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Thread: Why don't we send unmanned probes to the moon to collect samples?

  1. #1
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    Why don't we send unmanned probes to the moon to collect samples?

    Why don't we send unmanned probes to the moon to collect samples?

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    money.

    Plus we already have several hundred pounds of samples from the Apollo missions.

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    Hello filbert,

    The simple answer to this question is money. We certainly have the capability to do this (Soviet Luna missions did exactly this in the 70's), and several groups have proposed well thought-out missions with exactly this purpose. They just haven't been able to secure funding yet.

    This brings us to the other aspect, public interest. The public seems to be much more interested and invested in exploration when humans are involved. So, some people think that the way to get the public to support funding of lunar (and planetary in general) exploration is by having manned missions.

    I hope that answers your question in some way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustAFriend View Post
    Plus we already have several hundred pounds of samples from the Apollo missions.
    I just wanted to clarify that the samples we have from the Apollo and Luna missions are still not sufficient to fully understand the Moon. All the samples, because of logistical constraints, were collected from the central near side of the Moon, along the equator, and from areas that are fairly similar to each other. Imagine an alien visitor coming to Earth, sampling along the equator of the Pacific Ocean and assuming they understood the Earth based on that sampling. We who live on Earth know what a completely skewed understanding this alien would have of our planet. We need to remember that this is exactly what we have done on the Moon. If we really want to understand the Moon, it's relation to the Earth, and how both evolved, we need to go back and sample those areas we haven't got to yet. This is why many new sampling missions propose going to the poles or even the far side, to give us this broader view of the Moon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IreneAnt View Post
    ..the samples we have from the Apollo and Luna missions are still not sufficient to fully understand the Moon.
    Obviously.

    But the public right now is unwilling to fund a few trillion when we've been there and brought back stuff.

    NASA has done a very poor job at communicating the needs you've cited.

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    It has been done, the Russians did it successfully three times (See Luna 16, 20 and 24) and collected a few hundred grams of lunar material, but it is pretty complicated and would get even more complicated as the potential sample sizes go up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustAFriend View Post
    Obviously.

    But the public right now is unwilling to fund a few trillion when we've been there and brought back stuff.

    NASA has done a very poor job at communicating the needs you've cited.
    Yes, NASA has been very unsuccessful in conveying this fact, sometimes even within its own organization. But it is not through lack of trying (for example, my understanding of the issue comes from participation in many NASA-funded activities). Part of the problem is that the public is not willing to listen to this logic. It just isn't as exciting as something completely different. The question is how to overcome this obstacle...

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    well said.
    you cant expect to understand the moon without having several samples of different areas, not explored by earthlings
    hi all this is james, i am an invader

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    Quote Originally Posted by IreneAnt View Post
    Yes, NASA has been very unsuccessful in conveying this fact, sometimes even within its own organization. But it is not through lack of trying (for example, my understanding of the issue comes from participation in many NASA-funded activities). Part of the problem is that the public is not willing to listen to this logic. It just isn't as exciting as something completely different. The question is how to overcome this obstacle...
    Hi there IreneAnt!

    I think your underlined point above, may be being a little coy.
    Astrobiology has been introduced as the strategy for justifying sample returns (as cited frequently by NASA publications).

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    Welcome to Cosmoquest, James, the invador. I and a few other will wecome details of your other world etc. but others may get a bit hostle in doubting your origin. Hostile but not dangerous. Neil

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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    It has been done, the Russians did it successfully three times (See Luna 16, 20 and 24) and collected a few hundred grams of lunar material, but it is pretty complicated and would get even more complicated as the potential sample sizes go up.
    Whoah!! I had no idea that the soviets had done this! I always love hearing about what other countries have done, because the only things I ever really hear about on discovery/science channel is mainly what NASA has done..

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    A million more moon samples would tell us a lot, but not a few more, in my opinion, as an unknown percentage of the samples came from space, in the last billion years and thus are likely to be atypical of the moon. Neil

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    Quote Originally Posted by rsawyer View Post
    Whoah!! I had no idea that the soviets had done this! I always love hearing about what other countries have done, because the only things I ever really hear about on discovery/science channel is mainly what NASA has done..
    The US and the Soviet Union are the only countries that have returned lunar materials. Several other countries: India, and the ESA have sent probes, and China is planning to. Google is sponsoring a contest for the first private lunar rover.
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    In some ways it is harder to go to the Moon than Mars. Mars has an atmosphere you can use to slow down.

    To put something on the Moon, you have to burn all the way down. It took a Proton launch vehicle to place the Lunokhod bearing Ye-8 to our closest companion.
    Delta II (an LV with 1/5th proton's payload) had no problems with Spirit or Opportunity. Curiosity is larger, but was still able to use atmosphere on the way down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    It took a Proton launch vehicle to place the Lunokhod bearing Ye-8 to our closest companion.
    Is it true they needed it? Or is it just because that's what they had?
    Wiki shows proton as having a TLI of 3893kg. Lunokhod lander and rover weighed less than half that.

    I don't know what other rockets they had in service at the time. I see Kosmos and R-7 both with insufficient payload.

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    That's true. But remember, even R-7 was considered too large by folks in the Soviet military. I think it was Asif Siddiqui's Challenge to Apollo where Korolev (sic) was called anti-state. Thankfully space advocates got their way. Even Proton was sold as a super ICBM but that isn't what Chelomei really wanted. He just never had Curtis LeMay or Rickover's nuclear navy to content with, in that Nikita saw a missile force as a means of force projection cheaper than America's conventional juggernaut it was left with after WWII--and all the entrenched folks. Von Braun may have more money than Soviet Chief designers to play with--but in terms of clout, the Russian Rocket men were actually higher up in influence

    Oh well. If Kosmos and R-7 couldn't do it, then you **have** to say it took Proton. Yes it had extra lift--but that isn't a bad thing in that it gives you options. EELV only completed ALS in making sure there were rockets between Atlas IIAS and Titan IV--so there is a good selection for different size payloads.

    Remember, what got us in trouble was this idea of overoptimization, with payload centric mindsets. That was the problem all along. You started with the payload and then harped on the LV people to accomadate it. Rather like building a house the roof-top down. The Soviets had no fear of size.

    The result was that their vehicles were overpowered and underoptimized for the longest time.
    In the US, vehicles were under-powered and over optimized.

    That to me is the worse sin.
    Last edited by publiusr; 2013-Jun-07 at 08:40 PM.

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    Under-powered is unquestionably bad, but there's no such
    thing as "over-optimized".

    About fifteen years ago I attended a seminar in which
    G. Jeffrey Taylor made an excellent argument for remote
    robotic exploration of the Moon controlled from manned
    habitats on the Moon. The communication time lag is too
    great for robotic control from Earth, and remote control
    is much more efficient than programmed autonomous
    operation. Remote control on the Moon avoids much of
    the problem with dust getting into the spacesuits and
    habitats.

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    http://www.FreeMars.org/jeff/

    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

    "The other planets? Well, they just happen to be there, but the
    point of rockets is to explore them!" -- Kai Yeves

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    That's a good compromise.

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    I could go into a political rant (and get myself banned), but I think the major reason, in the US, is that political interest in space exploration is quite severely limited among the elected legislators and no president since the mid-1960s has had sufficient interest to sustain more than the current, rather minimal, interest in space exploration.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2013-Jul-14 at 02:36 AM.

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    We need to establish the Moon Colony with mining for Helium 3 as one of its priorities. The North American Space Agency (NASA) couples with the African Space Society. The European Space Agency (ESA) including Russia (RSA) couples with the South American Latin Space Agency (SALSA). And then there's the Asian Space Agency (ASA). So it's a three-prong assault on the Moon a la Columbus' three ships.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Watson View Post
    The North American Space Agency (NASA)
    Who? The US, Canada and Mexico each have their own agencies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Watson View Post
    We need to establish the Moon Colony with mining for Helium 3 as one of its priorities.
    Maybe helium 3 will be an important commodity in the future, but until we get practical fusion generation which is always 20(or something) years away, I don't think it's worth it. There's still plenty of science to be had before getting to that point.

    When it does become worth it, then private industry will be beating down the door to establish their own colonies.

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    If ET got rock and soil samples on two small islands on the Equator of Earth; then sent unmanned probes and rovers for 60 years; then got 20 sample returns from mostly non-Equator locals, a few of which looked interesting such as the calcium sulfate deposit at White Sands National Monument, the boron deposits in California, the iron-nickel deposits in Eastern Canada, The South Pole and Manhattan Island: What are some possible new conclusions, the ET might come to as the result of the new batch of samples?
    What fresh conclusions came from the samples obtained by the former Soviet Union?
    How much helium 3 was in the samples returned from Earth's moon = possibly we failed to look for helium 3 in the samples? Neil
    Last edited by neilzero; 2013-Jul-17 at 03:05 AM. Reason: Added The South Pole

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Watson View Post
    We need to establish the Moon Colony with mining for Helium 3 as one of its priorities.
    Well if we had fusion reactors that actually used He3 it would be one thing. We don't.

    We could spend several trillion dollars setting up lunar He3 mining and all it would do is sit in a warehouse.

    We need to push the fusion researchers to actually get something done (I've been waiting since the '70s....)

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    Well one country is going to do just that. Next year Chang'e 5 will try and bring 1 kg of samples from the moon. If that is successful then they will try and bring samples from the far side of the moon with Chang'e 6.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IreneAnt View Post
    I just wanted to clarify that the samples we have from the Apollo and Luna missions are still not sufficient to fully understand the Moon. All the samples, because of logistical constraints, were collected from the central near side of the Moon, along the equator, and from areas that are fairly similar to each other.
    I know I'm responding to a post several years old, but...that's really not the case:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A...ding_sites.jpg

    The near side, true, but not terribly confined to the central near portion, and not at all confined to the equator or to particularly similar areas. Not saying that six sites is at all sufficient to explore the moon, but they were distributed quite a bit better than the above description states.

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    Well, most were mare-edge, because it gave a look at transition territory

    On the other hand, lunar terrain doesn't seem as differentiated as earth's

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    Quote Originally Posted by grapes View Post
    Well, most were mare-edge, because it gave a look at transition territory

    On the other hand, lunar terrain doesn't seem as differentiated as earth's
    As Chang'e 3 showed there is a lot to learn about the moon even without bringing back samples.

    The next few years with multiple probes being sent to the moon by multiple countries (not forgetting the 5 teams still in the Google race to the moon) our knowledge of the moon will only multiply

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    Ancient thread, better discussed in Space Exploration. No harm, no foul, but thread closed.
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