# How hard would it be to fly to the Moon?

I was thinking the otherday, assuming that you had the ship that would survive the inter planetary journey and you of course had all of the cool kit that astronoauts have, how hard is it really to fly to the Moon. Maybe one of you can help me out here but couldn’t you just point yourself in the general direction and make minor corrections as you watched it get bigger in your window?? I am sure getting the craft to orbit would be hard but if you were only interested in a oneway trip couldn’t any moron with a spaceship do it

Leaving aside the rather strange way this question is put, I think what you’re trying to get at is whether navigating to the moon is hard, or whether you could just aim at the moon and go.

My guess is that doing so would work, basically, but that it would not be the most efficient way to do it, because the moon is moving and so are you (assuming you start in an Earth orbit). I would guess that you would be better off aiming in a carefully calculated direction (which I am in no way qualified to guess at) that would account for this. I suspect you would aim at a point that you know the moon will be, when you get there.

I don’t think that would work; to just aim and fire would be terribly energy-inefficient; to effectively chase after the moon, you’d need a great deal more fuel, which would increase the launch mass of your vehicle, which would mean you need more fuel, which would increase the launch mass of your vehicle and so on.

Unless you’re proposing some sort of Sci-Fi drive method, in which case, point and shoot might be workable.

considering a modern laptop has probably the entire computing power of NASA in 1968, I think it should be relatively easy for you to get in your spacecraft and navigate to the moon. Just don’t rely on Windows NT though. Let us know how it went.

And even supposing you managed to hit it, you would end up in the bottom of the Patricinus Scriblerus crater in tiny pieces. OTOH, if you miss it, you will likely shoot off into deep space. The tricky part is making a soft landing, or getting into orbit.

Suppose I want to meet my friend who is beginning his flight from San Francisco to New York at this very moment. What do I do? I get in my little plane in DC and I keep pointing is his direction? I’d make a big loop starting out headed west and then turning north and then east chasing him to NY. Since I know where he is headed I can go there directly and it works out better.

I think it is a little harder than you all suppose. If all you want to do is hit the moon and fuel is no concern than maybe it wouldn’t be so hard. However, surviving the landing (or placing yourself in lunar orbit) and doing so with a minimum of fuel is considerably more difficult.

A laptop today does indeed have more computing power than what NASA possessed during the Apollo missions. However, NASA also had several hundred people watching, monitoring and doing whatever esle they do to see the mission work. Also realize that I don’t think software to calculate orbital mechanics is available at Best Buy. Additionally, actually maneuvering in space is tricky. It is not like playing Wing Commander and astronauts practice a LOT to get this down.

So, if you don’t want to smack into the moon killing yourself or end-up in a stern chase of the moon I would think a good deal of work and preparation would be necessary.

As stated before, flying direct from point A on the earth straight to point B on the moon would not be the most efficient way to do it. It COULD probably be done, but would use a ton of gas. The most efficient way, if I remember my college Astrodynamics course correctly, is called a Hohmann transfer orbit.

The Hohmann transfer orbit basically results in you flying half an ellipse, with one focus at the center of the earth and the other calculated such that you will enter orbit around the moon at the point farthest from earth (the apogee). Thus, “all” you have to do is burn enough fuel to get up to the proper orbital velocity, coast all the way to the moon, and then burn fuel to slow down into a moon orbit. Then you can descend any time you want.

Here, I found a web page with a good picture (it talks about earth to mars, but it’s the same concept):

If Andy Griffith could do in on SALVAGE ONE

it can’t be that tough.

Nah, it’s on the web.

That title is from a post I made several months ago. Weird.

It’s relatively easy for someone who has the math required to calculate the orbital mechanics. Or you can use a computer to do it. Forget the PC - just take a Palm pilot. That’s more than enough computing power to calculate orbital parameters for flight to any body in the solar system.

The tricky part is in the details - measuring your exact position in space with a sextant, calculating your position, doing it again in a while to get a second point so you can calculate an orbit, figuring out from that which orbit you’re in and what kind of burn you need to do to correct the orbit to the right one, etc. NASA has all kinds of goodies to make this job easier - if you’re rolling your own solution it’s a lot harder.

Well DUH! Use GPS!

In all seriousness though, some various independent agencies are indeed trying to get to the moon, it is not all that hard in theory, just shoot to where it will be at the time of your arrival. Actualy you could do most of it minus the landings with a computer, automated moon flights are how things are done now days anyways (on those rare occasions which they are done.)

The main issues turn out to be more quality control related. The theory is all well established, but getting together a ship that will not fall apart before it even lifts a few feet off the ground is a bit of an issue.

So many things to go wrong. . . .

Space flight would likely be a lot easier if somebody could just come up with a simplier model for doing it. The space plane ideas are even to complex to be pulled off with any degree of certainty on a regular basis.

I’ll forgo the discussion of what little I know about navigating spacecraft (a long-ago astrodynamics course). I’d like to jump in with an interesting reference, however. In Lost Moon, Jim Lovell tells the story of the troubled Apollo 13 journey. As the Aquarius/Odyssey pair approached Earth, he had to manually fire and stabilize the flight path of the spacecraft in order to make a correction. They had a 2.5 (or so) degree window for their flight path for re-entry.

Not something I’d like to stake my life on.

Ummm… I didn’t know it had been done recently at all. Or are you referring to trips to Mars?

Not just 1968, but the Year 2002 as well.

The American space agency (Nasa) has begun trawling the internet for spare parts for its shuttles, according to United Space Alliance, the company that runs the shuttle fleet. The shuttles, first launched in 1981, often rely on computer components that are so out of date, they are no longer made.

The article is dated 13 May 2002.

Among the parts they need are eight-inch floppy drives and 8086 chips. It is my understanding that the PCs inside the Shuttle are powered by 8086 CPUs!!!

You can bet the Shuttle doesn’t run Windows (any flavor) at all. Maybe PC-DOS 2.1 though.

The most recent NASA moon shot was the Lunar Prospector which was launched in Jan of 1998. Before that was Clementine, which was a Defense Dept bird launched in Jan of 1994.

Later this year, the Europeans will launch an unmanned lunar craft named SMART-1. And the Japanese have plans for a couple in the next year or so.

Duckster, not to burst your bubble, but here’s an interview on NPR with one of the NASA engineers talking about it. Apparently, the reason they keep using the old stuff is that it works and they know approximately how long it’ll last once its been installed. Pretty savvy since its a bitch to get a spare part when you’re a hundred miles up.

Thanks dtilque I was unaware of Clementine and had forgotten about Lunar Explorer.

I don’t think Explorer landed on the moon. Did Clementine? Do you happen to know where I could find more info about Clementine or the other programmes you mention?

Motog, I assume you mean Lunar Prospector. It did not land on the moon, nor was it meant to. Originally, they were just going to let it crash into the moon on its own when its fuel ran out. But after getting a strong indication that there might be ice in craters around the south pole, they deliberately crashed it into one of those craters. They’d hoped to see water vapor in the plume from the crash, but failed to detect it.

As far as other missions, there’s summaries of all missions to the moon in the timeline here. It includes all manned and unmanned as well as the few planned for the future. If you want more info, I hear that Google is your friend.