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Space Moon

The Two Modern Space Races (arstechnica.com) 99

MarkWhittington writes: Observers of the current state of the space program like to maintain that a space race, such as occurred in the 1960s, will never happen again. They cannot be farther from the truth, since not just one, but two space races are going on. The Google Lunar X Prize is managing a race for the first private group to land a rover on the lunar surface and perform a number of tasks for glory and prize money. Eric Berger at Ars Technica pointed out that another prize space race, with the goal of performing the first private crewed space mission in low Earth orbit, is ongoing thanks to NASA's commercial crew program.
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The Two Modern Space Races

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Get over it. There will never be another Presidential speech with some manned goal to reach. These modern "space races" are nothing more than the ego-trips of bored billionaires.

    The only way to get Apollo again is by socialism, just like the first one.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      The only way to get Apollo again is by socialism, just like the first one.

      Perhaps, but whether or not that is true, it glosses over another problem, namely, that Apollo just wasn't that valuable.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        Apollo was well worth the money spent on it. Not the lunar rocks, but the many other scientific advances advances [telegraph.co.uk] that resulted from engineering a Moon landing. Including the computer you are using.
        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Throw such a large percent of the US economy at one task, of course you're going to get side benefits. The issue is that Apollo could have been either A) vastly cheaper, or B) have accomplished vastly more, if not for the need to keep the a couple of giant remoras alive for the journey.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          Quantum Apostrophe (the "space nutter" AC) did the heavy lifting here [slashdot.org]. Apollo cost a lot of money (something like $!50-200 billion in today's money, I believe) and we just didn't get that much out of it. especially in the long term. Sorry, that's the way it is.

          That's why I continue to call it not very valuable.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            The worst part is I was the biggest space fan when I was a kid. I was on Spacenet back when I had to call in long distance to their BBS and ordered all kinds of posters and stuff.

            Eventually my natural curiosity led me to the history of electronics and computers, and then I realized that most space fans are ill-informed, hysterical children when it comes to reality.

            It's so reductive and insulting to the real history of computers and electronics when you just boil it down to "oh we built a giant totem and man

          • ?? Why do you think that AC is Quantum? He is not the type to hide like this.
        • One specific example of the indirect benefits of Apollo, in 1969 the Mothers Club at Lakeside School were debating what to do with the proceeds of rummage sale. One option was a new scoreboard for the school, but the other (which was chosen) and due to all the focus on the space race at the time was to purchase a Model 33 ASR teletype and a block of computer time. This was the computer that Bill Gates and Paul Allen became enamored with.
      • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2015 @08:03PM (#50905441)

        Apollo wasn't that valuable? I beg to differ...

        There was a lot of common good generated by the effort to put men on the moon. You may not realize it, but they made vast advances in electronics, communications technology, materials and system design practices that have overflowed into the private sector from the Apollo effort. We learned a lot of stuff and built a lot of stuff from the technology advancements from Apollo, it's predecessors and the concurrent military build up that would have taken a lot longer to become viable enough to make a difference in the world.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          Apollo wasn't that valuable? I beg to differ...

          What do you think I mean by "valuable". I'm not comparing it to the typical value of garden gnomes here. I'm comparing it to what you can do with $150-200 billion dollars in today's money. Sure, it's probably somewhat more valuable than half a year of the 2000s Iraqi occupation, but notice how you can't come up with any tangible benefits from the program. There's the vague "common good" thing. There's the "vast advances" in stuff which would have experienced those vast advances anyway.

          The "learned lots

          • by iwbcman ( 603788 )

            wow I am impressed. Your position is probably one of dumbest ones I have ever seen posted on slashdot, and that's saying something.

            What do you think I mean by "valuable". I'm not comparing it to the typical value of garden gnomes here. I'm comparing it to what you can do with $150-200 billion dollars in today's money. Sure, it's probably somewhat more valuable than half a year of the 2000s Iraqi occupation, but notice how you can't come up with any tangible benefits from the program. There's the vague "common good" thing. There's the "vast advances" in stuff which would have experienced those vast advances anyway.

            I mean really? You are going to reduce the "value" of the Apollo space program to :

            $150-200 billion dollars in today's money.

            Here's a little clue for you: the moneys spent on the Apollo program over it's lifespan exceeded that of the the GDP of the US when John F. Kennedy announced the goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. That's right you heard it, the Apollo program ended up costing more money th

            • by khallow ( 566160 )

              Here's a little clue for you: the moneys spent on the Apollo program over it's lifespan exceeded that of the the GDP of the US when John F. Kennedy announced the goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

              Not at all. The peak spending was a few years later (1966, if I recall), and it was around 2% of GDP. And that $150-200 billion is in current 2015 dollars rather than 1961 dollars (somewhere around $19-24 billion by CPI inflation which is near the GDP deflator-based inflation rate).

              On what planet do you live? In the real world technological advances are not deterministically inevitable, they are by their nature contingent, dependent on a myriad of factors happening to fall into place at the right time in the right way

              This is based on the fallacy of improbability. There is not one particular set of "myriad factors" that results in a computer industry or fiberglass insulation any more than there is one particular set of "myriad factors" that re

              • by iwbcman ( 603788 )

                Not at all. The peak spending was a few years later (1966, if I recall), and it was around 2% of GDP. And that $150-200 billion is in current 2015 dollars rather than 1961 dollars (somewhere around $19-24 billion by CPI inflation which is near the GDP deflator-based inflation rate).

                And you got this little factoid from where? My guess is that such a figure is a calculated by taking the sum of appropriations earmarked by congress for NASA during the 1960's. My problem with this kind of economics 101 is that it totally misses what happened. And what happened is this: millions of high paying skilled jobs were created, millions got free(government funded) higher education, thousands of companies were created. This mass mobilization led to an incredible pace of technological advancement. N

                • by khallow ( 566160 )

                  And you got this little factoid from where? My guess is that such a figure is a calculated by taking the sum of appropriations earmarked by congress for NASA during the 1960's. My problem with this kind of economics 101 is that it totally misses what happened. And what happened is this: millions of high paying skilled jobs were created, millions got free(government funded) higher education, thousands of companies were created. This mass mobilization led to an incredible pace of technological advancement. Now was all of this specifically dedicated to the Apollo program, of course not, the "need" to murder millions of Vietnamese(thanks cold war, thanks capitalism vs. communism) also propelled military technologies, just as the need to crack WWII german encryption, and the need for calculations related to the making the first atomic bomb propelled the development of the first computers. Most of the high tech companies which came into existence during this time developed technologies which ended up being used by NASA and the military, and only much later general commercial markets(ie. consumer oriented technologies). Boeing engineers when building their rockets, were not divided between two groups one for NASA and one for the defense department, advances in one led to advances in the other.

                  So what? My point is that we would have a vast amount of job creation anyway. In fact, it might have been worse due to NASA misdirection of so much of US productivity during that time.

                  Wrong. First off their is no "fallacy of improbability" at work in what I stated.

                  This is why I quoted the problem section in question. The computer industry and fiberglass insulation don't need "a myriad of factors happening to fall into place at the right time in the right way". There are a variety of ways to get a computer industry and fiberglass insulation. There's plenty of room for error.

                  Counter arguing that someone, somewhere else would have done it eventually is simply sophomoric.

                  Why did I use the word sophmoric? Because you cannot make such an argument convincingly.

                  So what? Your

                  • by iwbcman ( 603788 )

                    So what? My point is that we would have a vast amount of job creation anyway. In fact, it might have been worse due to NASA misdirection of so much of US productivity during that time.

                    Undoubtedly. After all the population of US almost doubled during this period. Many new jobs would have been created. Small grammatical (Not! syntax) point: facts and "might have been"s don't mix well, given that facts occurred (factum est Not! data, which derives from datum, that which is given) and "might have been"s didn't. When parsing your sentence my bio-computer, stated simply "does not compute". I know it's just an expression, people say "in fact, it might have been X" all the time, but really suc

                    • by khallow ( 566160 )
                      So you have this vague feeling I might be wrong somewhere.

                      Could you name me a computer industry?

                      In addition to dividing by country, you can divide by business or brand, by technological approach, by function or purpose, etc. Building IBM mainframes is a computer industry as is building hobby kit PC or memory cards in Taiwan. Just because you choose not to delineate further, doesn't mean I can't do so.

                      My point is actually rather simple: the technological advances that did occur in the wake of Apollo program, would not have happened without the Apollo project.

                      Which is just wrong. My point in this is that while there may have been some relatively novel ideas from the Apollo project, they aren't so novel

                    • by iwbcman ( 603788 )

                      So you have this vague feeling I might be wrong somewhere.

                      Nope. Nothing vague. But I will admit having this little back and forth has made a couple of things clear to me:

                      1) I have a full fledged allergy to techno-determinism, and Slashdot being home for many many, many techno-determinists is causing my brain to sneaze, over and over again. Techno-determinism, which is a specific form of nonsense, truly challenges my brain, so much so that it may lead to involuntary brain farts.

                      2) The price one pays to master a statistical grasp of the world, necessarily invol

                    • by khallow ( 566160 )
                      Some observations. First, you've done absolutely nothing in your latest post to further your argument. But let's look at the viable parts in more detail.

                      I have a full fledged allergy to techno-determinism, and Slashdot being home for many many, many techno-determinists is causing my brain to sneaze, over and over again. Techno-determinism, which is a specific form of nonsense, truly challenges my brain, so much so that it may lead to involuntary brain farts.

                      But you obviously don't have an aversion to cargo cults. To paraphrase [slashdot.org], we build a giant, eyepoppingly expensive obelisk that flies and jerbs fall out of the sky like manna. This is deep in tiger repellent rock territory as I already noted. You already said that

                      If we would allow ourselves to dream, to launch gigantic programs, for no reason other than that we can, I would be the first in line, but name me one concrete specific thing like a moonbase or such and I quickly find myself asking what is the point.

                      Which is a viewpoint so opposed to rational thought that I'm not surprised you have since abandon

            • by khallow ( 566160 )
              And the obvious rebuttal is that these things would have happened anyway. I also notice that in the second link, they're appropriating GPS from the US military. The spinoff argument also completely ignores the cost associated with these slight contributions.

              I wonder how people would take it, if I post a list of US military spinoffs (which are far more considerable than NASA's contributions) the next time someone complains about US military endeavors? "Sure, we bombed 100k brown people we don't like for
              • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

                And the obvious rebuttal is that these things would have happened anyway..

                Obvious to who? Just because you believe it, doesn't make it so. Where would the funding have come from? Do you believe the government would have just spent the cash on randomly developing this stuff, or private industry research would have? You attempt to trivialize these by calling them "slight contributions", and you're welcome to your opinion, but that's about all it is.

                • by khallow ( 566160 )
                  I don't see anything here to rebut.

                  Do you believe the government would have just spent the cash on randomly developing this stuff, or private industry research would have?

                  Yes. This is a significant point to make here. NASA by funding this research for their own peculiar needs may have actually delayed the research by taking resources and staff away from more productive approaches!

          • While many of the technologies that are being attributed to the Apollo missions (electronics, materials, etc) they would have eventually been made. Apollo may have just sped up things, especially with space technology.

            However I would say that it's biggest contribution was capturing the imagination of a generation and getting them interested in science and engineering. People became interested in astronomy, geology, and engineering. Children wanted to fly planes because that's what you had to do to become

            • by khallow ( 566160 )

              But we haven't had anything like that in 30 to 40 years.

              And Apollo contributed to that failure in a big way. For example, preserving the infrastructure of Apollo during the funding ramp down following the end of Apollo become more important than doing stuff in space.

              We need a "wow" project to recapture people's imagination and get them interested in science again. Show them what science can do and people will want to be part of it. When the Apollo project was going strong there wasn't a problem finding people who wanted to become scientists and engineers. Today science and engineering has gone into the background and people take it for granted. It's become the plumbing that keeps our civilization progressing but not many people are interested in becoming plumbers. We need to make people think of science as the musicians of society.

              I have a suggestion. Repeat Apollo for a small fraction of the cost. Develop the Falcon Heavy. Use it to do Apollo-like unmanned space probe swarms and manned sortie missions for a few hundred million dollars each in current dollars (about a factor of ten or less than Apollo did). Then start building

              • I think Apollo only got the funding that it did because of Kennedy's speech, his assassination, and the timing of the cold war. It had the public support. Besides much of the research into the technology would have had to be done for the military side anyways so the money was going to be spent.

                I do think that our next step out into the cosmos has to be a return to the Moon with a base. It's the best place to learn how to live out there. If something goes badly wrong then you can come back in a few days,

            • by iwbcman ( 603788 )

              I like what you said, and I am actually with you in your sentiment, except for your first sentence. This. There is nothing deterministically inevitable about technological advancement. You(I, him, her, them, ie. it doesn't matter who) can't say (I am not trying to forbid the speech just pointing out that saying such is wrong):

              While many of the technologies that are being attributed to the Apollo missions (electronics, materials, etc) they would have eventually been made.

              6 months ago I would have been fine with "While many of the technologies that are being attributed to the Apollo missions (electronics, materials, etc) they probably would have eventu

      • It was only valuable in the sense that the US government wanted to show the world that capitalism and democracy is superior than socialism and despotism. It was basically intended to stem the progression of the domino theory.

        Though to be honest the Vietnam war probably did a better job of that than anything else, because it put a huge media spotlight on what kind of violence and hardship socialist revolution entails (the same kind of violence and hardship that occurred in every other socialist revolution be

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Apollo and the Soviet program had major institutional support because it was a safe proxy competition between US and USSR. If you could dock in space and land men on the moon, it makes it very clear that you have the technology to put warheads over Moscow and on every ship and otherwise effectively wage a technological global war.

          It demonstrated the capability without needing to have an actual war, and in that sense it was a successful deterrent. The bomb tests could proved that you had a working warhead,

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2015 @08:24PM (#50905575) Homepage

        The only way to get Apollo again is by socialism, just like the first one.

        Perhaps, but whether or not that is true, it glosses over another problem, namely, that Apollo just wasn't that valuable.

        Are you kidding? He slayed Pytho, Earth-Dragon of Delphi; he could heal, he brought light and music, and warded away evil. He rescued Aeneas and helped Paris slay Achilles; saved his mother Leto from rape at the hands of Tityos; slayed the cyclopses; and countless other feats.

        If it takes socialism to resurrect him, then long live the proletariat and down with the borgiouse swine! I'm kind of curious, what exactly is the summoning ritual like? A laurel branch, a lyre, a copy of Worker's World and a reciting of L'Internationale?

        • Dude, don't do it. The cure is worse than the disease. No matter how bad things get, they'll never get bad enough to consider that option.
    • "The only way to get Apollo again is by socialism, just like the first one"

      When governments conduct a space race, Apollo is exactly what you get: flags and footsteps, with science being incidental and commercial development being off in some vaguely defined future. Private space races are primarily about commercial development.

    • Government spending != socialism. A government-run program, especially a research program, isn't necessarily a socialist program, and I don't see how the Apollo program counts as socialism.
  • by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2015 @08:03PM (#50905443)

    Quote:

    Observers of the current state of the space program like to maintain that a space race, such as occurred in the 1960s, will never happen again.

    Emphasis mine. The little race between Musk and Boeing is nice to watch, however in the 1960s we were watching a race between two superpowers with basically no holds barred.

    • Quote:

      Observers of the current state of the space program like to maintain that a space race, such as occurred in the 1960s, will never happen again.

      Emphasis mine. The little race between Musk and Boeing is nice to watch, however in the 1960s we were watching a race between two superpowers with basically no holds barred.

      Nor was any expense too much... Where they did try to stay within budget and keep it on schedule, it quite literally was forget the cost, make it work NOW!

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I was a child then. I stayed up late and watched a man walk on the moon - the first man, even. It was awesome. If you weren't there then you missed out on something you can never recapture. While not at all the same, it's as momentous as things like 9/11 - it's etched on you, forever (it seems), where you were when you heard about it or, in this case, watched it. I can even describe my pajamas. I'll spare you the details but they had feet and they were awesome but not as awesome as man walking on the moon.

        • I too remember the exact day. It was one of those defining moments.
        • I remember it too, but I was a bit older. I remember that the video shown live was much clearer than the later recordings.

          This, by it's self, made it "worth it". The whole world saw it at the same time, and that was -also- a first for mankind! 8-)

          The reason that you think it did not cause other developments to happen, is that you think all of that amazing stuff is "normal" and always existed. 8-P

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            I hope that's a generic you and not a you that refers to me. ;-) No, I recognize that a lot happened because of space. I'm not sure where the revisionist history comes from but, as near as I can tell, it's some crazy Russian or something. They were twisting the NASA method into it being socialist even though, you know, NASA made jack shit and everything was contracted out to the lowest but best bidder. The strange part is that people were agreeing with the poster. :/ I don't get it.

            • I hope that's a generic you and not a you that refers to me. ;-) ...

              Yes, that was a "generic you". sorry... 8-)

    • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2015 @08:33PM (#50905639)

      What % of GDP is being spent on today's races? Vs the 1960s?

      I think by that measure, the current space race is about an order of magnitude short of the one in the 1960s.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        More than that, the general public interest in either of the current space races is also an order of magnitude short.

    • by swell ( 195815 )

      "space race, such as occurred in the 1960s"

      The import of that all out effort was greater than Columbus discovering the New World, greater than most anything ever done by humans outside of war. It required masses of money, masses of brilliant scientists and engineers, vast numbers of sub contractors and a government and population that gave wholehearted support.

      And it was a death defying journey for crazy humans who were willing to risk it all for science. Do you see those elements in today's 'space race

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2015 @08:08PM (#50905471) Homepage Journal

    There would have to be a lot more prize money involved before this would be comparable to the 1960s space race, maybe a trillion or so would do it.

    If you want a real space race, wait until we figure out robotic asteroid mining and space-based manufacturing.

  • Of spending money by governments in a competition to see who can do something first, without going bankrupt in the process..

    Sad too, because NASA has pretty much always been chump change compared to the rest of the federal budget, and of all the money we print and spend it actually had measurable benefits on the quality of life in the world.

    FUND NASA! Give them a goal, any goal, but make it a hard one and push them to succeed.... But alas, not going to happen any time soon.

    • Goal: embarrass the most powerful nations on earth by doing things (with obvious military application) that they can't.

      Oops, already done that with straight military power. Guess we've got to stick with geopolitical strategy for energy use dominance, then.

  • can't we all just get along?
  • The US had the right idea back in the 1960's. Spend a lot of tax payers cash on land, the private sector, German experts who had found a new life in the USA no questions asked and finally creating some US experts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    Lots of tax payers cash fixed all the issues and no more lemons.
    Try the Indian approach of never getting ahead of your nations own domestic production lines, education and science over generations. Never be totally dependant on other another nations experts
  • by confused one ( 671304 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2015 @09:01PM (#50905803)
    There is a third race starting. It's moving very slowly but there has been investment in it. The race to mine asteroids. It will be a long while before we see any results and I expect a couple of failures. Perhaps spectacular ones. It'll be fun to watch anyway.
  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @05:24AM (#50907187)
    India, China, and possibly Japan have a definite competition going on [wikipedia.org].
  • by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @09:37AM (#50907825) Journal

    Observers of the current state of the space program like to maintain that a space race, such as occurred in the 1960s, will never happen again. They cannot be farther from the truth...

    If you believe this is anywhere close to the '60s space race, you weren't alive back then. The only ways this even resembles that is that there are two sides and the word space.

  • Apollo in the 1960's cost over $25 billion - a lot of money..

    The Vietnam war at the same time cost $125 billion and took 50,000 American lives and over 3 million Vietnamese lives..

    The US nuclear weapons program at the same time consumed roughly $150 billion to over $300 billion. (extrapolated from available figures..)

    So in the 1960's the US spent on defence at a rate of some 10:1 to 20:1 on defence compared to Apollo.
    Also every 1 dollar spent on Apollo eventually returned roughly 2 dollars to the US economy

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