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We went to the Moon. And so?

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D'kian
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The Apollo program, no question, was a great achievement, especially when you consider the state of the art at the time. The smaples brought back are priceless, and many general advancements in amterials, electronics, telemetry, medicine, etc etc came about as either a direct or indirect result of Apollo. I have no quarrel with any of that.

But think about it. Imagine teling your children "forty years ago we were able to land men on the Moon, but we can't do that anymore." It brings to mind Larry Niven's sarcastic comment about the state of the space program in the 1980s "We can put a man on the Moon but we can't put a man on the Moon," meaning that after what were, in essence, a series of show landings, we abandoned the Moon indefinitely.

The problem is that Apollo was a government program. All government programs are politically motivated, be it by domestic or foreign policies. Landing men on the Moon was part of the space race aspect of the Cold War, nothing more. Once that was accomplished, government had no desire to do anything further on the Moon.

NASA is aprt of the problem, of course, but mostly insofar as it takes orders from Washington. NASA had a lot of ideas of what to do after Apollo. Everything from extended lunar missions using improved Apollo hardware and multiple Lunar Excursion Modules (LEMs), to manned fly-bys of Mars and Venus, to landings on Mars, to permanently manned Lunar bases, to manned space stations to serve interplanetary travel, and a lot more.

Space travel is very expensive because in order to get free from Earth, or even to get to Earth orbit, you need to expend a lot of fuel in order to accelerate the payload to the necessary speed. For Earth orbit you need speeds of about 11 kilometers per second (kps), which is about 6.5 miles per second (mps). To get to Mars you need higher speeds (in space all speeds are relative, so the speed fo a Mars-bound ship may seem lower relative to the Sun than relative to Earth, but the energy required is the same). Simply put the problem lies in geting material off Earth. To this day every single ship, probe and satellite has been made with 100% Earth materials, including in many cases the power source (some use solar power, which doesn't need to be carried, but the solar cells have to come along too).

A Lunar base could be used to mine materials to be sued in space travel. This would require a huge investment, but would bring prices down in the long run for two reasons:

1) The Moon has a lower mass and thus a lower gravity than Earth, therefore getting materials off it is cheaper. Besides such materials as are launched towards Earth can use Earth's atmosphere tos low down, making everything even cheaper.

2) There's no atmosphere on the Moon. This fact allows for things like electro-magnetic tracks for launch. Essentially a circular track or a long, sloping staright track on which you'd accelerate payloads to launch velocities. It would be solar powered (no clouds on the Moon, plus the day lasts 14 Earth days; that's 336 straight hours of dependable sunlight), so operating costs would be low as well.

With materials from the Moon launched towards Earth orbit at low cost, we could build large ships in orbit. These ships could then be launched towards Mars or anywhere else at lower costs.

The Moon conceivably cuold provide more than just raw materials. It would be possible to grow food on the Moon as well inside greenhouses that would filter UV light (and with solar cells and batteries to provide artificial "day" during Lunar night). This can be accomplished two ways: either with advanced hydroponics (which can use very little water) or straight in Lunar soil, which has been tested for growing crops rather successfully (a small test lab is in EPCOT Center in the ride called The Land).

Growing food on the Moon would require a local water source. We don't know for sure ther eare any, but indications are that some water ice can be found on the perpetual shadows of some craters. Failing that we'd ahve to send hydrogen from Earth to the Moon to make water (oxygen is abundant in some Lunar rocks and energy, as I keep saying, is cheap there). eventually, as we shall see later, we might get either water or hydrogen from the moons of gas giants, or from the atmospheres of gas giants, or from comets. Stay tuned.

Edited by D'kian
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Congress de-funded Apollo. Didn't want to spend the funds for further manned flights. They didn't just borrow money from China and have the Fed print up more paper back then.

Yep. They had some housing projects to build. Aren't we all glad that they did that? It sure improved our cities.

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Yep. They had some housing projects to build. Aren't we all glad that they did that? It sure improved our cities.

Plus they had to give the money hand over fist to the eco's as in "Energy Star" and "Tax credits for 'going green'" and create really useful things like the EPA and two DoE's and fund the proto-versions of CommieCare and these were mostly Republican administrations. (1969-77). Though to be fair. CONgress was overwhilmingly Democrat but the GOP wans't that commited to capitalism. the early 1970's saw the steepest rise in Federal spending in the second half of the twentieth century (ERGO published the graph in the late middle '70's).

You may wish to read two Rand essay's "Apollo 11" and "Epitaph for a Culture" She was on the guest list for the Apollo 11 launch.

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I'm aware of what happened t the funding and where most of it went. That was the time when the phrase "We can put a man on the Moon but we can't [insert any number of liberal fantasies about governemnt to solve]"

You may wish to read two Rand essay's "Apollo 11" and "Epitaph for a Culture" She was on the guest list for the Apollo 11 launch.

I've read them. Her account of the Apollo 11 launch is among the best in existence.

I don't mean to imply that NASA or the US government, or any government, should proceed to build a lunar base next. But having spent so much money for a few landings and then abandoning the Moon altogether is worse. Besides when I get going on space travel I find it very hard to stop.

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It should be added that the NASA engineers who built the moon rockets retired, the blueprints were thrown away, the spare parts recycled, and the moon tapes erased. The key technologies behind space travel are still classified (lest the Chinese get it), and will likely remain so until they are lost or useless. The trillions of dollars spent on space travel have accomplished just about nothing for the average person.

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Ok... I've got a slightly off topic question. In his speech about going to the moon JFK said in part;

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,

Well, what were the other things?

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It should be added that the NASA engineers who built the moon rockets retired,

NASA engineers may ahve helped, but the rockets were built by private contractors like Rockwell, Boeing, McDonell-Douglass, etc. SOme of them retired, some didn't.

the blueprints were thrown away, the spare parts recycled,

Yes and no. Some spares were left to rot. Backup Saturn V rockets wound up on display at KSC, JSC and I think the Smithsonian.

and the moon tapes erased.

This seems to have happened recently.

The key technologies behind space travel are still classified (lest the Chinese get it), and will likely remain so until they are lost or useless.

I don't know about the guidance systems and avionics, but surely such things have been surpassed by now (your cell phone has more cpmputing power than the Apollo modules did). Rocket engines and fuel pumps have been surpassed.

The trillions of dollars spent on space travel have accomplished just about nothing for the average person.

This is not so. In addition to spin-offs (which wouild have been developed anyway), satellites are used in dozens of ways for everyday activities. If you watch TV you rely on communications satellites. If you use GPS you rely on the military's GPS satellites. Weather satellites have saved countless lives by tracking storms and hurricanes. Earth-resources satellites have found mineral deposits all over the world. Military spy satellites have gathered tons of intelligence which has been used in wartime to good effect.

Granted none of this is a proper government function (except for the military sats). But to say there ahve been no benefits for the average person is wrong.

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It seems that there's a lesson here about CommieCare

Do you want the same folks who erased the moon tapes running health care?

Way to try to convert us, in this objectivism forum. :P

Congress de-funded Apollo. Didn't want to spend the funds for further manned flights. They didn't just borrow money from China and have the Fed print up more paper back then.

For human space flight to be done sustainably, and to be advanced beyond some arbitrary goal like the moon, it must be done for profit. Then, and only then, will Asimov's wildest dreams ever have a chance of becoming true.

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Way to try to convert us, in this objectivism forum. :)

Not trying to convert; just an intellectual ammunition drop-off.

For human space flight to be done sustainably, and to be advanced beyond some arbitrary goal like the moon, it must be done for profit. Then, and only then, will Asimov's wildest dreams ever have a chance of becoming true.

True, but it could also come from necessity as the case with the Plymouth Colony, but your point is taken and supported. There has to be something in it for somebody (read individuals). It's called "eyes on the prize"

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For human space flight to be done sustainably, and to be advanced beyond some arbitrary goal like the moon, it must be done for profit. Then, and only then, will Asimov's wildest dreams ever have a chance of becoming true.

Naturally. That's how LEO and the Clarke orbit got so crowded to begin with. Comsats are almost an entirely private concern. And the only reason there isn't a private GPS is that the military's already paid for and accessible.

I think at first we'll see space tourism, which will be mercilessly criticized as a wasteful activity for the rich (yadda, yadda, yadda). But the current pionneers of private space travel are ambitious men who want to go farther. Elon Musk, the CEO and founder of SpaceX, actaully has the goal of going to Mars.

As I see it we'll go into space to create wealth same as we have gone elsewhere, and we'll expand humanity's reach in the process (Armstrong's phrase comes to mind rather strongly). In the early days of the shuttle there was incessant talk about zero-G manufacturing but nothing ever came off that. But make access to orbit affordable, make access to raw materials cheaper, and set up stable facilities in orbit, and something may come off it.

BTW Asimov wasn't that keen on space travel. Aren't you thinking of Arthur C. Clarke and/or Robert Heinlen?

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Naturally. That's how LEO and the Clarke orbit got so crowded to begin with. Comsats are almost an entirely private concern. And the only reason there isn't a private GPS is that the military's already paid for and accessible.

I think at first we'll see space tourism, which will be mercilessly criticized as a wasteful activity for the rich (yadda, yadda, yadda). But the current pionneers of private space travel are ambitious men who want to go farther. Elon Musk, the CEO and founder of SpaceX, actaully has the goal of going to Mars.

As I see it we'll go into space to create wealth same as we have gone elsewhere, and we'll expand humanity's reach in the process (Armstrong's phrase comes to mind rather strongly). In the early days of the shuttle there was incessant talk about zero-G manufacturing but nothing ever came off that. But make access to orbit affordable, make access to raw materials cheaper, and set up stable facilities in orbit, and something may come off it.

BTW Asimov wasn't that keen on space travel. Aren't you thinking of Arthur C. Clarke and/or Robert Heinlen?

No, I meant Asimov. This guy:

Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime.
-wikipedia

How about mining the hell out of the asteroid belt? It's an earth sized amount of mass with similar minerals only in zero G for easy access!

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No, I meant Asimov.

Asimov wrote about space travel on ocassion, both in science fiction and in science popularizations. But he wasn't an advocate of space travel or the space program the way Clarke and Heinlen were.

How about mining the hell out of the asteroid belt? It's an earth sized amount of mass with similar minerals only in zero G for easy access!

That's Niven's aspiration. He even built a Belter civilization.

Fiction aside, refining minerals is a process that uses up a lot of water. I think water can be either found on the Moon or be brought there economically. It could be brought to the asteroid belt even more economically, but gravity does amke the handling of large amounts of water easier.

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