a giant temperature, pressure and acceleration gradient. And it has to be "man-rated," in other words, made survivable in case of a failed launch and prepared for atmospheric re-entry, which are some of the most extreme conditions known to mankind. Most of the costs that are being complained about are due to the absolutely necessary safety culture built into the manufacturing of these vehicles, stacked on top of amortized R&D (hint: SpaceX didn't need to do nearly as much R&D as they did to get the Saturn V off the ground).

  • Savvy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <> on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:17AM (#46543519) Homepage

    "They need a technically savvy and resourceful country to lead."

    That leaves us (USA) out, sadly. Unless it can pull in advertising revenue, it ain't happening. I hope China does well with their moon exploration.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:20AM (#46543535) Homepage

    Not at all. They're the champions of Democrats-are-wrong, and since a Democrat administration isn't spending money on NASA, that must be wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:22AM (#46543553)

    And yet you're fine spending a hundred times more on defense budget?

  • by deathcloset ( 626704 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @11:25AM (#46543591) Journal
    By slashing the US military budget like that we could quickly and easily build a moon base which along with our country would quickly and easily be taken over by another country's military.

    ;) oh I kid.

    But honestly, what do you think would happen if the US military were suddenly defunded? Do you think the other countries would be like - good for them! We don't need militaries any more any how and certainly not a single one of us big countries with our current militaries would ever dream of using our forces again the US, even as defenseless as they are right now with all their resources and food and two coastlines and pop music...

    All snarkiness aside, I agree with your sentiment and wish we had interplanetary spacecraft and bases on more than one moon :( - almost even at the risk of the US's national security...almost.

    And I almost actually believe that even if the US military were to shrink hugely that we would not be attacked, because I don't think the average citizen in a non-us western country would want to attack/invade another civilized country. No, not the people, but the governments of those countries (governments are things which function almost like independent living entities themselves seemingly making their own decisions) are what there is to be concerned about.

    Yes, civilized countries maintaining huge military powers is just the way it is right now. In the future when countries don't have militaries anymore I'm sure we will look back on our time the same way we look at the american old west: we will understand that the environment of the time required that everyone carry a pistol, and that the harshness of the climate (ecological, financial and social) resulted in far more altercations than would seem reasonable - but they will understand.

    And they will probably make a ton of movies about our time too.

    And they will probably watch them on their fancy-dancy moon bases.

    whatever. good for them.

  • by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:21PM (#46544169)

    The US military budget is the same as the next 10 biggest national military budgets put together. Yes, that includes China- and 9 more. Put together. And that's forgetting the fact that the US military isn't just the military of the US- it includes all of the NATO forces (which is fully 5 of the top 10 spenders, and 23 other non-top-10 members), as well as functionally close allies like Japan and South Korea (numbers 5 and 12 in the "top spending" rankings).

    The US would be in no great danger if it lopped 5% off of it's military budget. You could cut the budget in half and it would still be larger than numbers 2 and 3 (China and Russia) put together. Again, not even counting NATO.

    To put figures on it- the Apollo programme was estimated to have costed $109 billion in 2010 dollar (accounting for inflation). That's for the full 15 year or so programme. The US was estimated to have spent $682 billion in 2013 on the military. So to pay for the entire Apollo programme all over again, you would only need to divert roughly 1.2% of the annual military budget each year.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:35PM (#46544315)

    He3 is fuel for reactors we don't even know how to build yet. The moon is a very useful place to have a base scientifically (Great for astronomy in all bands) but commercially, not much use. There's no money in it. The ore isn't good enough to pay for the cost of getting it, communications and earth science are better done in more-affordable earth orbit, it's too far to transmit power. It could serve as a good waypoint for longer journeys, manufacturing fuel in the shallow gravity well, but there's no commercial possibility further out either. Lofty dreams of colonising space don't pay the bills.

    We'll probably still be saying that when the meteor hits.

  • by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:50PM (#46544497)

    You don't need to slash the military budget to fund NASA. What you need to do is give NASA a budget of the amount they currently have, and let NASA choose how to allocate it. Let them pick the research, technology and contractors, and just give them a general mandate of scientific exploration of the solar system, and maybe a secondary one of "advance manned space flight".

    Currently they have the ridiculous situation where congressmen pick the projects, and somehow wind up picking the technologies (solid fuel boosters are *clearly* the best choice, because they're made in my district you see!).

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @12:51PM (#46544511)

    Potentially China has a huge advantage: A looser idea of 'man rated.'

  • But honestly, what do you think would happen if the US military were suddenly defunded?

    A lot of bullshit pork contracts would have their fat trimmed, we'd murder less people for profit, or both.

  • by Feyshtey ( 1523799 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @01:36PM (#46544947)

    There are actually countries that aren't greedy and don't think the only way to survive is to grab as much as possible.

    There only has to be one that disagrees to make the world a really fucked up place.

    You can continue wishing for a different reality, but there are are still a half-dozen nations I can think of off of the top of my head that value centralized, concentrated power and wealth. Those nations respect strength of arms, and see weakness as an invitation to aggression. And that's not likely to change for the better, no matter how big a hug you give them.

  • by Feyshtey ( 1523799 ) on Friday March 21, 2014 @01:48PM (#46545053)
    We just announced a reduction of troops to the lowest number since before entering World War II and more reductions in defense spending. Russia just annexed Crimea and some analysts believe it is positioning to potentially do the same to Estonia. They laughed at our sanctions, and their state news reports Russia is capable of turning the US into a smoldering pile of ash. They didnt just poke the US and NATO in the eye. They put a flaming bag of shit on our porch, rang the doorbell, and kicked the dog on the way out of the yard.

    Are these unrelated? If you believe so then I've got a unicorn to sell you.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27