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Fraser
2010-Mar-30, 05:10 PM
The debate on why humans should or should not return to the Moon has been ongoing for years. Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear astronaut Ron Garan speak eloquently on a subject he is passionate about, water sustainability on planet Earth. Subsequently, I read an essay Garan wrote about the importance [...]

More... (http://www.universetoday.com/2010/03/30/astronaut-explains-why-we-should-return-to-the-moon/)

TheHalcyonYear
2010-Mar-31, 01:53 AM
I agree with everything he says. Lets raise taxes and get the money to pay for the project.

Ronald Brak
2010-Mar-31, 08:57 AM
Wow. It's surprising that an astronaut really hasn't done his research on this:

Exploration - How many units of exploration would the US get if they sent people back to the moon? How many units would they get if they sent a bus full of school kids to Mexico for a week? Which activity gives the most units of exploration per dollar and would be the most effective way to spend resources?

Energy - Two solar panels on earth can produce more electricity than one solar panel on the moon, without the need for a transmitting and receiving station, at much lower cost. Platinum is about $60 a gram. It's not worth going to the moon to get it even if it was just lying around on the moon in nuggets. Perhaps a robot could be developed at a low enough cost to get it, but not people. There is currently no such thing as a Helium 3 reactor and even if there was we are quite capable of making Helium 3 on earth.

Protect the Planet from Disasters - The moon is a lousy place for an early warning systems compared to orbit because the moon is blocking half the sky. The other things he mentions don't require going to the moon.

Moon Based Commercial Enterprises - If people think they can make a profit by sending people to the moon they will. There is no need for government intervention.

Scientific Research - This can be done without people at a lower cost. Unless of course what is being researched is the effects of sending people to the moon.

Education - He presents no evidence that sending people to the moon will improve education and it is very hard to see how it will. Science education in the US improved after Sputnik because effort and resources were put into improving it. Just launching a satellite didn't actually achieve it. He mentions being inspired by the Shuttle program, which is all well and good, if he found he found the shuttle progam inpiring that's fine. But setting out with the goal of inspiring others so they follow a course of action you want is a form of manipulation. And we should keep in mind that the shuttle program was an expensive failure and the possibility that sending people back to the moon will be an expensive failure too should be considered. From what he outlines as being desireable in his six points, it seems clear that Ronald Garan could get more of what he wants if resources were spent in areas other than sending people to the moon.

TheHalcyonYear
2010-Mar-31, 07:08 PM
If the American people want to send men to the moon then we should do it. We live in a democratic republic in which the desires of the citizens of the nation count for a lot. My only objection is that no one seems to want to raise the money to pay for the effort. Too many plans seem to suggest that if we return to the moon, the program will end up paying for itself. From my point of view, I think it best to pay upfront and if all the benefits come along, then that's great.

IsaacKuo
2010-Mar-31, 07:37 PM
I agree with Ronald Brak. Thank you, Ronald, for expressing everything so well and succinctly. I was thinking of penning a similar response, but I was overwhelmed just thinking about where to begin.

The general problem with justifications to send men to the Moon is that they're usually really justifications to send robots to the Moon because robots could do the job for much less expense.

TheHalcyonYear
2010-Mar-31, 09:56 PM
I agree with Ronald Brak. Thank you, Ronald, for expressing everything so well and succinctly. I was thinking of penning a similar response, but I was overwhelmed just thinking about where to begin.

The general problem with justifications to send men to the Moon is that they're usually really justifications to send robots to the Moon because robots could do the job for much less expense.
This is true, but if we as a nation want to return to the moon, I think we should.

IsaacKuo
2010-Mar-31, 10:07 PM
This is true, but if we as a nation want to return to the moon, I think we should.
IMHO, this depends on why the citizens want to return to the moon. Suppose there is public support for going to war with a nation, but it's because the public wrongly believes that they were responsible for a major terrorist attack on them? Or suppose they support it in the belief that the war will be inexpensive and not last very long? In that case, the proper thing would be to correct the mistaken beliefs. Democracy only works when it is an informed democracy.

So, what if the public supports going to the Moon because they wrongly believe the Moon is a good place to get solar power, and that sending humans to the Moon would be the way to do it? Suppose the public supports going to the Moon because they believe in erroneous optimistic statements about how much it would cost and how quickly it could be done? In that case, the proper thing would be to correct the mistaken beliefs.

Ron Garan's speech is the sort of thing which misinforms the public. Could it bend public opinion toward supporting a manned moon mission? Perhaps. But I would consider it a failure of democracy and democratic principles, because it would be a failure of informed consent.

IsaacKuo
2010-Mar-31, 10:12 PM
And consider the longer term consequences, if the public is fooled into a manned space program which is too expensive, takes too long, and doesn't result in any of the promised benefits. The public will sour to manned spaceflight, and will not soon forget how they were deceived into a foolish venture.

No, I think honesty is the best policy. Deceiving the public into a course of action isn't worth it.

DrRocket
2010-Apr-01, 04:25 AM
Wow. It's surprising that an astronaut really hasn't done his research on this:


Unfortunately it is not surprising. What you see there is a fairly typical use of the astronaut core for public relations work and indirect lobbying (direct lobbying by a government agency being illegal) on the part of NASA for continued funding. This sort of thing, which as you point out lacks credibility on technical grounds, is counter-productive with the scientifically literate and informed sectors of the public, and misleads the others.

It is not hard to find reasons to explore space on scientific grounds, and for that matter on social grounds. What is difficult is finding pressing reasons for conducting that exploration on any particular near-term schedule, given economic constraints. Perhaps that is why one finds extremely strong support for exploration programs from citizens of countries other than the U.S. -- people who do not have to foot the bill for NASA. It is also easy to find support for immediate space exploration from NASA employees, including astronauts, and from those engaged in aerospace work directly supported by the NASA budget, but there is an obvious credibility problem.

The plain fact of the matter is that at this juncture there is no compelling economic need nor scientific need for immediate manned space exploration. However, it is also clear that elimination of the manned space program in the near term will make it all the harder to re institute a manned space program in the future. If there is any future for humankind off of planet Earth, then some sort of continuous exploration of space is needed. That requires a national will to explore space, either on the part of the U.S. or some other country. Only the U.S. and China seem to have any such capability and will at this time, and it is not completely clear that both do.

What is also clear is that the infrastructure and expertise required to design and manufacture launchers and space vehicles is specialized, and if the market disappears so will that capability. The proposed cancellation of the Constellation program is a serious threat to that infrastructure and expertise. The small "commercial" companies do not have either, no matter what you have been told. To replace those resources if they are allowed to disappear will be expensive and difficult. There is therefore some long-term economic justification for continuation if one anticipates a return to a semi-vigorous manned space program in the foreseeable future.

So, I find myself in the position of supporting the objective of continuation of manned space exploration at some level, which is the ultimate objective of the essay.

But I deplore the outright misrepresentation (your criticisms are valid) of potential benefits of manned space exploration. Lying to the public on scientific, technical, and commercial merits of space exploration is not a good way to encourage young people to study mathematics, engineering and science and to develop public support for space exploration. Indeed one objective should be to have people with sufficient understanding of science and technology to reject arguments based on such misrepresentations.

But surprising ? Not at all. I have met too many astronauts, and recognize that public relations is their main function. That is why NASA employes so many of them and makes them so visible.

Jens
2010-Apr-01, 06:11 AM
This is true, but if we as a nation want to return to the moon, I think we should.

Honestly, I can't imagine anyone arguing with you about that.

The question really becomes, should we as a nation want to return to the moon?

TheHalcyonYear
2010-Apr-01, 07:10 AM
Honestly, I can't imagine anyone arguing with you about that.

The question really becomes, should we as a nation want to return to the moon?
I think that is a good question. I think the other question should be how would we as a nation pay for the effort? I don't believe in spending the money then asking if we have it to spend.


hmmmm, as to your first point. I would have thought so too, but I guess we are both wrong.


IMHO, this depends on why the citizens want to return to the moon. Suppose there is public support for going to war with a nation, but it's because the public wrongly believes that they were responsible for a major terrorist attack on them? Or suppose they support it in the belief that the war will be inexpensive and not last very long? In that case, the proper thing would be to correct the mistaken beliefs. Democracy only works when it is an informed democracy.

So, what if the public supports going to the Moon because they wrongly believe the Moon is a good place to get solar power, and that sending humans to the Moon would be the way to do it? Suppose the public supports going to the Moon because they believe in erroneous optimistic statements about how much it would cost and how quickly it could be done? In that case, the proper thing would be to correct the mistaken beliefs.