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View Full Version : Back to the Moon sez Prez: Yeh, maybe


Lumpy
01-09-2004, 10:29 PM
The great thing about proposals is that they cost nothing and sound great, especially in an election year. Congress can vote later to turn it down.

Let's face it: the chance of voting tens or hundreds of billions of dollars for a vanity project, during desperate budget shortfalls, is zero.

With the failure of the Shuttle program, we are effectively back to where we were in 1973: manned space exploration costs too much for too little benefit, and that's not going to change anytime soon. You might just as well talk about establishing a manned outpost of the summit of Everest supplied by hot-air balloons.

Duck Duck Goose
01-09-2004, 11:03 PM
I'll believe it when I see it, too.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/01/09/bush.reax.ap/index.html
In 1989...President George H. W. Bush, directed NASA to plan a human landing on Mars by 2020, but that initiative was soon abandoned.

Carnac the Magnificent!
01-09-2004, 11:16 PM
More lies foisted on the public by a president who has never shown a trace of interest in space exploration. Cynical, manipulative, hollow. Signature Bush.

Meanwhile, we've got a nearly half trillion dollar deficit, record national debt, record trade imbalance, record weak dollar, jobless recovery, teetering pension funds, structurally unsound social security and Medicare systems, and an OHS that is clueless on defending this nation.

Yeah, let's go to the Moon.

Sam Stone
01-09-2004, 11:28 PM
There's a big, big difference between Bush Sr and Bush Jr's programs.

First, Bush Sr. basically just threw the notion out there without doing any planning. So NASA came back with a pie-in-the-sky plan worth 450 billion dollars, that had everything but the kitchen sink in it.

Second, Bush Sr tried this 14 years ago. Space technology has advanced quite significantly since then. You wouldn't know it from looking at the shuttle program, but advanced in computing, AI, propulsion, materials, and other critical technologies are quite substantial. We've actually flown advanced engines on working missions - successfully.

Finally, Bush's Dad was a waffler who was pushed around a lot. Bush Jr. does what he says.

As for budget concerns, one of the beauties of this new plan is that it doesn't require a lot of new funds, because it gets the money by scrapping existing programs. Specifically, the Shuttle and ISS. Bush plans to kill the Shuttle completely once ISS is finished, and he plans to get the U.S. government out of the ISS by 2013. Those two programs consume about 6.5 billion a year. Another 1.8 billion in other spaceflight initiatives will be rolled into the new program, which means that, without NASA getting another nickel in funding it could put over 8 billion a year into this program. Since the program is over 15 years long, that alone gets you over 100 billion, which should be enough to get you a base on the moon.

But Bush wants to kick in an additional 800 million next year to set up the program, and give NASA 5% increases per year. Over 15 years, that's what, another 20 billion or so?

I think it's doable. And I also think it's something Congress might go for, because they don't have to sign off on massive new funding, it gets them to look like they're doing something new and bold while actually lowering risk (if they do nothing and another Shuttle fails, it'll look very bad. If they vote for this and another Shuttle fails, it'll just look like they were right to vote for cancellation of the program).

This isn't something that was just cooked up for the election, by the way. The wind has been blowing towards this since Bush took office. He started off right away boosting NASA's budget, and directing them to start work on advanced power supplies and propulsion methods (project Prometheus), which obviously has direct application to the new program. If you notice, Dick Cheney has been conspicuously absent of late - it turns out he was spearheading a secret commission that has been working on this plan for quite a few months now. It's not a throwaway line for the State of the Union or to give Bush the "Vision Thing" - it's a major part of his administration's planning.

The major wrench that could be thrown into the works here is NASA and its culture. I'm not convinced that NASA still has the ability to do something this audacious. NASA has failed at almost every major new manned system they've tried to build.

I also expect Bush to involve a lot of private industry - perhaps to take over the LEO role - running the ISS, building LEO rockets, etc.

Sam Stone
01-09-2004, 11:32 PM
More lies foisted on the public by a president who has never shown a trace of interest in space exploration.


This is simply not true. Under Clinton, NASA's budget was slashed. Under Bush, NASA's budget has grown every year. Substantially. For FY2004, NASA gets 469 million more over 2003, and it goes up 5% per year after that (almost a billion a year increase in the first years, more later). Bush has been promoting space since he became president.

hazel-rah
01-10-2004, 12:24 AM
I agree completely. Our first priority should be to launch Bush himself into space. Hopefully the Democrats can write up a plan that gets him to the launch pad by November and in space by mid-January.

gouda
01-10-2004, 01:05 AM
I'm trying to formulate a good post about this, but until I do, lemme just say that I think this is a good long-term goal to have, regardless of whether or not it gets Bush Jr. more votes.

After the ISS, a moon base is a logical next step for mankind. And as of today, the US is the only country in a position to do it. However, if it were me doing the planning, I'd get more of the world community into such a mission right from day one, rather than go at it alone. Spreading the costs and the benefits around will help, not hurt.

Which, unfortunately, is where I fear GWB's and my opinion taking differing paths. More later...

London_Calling
01-10-2004, 01:15 AM
The clock is ticking and in a decade from now - when the economic excesses of decades have come home to roost, as surely they must - the $US won't be able to buy a ticket to Staten Island, imho. You're going to have a lot of other priorities over there.

Sam Stone
01-10-2004, 01:47 AM
Why is it that $400 billion prescription drug benefits can pass with nary a blink, or the Department of Education can get an 18 billion dollar a YEAR boost in funding, but when you talk about 800 million for NASA with an additional 500million to 1 billion a year after that, all of a sudden the U.S. is going to be bankrupted?

This moon thing is cheap. If you're worried about the budget you can cut the Department of Education's budget in half, double NASA's budget, and save yourself 20 billion a year in the process.

And test scores would probably go up.

Duck Duck Goose
01-10-2004, 02:03 AM
Why is it that $400 billion prescription drug benefits can pass with nary a blink, or the Department of Education can get an 18 billion dollar a YEAR boost in funding, but when you talk about 800 million for NASA with an additional 500million to 1 billion a year after that, all of a sudden the U.S. is going to be bankrupted?Because everybody takes prescription meds or knows somebody who does, and everybody has kids in school or knows somebody who does--but nobody except a few people at NASA and Justin Timberlake know people who get to go to the Moon. :D

So that $800 mil looms larger in Joe Taxpayer's mind if he hasn't got a hope in Heck of utilizing any of it himself...If they ever implement large-scale commercial shuttle flights, watch for Joe Taxpayer to quit whining about the uselessness of the ISS and start clamoring for tickets.

Apos
01-10-2004, 02:04 AM
I'm not sure that it really makes sense, however to cancel all current projects just to focus on getting to the moon and building a vacation house there for squishy humanoids. All those "other" programs involve quite a lot of important science, while getting humans to the moon teaches us mostly about... getting humans to the moon. Things like the rover projects are far far cheaper, we can do more of them, and we can consequently learn more from them. Sending humans into space doesn't seem all that important at this juncture. Currently, there's no real purpose to it. And, wait a hundred years, and we'll have much better life-support technology that will make human vanity journeys into space much easier and cheaper anyway. Robotics is cheap right now, is a much more promising area of study and innovation, and is much better for research. A telescope on the moon would be nice, but again it's not clear that we'd need to send humans out there to set it up.

XT
01-10-2004, 02:13 AM
But according to London_Calling, America will be completely bankrupt in a decade...maybe we should do this while we still have a few dollars in to old piggy bank. I'm sure its not just wishful thinking by good ole London_Calling...

To be honest, I'll believe this when I see it about going back to the moon. I actually think its something that COULD be worth while...if the US actually does it, and does it right. If we go back with another foot prints and flags mission, it will be a complete waste. If we go with the idea that we are going to stay, to actually build something perminent there (sort of like the science stations in Antartica), then the this could really be something. But I'll believe it when I see them actually planning and building the mission and all the things that go with it.

In the mean time, I have to start looking for a new country to move too, as this one won't be able to afford even a ticket to Staten Island soon...

-XT

John Mace
01-10-2004, 02:43 AM
It's wonderful for Bush to propose this, and he'll get acolades for vision and boldness. But the truth of the matter is that this project will more than likely span at least 2 additional adminisrtations (besides his own) and will be subject to all sorts of political and scientific pressures. Give GWB credit for laying out the vision, but I'd bet serious money that there isn't the political will in this country to follow thru. I don't enjoy being cynical, but when the reality of a situation is staring you dead in the face... that's a hard thing to ignore.

At the very least, I'll save my praise for the guy who executes on this vision, making it a reality.

Lumpy
01-10-2004, 08:20 AM
Having read Sam Stone's response, I have to moderate my initial cynicism. As some critics of the Shuttle system have pointed out, if we had never built the Shuttle or ISS at all and had simply spent the money on continuing Apollo/Skylab, we'd be ahead of the game. Granted that's a hindsight judgement Now it sounds as if thirty years late, that that's what the adminstration is planning to do. If it's true we're going to reallocate the manned space budget, then it sounds much more realistic.

I still don't know about a "manned base", but if you have the capacity to send a manned mission to the moon round trip, then you could presumably land a modest habitat module on the moon's surface, and send unmanned resupply vessels as well. For the cost of sending three one-time manned missions, you could send one manned mission that could stay on the moon for weeks instead of days.

Aeschines
01-10-2004, 09:31 AM
NASA made a really big wrong turn with the shuttle. The problem with the shuttle is that it encounters such massive forces getting up and getting down, that it was never really practical. A rocket capsule is designed with an ablative coating that burns off in reentry.

Indeed, scrap the shuttle, start building more rockets. GWB doesn't have the vision to get this stuff done, but man should definitely go back to the moon and onward to Mars.

Mr. Duality
01-10-2004, 10:44 AM
Originally posted by Apos
I'm not sure that it really makes sense, however to cancel all current projects just to focus on getting to the moon and building a vacation house there for squishy humanoids. All those "other" programs involve quite a lot of important science, while getting humans to the moon teaches us mostly about... getting humans to the moon. Things like the rover projects are far far cheaper, we can do more of them, and we can consequently learn more from them. Sending humans into space doesn't seem all that important at this juncture. Currently, there's no real purpose to it. And, wait a hundred years, and we'll have much better life-support technology that will make human vanity journeys into space much easier and cheaper anyway. Robotics is cheap right now, is a much more promising area of study and innovation, and is much better for research. A telescope on the moon would be nice, but again it's not clear that we'd need to send humans out there to set it up.

I'll second nearly all of this.

The purpose of including humans is to gain public sympathy. The general public can't relate to robots. They get much more excited about the idea of humans in space. This probably applies to President Bush as well.

Read the book
Space
by James Michener. One of the subplots involves the decision-making process of the original moon-landing program and how NASA withered afterward.

Aeschines
01-10-2004, 11:20 AM
I think there's a point to have people go into space. A person in a space suit can do a heck of a lot more than a roly-poly thing on the ground.

There's the risk of death and the sacrifice (time and years in space), but man will go to Mars, and he will return. And will this have been a great accomplishment? You bet.

scr4
01-10-2004, 11:24 AM
Originally posted by Aeschines
NASA made a really big wrong turn with the shuttle. The problem with the shuttle is that it encounters such massive forces getting up and getting down, that it was never really practical. A rocket capsule is designed with an ablative coating that burns off in reentry.
This sounds hardly convincing. "Massive forces" do not necessarily mean reusable launchers are impractical. Ablative coatings are not necessarily the only practical solution, and not always the best.

I think we have the necessary technology to build a practical reusable spacecraft that is cheaper and more reliable than expendable launchers. Apparently we didn't 30 years ago, but there have been considerable advances in insulator and composite structure technology since then. NASA's X-33 and X-34 programs were shut down not because they were too difficult, but because NASA could not afford to fly the Shuttles and develop a new launcher at the same time.

Rune
01-10-2004, 12:13 PM
Originally posted by Mr. Duality
The purpose of including humans is to gain public sympathy. The general public can't relate to robots. I guess Iím of the general public then (is that bad? What are you of?), because I think humans in space is the most important element of the space program. Learning how to survive space travel and how to live in space. Knowledge gained from robot missions is splendid, but I believe ultimately that knowledge should be used for something more directly involving man.

Sam Stone
01-10-2004, 12:45 PM
The problem with a shuttle-type craft is that you have to lug a whole bunch of stuff into orbit that is useless in space. Wings, landing gear, control surfaces, etc.

Efficient space travel is all about optimization, because you need so much fuel to move a pound into orbit. The all-up weight of a shuttle on the pad is over 4 million pounds. Of that, the Shuttle itself with a full payload is about 260,000 pounds. And the vehicle makes up something like 2/3 of that final weight.

So instead of being able to lift 35 tons into orbit in the Shuttle, if you scrapped it and put a big dumb container on the shuttle launch system, you could put maybe 100 tons or more into orbit, or you could take the same size payload as the shuttle has and launch it to Mars. That's what the 'Mars Direct' proposal does.

When it costs you tens of thousands of dollars per kilo to get mass into space, it's always going to be pretty inefficient to put an entire aircraft up there just so you have wings and landing gear for coming down.

The original Shuttle design was supposed to be much lighter, much less expensive to turn around on the ground, and was supposed to fly many more missions, amortizing its cost more. All of those would have pushed the cost per kg to orbit much lower, which would then have tipped the scales in favor of a reusable spacecraft. But the way the shuttle turned out, everyone knew that it was a very, very expensive way to get to orbit. But by then, NASA was locked into the program.

Aeschines said:

GWB doesn't have the vision to get this stuff done, but man should definitely go back to the moon and onward to Mars.


Vision is exactly what GWB has. This is a president that makes bold, sweeping plans. After all, he's the one proposing this. Why can't you give him credit? Clinton spent 8 years cutting NASA at every opportunity. Bush has already given NASA a mandate to build nuclear rockets, power plants, and other advanced technologies. And now he wants to totally transform the agency. I'd call that vision.

Patr100
01-10-2004, 12:49 PM
Hey, Maybe Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are hidden there. Could be worth a look.

Dewey Cheatem Undhow
01-10-2004, 01:09 PM
Here's an interesting Greg Easterbrook article (http://tnr.com/easterbrook.mhtml?pid=1166) criticizing the "moon base as part of Mars exploration" idea (he also criticizes Mars exploration as too costly, but that's just an individualized judgment call IMO).

The basic argument is this: we don't save anything by using the moon as a launching point for a Mars mission, because every component for a Mars mission -- fuel, air, equipment, etc -- has to be initially sent from Earth in the first place. By sending it to the moon first, we unnecessarily increase the cost of the trip because we have to pay the fuel costs for the same total weight of equipment to escape two gravitational pulls instead of one. It's cheaper, sez he, to just launch everything from the Earth directly to Mars.

Are there any holes in this line of reasoning?

(BTW, I'd love to see us explore space for purely sentimental reasons -- stuff like this sets my geeky 'lil heart aflutter -- but I'm also interested in assessing the validity of more practical arguments for and against, as in the case above.)

Sam Stone
01-10-2004, 02:36 PM
Hey, Maybe Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are hidden there. Could be worth a look.


Can't you one-trick ponies at least pick appropriate threads to leave your clever witticisms?

Definition of a fanatic: Someone who can't change his mind, and won't change the subject.

Sam Stone
01-10-2004, 02:47 PM
Here's an interesting Greg Easterbrook article criticizing the "moon base as part of Mars exploration" idea (he also criticizes Mars exploration as too costly, but that's just an individualized judgment call IMO).

The basic argument is this: we don't save anything by using the moon as a launching point for a Mars mission, because every component for a Mars mission -- fuel, air, equipment, etc -- has to be initially sent from Earth in the first place. By sending it to the moon first, we unnecessarily increase the cost of the trip because we have to pay the fuel costs for the same total weight of equipment to escape two gravitational pulls instead of one. It's cheaper, sez he, to just launch everything from the Earth directly to Mars.

Are there any holes in this line of reasoning?


The flaw in this reasoning is that a moon base is an end unto itself, not just a waypoint to Mars.

The big problem with programs like Apollo is that they were really one-shot deals. They weren't sustainable, and didn't really build upon each other (i.e. one mission leaving resources behind for the next one).

The better way to go to space is to do it progressively. Build vehicles that can be used to move from the orbit of one planet to another. Test them on the earth-moon run, and fine-tune the design. Eliminate the unknowns. Eventually, you have a robust earth-moon space program that you can build upon for Mars. If the transfer vehicle is designed correctly, you can just add extra fuel and head to Mars with it - and once at Mars, you can use the knowledge you learned in the Earth-Moon system to do things like rendevous with Phobos and Deimos. And the same craft can also be used to visit near earth asteroids, move telescopes into the Lagrange points, and do other useful work.

Sure, it might be cheaper to just fly a dedicated, one-shot mission to Mars. Cobble together a big booster from Shuttle boosters and go. "Mars Direct" would no doubt be a lot cheaper than a robust 'building block' approach.

But once it's done, all you have is a Mars mission. You're still no better at doing stuff in Earth orbit, you still can't get to the moon or asteroids, etc. It's like Apollo all over again - done that way, in 50 years our kids will be going, "You know, it's been 30 years since we walked on Mars, and the space program has done nothing since."

Anyway, I think Easterbrook doesn't understand what's going on here. No one's talking about sending all the materials to the moon, and then blasting off from the moon to Mars. When it's time to actually go to Mars, I imagine the material would be shipped up from Earth, assembled in orbit, and then shipped to Mars. It's just that by going to the Moon first, we'll be really good at doing those things, which is very important because a Mars mission will have much tighter tolerances and higher risks. So shake the bugs out first.

Easterbrook's argument would be like saying that the Gemini mission was a waste of money, because it would be cheaper to just build Apollo first. It would be, but without Gemini the risks of Apollo failing would have been much greater.

XT
01-10-2004, 03:26 PM
Its a great idea Sam...I only hope they follow through with it as you are suggesting. An interplanetary type vehicle, once built, would be an incredible asset. As it would never enter a planets gravity well, simply moving between planets or staying in orbit, the only future costs would be stocking, maintenance and refueling the craft. In the long run, it would give us a great capability, if used in conjunction with a space station (which could house storage and return vehicles, maybe a enhanced version of NASA's 'life boat' de-orbiter, which could be shipped back up between missions for the next crew).

I would love to see a nuclear powered perminent interplanatary shuttle that could be used over and over again for manned exploration of the solar system. I would even vote for Bush (or Dean...yikes) if they had the actual vision and the balls to both propose such a long term venture and the guts to make it happen.

I agree with you btw that the moon should be a mission for its own sake, not as some stepping stone to Mars...except in the way that it becomes a test bed for the new technology and methods to be used later on.

I try not to get all starry eyed (lol) about these kinds of proposals though, as in the end I usually end up disappointed. I've wanted the US to take the lead with a slow but steady program with REAL goals and milestones for exploration (especially manned) with the ultimate goal of establishing perminent scientific outposts on the Moon and maybe even other planetary bodies like Mars. I'm dieing for real exploration of Europa and some of the other interesting moons out there. There is so much for us to learn and explore in our solar system...and its a real shame we aren't doing it, as we COULD be.

Robots can certainly do some of it (and are doing some of it as we speak), but as we've seen, they fail almost as often as they succeed (and when they fail, it sets back the time tables on learning and exploring, sometimes by years), and even when they work perfectly, they just can't do what humans can do on the spot...IMO.

-XT

yawndave
01-10-2004, 03:58 PM
One thing I found interesting is that the proposal sets a target of 2018 for the Moon trip. Kennedy made his famous speech in '61, Armstrong took his steps only 8 years later. Why would it take 14 years to make it happen now, considering all that we've learned about space travel, not to mention the level of current technology vs. the 60's?

jshore
01-10-2004, 04:35 PM
Originally posted by Mr. Duality
The purpose of including humans is to gain public sympathy. The general public can't relate to robots. They get much more excited about the idea of humans in space. This probably applies to President Bush as well.

Read the book
Space
by James Michener. One of the subplots involves the decision-making process of the original moon-landing program and how NASA withered afterward.

But, if all we are doing is basically doing this as a publicity stunt so we can get money to fund the real science being done by robotic missions, isn't this a freakin' expensive way to do it. It is like spending $5 to earn a $1 you can spend.

It seems to me that the money...or a small fraction of the money...would be better spent "sexing-up" the robotic missions so people could relate to them more.

At least, we need to have an honest debate where people don't make the sort of outlandish claims for the scientific benefits of manned space exploration which have pretty much been nil compared to the benefits (at much lower cost) for the unmanned missions.

I also question this view that NASA "withered" after the moon-landing program. They did a lot of good science on small budgets in the unmanned missions after that. It's only with the manned program that they wasted lots of money with little to show for it.

Originally posted by Sam Stone
As for budget concerns, one of the beauties of this new plan is that it doesn't require a lot of new funds, because it gets the money by scrapping existing programs. Specifically, the Shuttle and ISS. Bush plans to kill the Shuttle completely once ISS is finished, and he plans to get the U.S. government out of the ISS by 2013. Those two programs consume about 6.5 billion a year. Another 1.8 billion in other spaceflight initiatives will be rolled into the new program, which means that, without NASA getting another nickel in funding it could put over 8 billion a year into this program.


Well, the good news is that he is getting most of the money that they will waste from programs where it is being wasted already. And, I might even agree that going to the moon again might be marginally less of a waste than shuttle and ISS missions (although the idea of international cooperation there...and particularly keeping Russia's high-tech folks paid to do something so they don't get into selling weapons technology is surely the strongest justification for the ISS). But, I am worried about this other 1.8 billion...Is it coming from the unmanned missions at NASA that actually do the good science? That would be sad indeed.

And, I don't want this to be a political thing because I am not opposing this just because GW proposed it. There are surely plenty of Democrats who have voted to throw money down the sinkhole of the ISS.

Patr100
01-10-2004, 04:45 PM
Originally posted by Sam Stone
Can't you one-trick ponies at least pick appropriate threads to leave your clever witticisms?

Definition of a fanatic: Someone who can't change his mind, and won't change the subject.

Actually it's a serious point , agreeing with the first three posts in this thread about making big "feelgood" vanity announcements that aren't necessarily followed up, particularly in the light of a coming election and international/Foreign/"war on terror" issues. That seems to have been lost on you. Time will tell if your President "Who does what he says" actually follows through.

SPOOFE
01-10-2004, 04:48 PM
Why would it take 14 years to make it happen now, considering all that we've learned about space travel, not to mention the level of current technology vs. the 60's?
Because the Apollo project required a tiny capsule with tiny capabilities landing on the Moon for a few hours. This project is far larger and greater in scope, and the end result is going to be a permanent habitat. It's like the difference between pitching a tent and building a house.

Further, the '60s had the Great Red Scare to fuel the initiative. Now we've gotta make do on the hope that most people are capable of viewing the course of humanity from a big picture perspective.

SPOOFE
01-10-2004, 04:49 PM
Actually it's a serious point
Buddy, you make me laugh, but only because the other alternative would be to cry.

XT
01-10-2004, 04:54 PM
From yawndave
One thing I found interesting is that the proposal sets a target of 2018 for the Moon trip. Kennedy made his famous speech in '61, Armstrong took his steps only 8 years later. Why would it take 14 years to make it happen now, considering all that we've learned about space travel, not to mention the level of current technology vs. the 60's?

Also, they used a huge percentage of the GNP to do it in that time table. Money was not an object. I'd rather see them do it slow and steady...and actually have a program at the end thats a first step to something really great, instead of a foot prints and flags mission that is self contained, and that is dropped when its done so we have to wait 30 more years for the next single step.

-XT

carnivorousplant
01-10-2004, 05:09 PM
Originally posted by Mr. Duality

Read the book

by James Michener.

Only when I have trouble sleeping.

Sam Stone
01-10-2004, 06:24 PM
Where did you hear 2018? The date I read was 2013. Perhaps there was a typo in my article or yours?

The date is important - as we've learned with other grand schemes, if you hang the date too far in the future it'll never happen, or it'll become an excuse to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the project.

For this to succeed, it has to have short-term benchmarks for concrete milestones, and very well defined goals. And "internationalization" is NOT one of them. A big mistake with ISS was to get away from engineering goals and add political goals. If you can include other countries, great, as long as they can fit into the engineering plan. The Canadarm is an example of good international cooperation, because it was focused on the goal of the arm itself. But, "Ensuring cooperation between nations" sucks as a goal, because it becomes an easy way to override good science and engineering with fuzzy plans.

carnivorousplant
01-10-2004, 07:29 PM
I can see using a moon base as learning how to live where you can't breathe or grow your food, but surely you wouldn't waste energy going from Earth to the Moon and the Moon to Mars?

Regarding not building Apollo first, Mercury was to keep a guy alive in a spacecraft and Gemini was to develop rendevous techniques. Perhaps things learned from these programs influenced the Apollo design?

Sam Stone
01-10-2004, 08:11 PM
Of course - that's my whole point. The Moon is a proving ground for things like orbital rendevous with landers, transiting from one celestial body to another, etc. Sure, we've done that before with Apollo, but tools and techniques would be very different now. Plus, it would allow you to shake the bugs out of a long-distance transfer vehicle, much like the first Apollo missions did.

Apos
01-10-2004, 08:14 PM
I guess Iím of the general public then (is that bad? What are you of?), because I think humans in space is the most important element of the space program. Learning how to survive space travel and how to live in space.

Why is this important at all? Robots are far more cost efficient, and they can do things and go places that humans can't. Sure, they aren't as flexible, but their flexibility is increasing at an incredible rate.

Putting humans in space has very little of worth at the moment other than learning how to put humans in space... which isn't vey important, since very few people do or ever will live in space for centuries at the very very least. It's essentially a technical problem that really isn't worth solving at the moment, because solving it doesn't get us anywhere else. In 100 years, we'll likely have energy sources and medical technology that will make putting lots of humans in space much easier and more feasible.

Apos
01-10-2004, 08:22 PM
Sure, we've done that before with Apollo, but tools and techniques would be very different now.

This can't be emphasized enough really. I mean, the equipment we've been using is PRIMITIVE. Without lots of new funding we probably aren't going to see bleeding-edge military-grade technology either, but the shuttle is laughably outdated in terms of its computer systems.

laigle
01-10-2004, 08:27 PM
Furthermore, humans aren't that flexible in space to begin with. They can't do much lugging around a life support system and radiation shielding. And it's not like we're going to ship a complete biochem lab to another planet for their use. The most they'd be doing is elementary tests and sample collection. These are not things robots have trouble with.

carnivorousplant
01-10-2004, 08:56 PM
Originally posted by laigle
Furthermore, humans aren't that flexible in space to begin with.

They can, however, move air bags out of the way.

laigle
01-10-2004, 09:21 PM
Touche.

Mr. Duality
01-10-2004, 10:12 PM
Originally posted by carnivorousplant
Only when I have trouble sleeping.

It isn't one of his better works, for sure.:) He must've been paid according to the number of words.

The airbag (www.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3386255.stm) to which CarnivorousPlant refers will likely not prove to be an insurmountable obstacle.

Be that as it may, I think the first three posters nailed it. The proposal is the publicity stunt, not the program.

Teine
01-10-2004, 10:28 PM
Originally posted by Apos
In 100 years, we'll likely have energy sources and medical technology that will make putting lots of humans in space much easier and more feasible.

I find this assumption interesting. I would make the case that if we don't start working on the engineering and scientific problems that need to be solved to get people into space, these energy sources and medical technology you talk about will never be developed. Because they won't need to be.

By deciding on a goal like building a permanent station on the moon, or getting people to Mars, there is a push for these technologies to be developed. That's how Apollo worked, and look what they managed to accomplish in a decade.

Originally posted by jshore
It's only with the manned program that they wasted lots of money with little to show for it.

Unmanned space missions have indeed produced some spectacular information in basic physics and theoretical science. But it's hardly accurate to say that the manned program has produced "little to show for it." NASA's various space programs have produced hundreds of spin-off technologies that have improved myriad aspects of life.

Take a look:
Spacelink - Technology Transfer Fact Sheets (http://spacelink.nasa.gov/NASA.Overview/NASA.Fact.Sheets/Technology.Transfer.Fact.Sheets/.index.html)
NASAsolutions: Benefits of the Space Program (http://www.nasasolutions.com/redesign/at_home.html)
Spinoffs and Technology Transfer--Examples (http://www.seds.org/technology/search/search_engine.cgi)

The list of spin-off technologies is huge. The space shuttle program spin-offs include the artificial heart, automotive insulation, medical balance evaluation systems, gas leak detectors, improved blood analysis devices, land mine removal devices, LEDs used in chemotherapy, prosthesis materials, vehical tracking systems, and more. There are others from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, as well as Skylab.

carnivorousplant
01-10-2004, 10:30 PM
How about if a human were flying Beagle?
I used to be a Library Assistant. Michener always was paid by thye word. :)
I would suggest Flight by Chris Kraft to show how NASA should be run.

Sam Stone
01-10-2004, 11:54 PM
People sometimes forget that going into space is an end unto itself. When talking about the 'goods' we get from manned spaceflight, you might consider the (enormous) intangibles. For instance:

- The kids who become space nuts and grow up to become scientists and engineers. It's seed capital for your intellectual assets.

- The sense of pride, dignity and accomplishment it brings to people all over the world. Being a race that has walked on the moon feels different from being a race that hasn't. Our optimism, sense of what can be accomplished, and even our work ethic is improved by doing large, bold things. And it's not just that it will enable us to build more things or work better and harder, it's an end unto itself. It feels good to succeed in space, and that has value.

These things can be accomplished with unmanned probes to some degree, but there's a limit. At some point, it's just being technically capable to send robots. But human beings actually setting foot on another world and living there is ultimately what it's all about. It is orders of magnitude more important psychologically than robotic missions are. Hands up, all of you who chat with friends about the Ranger missions to the moon? Apollo is what we will remember.

I was around when the first Apollo missions were taking place, and let me tell you, people felt different. We'd be doing something together - working, hanging out, whatever, and someone would say, "Hot damn, we're walking on the freaking MOON!" and people would be grinning and laughing about it. It was a great thing, and just the gift of being able to say we could do that was worth the cost.

Tuckerfan
01-11-2004, 12:51 AM
Space flight doesn't have to be expensive. (http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/rocketaday.html)

There are a ton of benefits of going into space (and taking humans along with you). Robots are nice and cheap, but to take full advantage of what space has to offer, you're going to need humans up there. I'm not even talking about "what if" technologies and things that we'll discover once we're there, I'm talking about known benefits.

Perfect ballbearings are one item. They have a lower friction coefficient, and a longer life than bearings made on Earth. This means that cars, for example, would have less friction in the engines, wheels, and other components, so they'd get better fuel economy. They'd also last longer.

Castings made in microgravity environments have a more uniform density than those made on Earth. They also require less material than Earth made ones.

Items manufactured in space will also be free from "sag." Since there's no gravity pulling the part down as it's being machined, it can be machined to closer tolerances. This translates into a higher quality product that lasts longer.

As for the "what if" benefits of manufacturing in space, you can check out here (http://www.spacemanufacture.com/). For more of the practical side see here. (http://techbriefs.com/)

Squink
01-11-2004, 01:22 AM
Foamed metals (http://www.eureka.findlay.co.uk/archive_features/Arch_Materials/METFOAM/metfoam.htm)

scr4
01-11-2004, 02:35 AM
Originally posted by Apos
It's essentially a technical problem that really isn't worth solving at the moment, because solving it doesn't get us anywhere else. In 100 years, we'll likely have energy sources and medical technology that will make putting lots of humans in space much easier and more feasible.
That's true enough. We'll be able to buy the technology from the Chinese.

Apos
01-11-2004, 02:56 AM
I find this assumption interesting. I would make the case that if we don't start working on the engineering and scientific problems that need to be solved to get people into space, these energy sources and medical technology you talk about will never be developed. Because they won't need to be.

Uh, sure they will. Energy and medical advances are very much a here and now deal, with the caveat that they would actually be dierctly useful to the lives of most people, rather than the already heavily subsized lives of a handful of lucky bastards.

The list of spin-off technologies is huge. The space shuttle program spin-offs include the artificial heart, automotive insulation, medical balance evaluation systems, gas leak detectors, improved blood analysis devices, land mine removal devices, LEDs used in chemotherapy, prosthesis materials, vehical tracking systems, and more. There are others from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, as well as Skylab.

And if we just spent the money researchings these things DIRECTLY, we'd be even BETTER off. What's your point?

SPOOFE
01-11-2004, 03:52 AM
Uh, sure they will. Energy and medical advances are very much a here and now deal
Name an industry here on Earth that would ever have utilized an ion engine.

scr4
01-11-2004, 04:07 AM
Originally posted by Apos
Uh, sure they will. Energy and medical advances are very much a here and now deal, with the caveat that they would actually be dierctly useful to the lives of most people, rather than the already heavily subsized lives of a handful of lucky bastards.
Can you name any "energy and medical advances" from the past 50 years which were not developed specifically for space flight, but has made (or would make) space flight significantly cheaper?

Technology doesn't appear out of nowhere. There will be some basic reasearch from other fields which can be applied to space flight (e.g. microprocessors) but mostly, if you want space flight to become cheaper you've got to keep building and refining your spacecraft. Or wait for others to do it and buy the technology.

Besides, new technology doesn't always make things cheaper. Automobiles today are not much cheaper than the Model T was. And I'd bet a Nimitz class aircraft carrier is just as expensive as the HMS Victory in terms of percentage of GDP.

BMalion
01-21-2004, 07:32 AM
Let's not be hasty. If we're too sucessful, we'll start to take the base on the moon for granted, then we'll start to store our nuclear waste there, then there'd be an accidental explosion and zoom! We've lost our moon to deep space.

Then we'd look a bit of a fool would'nt we?

Squink
01-21-2004, 09:30 AM
I heard no mention of moon, Mars missions in the president's state of the union speech last night. That makes me think that Bush is not entirely serious about this vision for America's future in space.