PDA

View Full Version : NASA mission? Return to moon, go to Mars



Jim
2002-Jul-18, 12:45 PM
Mark Whittington, a space policy analyst and author of Children of Apollo, has an interesting essay in today’s Houston Chronicle. His major points:

How did America's human space flight program get stuck going around in circles in low Earth orbit? Thirty years ago, humans stopped going to the moon. Despite a subsequent generation of improvement in technology and experience, there is little serious thought of going back to the moon, not to speak of going to Mars.

His ideas for a “cure” are:

NASA should hand human space flight operations over to the private sector as quickly as possible. ...

NASA should commercialize the space shuttle fleet (and) should throw open all regular launch services ... to private bid. ...

NASA should redirect its space launch initiative away from building a replacement for the shuttle and toward technology development that will help create a private launch industry. ...

Finally, NASA and the partners in the International Space Station should privatize the orbiting facility. ...

And he has this optimistic conclusion:

A return-to-the-moon effort would not necessarily be an Apollo-sized operation. Studies conducted at the Johnson Space Center and at the Lunar and Planetary Institute suggest that a five-year, $2.5 billion effort using off-the-shelf or soon-to-be-developed technology could be mounted.

(Full text at http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/editorial/outlook/1498649 )

So, can we? Should we?

Conrad
2002-Jul-18, 12:56 PM
Watch it.
The railways were privatised in this country during the last government. Before privatisation they ran, after a fashio. They are now in a state of constant disaster.

jumbo
2002-Jul-18, 01:07 PM
Conrad, i cant see where you are from on the screen,but i`ve got a feeling we may be from the same country? Dunno why...its just a hunch i`ve got.
I dont` know about privatisation but a good step would be to get more people to realise that the space programs of the world arent excuses for astronauts to whizz round in circles and that they do a lot of good down here on earth.

traztx
2002-Jul-18, 02:46 PM
On 2002-07-18 08:56, Conrad wrote:
Watch it.
The railways were privatised in this country during the last government. Before privatisation they ran, after a fashio. They are now in a state of constant disaster.


Astronaut unions... now there's a thought /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

DoctorDon
2002-Jul-18, 03:23 PM
Why would NASA need to "hand over" anything to the private sector? There's no monopoly here. If the private sector thinks they can make money off the project, there's nothing stopping them from going to the moon on their own. Why does NASA have to have anything to do with it?

Baffled,

Don

Jim
2002-Jul-18, 04:16 PM
On 2002-07-18 11:23, DoctorDon wrote:
Why would NASA need to "hand over" anything to the private sector? There's no monopoly here. If the private sector thinks they can make money off the project, there's nothing stopping them from going to the moon on their own. Why does NASA have to have anything to do with it?

Baffled,

Don


I think what he means is NASA should get out of the business of launching satellites for private companies and let other private companies do it. Perhaps even get out of launching gov't satellites.

He seems to take the position that NASA should be involved in research activitites (radical thought!) including manned space programs, and let private enterprise handle the commercial side, even to taking over the ISS.

xriso
2002-Jul-18, 04:45 PM
On 2002-07-18 08:45, Jim wrote:
Mark Whittington, a space policy analyst and author of Children of Apollo, has an interesting essay in today*s Houston Chronicle. His major points:

How did America's human space flight program get stuck going around in circles in low Earth orbit? Thirty years ago, humans stopped going to the moon. Despite a subsequent generation of improvement in technology and experience, there is little serious thought of going back to the moon, not to speak of going to Mars.

His ideas for a *cure* are:

NASA should hand human space flight operations over to the private sector as quickly as possible. ...


After all, going to the moon is such a good business decision. I mean, all that dust and rock must be sooo valuable that it's worth it to drag some back to Earth. Or better yet, we could bring enough materials to the moon to make a moon base, where lots of stuff is done. I can't think of any use at all right now, but there must be a gazillion profitable ideas for such a base, right?

Better yet, a company could spend a zillion kabillion dollars on getting a handful people to Mars, where they could say "Woohoo, we got to Mars. Drink Coke!" And then, they could have a televised program where the people on Mars would have to compete for air and food and water and shelter, and the person who won would get to go back to Earth, and a million dollars! The others would slowly die off as they completed menial research tasks, but hey, that's reality!

/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

jumbo
2002-Jul-18, 08:43 PM
Does anyone here know whether the idea of building solar power stations on the moon is feasable? (this is breifly discussed at the end of Chaikins A Man on the Moon) These stations beaming the energy back to earth as microwaves. If it would work and was do-able then one day that could be an incentive to go back to the moon.

Phobos
2002-Jul-18, 09:48 PM
Solar power stations can be made to work on the moon, and are being considered.

Currently the favorite location is near the poles where it would be possible to achieve near continuous supplies of sunlight whilst also being situated near a supply of water (a very useful resource).

Personally I suspect that beaming power collected in this way back to Earth would be a bit wasteful and the energy would be much better spent on lunar manufacture (building spacecraft, mining minerals and sending manufactured rocket fuel to low Earth orbit.

I strongly doubt that the economics of collecting solar energy on the moon compare favorable against the other possible uses for this energy.

If we really need to transer energy to Earth from space we could always place solar cells or large space mirrors in Earth orbit instead.

Phobos

Cloudy
2002-Jul-21, 06:08 AM
No less of a Space proponent than
Zubrin(inventor of "Mars direct") thinks space solar power will not be economical for export to earth anytime soon - and perhaps not ever.

Why? More energy is lost by making and reconverting the microwave beem than is gained by having the solar cells in space rather than earth. This does not even take into account the costs of construction in space as compared to Earth.

Mirrors may be a better idea, but you need a pretty big mirror to be effective, and there may be significant environmental effects to directing so much more sunlight back at earth.

The competition is also to good. When people get over their irrational fear of nuclear power, there will be more reactors built. If you are willing to reprocess the spent fuel, there is more than enough Uranium just in the seawater to run our civilization for millenia. Even if you bury the so called "waste" in yucca mountain, there is more than U235 enough arround for the forseable future.

That said, in the distant future there may be a place for space energy. Uranium can be mined in the asteroids. The moon and the Outer planets may become a source of Helium 3, a promising fuel for fusion reactors.

therealdeal
2002-Jul-21, 06:51 AM
Going to the moon is a good idea so i can train for the mars landing I'm planning. If you just show up at Mars without some sort of rehearsal the martians might feel insulted. When the martians have their feeling hurt they probably get tense, and just won't taste as good. You really can't bring sauces with you so making them feel at home is important because the are at home, or some might be visiting from the core, or Mars' capital. Then once they are comfortable invite them for dinner. seems cliche but surely it could save money. I also want to go just to be first there and say something memorable like maybe "Ah my legs! gravity sucks" regain my composure then say "Hello New Earth 2." the 2 is because Venus called dibs on New Earth and you really have to honor that kind of thing.

Rodina
2002-Jul-21, 12:08 PM
I'll tell you why solar power won't be built in space any time soon - because my people in my line of work (i.e., lawyers) in my specialty (i.e., financing power plants) are paranoid and obtuse.

Seriously, financing power plants is a horribly complicated thing to do. You need to get at least a dozen banks to agree to pay for it - you need to arrange sell the thing to the banks then lease it back - you need to prove to the banks you can (a) run the plant (b) maintain the plant (c) sell the power and (d) that you have enough resources in the corporation which runs the plant to make the banks whole should the plant fail (even, I might add, if the insurance doesn't cough up).

I know it's not a sexy aspect of space-based solar power, but financing the thing would be an adventure in itself.

David Hall
2002-Jul-21, 01:00 PM
On 2002-07-18 12:16, Jim wrote:

I think what he means is NASA should get out of the business of launching satellites for private companies and let other private companies do it. Perhaps even get out of launching gov't satellites.

He seems to take the position that NASA should be involved in research activitites (radical thought!) including manned space programs, and let private enterprise handle the commercial side, even to taking over the ISS.


I don't get that impression at all. I get the impression that this guy is another one of those who think privatization is the solution to everything. He's not talking about stripping away the chaff here, he's talking about farming everything out to the lowest bidder, and letting them use NASA's resources in for-profit business deals as well. Finally, NASA and the partners in the International Space Station should privatize the orbiting facility. A private operator would be empowered to enter into commercial agreements to maintain and enhance the space station's capabilities.

This to me seems to be a very dangerous move. The last thing a pure research organization needs is to be mixed up with private initiative. Sure privatization would probably be more efficient, but at the expense of cost-cutting and a loss of direct control that could endanger whole programs. The entire focus would move towards watching the bottom line, and the original purpose of the agency could get lost in the shuffle.

Privatization is ok for things that provide direct and non-critical goods and services to the people, such as telephone and utilitiy companies. But public services like prisons, fire departments, and in this case research should stay out of private hands.

I don't like this at all.

Jim
2002-Jul-22, 12:51 PM
On 2002-07-21 09:00, David Hall wrote:


On 2002-07-18 12:16, Jim wrote:

I think what he means is NASA should get out of the business of launching satellites for private companies and let other private companies do it. ...

He seems to take the position that NASA should be involved in research activitites (radical thought!) including manned space programs...


I don't get that impression at all. I get the impression that this guy is another one of those who think privatization is the solution to everything. He's not talking about stripping away the chaff here, he's talking about farming everything out to the lowest bidder...



I've gone back and reread the article (a few times) and you could be right. Maybe I read into it what I wanted to find, but it stills seems a bit unclear to me where he would draw the privatization line.



This to me seems to be a very dangerous move. The last thing a pure research organization needs is to be mixed up with private initiative. Sure privatization would probably be more efficient... (t)he entire focus would move towards watching the bottom line, and the original purpose of the agency could get lost in the shuffle.


Agreed. My thinking was based on the private sector taking over the satellite launchings (which they're getting into more and more anyway... the military would handle their own, of course) and possibly take over the ISS.

However, I looked at this as a way to "free up" NASA's resources to concentrate on more research oriented programs... the mission to Pluto, a manned return to the moon, a manned Mars mission... things the private sector would find unprofitable.

There would be some overlap. NASA would want to use the ISS for its research, for example. But it could be workable.



Privatization is ok for things that provide direct and non-critical goods and services... But public services like ... fire departments... should stay out of private hands.


Ah, a "hot button" for me!

There's been much talk around Houston lately about a pay increase for firefighters; many seem to think they are overpaid and underworked now.

I'd make those folks happy and privatize it. Homeowners would have the option of subscribing to a firefighting service or not; if they thought it too expensive or the firefighters "overpaid and underworked" they could simply not subscribe. Then, if your house catches fire and you're not a paid subscriber, the POOFD* would let it burn... while carefully protecting the homes of any nearby subscribers.

*Privately Owned and Operated Fire Department

_________________
<font color=000099>Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity.</font>
Isaac Asimov

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Jim on 2002-07-22 08:52 ]</font>

SeanF
2002-Jul-22, 03:27 PM
On 2002-07-22 08:51, Jim wrote:
Ah, a "hot button" for me!

There's been much talk around Houston lately about a pay increase for firefighters; many seem to think they are overpaid and underworked now.

I'd make those folks happy and privatize it. Homeowners would have the option of subscribing to a firefighting service or not; if they thought it too expensive or the firefighters "overpaid and underworked" they could simply not subscribe. Then, if your house catches fire and you're not a paid subscriber, the POOFD* would let it burn... while carefully protecting the homes of any nearby subscribers.

*Privately Owned and Operated Fire Department



Hmm, I don't want to go off-topic here, and I certainly don't have any direct knowledge of the Houston Fire Department, but that's certainly one of the nicest false dilemmas I've heard in a while.

"What? You think the government's overspending for this? Well, I guess you'd just be happier having to buy it yourself, then, eh?"

Give me a break.

Ilya
2002-Jul-23, 04:05 AM
I think what he means is NASA should get out of the business of launching satellites for private companies and let other private companies do it. Perhaps even get out of launching gov't satellites.


NASA got out of these businesses 15 years ago. All American satellites, private or military, are launched by Boeing, LockMart, and Orbital Co directly. The only thing NASA itself launches is Shuttle.



He seems to take the position that NASA should be involved in research activitites (radical thought!) including manned space programs, and let private enterprise handle the commercial side, even to taking over the ISS.



Yes. He also wants Shuttle fully privatized.

Thargoid
2002-Jul-23, 06:37 PM
On 2002-07-18 11:23, DoctorDon wrote:
Why would NASA need to "hand over" anything to the private sector? There's no monopoly here. If the private sector thinks they can make money off the project, there's nothing stopping them from going to the moon on their own. Why does NASA have to have anything to do with it?

Baffled,

Don


The thing is that Americans have to get launch permits from the fed gov. The feds are very tight with these. One can see a conflict of interest since NASA does have a US launch monopoly, not to mention beaurocrats <sp> protecting their own turf.

This is what killed off the Roton and a few other private space-based ventures, IIRC. They couldn't attract capital if they since even set a hypothetical launch date.

Oh, and if we can go to the moon for $2^9 and change, and we spent $4^10 on that POS space hotel, then I'm going to scream...

(muffled yells)



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Thargoid on 2002-07-23 14:39 ]</font>