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Nadme
2008-Nov-15, 10:21 PM
There's an unfortunate political component to this; Mods?

http://www.space.com/news/081114-moon-or-mars.html

Wow...he's hard to argue with. :(

This is the best "moon first" article I've seen.

PraedSt
2008-Nov-15, 11:02 PM
Heh. I have to say, I personally favour competition over cooperation, if it ever comes down to that choice. Schmitt:
"I see that the Society has gone back to its roots on 'international cooperation.' If that phrase means 'international management' of the critical path items in a Mars Program, then you clearly do not want to go to Mars. Nothing will prevent success with more certainty than to try this." The Apollo 17 moon walker suggests that the rest of the world will want a "one-nation, one vote" management regime "for which history shows only a record of abject failure."
:)

Of course, it boils down to where you draw the line, between 'us' and 'them'.

djellison
2008-Nov-15, 11:13 PM
"Not going by way of the moon will make the Mars objective far more difficult and more costly to achieve"

How, exactly, does going back to the moon first make going to Mars easier or cheaper?

I'm not coming down on either side here (although given the near-zero round trip light time and huge bandwidth, I think robotics can do a MUCH better job on the Moon than they can on Mars.)

But I've never seen a reason why the Moon programatically or technically, is an important interim step for travel to the Moon. I'd be glad to see men on the moon (I don't use the word 'back' because they didn't walk on it in my life time) - but I can't shake the feeling that it's going over the same ground and what will be nearly 50 years after landing on it for the first time, shouldn't we be doing something more bold and ambitious?

Doug

Nadme
2008-Nov-15, 11:15 PM
Neither does Robert Zubrin, at least in his book The Case for Mars. He may have subsequently "shifted" in his position on this (I don't know).

PraedSt.: I agree w/competition over cooperation. I'd like to still be idealistic enough to say "cooperation"...but I'm no longer that idealistic.

Ronald Brak
2008-Nov-15, 11:17 PM
From the article:


Schmitt said the new plan, which favors Mars over the moon as a destination for a globally inclusive manned mission, would initiate the decline of American global influence and open the door for other countries to conquer space.

So if you want humans in space, the best thing to do would be to hope the US goes to mars so other countries can conquer space? I don't quite follow how this works.

PraedSt
2008-Nov-15, 11:26 PM
"Not going by way of the moon will make the Mars objective far more difficult and more costly to achieve"

How, exactly, does going back to the moon first make going to Mars easier or cheaper?

I'm not coming down on either side here (although given the near-zero round trip light time and huge bandwidth, I think robotics can do a MUCH better job on the Moon than they can on Mars.)

But I've never seen a reason why the Moon programatically or technically, is an important interim step for travel to the Moon.

Doug
I think the reason just might be as simple, (or daft, depending on your point of view), as psychology. Doing it once will make the second on Mars easier (practise builds confidence- just look at JPL and the Mars section now). Plus, the Moon's nearer. Look, it's right there, big as anything! Might make Moon colonists happy to see us and vice versa.
But I'm not getting into this debate. If for no other reason than it's been fought over many times already on BAUT. :)

Larry Jacks
2008-Nov-16, 12:11 AM
Oh boy, yet another thread debating "moon first" verses "Mars first." Be still my heart!

IMO, going straight to Mars without first developing both the hardware and operational experience - both flight and ground crews - is a step too far. One of the outcomes of the Mercury and especially the Gemini flights was a trained cadre of both astronauts and ground controllers. They knew how to approach difficult problems and find solutions including developing the necessary training to go with the hardware. The problem today is that few if any of that cadre remains on the job. We've lost that experience and need to regain it.

Going to the moon or Mars is far more difficult than yet another Shuttle mission to the ISS or the HST. Moon missions, perhaps augmented or replaced by missions to NEO asteroids, would allow the astronauts and ground crews to develop the experience necessary to increase the probability of success for a Mars mission.

timb
2008-Nov-16, 01:49 AM
National or international? how about not non-national? If the US, for some crazy reason, decides it wants to spend a fortune on putting a base on the moon, it would get best value for money by allowing suppliers from around the world to compete for the component businesses. If the Russians can meet the lift to orbit requirements cheapest, they get that contract. If JAXA can do the robotics cheapest, they get that contract. If Microsoft can do the life support software best, they get that contract, etc. Spending as little money as possible for what they want will help minimize "the decline of American global influence" that naturally follows wasteful expenditures.

djellison
2008-Nov-16, 08:38 AM
Going to the moon or Mars is far more difficult than yet another Shuttle mission to the ISS or the HST.

Going to the moon was far more difficult that yet another Mercury or Gemini mission. But we sill did it. And we now have a dozen rounds of 6-month spaceflight shifts on ISS, as well as significant experience of complex and challenging on-orbit repair to hardware.

If it's ground-crew training you're after, that is unarguably the part of space flight that offers the most fidelity via simulation. The one-way-light-time issue is one that the moon can't simulate. Flight Control Room ops for Mars will be significant different to those for the Moon.

Like I've said - I'm not coming down on one side of the argument here. I'd like to se people walk on Mars and walk on the Moon.

BUT I am forever seeing the moon described as a stepping stone, that it's a pre-req for Mars. Why? The engineering challenges are far far too different. Orion has little, if anything, to do with a trip to Mars. Altair has even less. Suggesting the Moon as a fuelling station is nonsense given that there's more Delta-V involved in landing on the Moon than landing on Mars. Describing landing on the Moon as practice for landing on Mars, is like describing a lap of Hyde Park Corner as a practice for driving from London to Cape Town.

'Because we need to' is a reason cited for Moon-before-Mars, but I'm yet to see any satisfactory answer to 'why?' - and to see Jack just spouting it forth within justification is a little disappointing. I like TPS's take - let's put people on the moon if we need to.

Sorry Timb - your idea will not work. The point of national space agencies is that they spend money in their nation. That's how you justify spending, say, $850m on two Mars rovers. You spend it here, on Earth, in the country that paid for it. That's why missions have to be split in cunning ways. Huygens + Cassini. A clean split. Europe build SOHO, the US Launched it, we share the science. Having NASA spend significant chunks of it's budget outside the US is not a politically acceptable thing to do. When you do that, you're not supporting your own industry, your own workforce, your own economy.

What you CAN do is say "Hey - Russia, you design the Earth Return Vehicle - and then we'll have a Russian crew member". What you can't so is say "Hey - Russia, here's $10B, build us an ERV" or even "Hey, Japan, here's $500M, write us the flight software". International co-operation also offers insurance and commitment. If the US had done the ISS on its own - it would have been cancelled long ago. Without Huygens, Cassini would have been cancelled. Without Russia, the ISS would have been abandoned after Columbia. etc etc.

Doug

timb
2008-Nov-16, 09:32 AM
Sorry Timb - your idea will not work. The point of national space agencies is that they spend money in their nation. That's how you justify spending, say, $850m on two Mars rovers. You spend it here, on Earth, in the country that paid for it. That's why missions have to be split in cunning ways. Huygens + Cassini. A clean split. Europe build SOHO, the US Launched it, we share the science. Having NASA spend significant chunks of it's budget outside the US is not a politically acceptable thing to do. When you do that, you're not supporting your own industry, your own workforce, your own economy.

Your argument just confirms that most space expenditure is economic vandalism maintained by the need for politicians to pork barrel. If spending money outside the country is not a good thing to do, then why allow imports at all? if forcing government agencies to "buy american" is good for that country, wouldn't forcing the private sector to do the same be even better, everywhere? Fortunately those of us who are economically literate have had sufficient influence to get things like the WTO process off the ground.

djellison
2008-Nov-16, 05:52 PM
Your argument...


It's not an argument - it's just how it is - and how it has to be, to be justifiable to the tax payer. It seems you want to render discretionary NASA funding a foreign industry aid program. That's a little odd.

Private industry can do what it wants. Government spending should be do at home. It's good for the economy, it's good for industry. And this is WAY off topic.

Doug

loglo
2008-Nov-16, 07:20 PM
As an Australian I whole-heartedly agree with Timb! Bring on the NASA-bucks! :)

jt-3d
2008-Nov-17, 05:42 AM
What you CAN do is say "Hey - Russia, you design the Earth Return Vehicle - and then we'll have a Russian crew member". What you can't so is say "Hey - Russia, here's $10B, build us an ERV" or even "Hey, Japan, here's $500M, write us the flight software". International co-operation also offers insurance and commitment. If the US had done the ISS on its own - it would have been cancelled long ago. Without Huygens, Cassini would have been cancelled. Without Russia, the ISS would have been abandoned after Columbia. etc etc.

Doug

Maybe have Russia and Japan get set up on the moon and we all build the Mars ship there. Then take couple of their guys and a few of our guys and launch for Mars from the moon. I'm not sure how much easier it'd be to escape from there than escaping from Earth orbit though. Plus you'd have to get the raw materials to the moon but that would be over a few dozen missions. And build a reusable moon ship.

It's probably too early for me to be solving the world's problems. :)

timb
2008-Nov-17, 09:41 AM
As an Australian I whole-heartedly agree with Timb! Bring on the NASA-bucks! :)

That "free trade" agreement has to be good for something!

apolloman
2008-Nov-17, 11:22 AM
i think its good to take a step-by-step approach and return to the moon first.
In a Mars-first strategy theres a risk of ending up like the post-Apollo era once we achieve the initial goal of getting there.
Furthermore, are the immediate or short-term payoffs of a Mars landing + return project sufficient to justify the enormous investment ?

A moon base would allow us to take incremental steps, develop the know-how, gain experience and begin the economic/culteral/psycological transition from earth-bound to other-world bound species. Eventually we will be able to travel to Mars and beyond to LIVE THERE, instead of simply planting a flag and heading home.

Apollo was mankind's highest point in history and was awesome but now that we know such amazing goals can be achieved, we ought to do them with a little more planning ahead.

Nicolas
2008-Nov-17, 12:28 PM
I agree Apolloman.

If we want to go to Mars, we can get there, but just doing that would be quite pointless for the money it would take. I like the three step approach we seem to be taking now: first try to go to the moon in a decent way, second try to stay there, third combine and improve to go to Mars with a purpose.

Apollo was great because it learned us a lot about engineering and showed everyone we could go to other places than earth. But now it's time to do more. And just doing peekaboo on Mars is not really doing more.

djellison
2008-Nov-17, 12:41 PM
Why are people saying that the options are a station on the moon, or flags+footprints on Mars? Who's proposing that?

I agree - let's go back to the moon and do it properly. BUT - where is the beef of the 'stepping stone' argument.

apolloman
2008-Nov-17, 02:19 PM
I think the implications are that if we do decide to go to Mars, the initial cumulative effort wouldn't allow us to do much more than land and plant the flag/s. And hang on for 6 months before returning home.

Some people prefer the "lets just get there asap and see" approach, rather like living another apollo adventure, and others want a well-thought, well-planned, well-budgeted purpose-built project (meaning a project with a purpose other than getting there). The moon-base solution can offer a wide variety of insights into achieving the latter - admittely it would also entail getting to Mars a lot lot later.

If money wasn't an issue, I'm all for the lets-go-now-and-figure-a-way-to-stay-there-and-return-as-we-go approach :)

djellison
2008-Nov-17, 03:21 PM
I think the implications are that if we do decide to go to Mars, the initial cumulative effort wouldn't allow us to do much more than land and plant the flag/s. And hang on for 6 months before returning home.

Mars direct needs a heavy dose of realism and accuracy mixed in with it - but a program of that architecture allows for well equiped, long duration expeditions that can cover huge areas of Mars, and relying on hardware and infrastructure in place before people even leave. The ISRU (which doesn't look easy, if even possible, on the Moon) is a significant enabling factor in that regard.

I would oppose an Apollo-like ( short stay, few flights ) Martian architecture. It's just not worth it.

Doug

cjameshuff
2008-Nov-17, 03:26 PM
Why are people saying that the options are a station on the moon, or flags+footprints on Mars? Who's proposing that?

Zubrin, for one.



I agree - let's go back to the moon and do it properly. BUT - where is the beef of the 'stepping stone' argument.

Not a stepping stone to Mars specifically. If all you want to do is go to Mars, just go there. But a lunar base could be a source of resources for construction in Earth orbit. Not likely rocket fuel, but structural material (simple nickel-iron, basalt fiber, and eventually aluminum metal) and radiation shielding/thermal mass (dirt). It could eventually provide the LOX half of rocket fuel, but there's a lot that could be done before we get that far.

The main differences are availability of CO2/H20, difficulty of return, and time lag in contact. The first are admittedly a frustrating shortcoming of the moon. There might be water, but we'll have to dig for it, and there's almost certainly no frozen CO2, and carbonates are unlikely without a history of liquid water. However, in case of emergency, evacuation to Earth can be done at any time, and you don't need a spacecraft capable of reaching Earth from any relative position of Earth and Mars. There is never any loss of communications with Earth, and supply missions have a much shorter response time to changing needs...in case of equipment failure, it'd be a matter of going a few weeks on the backup, rather than 6-8 months. And humans on Earth can monitor telemetry and provide a heads up to the astronauts about unanticipated events seconds after an they occur, rather than up to half an hour later, and can more effectively remote operate machinery.

djellison
2008-Nov-17, 03:36 PM
a lunar base could be a source of resources for construction in Earth orbit. Not likely rocket fuel, but structural material (simple nickel-iron, basalt fiber, and eventually aluminum metal) and radiation shielding/thermal mass (dirt). It could eventually provide the LOX half of rocket fuel, but there's a lot that could be done before we get that far.

Maybe I'm alone in considering this entire notion of lunar construction to be sci-fi, and it will remain in the realms of sci-fi for many many decades to come. Mining, refining, smelting, casting, machining, assembly- all on the moon? Have you seen a metalworking factory? Surely by the time that's even slightly feasable, we'll have a space elevator or other paradigm shifting launch technologies.

I can imagine regolith being used to pile over a hab module for radiation protection and thermal inertia. More than that are we not talking about the worlds of Kim Stanley Robinson, not the next 20-50 years.


There is never any loss of communications with Earth,

Yes there is - For half of every orbit in an equatorial lunar orbit. We'd need a relay spacecraft in some sort of Earth-Moon L2 point

Other things you cite are reasons why exploring the moon is easier / safer than exploring Mars. I don't disagree with them. They don't explain why the Moon is cited as a stepping stone.

Doug

Nicolas
2008-Nov-17, 03:50 PM
If you're on the near side, why would there be a loss of communications with earth? You're always facing earth. You just need multiple receive stations on earth, which there are.

djellison
2008-Nov-17, 03:56 PM
You would be in constant line of sight - but you would have two weeks of darkness every month. Of course, initial Altair missions are for 7 days only.

Nicolas
2008-Nov-17, 04:16 PM
Bring your flashlights ;)

cjameshuff
2008-Nov-17, 04:23 PM
Maybe I'm alone in considering this entire notion of lunar construction to be sci-fi, and it will remain in the realms of sci-fi for many many decades to come. Mining, refining, smelting, casting, machining, assembly- all on the moon? Have you seen a metalworking factory? Surely by the time that's even slightly feasable, we'll have a space elevator or other paradigm shifting launch technologies.

As I said...nickel-iron. The moon has particles of native nickel-iron scattered all over its surface, conveniently magnetically sortable from the regolith, so you can subtract most of the mining, refining, and smelting. After that, even relatively crude working and machining processes can produce useful results...I'm not suggesting you build turbopumps from lunar materials, and the capability to do so is not necessary to reap benefits from lunar-sourced structural materials. Basalt is also not exactly hard to come by and needs no refining to produce fiber that has many possible uses, ranging from insulation to the reinforcing material in composites.

Moose
2008-Nov-17, 05:17 PM
cjameshuff, I have to agree this is more realm of sci-fi. It's not just about materials. It's about tools, and people, and know-how.

Hundreds of thousands of people, and an immense infrastructure, were involved in Apollo? How many times did they have to rethink a given problem in the middle of construction?

If you intend to build in orbit, or on the moon, you will have perhaps dozens of specialists, and whatever infrastructure you can lift with you, in order to do the work. And if anything at all goes wrong... Look how much time and effort it's taken to service Hubble.

Building entirely on Earth, you have the advantage of not having to put the infrastructure into orbit to avoid lifting the resources. You only have to lift (and possibly assemble) the final result. Earth Orbit Rendezvous (to assemble the ship) with a Mars Orbit Rendezvous (landing and return) is probably the better way to get to get to mars.

We already know how to rendezvous. That's routine. The repeated pinpoint landings needed to assemble anything on the surface of the moon, well, that's a bit trickier.

samkent
2008-Nov-17, 08:06 PM
No need to worry about a lunar base because it won’t happen. With the economy the way it is and the social security system starting to see the baby boomers retire, the money will never be there for a base. I doubt we will even get a token landing because it’s been done before. The best we can hope for is an asteroid mission.

As to using the surface materials to build things. We all have sand in our local areas but we don’t make glass plates and cups. Iron is very common as well but who makes their own cars? It’s huge step from saying we have materials laying around to a finished aerospace product. A two year old can put a band aid on but don’t expect them to take out gallstones. I agree we may push lunar soil over prefab structures for radiation protection but that’s it. Even the idea of lunar concrete is too far out. We would have to haul a special cement and steel rebar from Earth. The weight would be about the same as a finished prefab. Plus you would know the structural limitations beforehand.

Lunar construction is a juvenile dream and I suspect that the NASA experts knew from the day of the Bush announcement, that a lunar base was just hope and prayer.

Nicolas
2008-Nov-17, 08:10 PM
Depends on what you call a base. If you make the lander such that it can function for a long time, land all your missions next to each other, connect the landers and pile regolith over them while topping off with some solar panels, you may call it a base.

Whether it's useful is another discussion.

antoniseb
2008-Nov-17, 08:21 PM
It's worth noting that the amount of time and development we'd need on the Moon to make the Mars mission cheaper will be decades. Personally, I'm in favor of purely robotic work on the Moon and Mars until habitats and infrastructure have been built, but if you have a heroic goal of putting a man on Mars quickly, I agree that the Moon base is at best a more local place to test systems.