# Sights are off the moon, and maybe put away for good.

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russ_watters
Mentor
See this is the thing. Once we get to the moon and build a credible base there that is able to launch spacecraft, the amount of rocket fuel needed will go down drastically. You don't need to travel through an atmosphere and beat gravity on the moon. That is where all that rocket fuel goes. As soon as we get to the moon everything will become far easier because of that pesky thing known as atmosphere.
Um.... unless you are talking about a colony of people completely independent of earth (they never visit and get no materials from earth), you still have to take off from earth to get to the moon before taking off from the moon to get to....whereever.
We can't stay on earth forever, no matter how well we protect her.
Fortunatly, all of our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will be dead long before "forever". Meanwhile, I just got my January heating and electric bill.....

Lets deal with real problems, not speculative fantasies about where we might need to be in 10,000 years.
There will soon be overpopulation (there really already is) and the earth just won't hold everyone. We can't just start killing people off...
Fortunatly, we don't have to kill people off, they die on their own after 75 years or so. We only have to slow the rate of having offspring....which is already happening. Most western countries are actually shrinking already (the US is an exception largely due to immigration).

And in any case, I'm not sure what you think will happen if the population becomes 10x what it is today (unlikely in the next hundred or two years)....but whatever happens certainly won't be worth the quadrillions of dollars necessary to put major colonies on the moon and Mars. Better to spend that money on food!
...so we have to expand. Why not start now?
We don't have to expand now (and I don't think we will ever - certainly it can't be predicted with any reliability when it might happen), so we don't need to start now. Again, I just got my energy bills for January - this is a now problem and we have enough "now" problems we need to deal with now.
Why should space exploration cost money? Why should money even matter? Shouldn't we put everything into this and go for the gold?
Huh? Well that's just gibberish. I've been joking (only half joking really...) about Star Trek, but that sounds like something straight out of the Star Trek universe, where money doesn't exist (except where it does exist ). You do realize that Gene Roddenberry was a sci fi writer, not an economist, scientist or political philosopher, right? I have a copy of the Star Trek technical manual on my bookshelf. Great read, but in the preface, they define the word technobabble. It's basically technical sounding words or phrases that are actually just meaningless. That's what you've posted here.

NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon are dead. So are the rockets being designed to take them there — that is, if President Barack Obama gets his way.

When the White House releases his budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was supposed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The troubled and expensive Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for its bigger brother, the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to take humans back to the moon.
*IF* that's true, that change has a bigger scope than just "not going to the Moon by 2020". If the Constellation program and Ares I / Ares V are killed, that means that NASA won't have *ANY* proprietary means of getting stuff into orbit for the next 10+ years, and it will depend on third party systems (either SpaceX or Russian Soyuz/Proton rockets) to send anything, including the most trivial robotic spacecraft.

On the subject of the Moon and Mars, I'm inclined to agree that the strategy taken by NASA is a dead end. We have to shift the focus and the money from 1920s-style chemical rockets towards novel means of propulsion. If SpaceX can figure out a way to put stuff into LEO for $1000/kg through the magic of economies of scale, let them. If they need money to upgrade their technology to make it man-rated, give them that money. In the mean time, work on 21st century technology. The vision should be that of cheap third-party LEO lifts (initially, SpaceX, eventually the space elevator), and advanced technology that lets us go to the Moon and beyond. By advanced technology, I mean nuclear reactors in space, direct nuclear propulsion (hydrogen that's heated by passing through a nuclear reactor and then vented through a nozzle), ion drives powered either by nuclear reactors or by large solar batteries. But, of course, that strategy change cannot be made unilaterally by the White House. If they are indeed planning to stop financing the Constellation program, there must have been an agreement between the White House and the top management of NASA, and maybe there will be money available to continue operating the Space Shuttle till 2012, if not longer (we'll need some way of getting to the ISS...) Last edited: DaveC426913 Gold Member No we don't. I don't know exactly what you are thinking there - why you think we have to leave earth (I've heard it before), but there is no reason for *you* or *me* or even our grandchildren to "got to leave earth". This is precisely what I stated in post 20. I get why it's a budget-thing as to why we would spend the money for our descendants. I can see why it makes more sense to send robots into space but I still feel disappointed that humans will not return to another 'world' lol . I understand that technology might develop from more missions but I'm not exactly sure if it would be generally usefull technology. The thing that I thought would be the mots exciting would be as dave pointed out experimenting with habitation of these different worlds. I wonder though how did NASA and USA government convince people that going to the moon in the first place was a good idea??? Just because it hadn't been done before? They would have seemed to be in the same position we are in now because there was no way they would be able to foretell the technological developments that have occured from the previous missions... just as we can't foresee them for potential future trips. So why did NASA go to the moon ever? DavidSnider Gold Member So why did NASA go to the moon ever? It was an extension of the arms race. DaveC426913 Gold Member It was an extension of the arms race. Yes. America sent a very strong message to Russia in getting a man on the Moon within 12 years of Russia's Sputnik coup. And once they'd won that, the manned space program was pretty much shelved. Really? [sarcasm]Well then it's good to know that when it comes to science and knowledge etc. that the governments of our world put the right foot forward![/sarcasm] We should investigate the oceans more. Char. Limit Gold Member In that case, convince Republicans that Saddam Hussein hid WMDs in the ocean. We'll find out a lot... but no WMDs. Sounds like quicksand... or a certain country that behaves like quicksand. mgb_phys Science Advisor Homework Helper What about the first manned mission to the moon, we sure as heck got a lot from that which we didn't expect. Almost all of Nasa's 'spin-offs' were actually from military programs. Teflon was developed in the 30s and first used industrially in the Manhattan project. Miniaturized electronics and digital computers were developed for the Minuteman missile and used by Apollo. Rockets were initially developed by the silver medalists in WWII and almost all the commercial launchers today from Delta to Ariane are based on ICBMs So the obvious solution for a wide range of spin-offs is to start a war with Mars. Last edited: Now doesn't the LRO feel let down? I mean, her main job was to find water on the moon by finding neutrons for possible use by humans in the future and now she just gets to tell us where the water is! ideasrule Homework Helper It's depressing to think that humanity is doomed to stay in low-Earth orbit for the next few decades, and probably for the rest of our lives. The really awful prospect is: what if our children think the same way we do, and humans never travel beyond the Moon? I don't know how beneficial human spaceflight is to science: mission cost more, but much more can be accomplished in one mission because humans can use tools with more flexibility and speed than a robot. However, I do know that seeing humans walking on another planet is inspiring, especially for children but also for all of humanity. I grew up in China, and it's highly significant that out of all the articles I read in our textbooks, only one praised the United States. That was the one about the Eagle landing on the moon, one of the most memorable moments of the 20th century and something that gives the entire world a reason to be proud. It's sad to think that human spaceflight reached its glorious peak 40 years ago and has only regressed from there. I also know that going into space is the dream of hundreds of millions of people around the world, many of whom are willing to risk their lives for such a trip. Sure, manned missions are ambitious undertakings, but since when have pushing the limits of what is possible been a sin? ideasrule Homework Helper I agree. The benefit to cost ratio is way too small to justify any space exploration yet. I'd much prefer hundreds of billions more be channeled into R&D than having astronauts riding chemical propulsion rockets. We need cheaper ways to launch things into orbit, develop new propulsion drives like the VASIMIR, better energy storage, and some kind of nuclear reactor in space. There already is a fully practical method for fast interplanetary travel and even relativistic interstellar travel: http://en.wikipedia.org/Project_Orion" [Broken]. Does that mean it'll be pursued? No. Last edited by a moderator: How about robot development of the Moon and Mars? That is some of us desire to create bases on these bodies that can support humans. Let's do it using robots. When they are fully built and functional then we can add humans. The idea is to build using local resources so just a modest amount of robots and material launched from Earth but with a fair amount of telepresence (humans on Earth providing guidance). As to Ares I and Ares V they accomplished almost nothing with massively larger amounts of time and money than Space Exploration Corporation. SpaceX accomplished so much that NASA will now buy launch services from SpaceX. I am glad to see the Ares government welfare program for older workers die. mgb_phys Science Advisor Homework Helper I am glad to see the Ares government welfare program for older workers die. Don't worry Boeing and UTC will get lots of other military contracts to make up the shortfall. It's depressing to think that humanity is doomed to stay in low-Earth orbit for the next few decades, and probably for the rest of our lives. The really awful prospect is: what if our children think the same way we do, and humans never travel beyond the Moon? We can sustain ourselves on this planet for at least a century I think so there is no need of Mars for distinct future .. I would also love the idea of going to Mars when we need it, we need resources that are not available here, and we cannot sustain ourselves here, or we have the technology and we can utilize Mars resources. turbo Gold Member There already is a fully practical method for fast interplanetary travel and even relativistic interstellar travel: http://en.wikipedia.org/Project_Orion" [Broken]. Does that mean it'll be pursued? No. How can a project that was never properly tested by called practical? Nobody is going to sit still for letting some company detonate thousands of nukes to prototype and test an engine. Last edited by a moderator: ideasrule Homework Helper How can a project that was never properly tested by called practical? Nobody is going to sit still for letting some company detonate thousands of nukes to prototype and test an engine. It's practical because it's possible to build using 1960's technology--and indeed, the designers fully expected it to be built. ideasrule Homework Helper We can sustain ourselves on this planet for at least a century I think so there is no need of Mars for distinct future .. I would also love the idea of going to Mars when we need it, we need resources that are not available here, and we cannot sustain ourselves here, or we have the technology and we can utilize Mars resources. Mining another planet's resources is not going to become profitable at the snap of the finger: there needs to be decades of sustained development and improvement before the cost goes down. Ivan Seeking Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member However, I do know that seeing humans walking on another planet is inspiring, especially for children but also for all of humanity. I grew up in China, and it's highly significant that out of all the articles I read in our textbooks, only one praised the United States. That was the one about the Eagle landing on the moon, one of the most memorable moments of the 20th century and something that gives the entire world a reason to be proud. That may qualify more as a statement about China that about the US. The US has much to proud about. If China can't see that, then the problem lies with China. That they were inspired, as were we all, is a good thing. That this is all that inspired them about us is a very sad comment on China. All of this inspiration is fine until a$trillion and a half dozen astronauts burn up in the Martian atmosphere, or are destroyed on impact, or bounce off into space, because someone didn't convert feet to meters.

Also, as for inspiration, I think there is a bit of a fallacy at work here in the notion that only human landings can inspire. I found the landings of the Mars rovers to be profoundly inspirational. For the first time we were going to explore another planet. Wow! Honestly, I was reduced to tears. The success that followed was nothing short of astounding. I couldn't be happier about how my tax dollars were spent.

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Us science literate folks of course were inspired by every single launch into space. But for the average person, who is paying the taxes for this, only gains true awe out of seeing a man on another planet. And even then most people don't care about space. I could go around my high school, and ask any question regarding space exploration, and about 1 in 3 kids would say "so what?"

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Us science literate folks of course were inspired by every single launch into space. But for the average person, who is paying the taxes for this, only gains true awe out of seeing a man on another planet. And even then most people don't care about space. I could go around my high school, and ask any question regarding space exploration, and about 1 in 3 kids would say "so what?"
Then you should be putting your efforts towards educating those who lack appreciation, rather than soliticiting a government that is crippled with debt. People would certainly be thrilled to see astronauts walking on Mars, but wait until they get the bill! This is orders of magnitude bigger than a lunar mission, which in itself has no practical value. Also, people quickly lost interest even in moon landings. What better way to sour the public on science than to engage in yet another useless and exotically expensive program.

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I think it is evident that the Hubble scope, for example, has been profoundly inspirational, even for those who are not big devotees of science. I seem to recall perhaps a half dozen Hubble images that made the evening news.

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Something else that must be considered: What would be the costs in terms of political ramifications, budgets, public confidence and favor, and even perhaps international relations, as it pertains to science [and beyond], should a trillion dollar [or more] venture fail catastrophically? With the lunar race, we were either going to lose or win the perception war; there were no other options. It was really an arms race. Today our motivations are much different and we have options.

I think we need to consider the entirety of the potential losses should a mission fail. We can't do it just because it would be cool; because every kid on the planet would like to dream it is possible that they will walk on Mars. The cost of failure is far too great, and failure far too likely.

Where did all of our conservatives go? Leave it to the private sector!

[these socialists and their government spending! ]

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Well it is late but I cant sleep at the moment so lets give this a go.

By catastrophic failure I am assuming you mean complete loss of human life, like a failed atmospheric entry on mars.

Well I believe that the possibilities of this are far less likely than what you believe. The data gained by sending in probes about atmospheric conditions, how hot the space craft becomes during entry, the angles needed for a safe launch, when to safely deploy parachutes/retro-rockets. All of that data will be obtained prior to a launch considering the technological advancements.
We wouldn't be going into mars blind like the Apollo 11 mission did with a computer failure. Sure the moon race was an arms race, but we are not trying to beat anyone to Mars, which will give us time to think and design the best possible space ship for a mission such as mars.
There will always be a failure rate in space missions, but the more we do to lower that rate the better chance we have of succeeding (obviously!)

I am contradicting myself here, but if you told the average American that we were going to land a man on Mars, I believe they would pay the extra money in taxes for this.

Here is a novel idea, take the money out of welfare, and send it all to NASA. Problem solved!

A complete failure would demoralize the country, but I sure as hell bet you we would try again. There is no way the USA I know would try something so grand and not see it to the end.