Questions and critizisms about the Apollo's mission

Part of Apollo’s mission seemed to be more of getting picts and vid’s, a publicity stunt. For that it worked great.

My question is did we really know what to do there once we got there (and do we know today what to do if we return)? or is their really nothing to do on the moon? That second I’ve heard as the reason we have not returned since Apollo, been there done that and didn’t find anything.

But with Apollo’s focus on publicity, many camera’s, walking while singing ‘I was strolling on the moon one day’, driving around, even playing golf up there, it really does not seem like we were really there to study it much. Even crew selection, IIRC there was only one geologist ever sent, and that was on one of the later missions.

Were we really serious about learning about the moon? And, if not, did Apollo hinder the drive to actually learn about it by putting forth the message that we’ve been there done that, didn’t find any reason to return?

And how would a moon mission today differ from the Apollo mission in terms of study and research, the actual learning about it.

It seems to me like there’s a big difference between “Apollo’s focus” and “media focus on Apollo”. Things like playing golf are the things that catch in collective memory because a) those are the easy, fun stories that are good for the media, b) understanding exactly what studies were done and what was discovered often aren’t all that accessible to the layman, and c) we can utterly ignore the fact that it’s the moon and still apply the same standard. You use a geologist as an example; without looking it up, what are the last great discoveries in geology over the last ten years? I can’t name any; I’d be hard pressed to name any geological discovery events at all, frankly. Perhaps I’m uniquely ignorant on that matter, but my wager would be that most people couldn’t, either. Does that mean that there’s nothing to discover on Earth?

I am under the impression that the astronauts brought back samples from the moon to study on Earth, too. That’s a big advantage over modern probes; those probes need to do all their research where they are, and contain any equipment they need. Bring some to Earth, and you have any experimental gear you need to have a look at it - and any expert.

You’re also missing out that a big part of the value in going to the Moon was the “going to the moon” part. Think of the technology required to make that happen in the first place. Even if, at the very last moment, Apollo 11 had been cancelled and everyone had decided it wasn’t worth going, the advances arising from that drive to get their and to create the ability to get there are part of the story, too.

Beyond that, it was a sort of Cold War proxy conflict, in that actually going to the Moon was an expression of national wealth, capability and resolve. There wasn’t necessarily an overriding scientific or commercial goal in mind once there, although a lot of scientific and commercial discoveries and successes grew out of the Moon landings or the technological base developed to enable the Moon landings.

I think the conclusion was that geologically, the Earth and Moon are pretty similar, and that as such, there wasn’t much benefit to going back, at least not for what they’d have wanted to do in the meantime. It’s possible that a moonbase and lunar mining for water might be useful for staging future solar system exploration, but between 1969 and today, there’s not much to be discovered scientifically that we can’t already do from earth orbit, and not much to be had commercially.

The Apollo Program was at its essence, an engineering challenge: build a machine capable of landing a person on the moon and bringing him back. Anything else he did there was just gravy. The point of going to the moon was to create the technology that allowed them to go to the moon; the actual landing was just a proof-of-concept.

NASA’s tragedy is that they later started thinking of themselves as a scientists rather than an engineers. They should have spend the following 40 years designing better rockets, instead of wasting time on studying the universe. The universe wasn’t going anywhere, and better rockets would have made studying it a *lot *easier.

An interesting thought. If going to the Moon was part of a political conflict with the USSR, that conflict no longer exists, and the reason for going somewhere is to learn about it. Are you suggesting that NASA should confine itself to the mathematics and mechanics of getting somewhere, and that another agency should do the exploration and study?

No, the reason to go somewhere is to build a vehicle to get there. If each vehicle you build is better than the one before it, then eventually you’ll have vehicles that are efficient enough that they can be used for any number of purposes, including, but not limited to, exploration and study.

NASA has not yet reached the level of technological proficiency in which exploration and study ware are viable pursuits. It’s trying to do advanced oceanography with dugout canoes.

Actually, reading your post again, I’m not disagreeing with you. Maybe there should be one agency that focuses on improving space travel capabilities - a spaceship, satellite and space station design organization - and another agency that focuses on scientific research. An “engineering NASA” and a “science NASA”. The latter will be like the current NASA, and the former will be something like a civilian DARPA focusing on space travel.

Personally, I’d budget the first at about ten times the second. I don’t think that will lead to less science being done, not in the long run, because as we build better spacecraft, scientific research will become exponentially cheaper.

The Golf swing was done right at the end of the second EVA. It was literally the last thing they did on the surface of the moon (Apollo 14 crew that is). As it is, I believe most of the current theories on the earths formation come from analysis of Apollo lunar samples. Especially, the hypothesis of Thea collision with Earth.

As it is, just because the scientific work has little practical value today, does not mean it never will. How much practical use did Newton’s work have in his time? What about now.

The Saturn V was ridiculously overpowered. Literally the only thing it could be used for was to go the moon. Even Skylab, which was launched on a Saturn V, at 77 tonnes was about 2/3rds of its total payload capacity. Skylab remains the heaviest payload ever sent up. There literally is nothing today, that a Saturn V can be used to put up economically, never mind 45 years ago.

Actually, it’s receding quite rapidly. :wink:

“Better” doesn’t always mean more powerful - it can also mean cheaper. Better rockets mean a smaller investment for each kilo sent to orbit. After all, the lion’s share of the cost of space research and exploration is getting stuff into space in the first place. You make that cheaper, you make everything cheaper.

I think you’ll find that the point was to save money on catering.

It was designed to take the Apollo and LEM to the moon; it had to be that powerful. They stopped being made when the Apollo program ended.
Your point being? :slight_smile:

It really had no other use it could reasonably be adapted to, then or now. Skylab launch excepted.

Maybe what they learned about making really big rockets can serve as the basis for more cost-effective really big rockets in the future.

These are all points that have been discussed before, here and many places elsewhere. I share the OP’s frustration that we threw our national resources, and more importantly, the goodwill of the public and taxpayers, into mankind’s costliest dick-waving exhibition. We were left with literally nothing at the end of the project except the miniscule scientific return, which we could have accumulated - bag of rocks and all - at a fraction of the cost for an unmanned mission series. We built a one-shot, one-purpose system that had no future and gave us no future.

We had a rocket that was fearsomely expensive, pretty much useless for anything else, and of which the last two or three units rotted away as exhibits.

We acquired a huge a mount of engineering expertise… that largely left with the RIFfed and retiring engineers. I think it was Elon Musk who tried to look up capsule heat shield engineering info and found it largely empty files and scanty blueprints. He had to go find the aged engineers who’d done the work to help him reconstruct the materials and process. I doubt this is a special case, so millions of man-hours of brain sweat is essentially lost.

We burned out public interest in a manned space future. No one has wanted to fund the duller, almost pedestrian path we should have taken beginning in 1960, building reusable lift capability, LEO presence, and generally a “ladder to the stars.” Even now, with the almost-good-enough ISS… it’s approaching the end of its useful and planned life, having accomplished nearly nothing.

Until recently, I had soured on private spaceflight, too, since all of them were simply building junkyard specials from leftover US and Soviet tech. No real plans what they were going to do when they used up their pile of engines etc.

Elon Musk and SpaceX may be the real beginning of spaceflight on Earth. I literally stood up and cheered watching their booster come this-><-close to making that tail-first landing, for want of a little hydraulic fluid. Their calm recovery during mission exceptions could teach NASA a thing or two about planning and goals.

My position for a long time (echoed by a long-time JPL/NASA friend) is that we need to mothball NASA and build a real spaceflight program, one shorn of the badly flawed beginnings, warped guidelines and utterly aimless planning. The problem is, we’d have little trouble shuttering NASA, and trying to fund and foster a new space agency with real teeth, balls and funding would make Obamacare look like a cakewalk.

100 years from now, 1960-2000 will be seen as a sadly flawed and almost completely failed attempt to get mankind off the surface of Earth. Apollo and Neil Armstrong will be footnotes to the effort and personnel that get there next, with a purpose, and achieve something more than a touch-n-go.

Horse puckey! :slight_smile:

Well said and I agree on all points.

The reason to go somewhere is to study science. Else there is no reason to go. Getting the science equipment there is very much part of designing the vehicle. Consider a Mars lander. To drill a core, you need some idea of what you will be drilling through. You need to know the temperatures your drill will be subject to, the wind and dust. You can’t have Colorado School of Mines design the drill and tell you at the last moment that it cannot operate at temperatures below freezing, or discover that it won’t fit inside the vehicle. :slight_smile:

I think the way things are heading now is actually the better way. Leave the engineering/manufacturing/launching to private companies, and let NASA focus on big science. Science is best left to governments and universities, building stuff and innovating technology is the domain of corporations.

I was under the impression that North American Aviation designed and built the Apollo spacecraft.