back to article NASA: The Moon is not enough

NASA and its international aeronautical cohorts have some serious explaining to do before they start rocketing folks to the Moon again. They better convince the public why it's so important for our species to invest hand-over-fist just to root around some boring gray orbital dust ball - a dust ball we already stuck a flag in a …


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  1. Pete Silver badge

    isn't the ISS enough of an example?

    Let's do experiments in space. Extend our knowledge, push back the frontiers.

    What happened? Well almost no science, for a kick-off. The space station is just about able to keep going - although there have been scares which almost led to it's abandonment. It seems to have no purpose anymore, except to provide missions for the scuttle - which in turn only exists to service the space station.

    If we were to do it all again (would we, should we?), knowing what we do about the cost, time and outcomes, what would humanity decide? Go for it or spend the money elsewhere.

    If we've learned anything from the ISS programme it's that the lofty goals of the scientists easily get subverted, downgraded or simply cancelled when political expediency, short-term thinking and budgets get cut. Going to the moon - possibly to stay, would be vastly more expensive. Can we say that the benefits to the human race would be worth it and more importantly, that they'd be delivered?

  2. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Can LunatIQs* Help?

    ""Because of the way the universe works, the story of human life is a story of extinction," said Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute (and half-empty guy when it comes to the cosmic ballet apparently).

    "It's not a matter of if, but when."

    I agree, on all three counts. ;-)

    ""Our imaginations typically aren't good enough to forecast what we'll see in exploration," said Spudis." ..... I Disagree, Spudis. And would Bet the Planets on IT, for of course, they would at least be Involved..

    * An AIQ available from the NIRobotIQ ICQ Range..... and Virtually Silent Running.

    Ca IRa and Welcome to ITs Real dDeep Cool Waters...... and Gravitational Waves and ElectroMagnetic Pulses.

    CyberSpace, the NeuReal Frontier with Pit Fall Barriers for the Imposter Poster.... IP Thief ...... Mole

  3. Roni Leben

    19 or 39?

    "a dust ball we already stuck a flag in a full score and 19 years ago."

    Ahem, surely you mean 39 years ago?

  4. Tony

    Damn right

    The next time you go out at night, look up at the sky and take a really good look. Assuming that it's not cloudy, and the light pollution doesn't spoil it, you should see a sight that has fascinated men for millenia.

    What are they - what's happening there. These are the questions that we want to know the answers to.

    For those that say robot craft or telescopes are enough, I would say do you just read the catalogues in the travel shop, or do you actually want to go to the places that you read about?

    Yes, there are problems that need solving here on Earth and I wouldn't deny that these have to be dealt with. But the universe is a wonderful, wondrous place and we should be trying to push ourselves to explore as much as we can.

  5. Martin

    So let's go straight to Mars, not to the Moon?

    "Been there done that" is a reason not to go back to the Moon?

    Well, I dunno. Seems to me to be a damn GOOD idea to go back to the Moon until we can do it in a straightforward manner - and only then think about Mars....

    If I were going to try crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope, I think I'd practice on something a bit easier first....

  6. Henry Cobb
    Thumb Down

    500 Megayears?

    The moon's been around longer than that and Apollo returned with mineral grains almost eight times older than that.

  7. Matthew

    Has to be permanent

    The $200Bn ISS, the marvellous, technological wonder it is will be ditched into the ocean in about 10 years time with little to show for it, and what then? Will they build yet another space station or is that a bit too 20th century now?

    I've often tried to find out what actually goes on up there but I'm sure that all they've discovered is how to build a space station and how to live in one.

    If they have another brief visit to the Moon or take an Apollo-esque trip to Mars it will be nothing more than a vast money spending exercise struggling to justify itself. The next big project has to be putting people, permanently into space, if building a Moon base puts them a step forward to achieving that then great, if not then no thanks.

    It is worth noting that after the Apollo programme had been cancelled the money was simply absorbed into everything else, no-one had a tax cut or anything beneficial.

  8. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: 19 or 39?

    I'd explain this but I'm sure 20 commenters will do it better in a matter of seconds.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Oh come on

    "NASA and its international aeronautical cohorts have some serious explaining to do before they start rocketing folks to the Moon again."


  10. Graham Marsden

    @Roni Leben

    A "score" is 20 as in "Three score years and ten" meaning 70.

    So "a score and 19" is 39 :-)

  11. David Harper

    Re 19 or 39

    Austin did say "a full score and 19 years ago", which is 20+19.

    It was meant to echo the opening lines of the Gettysburg Address.

    We must allow our colonial cousins a little poetic licence now and again.

  12. Joe Cooper

    @Has to be permanent

    "I've often tried to find out what actually goes on up there but I'm sure that all they've discovered is how to build a space station and how to live in one."

    They do a lot of medical science stuff. I will say this, I think NASA has a fantastic website. Here's their main page for station science:

    Now bare in mind that RIGHT NOW, there are three people on the station who have a lot of construction work and stuff.

    Real soon now that phase is going to be over with the Shuttle retirement, they're going to double the crew to six and they'll be doing a lot more research.

    And, realistically, they'll probably just extend it's lifetime. Mir got extended almost a decade past it's "warranty". Most of the hardware for ISS is "expected" to last a lot longer than any of the Mir hardware was.

    I would find it extremely bizarre and unprecedented if they actually deorbit it in 10 years.

  13. Glynn Williams

    Re: 19 or 39?

    Come on man!

    Surely you remember the iconic speech by Abe Lincoln that begins "Four score and seven years ago..."

    A score is a set of twenty of something...

    So a score of years = 20 years...

    "a full score and 19 years ago" = 39 years!

    Do your research!

    @Sarah: We do but only your wishes!

  14. Zmodem


    to explore space you would probaly need to update a old dos star calculator and create nano degrees

  15. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    I vote for cheaper transport into space

    Noddy's guide to rockets: Burn 1% of your fuel so you can shove it out the back very fast. A tenth of it was used to accelerate your fuel tank. Far less was used to accelerate you payload. Nearly nine tenths was used to accelerate the rest of your fuel in the wrong direction (the proportion gets lower as you run out of fuel).

    Air would make a good propellant for the first stage to orbit. It has the great advantage that it is not moving very fast in the wrong direction. Bad new is it needs a power source to do anything useful. A nuclear powered air breathing engine would not need the enormous fuel tanks that you see on current rockets. If you are not brave enough to put a nuclear power plant on a rocket, cook it with microwaves from space.

    An orbital micro-wave powered air breathing engine would drop the costs of getting to low earth orbit considerably. Bad news is the kit required is hefty, and requires assembly in orbit. Thanks to the space station, people now have some experience of construction in space. Building out of moon rocks and dropping it down might be cheaper than lifting the kit from Earth.

    I am sure some Americans can think of other uses for kit that can send megwatts of microwaves at a fast moving (or stationary) target, and the ones I am thinking about have money to burn.

    The information on the moon is all very interesting (to me anyway), but the moon also has the raw materials to get people to the asteroids and Mars cheaper than sending everything direct from Earth. That might sell the idea better than information about the past - at least to people who do not understand how much investment would be required.

  16. Guy

    Reasons for the ISS

    I hear a lot about the science being done on the ISS, and whilst I would like there to be great breakthroughs due to the endeavour, in my mind it's not the biggest benefit it's given to us.

    I think the fact that it's a focal point between nations, that allows countries who are in other ways unable to work together to get together.

    US, Russia, Europe, Japan, Canada and the rest have at least one project where they actually help each other, this in the long run can only be a good thing.

    On a smaller scale, Europe, the Jules Vern was a European venture, not just UK, or France or Spain, but the whole of Europe contributed to it's creation, teaching much needed engineering skills and inspiring bonds between countries.

    I don't think this is a universal answer to world peace, but it can't hurt. *

    The science in my mind is secondary (although still important)

    Heart for obvious hippie based reasons

    * At least until we start fitting the thing with big Lasers!

  17. halfcut

    We need to pwn the moon

    If we stick to orbital stuff, everything needs to be lifted out of Earth's full-fat gravity well. That's expensive. If we can get some mining and materials processing setup on the moon, there's only 1/6th of the gravity that you need to overcome to lift things into orbit, so it makes sense to get raw materials (steel would be a good start) from the moon and just lift the electronics -and tricky bits that you need a wide industrial base for- from earth. It makes sense in the not-very-long term.

    Once you have industry on the moon, that gives you the platform to certainly make use of the solar system, if not beyond quite yet.

    Or we could just sit here in our one basket -use the money to fund Botswanan farmers or what ever the cause is this week- and wait for extinction. There will come a point (opinion varies on exactly when) when all the resources we produce will be needed to maintain the population; and we will have lost the option.

  18. Robert Brockway

    Costs and benefits of space exploration

    I often hear complaints about the cost of space exploration (initially it looked like this article was going down that route). Based on the research I've done every dollar spent on space exploration has returned 3-7 dollars to the world economy. A lot of the computer technology we enjoy today can say a big thank you to the American space program.

    What amazes me is that people criticise the cost of space exploration while largely remaining silent on the cost of weapons development and international arms sales. Vast sums of money are spent on arms and weapons development every year and yet the return on investment in terms of useful civilian technologies is quite low.

    Let's boost space research which has had huge positive knock-on effects around the world, and cut back on making bombs. Seems pretty simply eh?

  19. Daniel B.

    Space, the final frontier

    It's easier to build the Enterprise in space than in Earth! ;)

    Truly the "Mars is more interesting" camp haven't thought that by setting a permanent moon base, we're actually setting a milestone for the actual Mars trip! As someone else mentioned, I'd rather master the Earth-Moon trip before going further away.

    Moreover, the Mars manned missions did point out something about building the Mars-bound spaceship in space, then sending it on its way. The Moon looks like a better place to do something like that.

    And that "better things like war, hunger, climate change" argument is trite. There is far more money being spent in *doing* war than space exploration; this directly causes hunger. Stop spending in war, funnel all that into other needs and you'll get the problem solved!

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Ged orrrf moi land!

    I do hope if they decide to return to the moon I will be able to collect ground rent from my acre of moon land should the lander descend there.

    Ha Ha to all those doubters who said it was a wasted investment!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Moon Base Alpha

    What ever they do they better not build Moon Base Alpha otherwise we will loose the moon.

    (for those without a clue.... Space 1999. A TV series)

  22. Lionel Hutz

    Playground needs new toys

    NASA is like kids who get bored with their toys and want to play with new ones.

    The problem with the moon and mars toys is they are likely to cost billions to trillions of dollars.

    And honestly, not too many other people get much enjoyment out of watching them play with the toys.

    I am more in favor of projects like SpaceShipOne. If you people want to go play around in space, do it with your own $$$.

  23. Richard Scratcher

    Because it's there!

    Of course we should return to the moon! Humans have always needed to explore and expand their boundaries. If Columbus hadn't made the then seemingly pointless voyage across the Atlantic and if the pilgrims hadn't settled America, we wouldn't have.....hmm....hang on a minute....hmm....

    A full score + 19 = 39. Score comes from the Norse word "skor" which means 20. So a "full score" is 20, unless it happens in extra time, is on a triple letter score, or is a no score draw. A full score in music is about 108 bars. A score in a single(s) bar is generally worth more, unless you've drunk too much beer to really know the score, or if you've managed to score some coke. I hope that's helped to settle that score.

  24. SilverWave
    Paris Hilton

    Project Orion (nuclear propulsion)

    @halfcut: "There will come a point (opinion varies on exactly when) when all the resources we produce will be needed to maintain the population; and we will have lost the option."

    Nope! When things get tight, we just say stuff messing around with small loads and use Project Orion (nuclear propulsion).

    Put a skyscraper on the moon in one fell swoop.


    "the Orion design would work by dropping fission or thermonuclear explosives out the rear of a vehicle, detonating them 200 feet (60 m) out, and catching the blast with a thick steel or aluminum pusher plate."

    Paris because (obviously) she likes things to be tight...

  25. John Carpenter
    Thumb Down

    This is all crap

    Until the issue of radiation damage to human tissue and DNA is solved, the notion of traveling outside the earth-moon orbit is unfeasable. There is no way, at this time to protect human astronauts in interstellar travel.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Abe Lincoln

    You might not know if you are British and did not study American history.

    When I was at school I studied mostly about the native Americans and JFK getting bumped off by his government colleagues (yes I do believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was one of the gunman but that there was a CIA sharpshooter on the grassy knoll who finsihed the job so Oswald was just a decoy)

    Posted anonymously because the CIA can get you anywhere.

    I agree wih a new moon mission

  27. Frank Thomas

    Humanity has one goal at this point

    and that is to create Jean Luc Picard and a ship for him to ride arround in. come on folks, we only have about 400 years to work with here. we gotta get the lead out.

    Seriously, we should be less worried about exactly what type of number crunching we can do to calculate the density of dust on the moon. we need to just focus on living there. the more obscure science can wait until we have a summer house up there.

  28. Kevin Campbell
    Thumb Up

    Re: 'Because it's there!' and 'new toys', etc

    Scratcher shoots... SCOOOOOOORE! ;-)

    For those who say "first solve the problems here", let's tally what the space program and all those $$$ have given us. Upon close examination we'll see that, in some cases, there is a direct benefit to humanity from space exploration. Someone's already mentioned computers. But what about all the OTHER microelectronics we've come to know and love? How about pretty much EVERYTHING with a microchip - from video games to your programmable household thermostat. All that was a result of miniaturization made necessary by the needs of the space program. Or how about heart pacemakers? At least three of my elderly relatives have these to keep the ol' ticker running. Again, miniaturization brought about by the needs of space exploration. Then, of course there's satellite TV, GPS, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

    The list is nearly endless. Yes, space exploration is dangerous and costs grillions of $$$. However, in the light of real and tangible benefits gained, I'd say it's money well spent. The coolness factor is, in my opinion, merely frosting on top.

    Yes, we have problems here on our little blue-green ball. We likely always will. That shouldn't stop us from trying to improve ourselves and our condition in every way possible.

  29. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    To boldly go...

    where only 12 men have been before...

    Actually for those who endlessly bleat on about solving poverty , etc etc consider this

    NASA gets 16 billion US dollars a year, convert that into pounds and it would keep our welfare state going for about 3 weeks, that money would keep the US's welfare system going for about 2 days

  30. Aaron

    I'm no great NASA fan, but...

    "NASA is like kids who get bored with their toys and want to play with new ones."

    is probably the wordiest rendering of "I have no idea what I'm talking about" I've seen all week.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Can LunatIQs* Help?

    Yes, of course they can. amfM, have you never met the Association of Autonomous Astronauts? I think they'd be right up your street/planet/galaxy/dimension!

  32. Anonymous Coward

    John Carpenter is all crap

    >"There is no way, at this time to protect human astronauts in interstellar travel"

    Yes there is, there are plenty of them. Lead shielding would be insanely heavy stuff to send up, but it would work just as well in space as it does on Earth.

    Even better, though: if you're sending astronauts on a long space journey, they're going to need some fairly substantial water supplies (even allowing for recycling) - and water makes great shielding against cosmic rays. Build all the water tanks into the outer hull of your spacecraft and the interior will be nicely shielded.

  33. Mike Lovell


    "Based on the research I've done every dollar spent on space exploration has returned 3-7 dollars to the world economy"

    Well I don't know about everyone else but I'm convinced. Are you by any chance an author on Wikipedia! :op

  34. Chris G

    @ Humanity has one goal

    If you are going to create a crew person from Star Trek, bugger Jean Luc Picard ( if you like) Personally I would go for Seven of Nine with or without the spray on uniform.

    As far as going to the moon? Of course we should, we should never have stopped going there. By now there really could have been a base and some serious research being done. Under zero or low gravity there is a lot of interesting science and engineering that can be done that is impossible on earth. Crystalline structures in metallurgy and materials science for one comes to mind. Space exploration gave us so many new technologies before and it will again.

  35. Franklin

    @ Matthew

    "It is worth noting that after the Apollo programme had been cancelled the money was simply absorbed into everything else, no-one had a tax cut or anything beneficial."

    Actually, the Apollo program was cancelled--with a couple more missions already slated and the Saturn rockets for them already built--in order to divert money into the Viet Nam war effort.

    So, which expenditure would have benefitted us more, do you think? Seems like a no-brainer to me...

    Honestly, given the amount of money we're flushing down the toilet fighting an expensive and ultimately pointless war in Iraq, the comparative dribble of change--less than that needed to finance a few weeks' worth of overseas misadventures--that it'll cost to return to the moon seems like a damn good bargain to me.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Boris the Cockroach

    ...and the folks here on the left want to expand our welfare system...

  37. John Benson

    manned space program benefits

    I grew up watching Commando Cody, Jet Jackson, the Mercury and Gemini flights, Fireball XL-5, Star Trek, and the Apollo missions. Although all of that stirred and inspired me, rational discussion of manned space program benefits needs to be based on something other than nostalgia.

    My impression is that "space program technology" is mostly engineering, not basic science, and that most of it was based on military prior art, not NASA pioneering from scratch. The basic science and technology had already been worked out in military programs from the V-2 to the Redstone and Atlas boosters, as well as commercial efforts like the the AM transistor radio: Frankie Valli wailing "Sherry" over the first shirt-pocket transistor radios did more to promote the miniaturization of electronics than Sputnik ever did.

    As for computers, the space program has lagged, rather than led the way. This is entirely appropriate, since you want reliable rather than flashy technology in outer space.

    Although there were some basic science discoveries attributable to non-military space programs (the van Allen radiation belt, Hubble imaging, cosmic ray measurements etc.), most of this could arguably have been accomplished without ever putting anybody in orbit.

    It seems, therefore, that the manned space program was vastly oversold in terms of its tangible benefits to the taxpaying public except for TANG, the convenient orange-flavored sugar beverage beloved of our heroic astronauts. (The fact that "tangible" begins with TANG will not be lost on conspiracy theorists.)

    The real motives for the manned space program probably lie in secret military missions piggybacked on an ostensibly public program and convenient excuses to funnel ever more dollars into the military-industrial complex.

    If some people enjoy the show while their pockets are picked, I suppose that's more pleasant than my depressing alternative. But I also believe that the truth will make you free, rendering truth all that more precious in an increasingly unfree world.

  38. Charles Manning

    re: Playground needs new toys

    Not really. They want more budget.

    Remember folks, NASA a an **administration**, run by administrators for administrators. Their power/fun/egorub comes from playing with vast project and vast sums of money. Actual scientific output is of lesser concern.

  39. J

    Damn heretics

    "It's a witness to 500 million years of history and preserves it."

    Haha, very funny, if it wasn't for the fact y'all be burning in Hell for this. Every intelligent, open minded person knows that it can't be more than 6,000 years old!

  40. brainwrong

    Why the rush?

    "It's a witness to 500 million years of history and preserves it. Further exploration and study of the moon may have major implications in our understanding of how the solar system evolved."

    Apart from the age being wrong, I'm sure it'll still be be in good nick in a few tens or hundreds of years when we've developed a better way of getting to it.

  41. Andy Bright

    What I need to know

    Is how any of this culminates in my own personal X-Wing. Show me that and I'll sign off on whatever you want, beit the Moon, Mars, or whatever.

    What I do know is that if all you have to show me after spending a kagillion dollars is moon water and space amoeba, the moon water better cure cancer or make people fly and you better not call space amoeba alien life.

    If it doesn't have six antenna, make silly beep-beep noises and supplies every human with a light sabre, blaster and a first class ticket to Alpha Centuri, you don't have permission to call it anything other than spit in a bucket.

    Climate change? Hungry children? Poverty? Disease? Screw that, I say restart the game and level our culture from scratch with the benefit of hindsight. I'm sure there's a planet out there that's basically one big Hawaii, tastefully decorated with the best hotels aliens can buy and has free parking space for 20 billion humans.

  42. Cristhian Mejia

    The Moon is not Enough, May Actually be Too Much

    The reason NASA doesn't want to go to the moon because the first thing that people are going to be looking for is the Lunar Landing which never happend.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how quickly they forget

    Mass driver, remember? You put it on the Moon, it hurls rocks to a point such as L5, you build space colonies including giant solar collectors that beam microwaves down to the Earth's surface where collector farms turn them into electricity for the grid.

    Yeah we used to take stuff like that seriously back in the day, when engineers were allowed to build stuff like the Saturn 5 and climatologists did not yet fill people with a sense of weary fatalism.

  44. Zmodem


    Your all nerds of starwars, current technology would allow for a nuclear powered shuttle that in theory would look like those in armergeden, so there would be no real need for moonbase, and would be able to create a primitive navsystem with a 3d star calculator for when hyperdrive arrives you can calculate thrust/distance/arrival star possition and plot path captain, with no stars visible when in space. And a rotation hubble dropping from a bay

  45. Anonymous Coward

    We need to establish a Moon presence first and then Mars.

    My own Very brief initial reply to a previous post:Yes, Nasa is an administration, but they do good actual space science experiments, and a great many medical developments also.

    Main two points: 1) Yes, space science is expensive & and the money that goes to it could've (always) been used for other (~better?) uses on good ole spaceship Earth, but there are always a great deal of ways that humanity will be wiped off the face of the earth eventually as a result of either any of several viruses capable of becoming a pandemic & wiping out up to 98% of human race, global warming changing the entire food chain from the bottom up, asteroid Apofice in 2036, Yellowstone caldera ( 40+ KM wide supervolcano) also capable of wiping out 80% of human race, etc. .The ways for a globally massive casualty of the human race will continue to be a danger unless we diversify ourselves as a race. It's cynicism yes, but take it seriously.

    It's very much like a company/corporation with massive assets vitally important to it's well being. Should it have all of it's data & equipment only at it's home site, or should it have equipment elsewhere when the onsite servers fail due to power/fire/mechanical failures? Same type of thinking. We either protect the human race by getting some of us off the face the earth & get started on it, or die as a species. Forever. After something super horrible happens, such as one of above which in one stroke wipes out nearly 80+ % of the human race, all of our funding towards poverty, hunger, and disease prevention will just be so very much worth it instead of doing all we can to make certain of the viability of the continuation of the human race. If we don't do that, we don't deserve to survive as a race past the next global catastrophe.

    2) Even if the US drops the military budget down to 1% of current expenditure, other countries won't do the same. Sure, the government 'could' cut out the military war budget, tell the other countries where the US has foreign bases that it's coming back onto own shores, cut off all 10's of BN of $ of funding to Africa & other idiotic countries that are so corrupt that they need our help to find their own 'whatever'. What Happens then to the rest of the world when we do that though afterwards???

    Something to think about....

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Green ways to orbit.

    If I'm not mistaken, it's been demonstrated that taking off like a plane and flying to a cruising altitude before actually boosting into space saves a fair amount of fuel. It can also be performed with less expensive fuel, as I understand it.

    Now, admittedly, IIRC, we've had a grand total of one such demonstration, which nearly ended in disaster, with no immediate resolution of the issue involved. However, I feel confident with a bit of study we could learn enough to be able to do it safely in the future.

  47. Clive Smith

    @Cristhian Mejia

    This is a common Myth. The Russians respond to it by saying that if the Americans never went, they (the Russians) would have told the world.

  48. Michael


    The moon may be able to give us a potential new energy source (Helium-3). We should explore and learn and the consequence is better science.

    Also do not forget there is a traffic jam building up as the Russians and Chinese have moon programs on the table too. It would be wonderful if the next generation of moon exploration is a truly international collaboration.

  49. Joe Cooper

    @Green ways to orbit

    That's been done numerous times. Off the top of my head: the commercial Pegasus launch vehicle, the USAF's ASM-135 anti-satellite missile.

    Fuel advantages aren't that big of a deal. The main advantages include a cheap & reusable first stage, the ability to deploy anywhere, freedom from weather delays and (or so I'm told) cheaper insurance.

    Also, don't start throwing around the word "green" here. Most of the pollution probably comes from manufacturing everything and probably correlates with the cost of the rocket. Many launch vehicles such as the space shuttle use LOX & hydrogen fuel which produces WATER as a byproduct.

    Of course manufacturing hydrogen isn't very "green".

    Bottom line, it's a lot more complicated than less fuel = better. We're not talking about cars here.

  50. Sceptical Bastard

    @ Boris the Cockroach / Spend wisely

    Quote: "To boldly go... "

    OMG! You split an infinitive! You must die, you heretic!

    As to the cost of another manned moonshot programme, it might be more useful to spend the money on an effective system to detect large meteorites and asteroids and to develop ways of dealing with them. At present we have neither - and one thing science has demonstrated is that a major impact is a case of 'when' not 'if'.

    A century ago, a meteorite fell over Tunguska in Siberia and burst in the atmosphere with an explosive force roughly one thousand times greater than the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs. Imagine what that would've done to London or Moscow or NYC (no jokes about improving Liverpool, please).

    Or, of course, we could spend the money on any one of half a hundred beneficial areas of scientific research. Elimination of famine, anyone? Who's up for an alternative to oil? Cure for cancer take your fancy? No? OK, let's go to the moon, stick another Stars and Stripes on it then forget it for a further full score years and 19.*

    *That's 39 for the hard-of-learning - just doing your bidding, Sarah.

  51. Gary Owen
    Black Helicopters

    We've never been there!

    An astrophysicist who has worked for NASA writes that it takes two meters of shielding to protect against medium solar flares and that heavy ones give out tens of thousands of rem in a few hours.

    Russian scientists calculated in 1959 that astronauts needed a shield of 4 feet of lead to protect them on the Moons surface. Why didn't the astronauts on Apollo 14 and 16 die after exposure to this immense amount of radiation? And why are NASA only starting a project now to test the lunar radiation levels and what their effects would be on the human body if they have sent 12 men there already?

    Apollo missions were bollocks - even traversing the Van Allen belt (which would have taken them 4 hours) the astronauts would have received lethal doses of radiation.

    Yes, yes there's always going to be conspiracy theorists - but just take a look here there's a few piecesbeing read into a bit much but it's interesting reading nevertheless - the gravity videos, especially of the astronaut getting up unaided from the ground is just spectacular!

  52. michael

    if this atude had been prevlent in earler centries

    then we yould noe have boverefd to colonize amrica and we would not be having this argument!

  53. Clive Smith

    @Gary Owen

    I could never look at any website that contains ufos or aliens in its title and take it seriously. They never reference the source so you cant trace it to see (prove its not) if its authentic. Sun newspaper style.

  54. Zmodem


    better blasting a challenger2 tmwards the moon, no fusion of the b-2 bomber and sr-71 blackbird

  55. David Robinson


    Of course we need space research! How on earth do we otherwise make a Golgofrinchan 'Ark B', already sadly needed.


  56. Gianni Straniero

    Re: isn't the ISS enough of an example?

    The main thing the ISS taught its sundry space-agency collaborators is how *not* to build something in orbit, i.e. sending it up in twenty ton chunks:

  57. David Stever

    @mejia & Owens

    Mejia seyz:

    "The reason NASA doesn't want to go to the moon because the first thing that people are going to be looking for is the Lunar Landing which never happend. <sic>"

    Gary Owens said basically the same thing ad nausem (I loved your work on LAUGH IN, by the way)

    Guys, there's a simple test to determine if we went to the moon. The coordinates for all the landing sites are published. Look 'em up. Hire a big honkin' telescope, and hook up a laser to it. Fire a laser burst at one of the landing sites. Play 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' for all I care. Look at the site 2.5 seconds later trough the same telescope. See the same burst of laser light coming right back at you. It it Aliens? Hell no. Each Apollo crew placed a prism at the launch sites. A special five sided prism, so that any light shown on them is reflected straight back at the source of the light. Six sites, six prisms, six laser light reflections. Now go back under your rock, while the rest of us plot the future of the human race, and leave us the hell alone, you stupid Luddites.

    van Allen Belts? We didn't stay there- that would be dangerous. The amount of exposure during the time it took to transit the belts is not fatal. Staying on the lunar surface during a solar flare could be fatal, and six crews (9 if you count Apollo 8, 10 & 13) lucked out by getting by without a flare, but that could happen with future crews during longer stays. We need shielding of some kind, as has been mentioned, bu that doesn't mean we ain't been there.

    ...putting on my lab coat explain to the WalMart crowd how the science works.

  58. Zmodem

    last of the modem

    With a titanium alloy chasis and reinforced carbon hull and thermal/electrical layers+toughened external layer and a year in a lab shooting it with iron pellets at lightspeed, jets with heatrods/rings, ion thust, its technology possible to replace the shuttle with a craft you could fly around in, advancing future craft technology and no need for a moonbase, just some probes

  59. Dave

    To hell with...

    To hell with humans in space. At least until they put up a space elevator.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    Go Go GO

    Look here naysayers, there is easily enough cash to do this. The tech spin offs will be cool, that there helium 3 might be very useful and hey why not!

    I personally refuse to sign onto to either / or attitude, i want the moon and mars and everywhere else.

    Stopped peeing in my porridge, up up and away and dam the financial cost! After all its not going to cost anything like the years spending on defense kit during the cold war or 5 years in Iraq at $1 Trillion and counting.

    Its just a matter of will!

  61. Zmodem


  62. Zmodem

    Peices of the puzzle

  63. Killian

    Hey Joe

    "I'm sure that all they've discovered is how to build a space station and how to live in one."

    oh, is that all?

  64. Matthew

    @ Franklin

    "Actually, the Apollo program was cancelled--with a couple more missions already slated and the Saturn rockets for them already built--in order to divert money into the Viet Nam war effort.

    So, which expenditure would have benefited us more, do you think? Seems like a no-brainer to me..."

    The Apollo program ended in 1975 shortly after Skylab, the same year the Vietnam war did so the money wasn't diverted to that.

  65. Gilbert Wham

    Sooooooo... a nutshell, their argument for space exploration (our natural urge to discover etc etc) boils town to 'because it would be fucking awesome'. I'm down with that.

  66. Zmodem


    travel could exist in 10years, sooner if briton needed a craft, the planet does'nt need another capsule to supply the iss

  67. Kevin

    Effective way of scanning sky for asteroids -problem

    While it may seem simple enough in theory, as it is a simple theory to just scan the sky for asteroids heading for earth, the practicality of it is that it doesn't take for a 'mega-huge' rock to wipe out tens of millions of people, but only a relatively small rock of 100m in diam with the correct composition to explode with the force of a 100M ton thermonuclear bomb after being heated to 5,000 deg C in the falling through the atmosphere towards the ground. Secondly, the sky is VERY, VERY big. At any one point, we can only scan a EXTREMELY small percentage of the sky at one time, to have it be far enough out in trying to spot an object, that is again, only has to be a couple hundred meters wide to be devastating to the earth if it falls into the earth's gravity field and by chance falls towards a heavily populated city. If the 1908 Tunguska meteor had fallen instead onto London, NYC, Paris, Mumbai, Cairo, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Mexico City, etc, etc: any of the other hundreds of cities, even then with populations of over 5million + people in them, well over 90% of that city would've been obliterated by the impact of the meteorite slamming into the ground. An asteroid of 2-3 km diameter hitting the earth atmosphere & then ground like the Yucatan Penninsula meteorite, well, need i say more on it's potential effects? To spot a 3km wide rock hurtling our way at a meandering pace of 5 km/sec, at a distance of 1-2 million miles out is not easy to say the least, and we have usually only an approximated 8% chance of spotting it in time to work out it's size, it's likely composition,how close it will come to the earth, & if that is determined, how to alter it's course or destroy it & then launch 'something' in time to do just that. Sure, no problem at all.

  68. Zmodem


    most asteroids origins and orbits are known and could added tm the realtime navsystem, to scan for debris is future craft technology that can only really be created with a next gen shuttle with 4m wide NP ion thrust on each wing, not 10cm and a solar panel

    with a hull material easy to create, seeing nanotubes are needed to be added to carbon fibers structure for kind of useful electrical current to pass through

  69. Zmodem

    give up

    peoples visions lack,

    ion is here and now with nasa started tests on fusion propulsion, current shuttle is 50-60tons heavier then a whole new 1 would be and it would save millions of $ every time it rains with some NP turbojets, even if it couldnt reach orbit on its own.:-(

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