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Old 08-08-2019, 01:54 PM
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Were the Apollo Missions a boondoggle?


I am in the middle of thinking about buying this book and whilst criticised for its inaccuracies and strawman attacks, I was wondering whether this polemic had any weight in regards to the value of the Apollo programme?

Was it all just a waste of money?
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Old 08-08-2019, 01:58 PM
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If nothing else, we had a period in world history where engineers and scientists were the heroes everyone looked up to. Where exploration and scientific achievement was at the forefront of everyone's minds. This would've inspired countless young people to pursue careers in scientific and engineering fields which would've enhanced the incredible pace of economic expansion, scientific discovery, increases in productivity, and quality of life. I suspect that it probably paid for itself several times over just for that.
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Old 08-08-2019, 01:59 PM
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Some things hold such immense psychological value that they are worth their price. Bear in mind that China and Russia spent $44 billion and $50 billion hosting the Beijing and Sochi Olympics, for instance, in the name of pride and face. (Not that those were necessarily good things, but it puts Apollo's price tag in perspective)


Landing men on the Moon is such a historically significant feat that if the U.S. hadn't done it in the 1960s-1970s, some other nation would have done it, or maybe we would have just done it later.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:00 PM
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There are a lot of people who think that unmanned space exploration has more bang for the buck in terms of scientific knowledge gained than does manned space exploration.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:01 PM
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There are a lot of people who think that unmanned space exploration has more bang for the buck in terms of scientific knowledge gained than does manned space exploration.
Sure, but for psychological effect there's nothing like human astronauts. Landing the first men on Mars will get 1000x more attention than Sojourner or any other unmanned rover ever could or will.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:06 PM
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Well, measuring the impact as a pure money ROI, then I suppose many endeavors fall short. Was WWII worth the money? Are Presidential campaigns worth the money?

Once you accept that a pure money ROI is not the correct measure for everything in life, then the answer is easier to reach.
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:16 PM
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That's some negative reviews for something I'd have to pay money for.
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:21 PM
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Sure, but for psychological effect there's nothing like human astronauts. Landing the first men on Mars will get 1000x more attention than Sojourner or any other unmanned rover ever could or will.
Landing men (and women) on the Moon again will get 1000x more attention than these unmanned probes. It's not always about raw scientific data. You get interest and involvement with people not machines.

I was at Kennedy Space Center in 2005 after Bush announced that a man would be on Mars in the mid 2030s. The tour director pointed at some youngsters on the tour and told them that one of them could be the first person on Mars. They squealed with delight.

You can't capture that shit with probes.

ETA: Imagine the first woman on the moon; how much adoration she will get. That will be awesome.

Last edited by UltraVires; 08-08-2019 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:26 PM
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There are a lot of people who think that unmanned space exploration has more bang for the buck in terms of scientific knowledge gained than does manned space exploration.
With the hidden assumption that our only goal in space is to do science. Who says it is?

We go out into space because it is a vast, untapped resource. It breaks us out of a fragile, closed system and opens us to the limitless possibilities of the universe. It gives people something to hope for, something to dream about. It inspires kids to go to school and study meaningful topics.

And yes, there is plenty of science to do there - science that could have great benefits to Earth. But that's not the only reason for going.

I also agree with SenorBeef - I think Apollo paid for itself just in the effect it had on education and the spirit of the people. When I was young, hard problems were often prefaced with, "Hey, if we can land a man on the moon, we can solve this."

Scientists can be inspired by scientific data. For the lay public, inspiration comes from seeing other people achieve great things. We need heroes, and it would be much better if our kids looked up to astronauts instead of athletes, pop stars and Youtube 'influencers'.
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Old 08-08-2019, 04:28 PM
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The total cost of the Apollo program is $288 billion in 2019 dollars.

By comparison, the cost of the Vietnam War would be about $1 trillion in 2019 dollars.

So clearly sending a man to the Moon isn't the dumbest thing you can blow a quarter trillion dollars on.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:58 PM
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The total cost of the Apollo program is $288 billion in 2019 dollars.

By comparison, the cost of the Vietnam War would be about $1 trillion in 2019 dollars.

So clearly sending a man to the Moon isn't the dumbest thing you can blow a quarter trillion dollars on.
Especially considering the boatloads of technological advances that were made. Microchips and velcro are popular to site, but a HOST of things came out of the needs of the space program that have HUGE impacts on the economy of today. We were also perfecting rocket technology which had wartime applications (not much difference between a Lunar Rocket and an ICBM) but more importantly our satellite network owes a huge debt to the Apollo program.

Compare that to the total cost of the F35 program ($1.5T over it's expected 55 year lifespan) which so far has given us... a jet that pilots don't love, that doesn't really excell at anything, but will make blowing people up a little easier...

Yeah, no contest.
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Old 08-08-2019, 06:31 PM
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By comparison, the cost of the Vietnam War would be about $1 trillion in 2019 dollars.
And the Iraq war cost about $2.4 trillion.

And we should keep in mind that Apollo wasn't just an engineering project or a science project. It was one of the campaigns of the Cold War.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:52 PM
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With what we know now, the entire space program was a ridiculous waste of money. Was it the only enormous waste of money? No. So what? That's not the question that was asked.

I was around at the time and I would have told you that I was completely for the moon program. Since that time I've done a lot of research into the origin of the space race. It's embarrassing. The military was both paranoid about the Russians and double dog daring them to try something. The space program was pure military dollars laundered through NASA and leavened by a gigantic propaganda campaign, funneled though Henry Luce's exclusive rights to fill pages of Life magazine.

The true "space-happy" community (a phrase of Robert Heinlein's) knew how a space program should properly work, taking small steps, creating a space station, and learning about the rigors of vacuum. All this information was publicly available and well-known to everyone in NASA. All of it was thrown away solely to beat the Russians to the moon because losing would hurt the egos of a few politicians and generals. There was no other purpose for the 1969 landing.

The pictures from the past make it appear that the entire country celebrated when we landed on the moon. Maybe we did, for a day or two. But modern research shows that at least half the country was against the space program at the time. And obviously, virtually all the people who celebrated on that July day cared not a whit about it a week later. The moon landing changed nothing and accomplished nothing.

This is heresy among space people, of course. For me, the proof of this opinion is that the current revival of space is due entirely to the egos of a handful of billionaires, who are promoting their large phallic objects over actual scientific research, which continues to be woefully underfunded.

Yes, the moon program was a better thing to spend money on than Vietnam and better things came out of it. Again, so what? You really want to make "better than Vietnam" your standard?
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Old 08-08-2019, 08:07 PM
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There are a lot of people who think that unmanned space exploration has more bang for the buck in terms of scientific knowledge gained than does manned space exploration.
I'm one of them - I'm Mr. "Space is for robots." Space travel is orders of magnitude less costly and dangerous for travelers that don't need food, air, water, or protection from vacuum and cosmic rays. But:

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we should keep in mind that Apollo wasn't just an engineering project or a science project. It was one of the campaigns of the Cold War.
These days, I very much doubt that the Soviets could actually have gotten to the moon and back. But in the 1960s, we sure as hell didn't know that. (Maybe our intel people did - I don't know. The rest of us didn't.) Fact is, the Russians got quite a jump on us with their space program, and it wouldn't have gone over well if they'd beaten us to the moon. I hate to disagree with brother Exapno, but my take is that we really needed to be the first nation there.
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Old 08-08-2019, 10:09 PM
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I'm one of them - I'm Mr. "Space is for robots." Space travel is orders of magnitude less costly and dangerous for travelers that don't need food, air, water, or protection from vacuum and cosmic rays.
I agree that unmanned missions are far more cost effective and productive.

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These days, I very much doubt that the Soviets could actually have gotten to the moon and back. But in the 1960s, we sure as hell didn't know that. (Maybe our intel people did - I don't know. The rest of us didn't.) Fact is, the Russians got quite a jump on us with their space program, and it wouldn't have gone over well if they'd beaten us to the moon. I hate to disagree with brother Exapno, but my take is that we really needed to be the first nation there.
Or what? Seriously, what difference would it have made? Sure, the Russians would have made it a major propaganda victory. But we were in the middle of Vietnam. What greater harm could we have done to our reputation worldwide? The nations that were trending toward Communism would have done so in any case. The USSR couldn't have followed up with any real-world victories; they were already pouring all the money they had into the useless space and arms race that eventually killed their system.

I could easily project awful consequences from a loss: Nixon and LeMay and some of the others might have actually decided to nuke Nam back to the stone age to prove how wonderful we were. Or maybe with the pressure off, we could have taken a side road and put real effort into space. Anything's possible.
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Old 08-08-2019, 11:11 PM
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There are a lot of people who think that unmanned space exploration has more bang for the buck in terms of scientific knowledge gained than does manned space exploration.
I'm one of them. I think this is absolutely and incontrovertibly true. But at the time, the political motivations seemed pretty imperative, and that's no small factor. It's hard today to fully appreciate the military perspective of the Cold War era and those times, which had hardly much changed since 1953 when LIFE magazine published the following pronouncement about the vital national security aspect of technological control of outer space, coming from what was then one of the nation's leading space experts. Apologies if I've quoted this before, which I may have done, but it's a fascinating insight into the mindset of the time:
The satellite station, says Von Braun, looking the U.S. military leaders straight in the eye, will pay off as nothing has done since the time of the Roman legions. If placed in its orbit by the U.S., it will give the U.S. a permanent military control of the entire earth. No nation will challenge the power that looks down upon it from an artificial moon. No nation will attempt to challenge it; the earth will enjoy pax Americana and can beat its radars into television sets.

The satellite station, explains Von Braun, will provide the two essentials of successful war: observation and bombardment. It will swing around the earth once every two hours, and as the earth slowly turns beneath it on its own axis, every part of its surface will come into view. When an enemy is observed making or preparing a hostile move, Von Braun proposes to smack him with small, atom-armed guided missiles sent down to earth along the path of his returning shuttle rockets. They will have rocket motors just powerful enough to put them into descending ellipses. When they reach the atmosphere they can be steered by radio signals acting on their controls. Both the missiles and the target (say a Russian plutonium installation) will be in view from the satellite. So the missiles' course can be corrected continuously, making a direct hit almost inevitable. The atomic bombs in the missiles' nose will take care of terminal action.

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Old 08-08-2019, 11:37 PM
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With the hidden assumption that our only goal in space is to do science. Who says it is?
The goal of going to space is to develop the technologies needed to be able to exploit those resources in a commercially viable way. We do need more science points to unlock in situ resource utilization.
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We go out into space because it is a vast, untapped resource. It breaks us out of a fragile, closed system and opens us to the limitless possibilities of the universe. It gives people something to hope for, something to dream about. It inspires kids to go to school and study meaningful topics.
There are two reasons for sending people into space. The first is, as you indicate, PR. People do get more excited about seeing an astronaut play guitar on the space station than they would be watching a rover drill into a rock sample on Mars, even though the latter yields more science and probably cost less to do.

The second, and IMO more important reason, is science, specifically, the science of keeping humans alive in space. This too needs more research before it becomes commercially viable.

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And yes, there is plenty of science to do there - science that could have great benefits to Earth. But that's not the only reason for going.

I also agree with SenorBeef - I think Apollo paid for itself just in the effect it had on education and the spirit of the people. When I was young, hard problems were often prefaced with, "Hey, if we can land a man on the moon, we can solve this."
All you need is a significant percentage of the most intelligent and educated population to focus on that single problem for a decade with a nearly unlimited budget.

Sometimes, that's the best way to get something done, especially something hard. But it's not the most efficient way to approach most problems.
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Scientists can be inspired by scientific data. For the lay public, inspiration comes from seeing other people achieve great things. We need heroes, and it would be much better if our kids looked up to astronauts instead of athletes, pop stars and Youtube 'influencers'.
There are downsides to this as well. Obviously the worst would be a serious accident, or series of accidents, that scares people away from space as being too dangerous. Putting too much pressure on manned missions could end up pushing the limits of our engineering too quickly, leading to possible mistakes. A Mars mission is not going to be 3 people, it's going to be a couple dozen, at least. Losing the crew because we went too early could set space exploration back significantly. Losing a probe doesn't have the same emotional impact with the public.

Even with a completely successful Mars mission, we'd end up keeping the people as far away from the environment as possible, preferably underground, and do most of the exploration and science with rovers and other autonomous probes. The shorter light lag and the ability to physically inspect and repair a rover would be a benefit, but not one that would justify the actual cost and risk of sending them. You are going to have to send all the rovers and equipment along anyway for the people to run. If you just leave the people behind, you can send ten or a hundred times more rovers.

Once we've got autonomous processing sorted out, we can send robots to Mars to build us a nice habitat, complete with food production capability, and ensure we have fuel and basic supplies to get home. At that point is when it makes sense to actually send some people, but I'm still not entirely sure why.

As far as PR moves, it would still be better to work our way up. Start with a manned mission to a near Earth asteroid. You have to be much more choosy about your windows, but you can get to some easier than to the moon, and we've already been to the moon. Though less delta-v, the mission will take a bit longer, and give us more experience with longer deep space missions before we tackle the months to Mars.

Really, space belongs to the robots. One of the eventual jobs of the robots is to turn parts of space into acceptable replicas of Earth's environment. We should send them ahead to pave the way for us, rather than try to forge ahead ourselves as if we are bushwhacking through a jungle.
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:09 AM
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With what we know now, the entire space program was a ridiculous waste of money.
That is an entirely subjective opinion, dependent on the value you place on the intangible returns from the space program.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:12 AM
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The boondoggle was not going to the moon, but throwing away the money spend and expertise developed by not following it up.
Sure unmanned probes are more cost effective, but they can only do so much. Remember, there were unmanned lunar probes before Apollo 11 - they were valuable, but not as valuable as the exploration the later missions did.

The way forward is private enterprise for near Earth missions and lunar missions. I heard a talk by Burt Rutan. He showed the death rate of early airplane pilots - far higher than astronauts. His point is that progress requires sacrifice. Private enterprise is less likely to get congressional investigations if a test pilot dies.

A real space station would have been nice, but it would doubled the cost without adding a lot of benefits. Most of the stuff that would be accomplished by the space stations proposed are done by unmanned satellites today (like communications and observation.) About the only thing I can think of that isn't would be hotels for zero-g sex. Again, a fine thing for private enterprise to do.
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Old 08-09-2019, 08:03 AM
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The boondoggle was not going to the moon, but throwing away the money spend and expertise developed by not following it up.
Sure unmanned probes are more cost effective, but they can only do so much. Remember, there were unmanned lunar probes before Apollo 11 - they were valuable, but not as valuable as the exploration the later missions did.
Computers and technology have gotten much better since then. If you sent a rover now, it could do more than the Apollo astrunats did, do it for months or years if we are lucky, and not have to come home at the end.
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The way forward is private enterprise for near Earth missions and lunar missions. I heard a talk by Burt Rutan. He showed the death rate of early airplane pilots - far higher than astronauts. His point is that progress requires sacrifice. Private enterprise is less likely to get congressional investigations if a test pilot dies.
Once it gets cheap enough, tourism should be a thing. And the danger is not that big a deal, really. People pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a 6.5% chance of dying on Everest. If we can get spaceflight down to those costs and risks, people will line up for a chance to go, just as they line up at the summit of the mountain.
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A real space station would have been nice, but it would doubled the cost without adding a lot of benefits. Most of the stuff that would be accomplished by the space stations proposed are done by unmanned satellites today (like communications and observation.) About the only thing I can think of that isn't would be hotels for zero-g sex. Again, a fine thing for private enterprise to do.
Low or zero G spas would be fun. There is no mattress softer than a concrete slab at 10% Earth gravity.

High G areas for strength training for athletes could also be a draw.

Also zero-G sex sounds interesting, but I think the novelty would wear off very quickly, as it just doesn't seem as though it would be practical at all.
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Old 08-09-2019, 08:18 AM
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It's absolutely not a boondoggle; it made exploration and experimentation normal. It opened up the biggest science lab we could possibly have: the Universe from which all things were created. It's laughably stupid to suggest it was a total waste of money and resources.

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Old 08-09-2019, 08:23 AM
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Maybe the goal was itself a boondoggle, but at least NASA succeeded at meeting the goal, unlike with its next big project (the shuttle), which was definitely a boondoggle.

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Old 08-09-2019, 08:36 AM
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Computers and technology have gotten much better since then. If you sent a rover now, it could do more than the Apollo astrunats did, do it for months or years if we are lucky, and not have to come home at the end.
If there were a guy with a jack near the Spirit rover...
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Old 08-09-2019, 09:05 AM
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If there were a guy with a jack near the Spirit rover...
Then we would have spent enough to get him there as it would cost to send another few dozen rovers. For that matter, if we really wanted to actually repair, rather than replace, we just need to send the jack, we don't need to send the guy.

If there was a guy on Beresheet, then there'd just be a splattered dead guy among the tardigrades.
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Old 08-09-2019, 09:30 AM
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Landing men (and women) on the Moon again will get 1000x more attention than these unmanned probes. It's not always about raw scientific data. You get interest and involvement with people not machines.

I was at Kennedy Space Center in 2005 after Bush announced that a man would be on Mars in the mid 2030s. The tour director pointed at some youngsters on the tour and told them that one of them could be the first person on Mars. They squealed with delight.

You can't capture that shit with probes.
That's very true; there are reasons nobody watches remote-controlled car races, or un-jockeyed horse races, or stuff like that.

Doing it with people generates buy-in and probably most importantly, inspires today's youth to be interested in science and technology as career paths.

I think it's going to take a three-pronged approach- robotic exploration, manned spaceflight to follow up on things, and private enterprise to take the real risk and figure out how to best achieve things in space.
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Old 08-09-2019, 09:37 AM
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That's very true; there are reasons nobody watches remote-controlled car races, or un-jockeyed horse races, or stuff like that.
Well, we have Battle Bots, but that's not really the same thing (and I don't know if anybody actually watches is, assuming that it is still being made[which I doubt]).

We do have greyhound racing, which is like tiny un-jockeyed horse racing.

But, one of the concerns and limitations in things like NASCAR or formula 1 is driver safety. If the driver was safe in a control booth somewhere, then the races might actually start being interesting.
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Doing it with people generates buy-in and probably most importantly, inspires today's youth to be interested in science and technology as career paths.

I think it's going to take a three-pronged approach- robotic exploration, manned spaceflight to follow up on things, and private enterprise to take the real risk and figure out how to best achieve things in space.
The first prong should be more than just exploration, and should also be preparing the way.
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Old 08-09-2019, 09:39 AM
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I am in the middle of thinking about buying this book and whilst criticised for its inaccuracies and strawman attacks, I was wondering whether this polemic had any weight in regards to the value of the Apollo programme?

Was it all just a waste of money?
No. I think no matter what your position on this, I don't think anyone with any sort of brain could say it was a waste of money. Whether it was the best program, or we could have better used the money is, of course, open to debate. But we are STILL processing the science from the missions, still reviewing the data, still examining the samples. We definitely got value that was much more than 'flags and footprints' out of those missions.

And of course, we got a ton on the political side. We proved we could do it, which underscored our technological edge and, as a subtext, demonstrated our ICBM capabilities. That is, after all, why the Russians did what they did...to underscore that they COULD do what they did, that their capabilities were there and that this meant on the military side they could back up their own threat.

So, we got science, we got political capital, and we also got psychological mileage out of Apollo. Even today it's still one of the greatest adventures a single country has ever done, even if a seeming large percentage of Americans and other nationalities have this idea that it was all a hoax. But consider...why would it being a hoax be so important to so many? And why do they THINK it was all a hoax. Answer...because it seemed like it was impossible to do, for anyone to do, especially at that time. I think that's the final answer.
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Old 08-09-2019, 09:53 AM
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Computers and technology have gotten much better since then. If you sent a rover now, it could do more than the Apollo astrunats did, do it for months or years if we are lucky, and not have to come home at the end.
I'm not sure about that. First off, the Mars rovers, in all their years on planet, haven't gone as far from their landing site as the Apollo astronauts did. Second, the astronauts brought back, literally, hundreds of pounds of samples which, I doubt a rover could or would. Third, some of the best discoveries were because astronauts were wandering around and happened to look in a different direction and noticed something different wrt soil content or color. Finally...none of the subsequent robotic Moon landing and rover missions by other countries have done all that well as far as longevity or bringing back a lot of science.

Could the US do better? Maybe. Certainly we are the only ones who have had extended success with rovers on Mars, but, again, they haven't brought back but a fraction of what the Moon landing missions did despite being on planet for years. Certainly, in 1969 we couldn't have hoped to bring anywhere near the amount of science back that the Apollo program did. MAYBE today we could....of course, the funding and expertise that NASA has stems, in part, from the fact that they DID do the Apollo missions, so it's kind of a catch 22 wrt speculation about us waiting until now or, say a decade ago to send a robotic mission that could bring back comparable results to Apollo.
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Old 08-09-2019, 10:18 AM
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The psychological impact should be measurable by an increase in young people going into science majors and engineering. I can't find any numbers on this. Does anyone know?
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Old 08-09-2019, 10:29 AM
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Sure, in the long run, we might make money off of space exploration. Heck, we probably will. But that's not the reason to do it. Sir Edmund Hillary and John F. Kennedy had it right: We do these things because they are hard; because they are there.

It's all too easy to say that the reason to do things is for the vague "good of humanity". But what is humanity, itself, good for? If we're not challenging ourselves, and doing things just for their own sake, then all of the rest of it is for naught. And going to the Moon (and to Mars, and to other stars) is a heck of a lot better challenge than many of the ones humans have come up with.
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Old 08-09-2019, 10:34 AM
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I'm not sure about that. First off, the Mars rovers, in all their years on planet, haven't gone as far from their landing site as the Apollo astronauts did. Second, the astronauts brought back, literally, hundreds of pounds of samples which, I doubt a rover could or would. Third, some of the best discoveries were because astronauts were wandering around and happened to look in a different direction and noticed something different wrt soil content or color. Finally...none of the subsequent robotic Moon landing and rover missions by other countries have done all that well as far as longevity or bringing back a lot of science.
And that's the difference between a mission for a few hundred million vs a few hundred billion.

Sure, the manned lunar rovers went further, but they massed a lot more, and that was as far as they could go. Their batteries were pretty depleted by the end, and were not rechargeable, even had they brought something with which to charge them.

There is no reason that an autonomous vehicle could not return hundreds of pounds of samples. We returned people and samples from the moon, just the samples simplifies things. The reason it has not been done is because it has not been deemed to be worth the enormous cost to bring back more moon rocks.

The rovers have cameras, and many of the interesting features on Mars were discovered because a team of experts spent hours or days looking at the images that came back, and wanted to take a closer look at particular things. That olivine rock on the moon would have certainly been noticed by the researchers back home, and it was only luck that the astronaut happened to notice it.

Finally, we have not had 100% success at actually landing things on Mars, or even the moon, and that is something that we certainly have to have nailed down before we send more people. Longevity is a factor as well. If we can't keep a rover going on the surface for very long, then it's not going to be any easier to keep people alive.
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Could the US do better? Maybe. Certainly we are the only ones who have had extended success with rovers on Mars, but, again, they haven't brought back but a fraction of what the Moon landing missions did despite being on planet for years. Certainly, in 1969 we couldn't have hoped to bring anywhere near the amount of science back that the Apollo program did. MAYBE today we could....of course, the funding and expertise that NASA has stems, in part, from the fact that they DID do the Apollo missions, so it's kind of a catch 22 wrt speculation about us waiting until now or, say a decade ago to send a robotic mission that could bring back comparable results to Apollo.
During Apollo, we didn't have the computers and technology we have now. If we sent a mission to the moon with the same price tag, but fully autonomous, we'd bring back far more science, and we would continue to do so for months, rather than for a few days.

Now, Apollo was probably necessary getting the ball rolling. Many of those technologies that we would use were created or developed for that mission. We didn't have the computers or transmission technology to send a robot to do much more than take some pictures and scrape away a bit of soil. Would further manned missions also help to develop technologies that we don't even know we don't have right now? Sure, but that's why the manned missions need to start small. Be bad to discover that we were lacking in a key technology while astronauts are halfway to Mars. The moon has the benefit that it's close, and theoretically help is a possibility.

Now, the biggest part of a manned mission is the PR element. You *could* send a thousand robots to the moon for the cost of sending one man, but the public is more likely to be willing to fund sending the man than a thousand robots. This is a political and social reality that does need to be figured into how we propose space exploration, as we do get far more science from sending one person than we would by sending no robots, but there is no real scientific benefit to sending a person until after the robots have very well scouted the area and maybe even started building shelter.
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Old 08-09-2019, 10:48 AM
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Just so you know, I'm not saying automated rovers are a bad thing...just the opposite. I'm a huge fan, and I think they have done great work on Mars, especially. Robotic probes have shown us stuff we would probably not see for decades or centuries if all exploration had to be manned, especially the ones past Mars or into deep space.

But I think there is a place for manned exploration as well, and it's frustrating when folks talk about Apollo in terms of it being a 'boondoggle' or 'flags and footprints', as we got a lot more out of the missions than folks seem to realize.

I think we COULD do a mission (well, a series of missions) to the Moon (today) that could bring back much of what we got out of Apollo, though the mission would cost a lot more than a few hundred million or even a few billion dollars. It wouldn't cost as much as Apollo did, but it would be a very expensive mission if you actually wanted to explore all the sites they did, to the extent they did, and bring back the samples they did. Apollo in today's money was around $150 billion dollars. I'm sure we could do all of the missions using robotic rovers for, say, half of that or less. Of course, again, we can do that because we aren't inventing the technology right now, we have a lot better automation and expert systems, can design stuff using CAD and so on. If we never had Apollo we probably wouldn't be able to do it for that cost though because, IMHO, we wouldn't have done most of the missions (robotic or otherwise) that paved the way for us to have that capability. That's kind of why I pointed to some of the other countries, including the USSR, who have tried to do extended missions on the Moon. They did not have the longevity or the durability, nor the capabilities to do what Apollo did.
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Old 08-09-2019, 11:21 AM
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That is an entirely subjective opinion, dependent on the value you place on the intangible returns from the space program.
We're in Great Debates, addressing a thread titled Were the Apollo Missions a boondoggle? and you're complaining that you're getting a subjective opinion?

Either you got up on the wrong side of the bed or you need to flee to another forum real quick before opinions strike again.
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Old 08-09-2019, 11:27 AM
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Some of the intriguing things seen by the rover could be followed up with people being there. One suggestion from the board was for astronauts in orbit to control rovers and other robots on Mars without the time delay that is involved in a radio signal traveling between Earth and Mars.
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Old 08-09-2019, 11:28 AM
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Or what? Seriously, what difference would it have made? Sure, the Russians would have made it a major propaganda victory. But we were in the middle of Vietnam. What greater harm could we have done to our reputation worldwide?
None. I'm more thinking of Americans' attitudes about tneir nation: Americans are used to being able to believe that America is best at practically everything, and I'd say that was even more true in the 1960s than now.

A tin can going 'beep, beep' threw us into a tizzy in 1957 because it was orbiting the Earth, and it wasn't ours. Men on the moon wearing the hammer and sickle would have been about a hundred times worse.
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Old 08-09-2019, 11:38 AM
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None. I'm more thinking of Americans' attitudes about tneir nation: Americans are used to being able to believe that America is best at practically everything, and I'd say that was even more true in the 1960s than now.

A tin can going 'beep, beep' threw us into a tizzy in 1957 because it was orbiting the Earth, and it wasn't ours. Men on the moon wearing the hammer and sickle would have been about a hundred times worse.
Too simplistic. The tin can going 'beep, beep' threw us into a tizzy because it demonstrated (not just to US, but to the world), quite clearly, a capability for the Soviets to be able to potentially hit anywhere on the planet with their nukes. And the US not being able to do it (to that point) threw into question if we could. Then there was the perceived technological edge. This wasn't JUST about US opinion of ourselves as being the best, it was about the perception of other countries about who was the most technologically skilled, perhaps who they should be buying stuff from, and who they should be allying with. There was a lot rolled up in the space race...a lot more than simple nationalistic pride and hubris. It's why Kennedy pushed for it, despite the fact that, in reality he wasn't all that impressed with or feeling that space was even important. But he knew that the perception of technological superiority that would come from the first country to put a person on the Moon would be huge. And it was.

There were a lot of aspects to the space race and the Moon landings. Some of it was scientific. Some was political. Some was psychological. Some of it was what you say here wrt Americans just wanting to and thinking they were the best and it should be us. All of them factored into us actually doing this. I doubt we would have or could have unless all those other things were involved in the calculation. We wouldn't have gone purely for science or purely for humanity, or even purely for our own egos.

ETA: So, I think that 'none' is just wrong. It WOULD have had a profound impact had the Soviets been the country to do this first. Not sure it would have saved them from collapse in the long run, but it would have given them a huge boost.
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Old 08-09-2019, 01:23 PM
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Just so you know, I'm not saying automated rovers are a bad thing...just the opposite. I'm a huge fan, and I think they have done great work on Mars, especially. Robotic probes have shown us stuff we would probably not see for decades or centuries if all exploration had to be manned, especially the ones past Mars or into deep space.

But I think there is a place for manned exploration as well, and it's frustrating when folks talk about Apollo in terms of it being a 'boondoggle' or 'flags and footprints', as we got a lot more out of the missions than folks seem to realize.
I'd say the biggest thing that we got out of it were technologies that were invented or developed out of the necessity of doing something so incredibly hard. IMO, that made it worth it. OTOH, if we then didn't end up launching, that'd be a PR crisis and the end of many careers, and we would not have gotten the science about the moon (which actually tells us quite a bit about the Earth), but all those technologies would still be around to improve the quality of our lives, and we'd have saved a couple of bucks.
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I think we COULD do a mission (well, a series of missions) to the Moon (today) that could bring back much of what we got out of Apollo, though the mission would cost a lot more than a few hundred million or even a few billion dollars. It wouldn't cost as much as Apollo did, but it would be a very expensive mission if you actually wanted to explore all the sites they did, to the extent they did, and bring back the samples they did. Apollo in today's money was around $150 billion dollars. I'm sure we could do all of the missions using robotic rovers for, say, half of that or less. Of course, again, we can do that because we aren't inventing the technology right now, we have a lot better automation and expert systems, can design stuff using CAD and so on. If we never had Apollo we probably wouldn't be able to do it for that cost though because, IMHO, we wouldn't have done most of the missions (robotic or otherwise) that paved the way for us to have that capability. That's kind of why I pointed to some of the other countries, including the USSR, who have tried to do extended missions on the Moon. They did not have the longevity or the durability, nor the capabilities to do what Apollo did.
I think we should keep pushing manned missions, as the reason that I see for them is to continue to gather data on how to keep us fragile meatbags alive in space. You know how upset an astronaut gets if you ask them to go just one hour without air, they don't like it when you vary the temperature by a mere 100C, and they tend to squish or break under high accelerations? That should be the primary focus of having people in space until we get that better under control. With any luck, we will also have some level of exploitation of resources from space by then, and it will also become much less expensive to keep them alive. That, in my opinion, is when we should start seriously thinking about manned missions outside of Earth's orbit.
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Old 08-09-2019, 01:30 PM
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There are a lot of people who think that unmanned space exploration has more bang for the buck in terms of scientific knowledge gained than does manned space exploration.
It does now. This wasn't nearly as true fifty years ago.

There is a quote, attributed to test pilot Albert Scott Crossfield, that is usually paraphrased along the lines of, "Man is the cheapest non-linear servo-mechanism weighing only 150 pounds and having great adaptability, that can be produced by completely unskilled labor." Again, not nearly as true now as it used to be, but there's a reason we haven't sent any humans to Mars yet.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:18 PM
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Just so you know, I'm not saying automated rovers are a bad thing...just the opposite. I'm a huge fan, and I think they have done great work on Mars, especially. Robotic probes have shown us stuff we would probably not see for decades or centuries if all exploration had to be manned, especially the ones past Mars or into deep space.

But I think there is a place for manned exploration as well, and it's frustrating when folks talk about Apollo in terms of it being a 'boondoggle' or 'flags and footprints', as we got a lot more out of the missions than folks seem to realize.
The first paragraph is absolutely correct. The second one is questionable. I keep hearing about all the learnings from the Apollo missions but I've yet to see much evidence of it, except the learnings about the actual engineering of how to do it, not so much about the moon itself -- and probably very little, including sample returns, that could not have been done robotically and at far less cost. OTOH, we learned an enormous amount from the unmanned missions to Mars and around the solar system.

The real reason for the moon mission is well summarized in your quote below, which is fully consistent with the Von Braun quote I posted earlier:
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The tin can going 'beep, beep' threw us into a tizzy because it demonstrated (not just to US, but to the world), quite clearly, a capability for the Soviets to be able to potentially hit anywhere on the planet with their nukes. And the US not being able to do it (to that point) threw into question if we could. Then there was the perceived technological edge. This wasn't JUST about US opinion of ourselves as being the best, it was about the perception of other countries about who was the most technologically skilled, perhaps who they should be buying stuff from, and who they should be allying with. There was a lot rolled up in the space race...a lot more than simple nationalistic pride and hubris. It's why Kennedy pushed for it, despite the fact that, in reality he wasn't all that impressed with or feeling that space was even important. But he knew that the perception of technological superiority that would come from the first country to put a person on the Moon would be huge. And it was.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:41 PM
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Not sure I understand your objection. Is it that you think we could have gotten the same information about the Moon via robotic probes at the time, or that you don't think that any of the sample return missions as well as the other science that was done on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts was worth anything? We learned a LOT about the Moon in those Apollo missions, and I think the fact that the Soviets failed repeatedly to get much out of their robotic probes at the time shows the contrast. I'm just trying to see where "I've yet to see much evidence of it, except the learnings about the actual engineering of how to do it, not so much about the moon itself -- and probably very little, including sample returns, that could not have been done robotically and at far less cost." is coming from. If you mean that, today, we could do robotic missions to the Moon and get as much out of it as we got decades ago, then...well, I think we probably could. Now. Today. But then? No way. From two different perspectives. First off, we wouldn't have even funded such comprehensive missions...and, without Apollo, I'm doubtful we even would later on down the line. We didn't have the robotic tools to do it, either, and, again, without Apollo I doubt we would have gotten there either. We wouldn't have even developed the rockets to do it, IMHO, certainly not in the time frame of doing this in the late 60's and early 70's...probably not even in the 80's. MAYBE in the 90's we would have started developing that technology for heavier lift rockets and more advanced robotics, but we wouldn't be where we are today. And we wouldn't have had the samples to study for 40+ years or the other things we actually have. It would have put our understanding of the Moon back decades, and would have pushed our missions to Mars back to the point I doubt we'd have any of the landers actually there.

YMMV, but I think what we got was a lot, and I seriously doubt we would have gotten nearly as much if we hadn't done Apollo. Sure, in a perfect world where you are king of the country, you could not do any manned missions and put all those resources into robotic missions, but that's not what would have happened in our world. We could only do Apollo because of the space race with the Soviets, and the space race was about manned missions. And that space race is what got us all the goodies and technology to have rockets that could take robots throughout the solar system. You could see this in the context of how the US was lagging behind the Soviets in the 50's and early 60's wrt rocket technology...we just didn't care about it that much. Until we did. What we cared about was ballistic missiles that could strike the USSR, not rockets to the Moon or Mars or whatever. And really, only scientists at that time cared about landing robotic probes on other planets or moons...the general public didn't care enough to pay for that sort of stuff. Hell, the public wasn't even all that keen on the actual Apollo missions, once we managed to land on the Moon the first time. It was the fact that we had done it, and had engineered how to do it that allowed NASA to leverage that knowledge and those techniques later down the road to do all the cool stuff you think we should have focused on.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:42 PM
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Too simplistic. The tin can going 'beep, beep' threw us into a tizzy because it demonstrated (not just to US, but to the world), quite clearly, a capability for the Soviets to be able to potentially hit anywhere on the planet with their nukes. And the US not being able to do it (to that point) threw into question if we could. Then there was the perceived technological edge. This wasn't JUST about US opinion of ourselves as being the best, it was about the perception of other countries about who was the most technologically skilled, perhaps who they should be buying stuff from, and who they should be allying with. There was a lot rolled up in the space race...a lot more than simple nationalistic pride and hubris. It's why Kennedy pushed for it, despite the fact that, in reality he wasn't all that impressed with or feeling that space was even important. But he knew that the perception of technological superiority that would come from the first country to put a person on the Moon would be huge. And it was.
It wasn't just about ICBMs. Perhaps not even mostly about ICBMs. The real fears were about spy satellites, the perception that the Soviets could look down and see everything we were doing. Few in the public could have any good idea what the capabilities of a spy satellite were but that just added to the paranoia.

Eisenhower was well aware of this. In fact, the major reason he forced the military to sit on their space programs was because he didn't want to give the Soviets an excuse to proclaim that the US was spying on them. There's little question that we could have had a satellite up first, perhaps by many years, if that were the sole aim.
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Old 08-09-2019, 02:43 PM
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Also zero-G sex sounds interesting, but I think the novelty would wear off very quickly, as it just doesn't seem as though it would be practical at all.
Yes, when every pelvic thrust sends you and your partner spiraling away from each other in different directions, its hard to get into a rhythm. The only way it would work would be to strap yourselves together, and at that point you lose all the advantages of freedom that makes zero-g sex appear appealing.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:12 PM
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Not sure I understand your objection. Is it that you think we could have gotten the same information about the Moon via robotic probes at the time, or that you don't think that any of the sample return missions as well as the other science that was done on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts was worth anything? We learned a LOT about the Moon in those Apollo missions, and I think the fact that the Soviets failed repeatedly to get much out of their robotic probes at the time shows the contrast. I'm just trying to see where "I've yet to see much evidence of it, except the learnings about the actual engineering of how to do it, not so much about the moon itself -- and probably very little, including sample returns, that could not have been done robotically and at far less cost." is coming from.
I think that if similar ingenuity had been applied to unmanned space missions as were applied to the manned space program, we could have accomplished many of the things Apollo did, and at far less cost, and more importantly, would have created transferable technology for future robotic missions, which would have built on it incrementally -- not that it matters all that much whether we could have or not at the time, since there was no urgency about learning more about the moon. The Apollo missions broadly speaking did not create much transferable base technology, in the sense that it was more or less a dead end: we were no closer at the end of it, nor even now, to being able to put men on Mars or the moons of the outer planets, or to fulfilling the science fiction mythology of "colonizing" them. The dead-end nature of the race to the moon was precisely James Webb's well-considered objection to it, which Kennedy overruled.

Basically I just reject the whole idea that space is "the next frontier" and analogous to the early ocean explorers. Maybe in some inconceivably distant future, but not in any realistically foreseeable one. Every planet and moon in the solar system is incredibly hostile to earth life, and any planets that might be habitable are essentially unreachable. If we did manage to land a bunch of astronauts on Mars, it would have a similar "wow" factor to the moon landings, and then an exactly similar aftermath, which could be summed up as "so now what?". OTOH, I'm very excited about the future of unmanned exploration. I'd love to see a probe land on Europa capable of drilling through the ice into the ocean below, and reporting back! We could probably do that for a tenth the cost of just one manned mission to Mars, and learn ten times more.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:17 PM
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I think that if similar ingenuity had been applied to unmanned space missions as were applied to the manned space program, we could have accomplished many of the things Apollo did, and at far less cost, and more importantly, would have created transferable technology for future robotic missions, which would have built on it incrementally -- not that it matters all that much whether we could have or not at the time, since there was no urgency about learning more about the moon. The Apollo missions broadly speaking did not create much transferable base technology, in the sense that it was more or less a dead end: we were no closer at the end of it, nor even now, to being able to put men on Mars or the moons of the outer planets, or to fulfilling the science fiction mythology of "colonizing" them. The dead-end nature of the race to the moon was precisely James Webb's well-considered objection to it, which Kennedy overruled.

Basically I just reject the whole idea that space is "the next frontier" and analogous to the early ocean explorers. Maybe in some inconceivably distant future, but not in any realistically foreseeable one. Every planet and moon in the solar system is incredibly hostile to earth life, and any planets that might be habitable are essentially unreachable. If we did manage to land a bunch of astronauts on Mars, it would have a similar "wow" factor to the moon landings, and then an exactly similar aftermath, which could be summed up as "so now what?". OTOH, I'm very excited about the future of unmanned exploration. I'd love to see a probe land on Europa capable of drilling through the ice into the ocean below, and reporting back! We could probably do that for a tenth the cost of just one manned mission to Mars, and learn ten times more.
That's cool...we'll just have to agree to disagree. I think space is the next frontier, and that it's where we'll be pushing towards next. I also think that a manned mission to Mars will be more than a 'wow' factor...it will increase our understanding of the planet by an order of magnitude. Plus it will push our engineering and technology as well, and put us in a good place wrt where I think we are going wrt humans in space. But I can see your perspective and can see why you think what you do. WRT the OP, I don't think Apollo was a boondoggle at all. I'm glad we had the competition with the Soviets as I don't think we'd be where we are at wrt space exploration without that.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:33 PM
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And that's the difference between a mission for a few hundred million vs a few hundred billion.

Sure, the manned lunar rovers went further, but they massed a lot more, and that was as far as they could go. Their batteries were pretty depleted by the end, and were not rechargeable, even had they brought something with which to charge them.

The rovers have cameras, and many of the interesting features on Mars were discovered because a team of experts spent hours or days looking at the images that came back, and wanted to take a closer look at particular things. That olivine rock on the moon would have certainly been noticed by the researchers back home, and it was only luck that the astronaut happened to notice it.
For Mars, one shovel in the hands of a person might save the need to send a billion dollar mission with the right digging tools.
While the speed of light delay to the Moon is kind of reasonable, it isn't to Mars, and a truly flexible robotic system would need better AI than we have today.
There are also places a person might be able to go that our robots can't.
However, to be sure, the automated exploration of Mars is also not a boondoggle. Human flight is in addition, not instead of them. It would make sense for a large human expedition to bring several robots which could be launched from orbit to explore places the people won't be able to get to.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:56 PM
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That's cool...we'll just have to agree to disagree. I think space is the next frontier, and that it's where we'll be pushing towards next. I also think that a manned mission to Mars will be more than a 'wow' factor...it will increase our understanding of the planet by an order of magnitude. Plus it will push our engineering and technology as well, and put us in a good place wrt where I think we are going wrt humans in space. But I can see your perspective and can see why you think what you do. WRT the OP, I don't think Apollo was a boondoggle at all. I'm glad we had the competition with the Soviets as I don't think we'd be where we are at wrt space exploration without that.
Bolding mine. And the bolded part is the crux of the issue, in my view. I think we can agree that at some enormous cost we can put astronauts on Mars, and then return them safely to earth, along with a bunch of Mars rocks. And then what? I mean specifically, what would be the useful next step? Just keep sending astronauts to other bodies in the solar system at even more enormous cost, to bring back even more rocks? The next step is sure as hell not going to be the colonization of Trappist-1d, 39.6 light-years away. Although if we did somehow manage to get there in some very distant future, I'm pretty sure I know what we would find: a lot of rocks.*

---

* - not that I doubt for one moment that life -- including intelligent life -- exists elsewhere in this galaxy and throughout the universe. We're just probably never going to actually encounter it because the universe is, like, big -- really, really big. Both physically and temporally. Really, really, big, IOW, in spacetime.
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Old 08-09-2019, 04:09 PM
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Bolding mine. And the bolded part is the crux of the issue, in my view. I think we can agree that at some enormous cost we can put astronauts on Mars, and then return them safely to earth, along with a bunch of Mars rocks. And then what? I mean specifically, what would be the useful next step? Just keep sending astronauts to other bodies in the solar system at even more enormous cost, to bring back even more rocks? The next step is sure as hell not going to be the colonization of Trappist-1d, 39.6 light-years away. Although if we did somehow manage to get there in some very distant future, I'm pretty sure I know what we would find: a lot of rocks.*

---

* - not that I doubt for one moment that life -- including intelligent life -- exists elsewhere in this galaxy and throughout the universe. We're just probably never going to actually encounter it because the universe is, like, big -- really, really big. Both physically and temporally. Really, really, big, IOW, in spacetime.
Kind of like those Spanish going out into the new world looking for 'rocks', there are 'rocks'...and then there are 'ROCKS!'. That's the thing. We don't need to go to the Trappist star system (though, I hear the beer is really good ) to find value in space. We have a whole solar system stuffed with resources that will boost mankind for thousands if not 10's or 100's of thousands of years. And we have space to move out into as well. Hell, we don't even have to leave our little area of space to get value from 'rocks'. In space, valuable rocks might just be those with that monohydrogen dioxide stuff in it, deadly as that stuff can be on occasion...
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Old 08-09-2019, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by XT View Post
Hell, we don't even have to leave our little area of space to get value from 'rocks'. In space, valuable rocks might just be those with that monohydrogen dioxide stuff in it, deadly as that stuff can be on occasion...
Underline mine. Now, that sounds like some nasty stuff. HO2? An oxidized hydroxide?
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Old 08-09-2019, 04:17 PM
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Old 08-09-2019, 05:52 PM
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I think that if similar ingenuity had been applied to unmanned space missions as were applied to the manned space program, we could have accomplished many of the things Apollo did, and at far less cost, and more importantly, would have created transferable technology for future robotic missions, which would have built on it incrementally -- not that it matters all that much whether we could have or not at the time, since there was no urgency about learning more about the moon.
Some of the most important discoveries of the Apollo mission would not have happened without the astronauts being there. The 'red dirt', the 'Genesis Rock', and other samples were collected after an astronaut spotted them after much searching.

The astronauts also covered a lot of ground - especially on the last missions with the rover. Apollo 17 astronauts traversed 22.3 miles by rover. That's a little less than the Opportunity rover traveled on Mars in 15 years. Lunokhod 1 landed on the Moon during the Apollo era. It weighed 2,000 lbs, and traveled 6 miles in 10 months.

In terms of sample return, Apollo 17 returned about 220 lbs of rocks, hand-selected by humans on site over a 5 km search area for maximum scientific interest. Luna 24, a robotic sample return mission that flew after Apollo, managed to return 6 ounces of material, and only from within reach of where it landed.

Of course, other robotic missions have been wildly successful. The Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, GRAIL, the Chandrayaan missions, LADEE and a couple of others have revolutionized our understanding of the Moon.

There's room for both humans and robots in space exloration, including in science. There's nothing that can replace a human with judgement on site, actually examining things. And if you are hoping for serendipitous discovery of unexpected things, it's a lot harder when you have to plan a robot's movements in advance.

For example, it took a long time for us to discover that there was literally water ice a few inches under the Martian soil in places. It took the failure of a rover wheel, which dragged the top cover off the ice and exposed it, for us to discover that. If a human had been on Mars, such a discovery would have happened almost immediately.

And if you want to look for things like ancient fossils, a robotic mission is highly unlikely to do it. A human could walk around, overturning rocks and examining them, breaking open candidate rocks, digging down under the soil to release promising looking candidates, etc. If only one rock in a thousand has evidence of fossils, it will likely never be discovered by a rover. We just can't afford the rover time to go on random fishing expeditions over and over again. But a person could do it easily.

Quote:
The Apollo missions broadly speaking did not create much transferable base technology, in the sense that it was more or less a dead end: we were no closer at the end of it, nor even now, to being able to put men on Mars or the moons of the outer planets, or to fulfilling the science fiction mythology of "colonizing" them. The dead-end nature of the race to the moon was precisely James Webb's well-considered objection to it, which Kennedy overruled.
Apollo hardware was used for Apollo-Soyuz and Skylab. Parts of Apollo were used in the Shuttle. The launching pads, fire equipment and other infrastructure built for Apollo are still in use today.

But you're right that a lot of Apollo was throwaway tech. But that's not the fault of manned space flight - it's the fault of the specific choices made by the Apollo program managers. The next era of human spaceflight will be carried out with reusable rockets, and we are beginning to develop common architectures that will allow us to leverage the technology for many uses. For example, the international docking adapter on the ISS can be used by multiple types of spacecraft. In-space refueling will likely be architected with commonality in mind. This is going to accelerate both manned and unmanned missions over time.

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Basically I just reject the whole idea that space is "the next frontier" and analogous to the early ocean explorers. Maybe in some inconceivably distant future, but not in any realistically foreseeable one. Every planet and moon in the solar system is incredibly hostile to earth life, and any planets that might be habitable are essentially unreachable.
If we found enough nitrogen on the Moon, you culd build a pretty nice habitat in a lava tube. We can mine the oxygen from the regolith, there's plenty of water and energy, and lava tubes are protected from pretty much every space hazard. All they need is an atmosphere. And until then, you could still put pressurized habs in them, and they would not need to be protected from cosmic rays, meteorites, etc.

It's probably the easiest place in the solar system other than earth to house a large quantity of people, if you really wanted to. But I agree, at this time there's not much commercial reason to go there. Scientifically, there sure is. Those lava tubes will contain pristine rocks from the creation of the Earth/Moon system, untouched by any kind of space weathering. The layers of rock exposed by skylight contain a history of the geology of the moon. They may contain volatiles or other useful minerals. We basically have no idea what's in them.

I agree that we aren't going to 'colonize' any other body in any recent future (say, a hundred years or more). But if we find enough stuff to do and resources to exploit, we could see space being populated about like how Deep-Sea platforms are populated on Earth - indivisual installations built for profit, each of which only has between 20-200 people on it, but there are so many of them now that about 100,000 people live on platforms on the ocean. But no one would call them 'colonies'.

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If we did manage to land a bunch of astronauts on Mars, it would have a similar "wow" factor to the moon landings, and then an exactly similar aftermath, which could be summed up as "so now what?".
Yes. The idea of just starting a 'colony' by fiat is ridiculous. Colonies grow organically from the needs of the people or because they can make a profit. When you have a 'colony' of 50 people on Mars requiring several billion dollars per year to support them, the idea of making it 500 people instead will look silly. No one will pay for it, and the colonists can't pay for it themselves. And they'll never be self-sustaining.

Quote:
OTOH, I'm very excited about the future of unmanned exploration. I'd love to see a probe land on Europa capable of drilling through the ice into the ocean below, and reporting back! We could probably do that for a tenth the cost of just one manned mission to Mars, and learn ten times more.
There's no reason we can't do both. The cost of such missions is about to decline dramatically. The new Starship promises to get 50 tonnes of mass into Geostationary Transfer Orbit for just the cost of fuel and wear-and-tear on the reusable spaceship. Even if that fails, the concept clearly works and someone else will do it soon. This rocket is big enough that we can fly payloads on direct transfer orbits to places like Europa, instead of decade-long trips involving multiple gravitational slingshots, and do it for launch costs less than a tenth of the historical prices.

That's a huge boon to unmanned exploration, but it only exists because Musk wanted a rocket that could send people to Mars. So it doesn't have to be one vs the other.

Last edited by Sam Stone; 08-09-2019 at 05:52 PM.
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