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Fraser
2005-Sep-19, 05:03 PM
SUMMARY: NASA has unveiled more details about its upcoming series of missions to return humans to the Moon as early as 2018. The new crew vehicle will look very similar to the old Apollo module but it will be three times larger, allowing four astronauts to travel to the Moon at a time. Each ship can be reused 10 times, and NASA hopes to get as many as 2 launches a year, with astronauts spending 4-7 days on the surface. Eventually, once a lunar outpost is built at the southern pole, astronauts will be able to live on the Moon for 6 months at a time.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/new_details_return_moon.html)
What do you think about this story? post your comments below.

zrice03
2005-Sep-19, 06:56 PM
Let's hope they can do it, but to me this seems eeriely like the overly-optimistic projections of the space shuttle.

antoniseb
2005-Sep-19, 07:16 PM
I agree about the optimistic projections.
I've skimmed these articles, and they say the big rockets will be using shuttle engine technology, but I haven't seen whether the boosters themselves are fully expenable, or whether there is some plan to recover and reuse parts.

CJSF
2005-Sep-19, 07:51 PM
I just don't think the idea is politically viable. You have to have sympathetic and supportive administrations - and Congress, and the public - from now through execution of the plan. If there are any slip-ups or accidents, this will be in danger of getting abandoned. Especially if anyone dies. I'm looking forward to seeing some of these rockets launching from the Cape, though.

CJSF

LurchGS
2005-Sep-19, 08:42 PM
Yeah, seems overly optomistic to me, too. Now, if it's moved over into the private sector I'd hold a bit more hope for it. There's forethought there, unlike the case of congresscritters - who generally can't see beyond the next election. (I'll refrain from my usual comments on the electorate).

Expecting Washington to maintain support for any non-social 'science' project for more than 2 years is ... is... like expecting national medicine to work.

Still, Stranger things have happened - California elected a hard-core conservative governor, after all.

Daniel H.
2005-Sep-20, 12:39 AM
Is there any reason they shouldn't start out optimistic, then trim back down to more realistic goals as they go along and learn what exactly they'll actually get in the way of support?

CJSF
2005-Sep-20, 01:01 PM
Is there any reason they shouldn't start out optimistic, then trim back down to more realistic goals as they go along and learn what exactly they'll actually get in the way of support?

Well, if so they should set WAY higher goals, because if THIS gets watered down, we're going nowhere. That's what happened to the Shuttle concept. It kept getting "trimmed" to more "realistic" goals, too.

CJSF

Wouter Arts
2005-Sep-20, 02:25 PM
The mission will cost over 100 billion dollars. In my opion that money has to be spent in a better way. Like keeping the Hubble in space, or is it worth the money and the risk?

Argos
2005-Sep-20, 03:02 PM
It is. Space faring will remain as a costly and risky business for a long time, but we canīt be just sitting here.

My problem with this initiative is that it looks like weīve been running in circles. Re-enacting the project Apollo 50 years after looks melancholic to me.

suitti
2005-Sep-20, 03:48 PM
When we went to the moon the last time around, the astronauts were not shielded from solar storms. Between Apollo 16 and 17 a CME sailed by. If that had happened while astronauts were out of low Earth orbit, they'd have been fried. We were lucky. I'm curious if we'll have shielding this time. Once on the moon, a shelter could be dug, and that might be enough. Perhaps a robotic precursor mission could build such a shelter. This is a problem that needs to be solved before a Mars mission. I'd like to see it solved before a lunar mission. Its my $104 billion, after all.

Swift
2005-Sep-20, 07:35 PM
From CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/space/09/20/nasa.moon.contractors.reut/index.html)

Price, rather than design or technology, may decide which top U.S. aerospace companies will win a contract to build a replacement for the space shuttle, an executive at Lockheed Martin Corp. said Monday.

Dcnblues
2005-Sep-20, 10:23 PM
I still don't understand some pretty basic things (I have no qualifications for my statements, and appreciate any corrections my assumptions may need).

1) Would not the moon be the best place for a large optical telescope? Particularly if you've got a mission plan that calls for numerous crews and a polar base that could have a location sheltered from the light polution of earth?

2) Same question for a radio telescope. A nice symetrical crater with good shelter from terrestrial radio noise would be a perfect location. Granted a large dish would involve moving some mass, but we'd be talking about a tool with the potential to really improve our basic cosmology, which is in a bit of a mess at the moment. I have no doubt an optical telescope would be an order of magnitude better than anything we now have (assuming we build one larger than hubble). Would there be comparable benefits for a radio dish?

3) Helium 3. It's been a while since I read about it. How hard would it be to build a furnace to distill it on location? Probably not hard, but would take a lot of fuel. I don't know. Or just bringing a few tons of moon dirt back to process here. Are fusion researchers interested in this, or is it not as exciting a prospect as I remember?

The polar location may not be ideal, but it's easier and cheaper in fuel load to mine it from an equatorial position and they certainly could maybe just for one mission.

Sticks
2005-Sep-20, 10:33 PM
Not gonna happen :sad:

Some other area of public spending which is politically correct will come up and some congress people will play politics with NASA funding to give the illusion that they are "caring" The fact that NASA funding may actually be "peanuts" as others have pointed out, may be quietly ignored.

I would have liked a good moon base as it would be a good stepping stone for asteroid mining.

(Now would asteroid mining be commercially worth while :question: )

Fraser
2005-Sep-21, 12:15 AM
I think it's absolutely going to happen. Projects like this are all about momentum. NASA and the government have taken every action it takes to shift momentum in this direction.

You've got to remember that NASA and its suppliers employ 10s of thousands of people in every state in the US. Either they'll put these people to work sifting through space shuttle rubble, or get them working on whatever comes next. In this case, "What's next?" is clearly the Earth-Moon vision. And it's not like it's impossible, NASA did it 35 years ago with slide rules, Tang and Brill Creem.

Sticks
2005-Sep-21, 04:11 AM
I remember George Bush Senior saying how we shall go back to the moon and back to stay

And what happened?...

Greg
2005-Sep-21, 04:52 AM
The plan sounds good on paper. The concept involved time tested methods implemented during the Apollo years and inexplicably abandoned during the years of shuttle boondoggle. So in my view the plans are conceptually purer and more likely to succeed and less likely to suffer from ballooning cost overruns.
Still a project of this magnitude is always subject to the unexpected. This will drive up the initial cost estimates. The question then becomes, How committed are we to seeing this project through? NASA cannot repeat the same mistakes made with the ISS, sacrificing the true value of the mission in order to save a few bucks on the overall pricetag since the cost overran. If NASA has the guts and tact to get this up and running, then I hope it will preserve the basic science objectives within the project and not just settle for an expensive lean-to astronaut getaway on the moon with no other value besides learning how to get there and build it.
Of course there is always the looming possibility that another administration will eye this project as a sacrificial lamb to the cost-cutting sword or a differnetly composed Congress may decide to decrease NASA funding further, forcing NASA to do the same.

Svemir
2005-Sep-21, 07:01 AM
Maybe NASA should consider involving other agencies (ESA, Japan, China) to reduce the price.
I leve in a country with highest tax-pressure in the world (guess the country) and I'm willing to pay for this project. (at least I would know where the money go)

kucharek
2005-Sep-21, 08:29 AM
International co-operation (the US builts the crafts & launchers, the Germans the moon buggy, the French supply the food, ...) would also give the project more stability and give the US congress a harder time to bail out. But congress knows this and maybe that would be one of their main reasons agains international co-operation.

Joff
2005-Sep-21, 06:03 PM
1) Would not the moon be the best place for a large optical telescope? Particularly if you've got a mission plan that calls for numerous crews and a polar base that could have a location sheltered from the light polution of earth?It would certainly be a plan that would be enabled by a moon base. Without permanent facilities fairly close by, the difficulties of constructing, operating and maintaining a moon-based telescope would probably be prohibitive. One downside is that you have the sun in view for 14 days at a time, although the lack of atmosphere means that telescope use should still be possible.


2) Same question for a radio telescope. A nice symetrical crater with good shelter from terrestrial radio noise would be a perfect location. Granted a large dish would involve moving some mass, but we'd be talking about a tool with the potential to really improve our basic cosmology, which is in a bit of a mess at the moment. I have no doubt an optical telescope would be an order of magnitude better than anything we now have (assuming we build one larger than hubble). Would there be comparable benefits for a radio dish?I'm not sure there are any great advantages over an Earth-based radio telescope of comparable size. You may well be able to build a bigger dish from the existing topography and there's none of that pesky vegetation or inconvenient landowners to cope with!


3) Helium 3. It's been a while since I read about it. How hard would it be to build a furnace to distill it on location? Probably not hard, but would take a lot of fuel. I don't know. Or just bringing a few tons of moon dirt back to process here. Are fusion researchers interested in this, or is it not as exciting a prospect as I remember?

The polar location may not be ideal, but it's easier and cheaper in fuel load to mine it from an equatorial position and they certainly could maybe just for one mission.I don't think anyone's current or future He3 requirements are huge. D-T fusion seems to be the activity of interest. IF He3 fusion can be realised and IF it can be made feasible for spacecraft propulsion then mining may be attractive - but not soon.