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Old 2004-01-15, 04:09   #1
kwstone
 
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Default To the moon and Mars...

Is George W. Bush showing a truly great vision for the future of mankind by announcing the intention to establish lunar colonies by 2020 and put men on Mars by 2030? or has he been reading too much science fiction?

Is it an electioneering gimmick? a plot by the Illuminati? a brave step forward? an enormous boost for high-tech industries? another way to hand contracts to Halliburton?

Is the whole thing a huge waste of money? Should those billions be spent on something more important, like discovering the next Mersenne Prime ?

I don't know what to think. I'd love to hear your opinions...
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Old 2004-01-15, 14:57   #2
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The moon has the benefit of mass in orbit with a low escape velocity (and no atmospheric drag to boot) and the orbital speed of the moon is available for use on deep space launches.

However! the idea of "building a base" on the moon has some difficulties.

1) Protection from solar storms, CME's, and cosmic rays.
Solution is to dig in (which is not quick).
2) Dirt work will need to be done to level out an area to attach new components.
Can be combined with fix for #1, but even a small bulldozer like thing will be expensive to get to the moon (granted, it can be an attachment to the moon truck).
3) Building the launch vehicles to get the mass up to the moon is not huge techincal challenge, but rather a question of commitment over successive years of politicans.
4) The idea of using the moon for raw materials is great, but there is a lack of infrastructure there. Everything need to make metal, fuel, etc. needs to have its origin on the earth.
5) The work force to build these items will be limited and their foodstuffs must intially come from earth.

Buzz Aldrin (an orbital mechanics genius) has promoted the Mars Cycler idea. This in conjuntion with other things like Robert Zubrin's ideas, can make a huge difference in getting to Mars.

Remember, retiring the STS (shuttle), does not exclude the use of shuttle derived launch components. The SRB's and the SSME's are still great stuff. An upgraded ET with 4 SRB's and 2 SSME's attached to a payload module could put quite a mass into orbit.
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Old 2004-01-16, 03:53   #3
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One idea for a "cheap" lunar base is: Lava Tubes

This method solves the protection problem and greatly reduces the construction materials required inside the tube, but does not address the travel/shipping costs.

Sealing the tube and filling its volume with air extracted from the rocks (and oxygen from ice) would be a major undertaking, but it isn't necessary for the initial base. The main incentive to do so is the combination of very large open spaces (measured in cubic kilometers) and lunar gravity:
With a pair of 'small' strap on wings and a little physical effort, you can fly!
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Old 2004-01-16, 10:35   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by Uncwilly
4) The idea of using the moon for raw materials is great, but there is a lack of infrastructure there. Everything need to make metal, fuel, etc. needs to have its origin on the earth.
Largely but not entirely true. Most of the energy need not be carted up to the moon from the earth. The initial hardware such as solar cells, heat exchangers, Sterling cycle engines, their working fluid, electrical generators, storage batteries, etc, would have to be transported but the energy could come from solar radiation.

The sun doesn't shine at night, of course, but you could quite easily run the heat engines backwards with the hot source coming from heat stored underground during the daytime and then dumped to a very cold sky at night.


Paul
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Old 2004-01-17, 15:40   #5
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Now we're beginning to get "the rest of the story" (as Paul Harvey would say): funding for Bush's Mars project will come at the expense of starving other NASA projects.

While one might have suspected this from the first, now we're getting confirmation: the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the most productive scientific instruments in history, will be left as it now is (with components such as control gyroscopes degrading over time) rather than being serviced at least one more time next year, to extend its operating lifetime by five years or so, as had been planned. Also, US participation in the ISS is to be cut. And these are only the first two of probably several other cuts in major projects.

I support a Mars project, such as has been proposed, in general, but not at the expense of drastically trimming so many other worthy space endeavors. IMO, if not all can be currently funded adequately then the Mars project should stretch out, not kill other projeccts. (I speak from the viewpoint that although I personally want to see a substantial increase in space project funding, I accept that in reality only an even level of funding is practical because there is not sufficient political support by the American public for a substantial increase.)

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2004-01-17 at 15:42
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Old 2004-01-20, 21:45   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by cheesehead
While one might have suspected this from the first, now we're getting confirmation: the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the most productive scientific instruments in history, will be left as it now is (with components such as control gyroscopes degrading over time) rather than being serviced at least one more time next year, to extend its operating lifetime by five years or so, as had been planned.
I thought the cutback in the shuttle program cut Hubble's maint (which I did not like when I read about it. To let Hubble slowly rot is a great loss.). And the cutback was due to the Feb-2003 shuttle disaster.
You are saying that Bush took advantage of these events to fund the Mars project? Or is it part of a larger plan to hack space projects to fund mars?
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Old 2004-01-21, 01:53   #7
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I read that the Hubble repair missions were scrapped because the Columbia disaster commission required the inspection of the heat shield in space. This can be done easily at the International Space Station but not when the shuttle is flying alone.

NASA faced a choice of developing a system to inspect the tiles while in orbit or scrapping the only planned flights that were not docking at the ISS. Budget constraints made them choose the former. I think this decision was made independent of the new Mars program, but I could be wrong.

Politically, both Democrat and Republican Presidents and Congresses have left NASA grossly underfunded and without a vision for the future. Worse yet, Congress routinely raids NASA's budget to create "pork" projects in numerous Congressional districts.

Did Bush pull off a political stunt? Who knows, probably he did. He gets to announce a grand future vision for peanuts in the current budget. But NASA is at a crossroads where it must have a long-term future vision. The Space Shuttle has to be replaced and the long-term vision greatly determines the design of the replacement. Stunt or not, Mars is a great and "sexy" goal. Young and naive, I remember being stunned that after the Apollo program ended our grand vision was "let's build a space truck that can orbit the Earth". Boring. It never occurred to me that Mars wouldn't be NASA's next goal.

Hopefully the 2008 President and Congresses will follow through with the necessary budget increases.
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Old 2004-01-21, 05:00   #8
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I wasn't alive then, but the impression I get from watching the documentaries of the space race to the moon in the 60's gives me the impression of everyone working together against all odds to be the first... Maybe things were not like that, but it sure would be nice if we all (USA) got behind something 100% and worked towards a common goal, devoid of politics and personal gain... (Kind of like how everyone pitched in during WW2 - like kids collecting scrap metal and stuff like that)

Maybe I'm just naive though...

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Old 2004-01-21, 07:41   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by nomadicus
I thought the cutback in the shuttle program cut Hubble's maint (which I did not like when I read about it. To let Hubble slowly rot is a great loss.). And the cutback was due to the Feb-2003 shuttle disaster.
After the Columbia disaster, NASA cut out a Hubble servicing mission, scheduled for 2009, which would have allowed Hubble to operate until the Webb telescope was in place next decade.

Now, after the Mars proposal, the up-to-then-still-planned 2005 Hubble servicing mission is to be scrapped.

Quote:
You are saying that Bush took advantage of these events to fund the Mars project? Or is it part of a larger plan to hack space projects to fund mars?
The latter.
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Old 2004-01-22, 22:06   #10
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"Gusev Crater (MPI) - A spokesthing for Mars Air Force denounced as false rumors that an alien space craft crashed in the desert, outside of Ma'adim Vallis on Friday. Appearing at a press conference today, General Rgrmrmy The Lesser, stated that "the object was, in fact, a harmless high-altitude weather balloon, not an alien spacecraft."
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Old 2004-01-22, 22:25   #11
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Well it just so happens
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