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Old 07-11-2019, 11:36 AM
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Feats equal to, or tougher, than landing men on the Moon


With the 50th anniversary upon us:

From a standpoint of difficulty (feel free to interpret that many different ways,) what feats have been accomplished that involve a human being transported somewhere, or exploring, or doing something, that rival the challenge of landing men on the Moon?

Or not even necessarily difficulty, but just notability.


I've read, for instance, that fewer men have scuba'd to 600 feet or deeper in the ocean without the aid of a pressurized body suit than the number of men (12) who have been on the Moon. (Not sure about the exact ocean depth but it was some stat like that)
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:46 AM
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It's hard to make a comparison. A deep scuba dive mostly just depends on having one man with an extraordinary body, who's thus capable of making the dive. But the moon shot required the coordinated efforts of many thousands of individuals, with a wide variety of abilities and skill sets.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:51 AM
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Containing and cleaning up after the Chernobyl disaster. It was a massive undertaking involving hundreds of thousands of people, many at significant personal risk, on short deadlines and under immense political pressure. Granted, most of it was simple grunt work, but it still had to be done. Not only that, the cleanup still ongoing, and will be for the foreseeable future.


.

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Old 07-11-2019, 12:52 PM
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The Manhattan Project, I'd say. Same level of institutional coordination and rapid application of science to industrial processes, and similar tight time frames. Basically both projects were making something happen that had been almost purely theoretical a handful of years prior.

Not sure why the transporting of men is important; the real challenge of the moon landing programs (Gemini, Apollo) was in the massive coordination to design, build and test the equipment to get them there and back, as well as develop the techniques to accomplish it.

Last edited by bump; 07-11-2019 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:59 PM
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... that rival the challenge of landing men on the Moon?
"Challenge" can have many aspects here: cost, technical difficulty, danger, low probability of success, etc.

One feat worth mentioning is the ascent of all fourteen 8000m peaks without supplemental oxygen. Until Reinhold Messner undertook & completed this project many knowledgeable people considered it obviously impossible.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:09 PM
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The Allied invasion of Normandy.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:12 PM
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It may be because I'm a drooling simpleton with the attention span of a demented gnat, but would you mind explaining everything in words of one syllable. 140 chars max.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:50 PM
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One feat worth mentioning is the ascent of all fourteen 8000m peaks without supplemental oxygen. Until Reinhold Messner undertook & completed this project many knowledgeable people considered it obviously impossible.
Why would it be impossible? It takes the same skills and inherent abilities for all of them. If someone's capable of doing it for whichever one is the hardest, then they'd also be capable of the other 13.
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Old 07-11-2019, 02:18 PM
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The Manhattan Project, I'd say. Same level of institutional coordination and rapid application of science to industrial processes, and similar tight time frames. Basically both projects were making something happen that had been almost purely theoretical a handful of years prior.

Not sure why the transporting of men is important; the real challenge of the moon landing programs (Gemini, Apollo) was in the massive coordination to design, build and test the equipment to get them there and back, as well as develop the techniques to accomplish it.
Well yeah, but why design, build, and test equipment to get men to the moon and back, if you're not going to actually *use* it for that.

If you're talking about just getting *equipment* to the moon and back, that would have been a hell of a lot easier than getting *men* there and back.
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Old 07-11-2019, 02:39 PM
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Yes, but one could still find projects of equivalent complexity and difficulty that don't involve moving humans around.
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Old 07-11-2019, 03:31 PM
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One possibility, depending on how you look at it, would be humans descending into the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench. It even followed the same pattern: the first manned descent was in 1960, by the U.S Navy. This, along with Navy habitats like SeaLab, kicked off a whole round of speculation about our 'mastery' of the sea, how cities would be eventually underwater with people farming seaweed and fish, yada yada.

Then people didn't descend again to those depths until James Cameron did it in 2012 with private money. Another private descent happened this year, and now several companies are planning to send people gack. Very similar to the evolution of the space program.
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Old 07-11-2019, 03:31 PM
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I've read, for instance, that fewer men have scuba'd to 600 feet or deeper in the ocean without the aid of a pressurized body suit than the number of men (12) who have been on the Moon.
Zero men have been on the moon without the aid of a pressurized suit.

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One feat worth mentioning is the ascent of all fourteen 8000m peaks without supplemental oxygen. Until Reinhold Messner undertook & completed this project many knowledgeable people considered it obviously impossible.
Knowledgeable people still consider it impossible to go to the moon without supplemental oxygen.
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Old 07-11-2019, 03:38 PM
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When I saw “Free Solo,” about Alex Honhhold climbing El Capitan without a safety rope, I felt this was one pinnacle of human achievement. Very different endeavor than the thousands of people who made the moon landings happen, but something about it did spark the comparison in my mind.
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Old 07-11-2019, 03:47 PM
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Why would it be impossible? It takes the same skills and inherent abilities for all of them. If someone's capable of doing it for whichever one is the hardest, then they'd also be capable of the other 13.
Out of 193 summits of Everest without bottled oxygen (this is back in May 2016) there were 24 deaths over 26,000 feet. That's a 12.4% chance of death. Compare that to those using oxygen, 6,811 total summits and 255 deaths for a 3.7% chance of death. I'd assume the risk on the other mountains over 8,000 meters is comparable, at least in scale. Doing something like that once is extraordinary, doing it 13 times without dying is phenomenal.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:23 PM
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Those expeditions that explored the Arctic and Antarctica are up there. Huge, state-planned and funded projects with very significant chances of death and failure. All to get a handful of people to a place where humans can't survive any period of time at all without modern technology keeping them alive. Except instead of taking three days, it took years.

I've just started The Terror, a recent show about the Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1845. At several points in the show, the parallels with astronauts are obvious. Even canned food was a brand new technical achievement, like Tang and freeze-dried ice cream were in the 60s. But the canned food on The Terror caused lead poisoning, yet another horror these guys had to contend with in their years in the frozen wilderness. Of course running into an Inuit or two strikes a blow to the "alien world" vibe.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:53 PM
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Getting Sputnik into a sustained orbit in 1957 was an immense feat, one that the U.S. couldn't match for three months.

The Gemini program, which was preparation for Apollo was also pretty damn tough, involving every part of Apollo except pushing the spacecraft to the moon, landing, and returning to earth. In fact, the Gemini 8 mission had to be aborted and nearly killed the two astronauts.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:21 PM
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Knowledgeable people still consider it impossible to go to the moon without supplemental oxygen.
Oh, yeah?
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:08 PM
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Quote:
Quoth Bill Door:

Out of 193 summits of Everest without bottled oxygen (this is back in May 2016) there were 24 deaths over 26,000 feet. That's a 12.4% chance of death. Compare that to those using oxygen, 6,811 total summits and 255 deaths for a 3.7% chance of death. I'd assume the risk on the other mountains over 8,000 meters is comparable, at least in scale. Doing something like that once is extraordinary, doing it 13 times without dying is phenomenal.
But you're assuming that the chances of death on each mountain are uncorrelated: That each time you climb, you roll the dice to see if you die. In actuality, though, some people are better at surviving low-oxygen conditions than others. It could be that the ones that die are just the ones who are really bad at tolerating low oxygen, and were guaranteed to die on any summit, and the ones who survived are good enough at it that they'd be guaranteed to survive every time. More likely, it's some combination, but it's still more likely that someone who survived it once can do so again.
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:53 PM
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... some people are better at surviving low-oxygen conditions
Definitely true. But low oxygen is by no means the only hazard encountered when attempting to climb the world's highest mountains.

And Messner believed in climbing mountains "by fair means" which in his book meant entirely by his own efforts, without help. This seriously increased the difficult and risk.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:55 PM
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But you're assuming that the chances of death on each mountain are uncorrelated: That each time you climb, you roll the dice to see if you die. In actuality, though, some people are better at surviving low-oxygen conditions than others. It could be that the ones that die are just the ones who are really bad at tolerating low oxygen, and were guaranteed to die on any summit, and the ones who survived are good enough at it that they'd be guaranteed to survive every time. More likely, it's some combination, but it's still more likely that someone who survived it once can do so again.
"More likely," sure--but that's FAR from a guarantee. Whenever you're in the Death Zone, the margin for survival is much smaller. Some small bit of bad luck that ordinarily wouldn't mean much can very easily prove fatal.

And, as they say, past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Who in the 1950s would have thought that Edmund Hillary, of all people, would eventually be struck down by altitude sickness?
https://www.news24.com/World/News/Ed...kness-20010507
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Old 07-12-2019, 02:16 AM
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As a non-medical person I would suggest the development of successful and reliable heart transplantation.

A more dispersed effort across nations, but maybe equal stakes and sense of triumph, and possibly something like the same complexity of task.

I know there was much experimenting and attempts along the way, and much was learned, but the actual achievement of it [if Christiaan Barnard's 18 day survival for a patient in 1967 can be counted as 'the one'] showed it could be done, and now is well understood.

Would be interested in others' views but, to me part of the equivalence with the first moon landing comes from how we think about the balancing of personal risk versus collective outcome. On the operating table someone was always odds-on to be dead during or straight after the ops. Their death could only have been justified if the outcome was of a commensurately higher and nobler purpose. The deaths of the Apollo 1 astronauts were only acceptable to the US public because of the higher [symbolic] purpose of conquering space.
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Old 07-12-2019, 08:43 AM
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I know I'm going to get blasted for this one, but here goes: the planning and execution of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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Old 07-12-2019, 08:52 AM
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If we go by number of people involved or moving parts: You can order a phone today and snap a picture with it and publish it to the world tomorrow. The logistics, development, research, maintenance, production needed to make all of that possible completely dwarves the moon landings.

It lack the “Because we can” cool factor though.
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:21 AM
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I know I'm going to get blasted for this one, but here goes: the planning and execution of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Blasting away...

The 9/11 attacks were a couple of orders of magnitude less impressive than the moon landings. The 9/11 attacks involved less than 100 people and required no new invention or even much use of existing technology.

I would suggest:

The Manhattan Project
The D-Day landings
Reaching the South Pole in 1909
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:23 AM
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Wanting to beat the USSR and to fulfill the Kennedy goal did a lot to motivate NASA and the US in general to go to the Moon. For the Manhattan project they wanted to beat Germany to getting the bomb.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:35 AM
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The feats that still blow my mind are the construction of the Pyramids and the Suez Canal, not only for the size of the project, but how long ago they were undertaken.

For example, just think about how we are closer in time to Cleopatra than she was to the building of the Great Pyramid. Or how the Panama Canal is roughly half the length of the Suez Canal overall, but the Suez was completed half a century earlier.

And, of course, both were accomplished at very great human cost.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:36 AM
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But you're assuming that the chances of death on each mountain are uncorrelated: That each time you climb, you roll the dice to see if you die. In actuality, though, some people are better at surviving low-oxygen conditions than others. It could be that the ones that die are just the ones who are really bad at tolerating low oxygen, and were guaranteed to die on any summit, and the ones who survived are good enough at it that they'd be guaranteed to survive every time. More likely, it's some combination, but it's still more likely that someone who survived it once can do so again.
This may be true, but you seem to be ignoring the fact that the 8000m peaks are by no means similar in climbing difficulty. Everest is one of the easy ones. List of death rates on all 8000m peaks. Annapurna kills 38% of all attempts, and K2 and Nanga Parbat aren't all that far behind. I doubt there are enough attempts on these peaks with no supplemental oxygen to provide a statistically significant death rate, but it would only be higher.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:52 AM
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How about the Lewis and Clark expedition? Big project of exploration funded by the government, significant personal risk by the parties involved, massive impact on the American psyche.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:55 AM
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There was a "pyramid" aspect of the project. The base was a immense amount of funding. (On the scale of $400 billion in today's money.) Then there were all the factory workers, etc. Then more specialized people like engineers, then rocket designers and NASA honchos. Then the astronaut corp. Then the 3 that were sent on Apollo 11.

Just in terms of money alone, I know of nothing that comes remotely close to such a limited goal project. Never mind the vast number of people behind it.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:02 PM
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Interesting. If you multiply the chance of surviving each of these 14 mountains, the resulting probability of surviving them all is around 14%.

This of course assumes that in each case you need just one attempt - most unlikely. I haven't been able to find information on the success / attempt ratio for these mountains, but I know it is notably low for the tough ones. Among the many uncertainties, weather is a big one.

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Old 07-12-2019, 01:02 PM
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Since this thread seems to have gone beyond the "getting humans somewhere" requirement of the OP, I would submit that, in terms of significance, the Human Genome project will probably have an order of magnitude greater effect on humanity than getting people to the moon.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:07 PM
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I've read, for instance, that fewer men have scuba'd to 600 feet or deeper in the ocean without the aid of a pressurized body suit than the number of men (12) who have been on the Moon. (Not sure about the exact ocean depth but it was some stat like that)
Man has landed on the moon six times and spent almost 300 hours on the moons surface (not all EVA). Yet man has visited the deepest part of the worlds oceans, Challenger Deep in the Mariana's Trench, just once. In 1960. For 20 minutes.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:38 PM
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Sequencing the human genome.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:40 PM
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Discovery of the Higgs boson.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:47 PM
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I know I'm going to get blasted for this one, but here goes: the planning and execution of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
As zimaane points out, this wasn't that hard. It merely involved infiltrating some terrorists into America, getting them some training in airplanes and flight simulators, avoiding their true intentions being discovered, then carrying out the hijackings in a pre-9/11, relaxed airport-security era.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:49 PM
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Man has landed on the moon six times and spent almost 300 hours on the moons surface (not all EVA). Yet man has visited the deepest part of the worlds oceans, Challenger Deep in the Mariana's Trench, just once. In 1960. For 20 minutes.
Twice, technically - James Cameron did it again many years later on a solo dive of his own.


But yeah, still much less time spent by humanity in that place than on the Moon.
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Old 07-12-2019, 02:10 PM
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Or how the Panama Canal is roughly half the length of the Suez Canal overall, but the Suez was completed half a century earlier.
The Suez was built through flat desert, while the Panama Canal was built through a mountainous stretch of rainforest.

The Panama Canal was both significantly more dangerous to the lives of its workers, and a vastly greater engineering feat, requiring the construction of an artificial lake and the implementation of a series of locks to raise and lower the huge container ships that pass through it. The Suez Canal essentially was just digging a massively long ditch.
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Old 07-12-2019, 02:31 PM
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Man has landed on the moon six times and spent almost 300 hours on the moons surface (not all EVA). Yet man has visited the deepest part of the worlds oceans, Challenger Deep in the Mariana's Trench, just once. In 1960. For 20 minutes.
Aren't you supposed to triple post that? An SDMB meme is just not the same with a single post.



As far as the question in this thread, how about the landing of men on the Sun? It was going to be really hard until someone discovered the trick. (And everyone now knows the trick, so I'm not going to repeat it here.)
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Old 07-12-2019, 02:37 PM
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The Glomar Explorer finding, then working on a submarine sunk 5,000+ meters down below. At that depth, pressure is close to 500 times atmo.
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:15 PM
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More men have walked on the moon than have completed a non-stop single-handed circumnavigation sailing of the globe via the harder westward route. The sailing feat has only been completed by five people - one of whom, Jon Sanders of Australia, completed the feat twice during a trip that included two sailing westward circumnavigations and a third via the eastward route.

A solo non-stop sailing circumnavigations by either route has been completed by only 25 people - far fewer than the 227 people (as of July 27, 2017 per Wikipedia) who have visited the International Space Station. Only 4 people have ever completed more than one solo non-stop sailing circumnavigation.
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:23 PM
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...
I've read, for instance, that fewer men have scuba'd to 600 feet or deeper in the ocean without the aid of a pressurized body suit than the number of men (12) who have been on the Moon. (Not sure about the exact ocean depth but it was some stat like that)
The most comparable record for scuba diving would be dives to depths greater than 300 meters (790 ft) using "recreational" equipment (no pressure suit) which has only been accomplished eight times.

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Old 07-12-2019, 09:37 PM
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Since Banksiaman brought up heart transpants, another medical achievement that deserves to be mentioned is the eradication of smallpox.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:07 PM
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As far as the question in this thread, how about the landing of men on the Sun? It was going to be really hard until someone discovered the trick. (And everyone now knows the trick, so I'm not going to repeat it here.)
???

(In case this is serious, it is my understanding that the heat of sun is only one problem the other is the angular momentum. So much delta-V to basically put the brakes on our starting from our planetary orbital path.)
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:29 PM
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???

(In case this is serious,)
It's not.
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Old 07-13-2019, 04:59 AM
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The "trick" is to go at night.
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Old 07-13-2019, 05:47 AM
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Oh! Heh.
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Old 07-13-2019, 06:49 AM
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It took a team of 400,000 + people to accomplish the moon landings. Nothing compares.
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:04 AM
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There are a ton of things achieved by a very tiny number of people.

Take high altitude parachuting, for example. Only 3 people have jumped from over 100k feet (or 30km). Only one from over 40km. The last was just a guy who made a ton of money at Google and it barely dented his net worth.

But these are hardly the mammoth projects that the Moon landings were.

If step one of getting the job done isn't to light a can with tons of highly flammable crap in it that could wipe out every bit of your existence in seconds, it's hardly in the same league of difficulty.
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:16 AM
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It took a team of 400,000 + people to accomplish the moon landings. Nothing compares.
If we are counting heads then, apart from straight military activity, some ancient works that used lots of people:

* Great Wall of China

* Roman road network

* Some of the great mound and pyramid landscapes - Great pyramids, US mound building cultures, Maya and so on.

I guess one difference between these and the moon landing is they were cumulative visions, often extending over centuries. Living in an age where incoming governments reverse their predecessor's decisions every few years, I remain mightily impressed that any culture was able to pursue a singular vision over centuries and dynasties.

Also, willing to grant that these were all big but essentially upscaled repetitive tasks, and may not meet the OP's criteria.
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Old 07-13-2019, 10:20 AM
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I think an example of a project engaged in by thousands of people over thousands of years is the Polynesian exploration of the Pacific between about 3000 B.C. and 1200 A.D.:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explor...of_the_Pacific
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