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

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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.
........errr.

russ_watters
Mentor
There already is a fully practical method for fast interplanetary travel and even relativistic interstellar travel: http://en.wikipedia.org/Project_Orion" [Broken].
That's a pretty generous characterization considering it's never had even a technology demonstration test.
It's practical because it's possible to build using 1960's technology--and indeed, the designers fully expected it to be built.
It can't be said that something is possible (much less practical) until it has been demonstrated. The project is far too ambitious for a small-scale study (that's all it ever really was) to tell us that it can be done or be practical.

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ideasrule
Homework Helper
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?
Let's think about that. Is the failure of Apollo 1 seen as a reason we should never have gone to the Moon? It's Apollo 11 that will go down in history. Its impact on political ramifications, budgets, public confidence, and international relations far, far exceed what effect Apollo 1 might have had. If a trillion-dollar project to Mars fails, we'll send another one. There's no shortage of brave explorers willing to take significant risks to visit Mars.

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.
And this is somehow an argument against a Mars mission? I think it's one of the strongest arguments for. Every kid and most adults on the planet dream of walking on Mars; wouldn't it be great to fulfill their dreams and those of the generations after us? I consider a worthwhile life to be one of achievement or of making the world better (more technologically sophisticated and space-faring would count). I wouldn't be happy if my life consisted of studying, working, paying my bills, and then going to a retirement home. Pursuit of happiness, aspirations, aiming for far-off goals are what make life worth living. I'd rather go to Mars than live in a world with 5% less crime. I think most people would, too.

The cost of failure is far too great, and failure far too likely.
Source?

ideasrule
Homework Helper
That's a pretty generous characterization considering it's never had even a technology demonstration test. It can't be said that something is possible (much less practical) until it has been demonstrated. The project is far too ambitious for a small-scale study (that's all it ever really was) to tell us that it can be done or be practical.
By your criteria, the Apollo project wouldn't have been possible, let alone practical, when it was proposed. It was too ambitious for a small-scale study, so although all the technology was there to send a man to the Moon and there's no reason why it couldn't be done, engineers couldn't say it was "possible".

Project Orion doesn't rely on exotic technology or demand extreme-precision machining. It depends on nuclear explosions, which have been very extensively studied, and shock absorbers, which are again well-characterized. Of course there's always room for things to go wrong, but saying Project Orion is not possible is like saying it's not possible to build a robot because the various proven technologies that it relies on have never been assembled in that particular fashion before.

I'm an aerospace engineer, and I never gave two squats about NASA or the moon growing up. I liked airplanes. But in any event, so what if people 'dream of walking on mars'?

I don't feel like paying for that to happen because its a worthless idea. Space is a huge vast place of nothingness. So why are we going to travel to mars, when we cant go anywhere outside our solar system? This seems a bit of a self-serving endeavour (which is exactly what going to the moon was).

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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. We do not have to architect the project as a one quick sprint show off project. We can go step by step. 1) Low earth station 2) high earth station (say 0.5 million miles orbit) 3) mars stations (say two stations, one as backup) 4) three mars ferries (one backup in orbit, one backup at the backup ground base) 5) preexisting mars bases (say two bases, one for backup within walking distance) robot built. Yes people may die in this effort. I happily volunteer. We will have no issue finding people willing and eager to go. But since the US federal government is way past broke I guess this will be done by someone else. :( mgb_phys Science Advisor Homework Helper I think it's one of the strongest arguments for. Every kid and most adults on the planet dream of walking on Mars; wouldn't it be great to fulfill their dreams and those of the generations after us? Then wouldn't it make as much sense to dream of walking on the bottom of the ocean? The technology to walk around in a suit under 5km of water is just as difficult - and has a lot more practical uses than sending someone to mars. Ivan Seeking Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member Let's think about that. Is the failure of Apollo 1 seen as a reason we should never have gone to the Moon? It's Apollo 11 that will go down in history. Its impact on political ramifications, budgets, public confidence, and international relations far, far exceed what effect Apollo 1 might have had. If a trillion-dollar project to Mars fails, we'll send another one. There's no shortage of brave explorers willing to take significant risks to visit Mars. And what has been the fate of the Shuttle program? Did it ever deliver as promised? Not even close! Were the design and operating budgets anything close to estimates? Not even close! Also, we cannot compare Apollo to anything else because that was a war program. And this is somehow an argument against a Mars mission? I think it's one of the strongest arguments for. Every kid and most adults on the planet dream of walking on Mars; wouldn't it be great to fulfill their dreams and those of the generations after us? I consider a worthwhile life to be one of achievement or of making the world better (more technologically sophisticated and space-faring would count). I wouldn't be happy if my life consisted of studying, working, paying my bills, and then going to a retirement home. Pursuit of happiness, aspirations, aiming for far-off goals are what make life worth living. I'd rather go to Mars than live in a world with 5% less crime. I think most people would, too. 5% less crime? What are you talking about? For a little perspective, in 2003, the US spent$19 Billion on the so-called war on drugs. So fifty [2003] years of "the war on drugs" costs about the same as one Mars mission.
http://www.drugsense.org/wodclock.htm

Dreams are great. So, work hard, get funding, and develop less expensive modes of space travel. Earn your dreams and don't expect handouts.

Source?
Something like 1 out of 3 Mars missions have failed. And those missions were orders of magnitude simpler than a manned mission.

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D H
Staff Emeritus
The budget numbers are out. The one surprise (to me) is that Obama is proposing to cancel all of Constellation, not just the lifters. Congress will have something to say about this proposal. I suspect Obama will win the day regarding Ares I and V and that a stop-work order is in order on these two projects. I won't even hazard a guess as to whether Orion and Altair will be cancelled.

I would rather see more funding towards the discovery of more "Earthlike" extrasolar planets than a manned mission.

The extrasolar planets are a really big deal and I get confused that many people I meet are not even aware that their discovery has happened in the last decade. I grew up in an age where the idea of extra solar planets was just a really well educated assumption. The discovery of extra solar planets and so many of them is as big a deal to me as the moon landing and yet no one I meet even knows this has happened.

If we discover signs of life beyond Earth on these extra solar planets that would jump start the space program more than even a manned mission.

I grew up in an age where there were only nine planets now there are 400 and more every day. I hope we keep using our telescopes and build better ones to find more of them and the smaller ones like our own and this is where I would like the funding spent.

I do realize that the term "Earthlike" is abused and that is why I quote it. The ones they've claimed were Earthlike were not, but I feel confident that they are out there and that we can improve the technology to find them. I prefer this research over manned missions or even robotic ones at this point in time.

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I would rather see more funding towards the discovery of more "Earthlike" extrasolar planets than a manned mission.

The extrasolar planets are a really big deal and I get confused that many people I meet are not even aware that their discovery has happened in the last decade. I grew up in an age where the idea of extra solar planets was just a really well educated assumption. The discovery of extra solar planets and so many of them is as big a deal to me as the moon landing and yet no one I meet even knows this has happened.

If we discover signs of life beyond Earth on these extra solar planets that would jump start the space program more than even a manned mission.

I grew up in an age where there were only nine planets now there are 400 and more every day. I hope we keep using our telescopes and build better ones to find more of them and the smaller ones like our own and this is where I would like the funding spent.

I do realize that the term "Earthlike" is abused and that is why I quote it. The ones they've claimed were Earthlike were not, but I feel confident that they are out there and that we can improve the technology to find them. I prefer this research over manned missions or even robotic ones at this point in time.
The only reason I would agree with this is because I assume it's much, much cheaper to search for extrasolar planets than it is to travel to even the moon. However I think that finding extarsolar planets, even if we find a method to determine if there is life on said planet, is just as useless as a human landing on the moon right now.

Like I agree completely that it would be the greatest discovery of mankind but what use will we have of it? The knowledge that we're not alone? Most people already assume that anyways... I doubt merely 'proving' it will make any difference.

turbo
Gold Member
There are much bigger questions to be answered than those that can be addressed by studying more moon-rocks or looking for traces of water. Even now, ground-based telescopes (SDSS) have discovered high-redshift objects that are highly metallized. We need space-based telescopes that can reach deeper into the infrared (Webb is coming) and perhaps some dedicated wide-angle space-based survey instruments. Observational astronomy (a real science) is being wagged by the tail of cosmology for the last few decades, and that situation needs to be balanced. We have only one universe, and have no real means to tweak it from a distance. We can only look and make conjectures. In this sense, cosmology is not as "scientific" as fields in which controlled studies and comparative tests can be performed.

I confess, I have more sympathy for LQG than for String, but proponents of both of these theoretical fields should give us a roster of testable predictions that observation astronomy might confirm or deny. LQG has done a bit of that with the notion that the speed of light might have a frequency-dependent variability in c that could be demonstrated by the arrival times of light from GRBs. String's observational tests? Nothing that I know of.

russ_watters
Mentor
By your criteria, the Apollo project wouldn't have been possible, let alone practical, when it was proposed.
It wasn't!

(and certainly, though it proved possible it never was practical)
Project Orion doesn't rely on exotic technology or demand extreme-precision machining. It depends on nuclear explosions, which have been very extensively studied, and shock absorbers, which are again well-characterized. Of course there's always room for things to go wrong, but saying Project Orion is not possible is like saying it's not possible to build a robot because the various proven technologies that it relies on have never been assembled in that particular fashion before.
That's basically all wrong. Including the characterization that I said Orion isn't possible. I said it hasn't proven to be possible and beyond that I took issue with your claims that:

1. Orion is practical.
2. Orion can achieve relativistic travel.
3. Orion can be built with 1960s technolgoy.
4. Orion doesn't rely on exotic technolgoy or precision machining.

The best you can say is you don't know any of those things until you actually try to build it. You don't even know what problems you'll have (much less if they can be overcome) until you start the engineering program.

I'm with turbo-1 and Ivan Seeking, observational Astronomy should be priority number one. I don't see anything inspiring about sending a couple guys to neighbouring bodies; and even if I did, it would count for zilch in determining government spending.

If you want to go stand on Mars so bad, for whatever reason, then get rich and do it yourself. NASA and the rest of us should be left out of it.

Space based telescopes and planetary probes have a high success rate and provide real results costing chump change compared to long distance manned missions. This is about real science, not 'national pride'.

D H
Staff Emeritus
I'm with turbo-1 and Ivan Seeking, observational Astronomy should be priority number one. I don't see anything inspiring about sending a couple guys to neighbouring bodies; and even if I did, it would count for zilch in determining government spending.
Neither Congress nor the President thinks like you. Good thing that; if that were the case, NASA's budget would be a pittance of its current state. NASA is a part of federal budget function 250. It has to compete with other science and technology programs. Without the added "oomph" that humans will follow, NASA's science programs yield a lousy scientific return on investment. NASA's science budget is getting a 12% increase per Obama's budget, but almost all of this is going to Earth science. The planetary budget is only receiving a small increase, more or less keeping pace inflation.

The biggest changes in this budget are a 20.8% decrease in operations, a 13.8% increase in exploration, and a whopping 130% increase in aerodynamics, space research and technology. The decrease in the ops budget is to be expected. The Shuttle is ending and part of Constellation came out of ops. Most of the exploration budget is oriented toward human space flight. The huge increase in aero & space technology is a mix of an increase in aerodynamics research and new funding for commercial human launch capabilities. All in all, human space flight still gets over half of NASA's total budget. Planetary science: less than 10%.

DH, I don't understand this comment you made:

Without the added "oomph" that humans will follow, NASA's science programs yield a lousy scientific return on investment.
How does a perceived "oomph" make something a better return on investment?

That aside, I still see no one putting forth good arguments as to why we should spend tax money on going to the moon. ...For what?

Pythagorean
Gold Member

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Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Neither Congress nor the President thinks like you. Good thing that; if that were the case, NASA's budget would be a pittance of its current state. NASA is a part of federal budget function 250. It has to compete with other science and technology programs. Without the added "oomph" that humans will follow, NASA's science programs yield a lousy scientific return on investment. NASA's science budget is getting a 12% increase per Obama's budget, but almost all of this is going to Earth science. The planetary budget is only receiving a small increase, more or less keeping pace inflation.

The biggest changes in this budget are a 20.8% decrease in operations, a 13.8% increase in exploration, and a whopping 130% increase in aerodynamics, space research and technology. The decrease in the ops budget is to be expected. The Shuttle is ending and part of Constellation came out of ops. Most of the exploration budget is oriented toward human space flight. The huge increase in aero & space technology is a mix of an increase in aerodynamics research and new funding for commercial human launch capabilities. All in all, human space flight still gets over half of NASA's total budget. Planetary science: less than 10%.
I don't understand your point here. The budget for human flight is for near-earth activities. I don't think anyone was disputing the value of that research.

D H
Staff Emeritus
I don't understand your point here. The budget for human flight is for near-earth activities.
For now, that is. Why send "robotic precursors" if there is nothing for those robotic precursors to precede?

I don't think anyone was disputing the value of that research.
Many do, including many human space flight proponents.

Well at least from what I hear the Europa missions are still a go.

Neither Congress nor the President thinks like you. Good thing that; if that were the case, NASA's budget would be a pittance of its current state.
Why? We can only spend large amounts of money on human exploration?
NASA is a part of federal budget function 250. It has to compete with other science and technology programs. Without the added "oomph" that humans will follow, NASA's science programs yield a lousy scientific return on investment.
Do you mean to say that it's programs would yield a lousy public relations return on investment? If you send rovers to distant bodies specifically as precursors to future manned missions, and then don't ever carry out manned missions then what you say would make sense. But what I am saying is that projects like Hubble and the Cassini-Huygens mission (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/introduction/" [Broken]) should be our models for the kind of science that NASA should be doing in space.

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Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
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.
Ummm - who determined that PO was practical? By what measure? Has is it been demonstrated - even on scale?

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*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.
You're forgetting that the Air Force has its own means of putting things into orbit. Chances are they will be ordered (because I doubt they'd do it willingly) to give NASA the occasional lift. They will probably find a way to put a man on top of a Delta IV.

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D H
Staff Emeritus
No. I am saying those unmanned programs have a lousy return on investment compared to science done on the Earth. How much research could the National Science Foundation (another element of budget function 250) do with $720 million (the amount by which the Mars Science Lab is over-budget)? With$2.35 billion (the total estimated cost of the MSL)? With \$2.5 billion (NASA's estimated contributions to Cassini-Huygens)?