Are We Being Overly Cautious In Going Back To The Moon?

from the maybe... dept

Someone who prefers to remain anonymous writes “Check out Marshall Brain’s blog this morning. He writes about Bush’s plan to return to the moon. What Brain says is fascinating and right on target: “At the start of 1958, America had never had anything in orbit and NASA did not even exist…. Yet, despite our total ignorance and lack of technology, we went from NOTHING all the way to man-on-the-moon in just 11 years.” Then he looks at Bush’s plan to put us back on the moon in sixteen years and asks, what does this tell us? Despite all of the technological advancement since 1958, we are now SLOWER than we were!” While this is an interesting comparison, we certainly don’t know all the details surrounding the timeline and why it was chosen. If sixteen years means doing certain things right, rather than risking lives, then there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, if the plan is designed in a way that it’s not a “one-time” shot – but set up to further exploration, then it might make sense. Meanwhile, other science-fiction writers weigh in with both positive and negative responses to the plan.

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Comments on “Are We Being Overly Cautious In Going Back To The Moon?”

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dorpus says:

Vote Getting Ploy

Seems to me Bush is just trying to win votes with the Star Trekkie crowd, timing his announcement to coincide with yet another rover mission on mars.

I wonder when we’ll have the first prison in space, the first deformed baby born in space, the first domestic violence case in space, the first public housing in space (oh wait, did I just describe the international space station?).

mhh5 says:

What we really need to do...

instead of going to the moon or mars, (which I think we can agree is a massive, but do-able, engineering feat) we should get NASA to figure out how to live on other worlds. Take a project like BioSphere II seriously before we embark on the journey so that when we get there, we can actually have a self-sustaining artificial environment.

Arsalan says:

Re: What we really need to do...

Your all.. missing the point. Bush is putting a mere 1 mil into the space program a year. In the 60s NASA’s budget was ~70 bil a year. Now it is 17 bil a year. So for a mere 1 bil/year extra we are supposed to go to the moon. Huh? I don’t think so, this will only drain money from other projects, without proper funding these things just dont work.

John Bartley (user link) says:

Bush Space Plan

Bush-43, well, it’s not his job to be a detail man. You just give the guy the ball and let him run with it. It’s a staff job to fill in the details, along with the Dreamer Fifthp (us).

I’d rather not have the economy subject to the whims of the House of Saud, and let them go their own way as we go ours. I think it’s time for a friendly divorce, and I think a *lot* of voters would agree.

One thing which I don’t see mentioned in the Bush-43 proposal is the well-designed campaign of Apollo 17 moonwalker and former US Senator Harrison Schmidt. He know how to work the Congress, and has been stumping for threelium mines on Luna.

You see, fusion power is not cost-effective since it take more bucks to make power when fusing He4 than you get in return by selling the electricity, even if you scale up market prices by an order of magnitude. However, He3 fuses much more readily, and emits far fewer neutrons (which irradiate the reactor, causing semiconductor failure and embrittling structural material, not to mention biohazard issues).

Here’s a concept: Put up some solar panels on the lunar surface to power smelters, and run R/C dozers with pebble bed or other simplified reactors (on a looooong power cord, thankyouverymuch). R/C dozers are preferred, as you don’t have to deal with shift changes, suiting/unsuiting, suit failure risk, and the ever popular human waste collection systems.

Dozers scoop up the loose surface & dump it on a conveyor belt. We know how to make conveyor belts, we have the technology.

Bake the soil in a preheat chamber before the smelters, powered by the solars. Extract the outgassing He3, liquify it, and send it back home for energy independence.

This suggests a BIG station in LEO (Station ‘Titusville Supra’?), but at a better inclination than ISS, as a place to park the ‘bus’ (a heavily-shielded exoatmospheric transfer vehicle without aerodynamic penalties). Shuttle-replacement ships run from Terra to the LEO
station and back. The LEO-to-ClarkeOrbit ‘bus’ runs *quickly* through the Van Allens (2500 r/year in the Van Allens is *not* my idea of a good time) to the geosynch station (‘Clark County’?).

Once you’re outside of the Van Allens, you can operate with nuclear, as if nuke go boom, nuke parts don’t hit earth. Nuke-powered tugs run from Clark COunty to Luna, taking freight modules with clean laundry and frozen pizza, plus crew modules, and returning with R&R modules, plus dirty laundry and cryogenic threelium in the freight modules.

Now, every two weeks the solars go dark, and the ore piles up. Getting an SPS on line to beam power down to Luna might be a priority to facilitate full production. With all that lovely Fe, Al and Si lying around running through the smelters, bootstrapping the first SPS might
not take much heavy lift from Terra, just things Luna can’t practically make.

Of course, a couple of dozen SPS systems might be a nifty thing to have, pointed at cowpastures back home, to replace all the
radon-emitting coal which cancerfies the East Cost, not to mention all the Saudi oil with strings attached that makes like complicated right now.

We don’t know about long term 1/6 gee living, so the teleoperators might better run the threelium mines from a Big Wheel station in Lunar geosynch, with something closer to earth gravity. I’ll leave that for the medicos to decide if a Bowflex and a treadmill ain’t enough to keep the Loonies healthy.

LittleW0lf says:

Re: Bush Space Plan

A very well thought out plan, but how would you deal with CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejection) from the Sun which will produce far more radiation then the Van Allens, and will directly affect those in the Clarke Station, which are above the protection of the Van Allen Belts?

Apollo 17, Schmidt’s mission, was concerned about a CME while on the surface of the moon, after a solar flare was detected on the sun. Luckily, no CME occurred while Apollo 17 was on the moon. We just had a few CMEs near miss us lately. A human in the path of a CME would be baked alive, both with heat and radiation.

Obviously the Clarke Station would have to generate its own protective electro-magnetic field (timed with the variations of both the Sun’s and Earth’s fields to achieve maximum protection without cancellation,) and would have to provide other systems to reduce the danger of heat and radiation from the sun. Both would have to be tackled before we could build a satellite outside the Earth’s protective systems to safely house humans.

Of course, we need the same to assure that humans aboard the Mars spacecraft safely make it to Mars and back.

A great goal for all humans, but most humans are so impatient about anything that involves space (or anything scientific) that I don’t think it will ever happen (or ever happen safely,) until we all become a little more patient. The moment NASA puts a ship crewed by humans in space that isn’t safe, and they die, the world will be set back in this goal by many years. Just look at the setbacks that Challenger and Columbia have done to the space program.

LittleW0lf says:

Re: Re: Bush Space Plan

A great goal for all humans, but most humans are so impatient about anything that involves space (or anything scientific) that I don’t think it will ever happen (or ever happen safely,) until we all become a little more patient.

Oops…hit submit too quickly…

And in order for humans to become a little more patient, they must know that they have food, shelter, and clothing, and enough time to persue space and science. With most of the world not in this category, human patience in space isn’t going to go very far… I hear it all the time, “Why are we making plans on spending money in space when we cannot even spend enough to take care of all the problems down here?” Not that I agree, I think we have to expand into space, otherwise we’ll kill ourselves off due to lack of resources or inadequate protection from extra-Earth objects (asteroids, meteors, large CMEs, etc.) In order to ensure the future of humans, we must diversify.

Dermo says:

Commercialise it!

A way to raise the finance would be to commercialise the a Moon Shot by showing the selection, training and missions in a 24 hour reality TV/webcast format with massive advertising. Imagine an astronaut’s suit covered in logos like a racing driver’s suit or a rocket with a Coke stripe painted on it. There’s a book called Moon Blog which takes this as a starting point:

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