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Going to the moon?

  1. Feb 3, 2006 #1
    I remember seeing old TV footage from 1961 of Kennedy promising to get to the moon before the end of the decade, which they succeeded in doing with Apollo 11 in July 1969.
    All the planning, designing, building and testing, the successes and failures, redesign, rebuild, retest, the development of a robust computer system (which I believe was less poweful than my first computer, a Sinclair Spectrum 48K), all of it achieved in 8 years.

    I also remember seeing recent TV footage from 2004, of Bush promising to go back to the moon by 2020.

    Why is it going to take 16 years this time round?
    Why don't they just whip out the old Apollo plans and rebuild that, and with modern materials and computer systems, but nothing too complicated, you don't need to do much more than was done originally, and knowing the final plans means you should cut it down to maybe 4 years as you don't have all the previous development work to do.

    It's like they could do the journey in 8 hours with an old Mark1 Ford Escort, but with a modern Ford Focus they need 16 hours for the same journey.
    I'm very confused...

    Or, and this is just a thought, could it be that they never actually did go the first time?

    Hugo Rune
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2006 #2


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    Well, it depends a lot on what you want to do when you get there and how much of a risk you want to take in making the trip.
  4. Feb 3, 2006 #3
    So a slight redesign on the original plans is all that is called for.

    This is a serious enquiry, (my remark was just my English humour, I was brought up with Monty Python and got infected at an early age) I'm happy to accept they got to the moon in 1969, it happened on my 12th birthday and I remember it quite vividly.

    But that doesn't change my confusion, the very opposite in fact, I am more confused, we have better materials now, better technology in all fields, we even have a partially completed space station there to help if needed in emergency.

    Why is it any more risky than a present day shuttle flight?
    How have the risks changed/increased from the time of Apollo 11?
    And not forgetting that the original 8 years included all the previous Apollo flights before 11, they had manned orbiters beforehand, every flight was into the unknown and extremely risky, why is it any more risky now? Just to do that first flight back to the moon is going to need 16 years?

    Hugo Rune
  5. Feb 3, 2006 #4


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    Well because it wouldn't be an incredible race to beat any other "evil" country. We want to go to the moon, but we're not in some national pride race demanding things be completed before someone else come hell or high water. NASA also, from what I hear, does not have the infrastructure to devote a huge amount of resources to such a mission. Better materials or not, infrastructure takes time to re-build.
  6. Feb 4, 2006 #5


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    I would have to agree that a hugely different political climate is what is the main culprit. If our industries got turned on to do the same exact mission today, we'd do some serious humping and get the job done. There is one major problem with that as well. There's no way we could sell the project costs and resources needed just to collect some more moon rocks and some scientific tests. We would have to do a lot more than we did back in the '60s and 70s. I am assuming that any moon mission would have to be predicated on the set up for a Mars mission.
  7. Feb 4, 2006 #6


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    The space station would likely be no help at all.
    You have it backwards. We would want to decrease the risk and that costs money.

    There is also a difference in the way governments do things when they are committed to doing them quickly - Bush's plan (which, I predict, won't happen anyway) isn't putting anywhere near as much money into it as was put into it in the 1960s.
  8. Feb 4, 2006 #7


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    For the price of a single manned mission to the moon we could but dozens of rovers, like Spirit and Opportunity, to work doing real science, for longer periods of time. We have so much to learn and so little time, currently, putting a man is space is a waste of time and resources.

    The key question for every kilogram we put into space must be what is the contribution to our body of knowledge does it make. All of the life support systems, which compose the majority of the payload make no contribution what so ever, they simply serve to keep the humans alive. Now, what contribution does a human make? He can take samples, and look around, always being careful not to break the integrity of his life support systems. The training required to maintain and operate the life support systems means the only a few, if any, materials and Bio scientists will be on the mission so we really do not have the key scientists on the mission, they must be available on earth for consultation and advise.

    Really robotics are so far superior that there should be no questions, man should be grounded, until we can find a real reason to be in space.
  9. Feb 4, 2006 #8


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    The cost now to do any space mission is certainly more than it was in the past. Also, the planned missions to the moon are more complex, and therefore require a more sophisticated system than that of Apollo. Therefore, not only does the cost increase, so does the development time.
  10. Feb 4, 2006 #9


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    The Apollo program had one real purpose: To land a man on the Moon and return him safely. Anything else was secondary.

    A simple repeat of that exercise would be pointless. As Integral has pointed out, anything practical that could be done on such a mission can be done much more efficently with robotic probes.

    The only reason we could have for going back to the Moon with men would have to be as being a part of some more ambitious project, either a continued manned presence on the Moon or a stepping stone to Mars.

    As such, the Apollo hardware is of no use to us.

    A more apt analogy would be that it takes a backwoodsman 8 days to hike on his own to a remote spot, but it would take 16 days if he had to cut a permanent trail to the same spot.
  11. Feb 5, 2006 #10
    Thanks to all who replied, I can understand the problem a little better now.

    I have asked the same question on another (non-science) forum, and they came up with similar answers.

    I take your point, that is a better analogy.

    As others have also commented, using robotic systems makes much more sense for useful payload than manned missions.

    What are the chances of a private company (eg Virgin, or a similar US company) getting back to the moon before NASA? Or possibly the Chinese?

    Hugo Rune
  12. Feb 5, 2006 #11


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    Only slightly greater than zero.
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