To the moon

If we had reason to, how long would it take us to get a person to the moon? That is to build the rocket, get it launched and actually land on the moon.

Didn’t we do this a long time ago? Or am I missing something here?

It’s an interesting question because many people don’t seem to know just how immense the Apollo program was. All by itself, NASA took up 5.5% of all Federal spending in 1966, just as Apollo was being put in motion. National pride was at stake, plus the development of better ICBM technology.

Even now, despite better computers and equipment and all the requisite knowledge, it’s not like we could go down to the corner store and buy a 6-pack and a lunar landing module (though in optimistic 1969, this probably seemed like a possible 2002 purchase). Almost all of the necessary infrastructure would have to be rebuilt, at incredible expense. The Chinese can do it, using American data, because they can muster national pride. Until they pull it off and start doing things that demand an American response, i.e. lunar missile bases, I don’t see NASA retooling for Apollo II anytime soon.

It also depends upon how you want to do it. For example, if we had to get to the Moon in a relatively short period of time, there’s plenty of Apollo hardware still laying around in museums and the like that we could snag, which enable us to get a couple of folks bouncing happily around on the surface in a relatively short period of time. None of it could be ready in a week, of course, but we could do that a lot faster than designing and building things from scratch.

'Not much in my post to add, except that, to save on the complexity of a quick’n’dirty moonship, we might not even have to put any re-entry capability on it, the crew could get picked up back in Earth orbit by a Shuttle.

Just a thought,

Yeah, Ranchoth, and couldn’t most of the pieces could be put in orbit by the shuttle too?

My guess is that it wouldn’t be too hard to cobble together a ship that just has to go Earth orbit -> moon -> Earth orbit again.

Sure, build 4 or 5 new shuttles at few billion apiece just so that you can get the launch rate up to the point where you can actually build something in orbit in less than a decade. Then figure out how to design and test the thing, then build it… Sounds like an expensive decade long project to me.

I’m guessing that the OP is talking about the Bruce Willis Scenario, where Bruce has to put together a team of Old Codgers to fly James Garner’s backyard spaceship project, made out of leftover Apollo components, to the moon to rescue Bruce’s daughter, Liv Tyler, whose Moon mission, thanks to the twisted machinations of the Evil NASA official (played by Kevin McCarthy), has become stranded, and only Daddy can save her…

So, how long would it take Bruce and James and the Old Codgers, along with some reluctant assistance from the Beautiful Helpful NASA official (played by Mary Steenburgen) to assemble some Apollo components and put Bruce on the moon?

Seriously now.

Assuming that he and the Old Codgers could go up in the shuttle, and put the thing together in orbit? And that he and Liv and the Old Codgers could ride back in the shuttle… Two weeks? Longer?

How much lead time does NASA need for shuttle launches?

It all depends on what NASA’s planning on doing on the mission, and how many other missions they’ve got planned. It can take anywhere from several months to a year or more.

Remember, though, if it was suddenly vitally important for the US to get to the Moon in a hurry, NASA would probably drop everything else it was working on and concentrate on getting something ready for a manned Moon mission. No doubt the military folks who work only on defense related space missions would be involved and you can bet a lot of the NASA retirees would show up at the front gates offering their help at no cost. Add to that, we could call on our new-found allies the Russians, and maybe even get Andy Griffith to let us use his junkyard space ship.

. . . it’s damn pathetic how little has been done in the way of space exploration sice 1969. Makes me want to cry.

You know, I think it would only take a year or two, on a purely crash program basis. You don’t have build or design another series of Titan boosters. That’s a lot of time and money saved. You can take existing solid rocket boosters into space on the shuttle. Part of your design parameters for the Lunar Orbit Insertion stage is to use entirely on the shelf hardware. We have a lot of boosters laying around. If you use the Space station as a barracks for your work crew, shuttle missions can be set up for the fastest possible cycle time.

Basically, all you have to build is another Lunar Lander, and a fairly simple set of strap together boosters to mate it to in orbit. You can do most of the assembly on the ground, just leaving the final mating and connecting for space walkers. If you don’t want any heavy mission specific payload, the whole thing is no heavier than the first module, and Liv doesn’t weigh much more than a sack of moon rocks. (:))


“If God had intended for man to go to Mars, He would have given us more money.” ~ an unnamed NASA official ~

Me too.:frowning:

I thought that we would have a moon base or two by now.

Oops, those would be Saturn boosters we were not redesigning, not Titan. Sorry.


<insert snappy on topic quote here>

Could we really do it in one -two years?:confused:

I figured 5, maybe 10 years to get back to the moon(without a crash program).

Hit submit too soon:o

Would the shuttle be of any use to a moon mission?

If we start over instead of useing old Apollo stuff, could we shorted the time it take to get to the moon?

Could the US do this alone?

I imagine a shuttle payload consisting of a rocket/capsule that would start it’s mission by being deployed in orbit by the shuttle.

Isn’t the real question now, “What would a moon shuttle - carried by the Shuttle - take to build in terms of time…and money when it needs to shuttle to the moon and return to an earht orbit where the Shuttle would scoop it up?”

We don’t have the issues of launch and re-entry. We need a ‘moon shuttle’ that is carried by the Shuttle.

In a rush, I’m guessing 9-months to one year, at the exspense of all the redundancy and testing that makes everything else take forever.

Folks, there is red tape galore in getting it built - multiple industries. Even so, going with a new moon shuttle launched from the Space Shuttle might be the best chance for combining speed and safety.

The shuttle doesn’t have the lift capacity necessary to hoist a payload larger than a satellite along with the fuel necessary to take it someplace useful.

Objects lose their weight in space, but they don’t lose their mass. In order to escape Earth’s gravity you have to achieve a velocity better than 7 miles per second, and the more mass you have to start with the more fuel you’re going to burn to accelerate that mass to escape velocity. You could launch several shuttles and assemble a larger spacecraft from smaller components, but this would be a prohibitively complex, dangerous and expensive operation. What you really need is a booster rocket powerful enough to get a suitable spacecraft off the ground in one go, but they literally don’t make rockets like that anymore.

The critical achievement of the Apollo program was the Saturn V rocket, which is still the most powerful heavy-lift booster ever developed. Its engines generate 7-1/2 million pounds of thrust, enough power to hoist 200 tons into Earth orbit or hurl a mass of 50 tons all the way to the moon. There are two flight-qualified Saturn Vs remaining in the US inventory, but as was pointed out, they’re museum pieces now. Furthermore, Launch Complex 39 was rehabbed for use by the space shuttle so we no longer have a suitable launch facility even if we had the desire to pull those two Saturns from pasture.

The Russians have a comparable booster technology called Energia, but they don’t manufacture them anymore due to the financial straits of their space program and lack of a suitable mission after cancellation of the Buran shuttle program.

So, in regard to the original question, I say it would take 5 to 10 years from commitment to launch, but only if we’re willing to rebuild the entire infrastructure from scratch.

Koala, I appreciate your insight.

Is there any opportunity to slingshot out of Earth’s orbit towards the moon to save on fuel?

I’m no expert on Shuttle payload capacity, but let’s say we just need to propel a two man ‘capsule’ towards the moon. Could we use several shuttle launches to get some things into space that one shuttle couldn’t carry?

Maybe we need two components hooked together, which are greater than capacity, primarily because of fuel, and we use a sling shot technique and make two shuttle trips…the first to deliver phase one, and the second to deliver phase two and hook them up?

A space shuttle has a payload capacity of 32,000 lbs; an Apollo-style SM/CSM/LM stack weighs about 90,000 lbs, of which 40% of that mass is propellant. You’d need 3 to 5 shuttle launches just to get the hardware into orbit, and at least one of those launches would consist of nothing but fuel. Then you’d have to assemble the stack, fuel the vehicle, and transfer the crew (none of which will be safe or easy to do in Earth orbit) and repeat the whole procedure every time you wanted to send three more people on a very brief round trip.

It’s easier, safer, and cheaper to assemble the spacecraft on Earth and boost it up in one piece. Unfortunately, without a Saturn/Energia-class launch vehicle you still have the orbital assembly problem because the mightiest boosters in current use (e.g. the Lockheed Atlas) have a payload capacity around 50,000 lbs.

But whether you resurrect the Saturn or build a new heavy-lift launcher from scratch, the biggest problem will be political rather than technical. You’d find it easier to sell the public on a manned mission to Mars than to the moon, even though it’s a back-assward way to perform a manned exploration of the solar system.

Come to think of it, isn’t that how we ended up with a moon landing followed by a space station followed by a space shuttle followed by another space station to begin with?

I want to caution you on that “7 miles per second” number, KoalaBear. That’s “escape velocity”, or what you’d have to reach to escape Earth’s gravity entirely. To get to the moon, you could just hop up into an elliptical orbit (instead of a hyperbolic orbit, which is what happens when you reach “escape velocity”), which only requires a few meters/sec delta-V.

Based on some numbers from this page, the Apollo lunar lander weighed 32k lbs, the Command Module weighed 12k, and the Service Module weighed 50k. The newer shuttles can carry about 58k lbs, so you could get the Apollo crafts up there in two launches. Take into account advances in materials and technology, you could use very similar technical “solutions” and probably get an upper stage rocket up there too to make the jump from LEO to a transfer orbit.

So, assuming we re-make Apollo-like stuff and use Shuttles to launch it in two pieces, you’re still stuck with a huge engineering and manufacturing feat. If this really is a Bruce Willis-level effort, where you say “costs be damned” and you just plain gotta have dudes on the moon ASAP, then I’d say that you could probably get an initial design in about 6 months, say 18 months for manufacturing and assembly, then another 3 months for shuttle integration, then a 1 month turnaround between shuttle launches, you could have people up there in under three years, plus or minus a decade.