Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Moon ISS NASA Space

How To Get Back To the Moon In 4 Years -- This Time To Stay (scientificamerican.com) 355

Scientific American describes "a way to get to the Moon and to stay there permanently...to begin this process immediately and to achieve moon landings in less than four years." It starts by abandoning NASA's expensive Space Launch System and Orion capsule, and spending the money saved on private-industry efforts like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Robert Bigelow's Bigelow Aerospace. schwit1 quotes their report: Musk's rockets -- the Falcon and the soon-to-be-launched Falcon Heavy -- are built to take off and land. So far their landing capabilities have been used to ease them down on earth. But the same technology, with a few tweaks, gives them the ability to land payloads on the surface of the Moon. Including humans. What's more, SpaceX's upcoming seven-passenger Dragon 2 capsule has already demonstrated its ability to gentle itself down to earth's surface. In other words, with a few modifications and equipment additions, Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules could be made Moon-ready...

Major segments of the space community want every future landing to add to a permanent infrastructure in the sky. And that's within our grasp thanks to Robert Bigelow... Since the spring of 2016, Bigelow, a real estate developer and founder of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has had an inflatable habitat acting as a spare room at the International Space Station 220 miles above your head and mine. And Bigelow's been developing something far more ambitious -- an inflatable Moon Base, that would use three of his 330-cubic-meter B330 modules.

The article calls Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rockets "a wild car" which could also land passengers and cargo on the moon and suggests NASA would be better off funding things like lunar-surface refueling stations, lunar construction equipment, and "devices to turn lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, and breathable oxygen."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How To Get Back To the Moon In 4 Years -- This Time To Stay

Comments Filter:
  • by KeithCu ( 925649 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @12:56AM (#53936439)
    With rockets it is still $100K - $1M per pound to get to the moon. We need a space elevator [spaceelevatorwiki.com].
    • by h33t l4x0r ( 4107715 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:14AM (#53936473)
      No we need a space escalator. Much more presidential.
    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:30AM (#53936539) Homepage Journal

      And a space elevator, of course, would only cost about a Trillion, and there's this little problem of it hitting something (we'd have to make Earth Orbit absolutely pristine and keep it that way) and there's a problem with the kinetic energy if it falls down. Sort of like having many atom bombs go off.

      Maybe someday. But right now making rockets as cheap as they can be is a better idea. It's only $200K to fuel up a Falcon 9. We don't get the whole thing back in working order yet, but that would be a lot easier than making a space elevator.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by KeithCu ( 925649 )
        There are other detailed estimates [spaceelevatorwiki.com] for a space elevator that are around $10 billion. The people who throw around $1 trillion are trying to pick a number so big it prevents people from considering the feasibility. You definitely won't find any detailed breakdown that leads to something so insane.
        Brad Edwards book covers all of the problem scenarios you laid out. He explains why it wouldn't be catastrophic if it did fall apart, and what needs to be done to prevent it. I agree we do need to make space more p
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DrXym ( 126579 )

          There are other detailed estimates [spaceelevatorwiki.com] for a space elevator that are around $10 billion. The people who throw around $1 trillion are trying to pick a number so big it prevents people from considering the feasibility. You definitely won't find any detailed breakdown that leads to something so insane.

          And people saying $10 billion aren't being serious either. Not even remotely.

          • by KeithCu ( 925649 )
            The numbers come from this book: https://www.amazon.com/Space-E... [amazon.com] Their research is more serious than your unsupported opinion.
            • by DrXym ( 126579 )
              Their research is not serious at all if it comes to such a laughably low figure.
            • The numbers come from this book: https://www.amazon.com/Space-E... [amazon.com]

              Their research is more serious than your unsupported opinion.

              Most of the space elevator research assumes that the problems of making long, perfect carbon nanotubes can be solved, that they be made in volume at very low cost, and that they will have an ultimate tensile strength equal to that calculated from theory of perfect carbon, and not one that is the actual measured tensile strength of nanotubes in the real world.

              Unfortunately, carbon nanotubes not only have never been made with this theoretical strength, newer work makes it look like they cannot reach this theo

        • The US Government spends $10B on post-it notes. If it only cost $10B to never launch rockets again, don't you think it would have been done by now?

          NASA's 2011 budget was $18.4B. If they could have really done this for $10B, they could have done it in like 3 years while maintaining all the science probes and other operations.

          Oh wait, the materials to get this done at any price, up to and including the GDP of the entire fucking planet, don't exist. I forgot.

        • There are other detailed estimates [spaceelevatorwiki.com] for a space elevator that are around $10 billion.

          That silly border wall is going to cost $20billion. I, find it highly unlikely we can build a Space Elevator anywhere near $10billion for several generations at least.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @04:57AM (#53936963)

        And a space elevator, of course, would only cost about a Trillion

        Since the material to build it doesn't exist yet, estimates of the cost seem a bit premature.

        and there's this little problem of it hitting something

        Most designs are for many fibers in parallel. So in an impact you would lose one out of N. Other designs are for a wide ribbon. Nobody is proposing a cylindrical pillar.

        there's a problem with the kinetic energy if it falls down.

        Since it has a counterweight, why would it "fall down" rather than "float up"?

        Sort of like having many atom bombs go off.

        Except it is 25,000 miles long, so it wouldn't all go off at once. It would be like a ribbon falling into the atmosphere. It would burn up 60 km up, and unlike a nuke, there would be no radiation or EMP. Chelyabinsk killed zero people, and that happened over land. A space elevator would have its base at sea near the equator.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Most designs are for many fibers in parallel. So in an impact you would lose one out of N.

          Right. Because micrometeoroids/debris never strike edge on, and because only one fiber gets severed per impact, rather than the reality, which is that an impact is basically like a small explosion.

    • First we need the materials to build one. Current materials science isn't quite there yet.

    • Yeah, let's privatize everything. Nothing could go wrong with that plan. Elon will build a space elevator for very wealthy people to visit the moon for a fancy lunch, and be home by dinner. The rest of us will buy lottery tickets.

      • Because he's proven to us that he has absolutely no interest in using the rich early on to finance projects for the masses, which is why the model 3 is only available to the super rich, significantly more expensive than the Model S.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:23AM (#53936511)

    The cost of a manned moon base was and is astronomical. Moreover, there remain substantial unsolved problems, particularly with regard to moon dust which is razor sharp, microscopic and gets into everything, quickly degrading gaskets, lenses and other dust sensitive surfaces. Finally, there's nothing there valuable enough to justify the expense at this time.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @08:28AM (#53937531) Homepage

      That's the biggest concern I have. People tire of ongoing expenses. ISS seemed neat at first; now everyone hates it. Why would a moon base fare differently?

      Long-term presences in space need to very quickly cut ties with earth, on order of greatest resource dependencies down to smallest resource dependencies. Aka, first things like oxygen, propellant, etc, then to industrial chemicals, of increasingly smaller quantities, with increasingly diversified manufacturing facilities, with very complex/low volume chemical feedstocks and manufacturing processes coming last. Cutting all ties is a process that would take centuries. But you can start with the low hanging fruit, bit by bit, and keep stockpiles of everything needed for maintenance that you can't produce locally.

      Unfortunately, running counter to this is expansion. Because if you double the size of your operations, you also double your resource demands. So you need to improve resource independence at a faster rate than you grow.

      Part of the problem with the moon is that it's just not a great place for ISRU. Volatiles are rare. We've never even sampled any moon that aren't depleted in volatiles, although there's some data to suggest that various volatiles might be scattered in permanently shaded areas (all of them, in the same place? That's a good question). Surface mineral diversity is limited - primarily light, non-volatile elements. Oxygen is at least widely abundant, but locked up tightly. And while the moon offers short transit times, it's surprisingly not that advantageous concerning delta-V. You can't aerocapture there, landing is fully powered (no parachute deceleration), and to get there you have to already be on such a high apogee orbit that it's not much more energy to go into a Mars transfer. Gravity is less and night is two days long. There are a couple "maybe" peaks of eternal light, but that doesn't mean that they're colocated with volatiles; the last I looked into it it looked like the closest suggested find of water was dozens of kilometers away from the nearest such peak, which would be quite the commute (and thus low throughput / high wear).

      The moon is certainly the "cautious" option; emergency returns / resupplies are easy there, and communication fast. Its main value appears to be a testing ground for systems while minimizing risk. But it's not a very appealing place from a settlement perspective.

      Of course, I prefer Venus to Mars, but that's neither here nor there ;) I'd like to see a parallel program for both, as the same sort of booster and transfer stage can be used for both, so it's only habitat / ascent stage development costs that are doubled. And once you get past the differences in feedstock sources, production industrial processes converge (Venus advantaged by the higher power availability and easier ability to get rid of heat - excepting in the case of cryogenics, where Mars holds the advantage)

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:23AM (#53936515) Homepage Journal

    Dragon 2 isn't built yet. The escape test was a boilerplate capsule more like a Dragon 1 than 2. Dragon 2 has not demonstrated a soft landing, because it's not built yet. That was the Falcon 9 first stage.

    Also, you can't get Dragon 2 down to the Moon and back up on it's own. Not enough delta-V. You would need to have Dragon ride on top of something that can hold enough fuel. Like a larger version of the Apollo Service Module.

    The Command/Service module was originally intended to land on the moon and return without the LEM, before NASA bought the LEM concept, and was overpowered for the mission it got. Dragon is larger and heavier, but a lunar landing one would probably look a lot like an Apollo Command and Service module, and legs.

    And yeah, Orion: I'm Not on Board. Big expensive obsolete rocket with no mission that makes sense.

    But good luck getting Elon Musk to focus on the practical and eminently desirable target of the Moon. He isn't interested. It's only Mars for Elon.

    I try not to watch all of the Mars Colonial Transport speculation. Falcon 9 and Dragon are great, and they're here, and we could do so much with them.

    • But good luck getting Elon Musk to focus on the practical and eminently desirable target of the Moon. He isn't interested. It's only Mars for Elon.

      There's nothing practical about the Moon. It's a dead dusty rock in a vacuum.

      • Do you think Mars is the land of milk and honey?
        • Not at all, but it's Elon's plan and he's using his own rockets, so more power to him.

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          Venus is the only target that makes sense. Much easier in the long run than Mars or Luna, but the initial stake is high, as you have to get a fairly sizeable dirigible there to start things off. Once you do, though: proper gravity, proper pressure, reasonable temps, plenty of atmospheric rad shielding, plenty of oxygen, trace elements there for the scavenging so you don't need a "perfect" sealed colony that would never work. It's a great idea, really.

          • What, exactly, is the purpose of hanging in the clouds of Venus ? You might as well live in a cave here on Earth and paint the walls white. Or in a big submarine in the ocean. I'm not exactly seeing volunteers for that.

            • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @11:46AM (#53938649) Homepage

              What, exactly, is the purpose of hanging in the clouds of Venus ?

              What, exactly is the purpose of hanging out in the near-vacuum of Mars?
              What, exactly, is the purpose of life?

              If you don't agree with the merits of the human race becoming a starfaring civilization centuries from now based on investments made today in getting the ball rolling today, I'm not going to debate that with you. But if you agree with that, then the whole point in expanding offworld is to develop into a multiplanetary species, where demand drives down launch costs and we learn, step by step, to make everything that we need in offworld environments and to become adept at the multi-month journeys between planets. At first, it's a sunk cost. With time, it's increasingly supported by trade. And after long periods of time, it brings the immense resources beyond our planet into our grasp.

              If you want to talk about economics on Venus, here's a few for you.

              * Power is immensely abundant. Many technologies that we employ are basically energy costs - to pick an example, isotope enrichment. So once the higher marginal capital cost for doing things on Venus becomes overtaken by the greater energy availability, Venus becomes the logical place to conduct such activities.

              * Deuterium levels are ~240 times higher than on Earth. So depending on the level of enrichment you need and the means by which you return it, if you can return goods for somewhere in the "couple thousand to several tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram" range, it's profitable. Deuterium recovery can be rendered an inherent part of nighttime fuel cell power storage, since electrolysis has an excellent enrichment factor.

              * Venus's lavas appear to be highly differentiated, and there's a great degree of chemical weathering and atmospheric processing, which can be another resource enrichment process. So concentrations of high value ores far greater than are found on Earth are not unrealistic. There are a couple dozen elements whose values are worth exporting at realistic launch costs several decades from now.

              * Even simple rocks from offworld have great value (collectors, luxury goods, etc). It's not theoretical - people really do pay huge sums for offworld items. Their value will of course depend first the abundance of their export (if you export 100kg per year, you can sell for 10x more per kg than if you export 10000kg per year, which you can sell for 10x more per kg than if you export 1000000kg per year...). If you're selling in small quantities, the value could be in the millions of dollars per kilogram. Venus's surface atmosphere is dense enough that you can outright dredge loose rocks.

              * The size of the market and sensitivity to export quantity also depends on their aesthetics (aka, moving more from the collectors market into the larger luxury goods market). This means minerals that are durable and aesthetically pleasing. What we've sampled so far of Venus's surface fits that bill - gabbro (sold as "black granite" - large crystalled, dark, hard rock, forms excellent slabs), anorthosite (rare on Earth, often associated with labradorite, which is an iridescent bluish-purple semiprecious to precious mineral), troctolite (rare, olivine (peridot)-rich relative of anorthosite and gabbro - looks like this [gla.ac.uk] when cut and polished), etc. It's one thing for your typical sheikh or dotcom millionaire to say "my yacht's countertop is made from the finest tuscan marble." It's another to say "my yacht's countertop is from freaking Venus." You're looking at a very large market in the 4 figure/kg range, a reasonable market in the 5 figure/kg range, and a small but decent market in the 6 figure/kg range.

              * Venus's apparently high levels of repeated differentiation, in conditions very different from Earth, likely mean that some minerals, including gemstones, that are rare or no

    • Wrong about musk. In order to get BFR costs down, he has to launch monthly and he knows it. Mars will have multiple launches and then a 20 month wait. He will be happy to throw up 300 tonnes monthly for the moon
      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        He's first going to have to learn how to launch that fast. That's one area where SpaceX hasn't had much success - getting its launch turnaround times down. Hopefully they will in the future. Also, since an explosion takes them out for half a year or more (regardless of turnaround times), they better up their reliability by an order of magnitude or more, since each increase in launch rate means more possible rockets that can fail. And of course they want the ITS booster to have a service life of 1000x laun

    • But good luck getting Elon Musk to focus on the practical and eminently desirable target of the Moon. He isn't interested. It's only Mars for Elon.

      The SpaceX launch manifest [spacex.com] begs to differ. Elon Musk may have Mars as his ultimate goal and be developing the hardware to do it, but in the mean time he is busy launching communication satellites, Iridium satellites, space station resupply, military payloads - anything and everything that people will pay him to launch. If NASA were to foot the bill, he'd be more than happy to land on the Moon.

      Or to put it another way, you don't need luck, just money.

    • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @04:39AM (#53936915)

      But good luck getting Elon Musk to focus on the practical and eminently desirable target of the Moon. He isn't interested. It's only Mars for Elon.

      He's interested in paying customers. Maybe someone who is interested in lunar development should buy some Falcon 9 or Heavy launches and just make it happen?

  • ...but this ain't gonna happen. America lacks the will to colonize the moon. Heck. America lacks the will to even visit the moon again.
    • ...but this ain't gonna happen. America lacks the will to colonize the moon. Heck. America lacks the will to even visit the moon again.

      There's a good reason for that. There is nothing worthwhile going to the moon for. There are other bodies in the solar system that have things worth going to, and they're not that much harder to get to. They're just further away and so too far for a quick rescue mission when things go wrong.

      If we weren't a human risk-averse society we would never even bring the moon up in conversation as a place to place a base- we would be setting our eyes elsewhere further afield.

  • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:39AM (#53936563) Journal

    I have considered before that the hardware SpaceX have or are building come quite close to supporting moon landing, and wondered how much of a gap there is and what it would take to bridge it. Unfortunately the article here is very light on detail and does not address my questions.

    The Saturn V could put 140 tonnes into LEO. The Falcon Heavy will be able to put 55 tonnes into LEO. If you can split the Apollo hardware into three approximately equal bits, three FH launches could put them into orbit, then they rendezvous and head to the moon. You could probably use the existing second stage as a third stage to take the stuff from LEO to lunar orbit. (I couldn't quickly find the mass of a fuelled Falcon second stage, nor how much mass it could deliver to low lunar orbit.) You could use a Dragon in place of the Apollo command module. Whether you could use a second Dragon as the lunar lander is less clear.

    Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta-v_budget) says lunar surface to low lunar orbit requires 1.9km/s delta-v. If you wanted to land and takeoff with the same vehicle, that would be 3.8km/s. SpaceX are planning a 'Red Dragon' mission to land a Dragon capsule on Mars. Low Mars orbit to surface is 4.1km/s (assuming no aerobraking/parachuting) so Red Dragon should be able to land on the moon and return to orbit. However, Red Dragon is unmanned - I don't know whether you have space and mass budget to stuff some people and life support in there also.

    The manned Dragon capsule has rockets allowing it to propulsively land - taking from terminal velocity falling through the atmosphere to zero velocity on a landing pad. I don't know how much delta-v this requires, but I expect much less than 3.8km/s.

    (Falcon Heavy and manned Dragon capsule have been under development for some time and should fly this year. I don't know how advanced Red Dragon is, but they want to launch in 2020.)

    • Dragon 2 uses a heat shield to shed most of its orbital velocity. To do a planetary or lunar mission, it needs to ride atop something like an Apollo Service Module.
  • Too soon to say (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eloking ( 877834 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:47AM (#53936577)

    As much as I love Elon and his accomplishments, let's not forget that SpaceX reusable launch system's costs to refurbish and relaunch are not demonstrated...yet. Have they forgotten the the Space Shuttle Program already?

  • Good grief (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2017 @01:55AM (#53936593)

    Abandon Ares. Abandon SLS...

    SLS is up to 2.5 times the LEO capacity of a Falcon Heavy, which SpaceX has never actually launched. SLS is in a different class. SpaceX might launch a Heavy in 2017, but I personally doubt it; SpaceX has never hesitated to push back dates and they've done exactly that with each new development phase. That's not a knock; they've done well and should continue their pattern. But SLS goes up in 2018 and even that first launch will achieve greater lift capacity than anything SpaceX or its competitors are actually building, never mind the SLS scale out to 130,000kg.

    A least Trump doesn't appear to want to kill off SLS. If anything he seems to want to accelerate the program into a manned phase. And I'm pretty sure he doesn't give a warm piss what Scientific American has to say about it, so it looks like this heavy lift system will finally survive US politics.

    • Re:Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @04:56AM (#53936959)

      SLS is up to 2.5 times the LEO capacity of a Falcon Heavy, which SpaceX has never actually launched. SLS is in a different class. SpaceX might launch a Heavy in 2017, but I personally doubt it; SpaceX has never hesitated to push back dates and they've done exactly that with each new development phase. That's not a knock; they've done well and should continue their pattern. But SLS goes up in 2018 and even that first launch will achieve greater lift capacity than anything SpaceX or its competitors are actually building, never mind the SLS scale out to 130,000kg.

      In other words, NASA might launch an SLS variant this decade, but they probably won't. Funny how your personal doubt fails to extend to NASA which is even more notorious than SpaceX for delaying launches and failing to deliver on a launch vehicle.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      SLS is up to 2.5 times the LEO capacity of a Falcon Heavy, which SpaceX has never actually launched. SLS is in a different class.

      The block 2 version that's at least a decade away, yes. The one they plan to launch late next year is in pretty much the same class (70 vs 54 tons), by the time the 130 ton version is ready SpaceX should have a Raptor-based competitor to match. Maybe not ITS-size, that's a bit megalomania (300 ton reusable, 550 ton expendable) but even a "Raptor 9" would give NASA a run for the money. But yeah... I want to see the Falcon Heavy fly now too, it's been pushed back quite a few times.

  • ...but what's the point of colonizing the moon? What's there that's of any use to us? We already have ISS for zero-G experiments, and it's far easier and cheaper to get to. Going to the moon was an impressive "because it's there" achievement. But colonizing? I can't see any ROI.
    • a moon base is uniquely suited to warehousing and building for bigger craft that head out further than earth's orbit.

      examples:
      1) going to Mars from the moon would be simpler, and cheaper.
      2) mining on asteroids would be cheaper

      Think of it as a lower cost half-way house. Doing the same thing from a space station is much more costly and complicated process. The moon has some raw materials that can be used to construct things like habitats, etc. A space station has nothing.

      A habitat on the moon would be relativ

      • Ideally, you would only have to transport people to the moon, and everything else could be built and launched from the moon.

        You're proposing an entire industrial base to be build on the moon, starting empty handed ? And you think this would be "relatively cheap" ?

        • If all you are doing is waving your hands and drawing cool pictures, yeah it's cheap.

          Actually building the thing ... not so much.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          You're proposing an entire industrial base to be build on the moon, starting empty handed ?

          Presumably, it'd start with a seed factory and build out from there. The cheapness oft he project depends on what inputs are required from Earth.

          • It doesn't really make sense to start with a factory on the Moon to produce things that we don't need yet. Let's start at the other end, and actually demonstrate a need for stuff in space. We can launch everything from Earth, until we need such large quantities that it becomes cost effective to produce them on the Moon. I expect we'll never reach that point.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @05:01AM (#53936981)
        I don't really buy the argument that it would be cheaper to go to Mars from the Moon. Any manned Mars mission would likely to be assembled in stages in orbit of the Earth. Much cheaper and less risk than sending those same stages to the moon and assembling them there.
        • by 4im ( 181450 )

          I guess you misunderstood... it is not at all about sending stages to the Moon, to be assembled there, then launched. The point is to not have to launch great masses from Earth in the first place, but to build them on the Moon, from Moon materials, to fuel straight from there, and then launch. Or if it's not the Moon, then it will be asteroids.

          Of course, this requires bootstrapping an industrial base from as small an invest as doable, i.e. sending robotic craft to start bringing in raw materials, and gettin

          • The goal also is not to get to Mars, but to get mankind into Space, not just on a few short excursions, but for good.

            Let's start with a few short excursions, and maybe then people will realize it's a waste of time. That would save a lot of effort compared to building a moon base.

          • It's cheaper and easier to get the materials we need on Earth rather than setting up expensive mining, refining, and assembly structures on the moon.

            Not until or unless we are expecting heavy space traffic and exploration would it make sense to set up entire industries on the moon just to produce space craft. (and doubtless, we would need to send a great deal of material from Earth to the moon anyway)

      • by joh ( 27088 )

        Going to Mars from the moon would NOT be simpler and cheaper. To go to the Moon you have to land things there, which is very expensive in terms of delta-V since there is no atmosphere to brake. Then you have to launch out of this gravity well again. And in the meantime you have to have everything you need on the Moon launched from Earth and land on the Moon.

      • You don't build rockets on planets, you build them in orbit like next to the ISS for example. 90% of the energy to move rocket parts from LEO to the moon is lost, and has to be respent to when you launch the rocket towards for example Mars. So you are launching like a 1/6 more fuel (with loads more fuel to lift this fuel) just so you can build the rocket on the Moon. Then you have to somehow construct a giant clean room over your entire rocket manufacturing base (instead of just using the natural clean room

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what that could be?

    A Jaguar? A Beetle? A Plymouth Barracuda?

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @03:29AM (#53936785)

    But it's hard to do worse than NASA's SLS

    http://www.thespacereview.com/... [thespacereview.com]

    It has been estimated at a per launch cost of 5 billion a shot, and a cost per pound that makes the shuttle look like Amazon Prime.

  • You got to whip it out and take a piss on it before you can claim to having been there. All we've ever done is to leave some
    footprints and tire tracks. We need to go there and set up a base. Reusable rockets launched from orbit, and shuttle to the
    moon over the years. Just gas them up in orbit - earth or moon orbit. And how can you guys claim "there is nothing up there."
    We know for a fact a monolith was found in 2001, there could be lots up there. Diamonds, Gold, Helium-3. Lets put the
    golden arches up

  • Sure they can take off and land. But the the "landing" is of a separated dragon capsule and the two stages of the falcon 9, and there will be a full check and refuel before take off again. Whereas it is possible that the dragon capsule could land on the moon with enough fuel to take off again, being guaranteed to be able to stop and re-ignite will probably be more than a minor tweak.

    Also, the current dragon capsule has an emergency parachute system will be retained as both a redundant backup and for water [wikipedia.org]

    • I think normal landing will be rockets only, and if they fail it will be too late to parachute, so they are already trusting the landing rockets in a safety critical role. The chutes are there for emergency escape during launch. In this case, the landing rocket fuel has been expended getting away from the exploding launcher.

  • STS has a problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joh ( 27088 ) on Monday February 27, 2017 @08:03AM (#53937463)

    It's not reusable and much too expensive to be flown more often than a few times. It never was anything than a gift to the companies that built the shuttle, so they could continue to supply tanks and solid boosters and hideously expensive engines. The point of it never was getting anything into space, but to keep the same old rivers of money flowing.

  • We already have a space station, the difference between LEO and the moon is small, and would probably take about the same amount of fuel as it burned up in one second during launch.

    But the environment on the moon is hazardous to machines. It takes more to build a station on the moon than floating in space, and it is not really any closer to exploring the rest of the system than LEO.

    Their are really only downsides to stationing men on the moon vs on a space station.

The best things in life are for a fee.

Working...