back to article John Glenn blasts Moonbase-to-Mars NASA roadmap

Famed US astronaut and politician John Glenn has said that that NASA's planned return to the Moon will be of no use to a future manned Mars mission. "It seems to me the Moon is questionable as a way station," the former space ace and Senator told congressmen on Wednesday. "If that's what we're doing - which I don't believe it …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a waystation

    I thought the moon base missions were to learn about setting up long term self-contained habitats on extra-terrestrial surfaces. *Obviously* you don't move the Mars vehicle onto the Moon's surface and then back out. Perhaps some of the components could be manufactured on the Moon from Lunar raw materials, but I don't think even that is likely given the timescales.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I dunno,

    the space program isn't much more expensive then the UK National ID Card system, and it's alot more interesting too.

  3. Richard Gadsden

    Orion rockets from Earth!

    I think not. Really bad idea. Let's have an atmosphere that isn't stuffed full of fallout, please.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Not a waystation

    Agreed. I thought this was more of a 'test' mission or dry run. Make sure we can get as far as the moon, perfect ships and procedures, and run life support in a closed environment for long periods, then go on the big trip.

  5. Pierre

    Shurely it would be a nucular vehicle?

    Nuff said

  6. Anonymous John

    :@ @Not a waystation

    The latest idea seems to be to assemble the Mars vehicle in Earth orbit, from modules launched on several Ares V' rockets.

  7. Garth


    Nucular Wessle

  8. Timbo

    Can't see the point....

    ...of moving stuff to the Moon, only to then have to lift it off the surface again in order to set it on it's way....and it's not as if there are any decent raw materials available there.....loads of minerals....but they would all need huge amounts of "processing" to turn them into steel, aluminium, glass, etc.

    Energy would be unnecessarily expended in getting kit to the Moon, landing it onto the moon and then taking off again...

    Seems a much better idea would be to assemble everything in high orbit, using the Orion launch vehicle as a "freighter" - perhaps with intermediate stages, being bolted between the top and lower stages....the "launch" stage would drop to earth, leaving just the "freight" plus maybe a "top" guidance system (which again can be re-used after re-entering the atmos.

    Then just park the "freight" in orbit and use the ESA system to auto-dock them all together....

    Thunderbirds are GO....!

  9. Bernard Joyce

    Ahh but what about the He3

    You know the fusion bit

  10. Moz
    Thumb Down

    @ Richard Gadsden

    "Fallout", you say? Check and make sure you're not confusing the new 'Orion' craft that the US is using to replace the Shuttle with the older concept of the same name: a drive system that was to generate its forward thrust by detonating strings of nuclear charges behind it. The two are very different principles (if for no other reason than the strings-of-bombs idea at least employed innovation, if scary and impractical innovation - whereas to my non-expert eyes the 'new' Orion just looks a mighty step backwards).

    Mind you, that said, we're still planning to launch people into space on top of huge, barely-controlled explosions... I'm afraid I'm one of those people who thinks that a cost-effective, efficient, and less flamboyantly unsafe method of getting people into Earth orbit should be the first step before we even start thinking about going to the Moon, much less Mars. Don't get me wrong - I'm very fond of the Shuttle and will miss it when it goes. But is anybody actually, seriously, working on developing the technology for a Space Elevator? Wouldn't it be more sensible to focus our attention on cracking that first? Once we've got that sorted, surface-to-orbit travel will become a breeze, and we'll be free to pick a destination.

    Yes, I know there will be political problems (the Elevator would have to be tethered on the equator somewhere and America and Europe don't own any of the equator that I'm aware of) but I don't think they'd be insurmountable at all, given what such a structure could bring the country it ends up being built out of...

  11. Bernard Joyce

    What about the He3

    Did nobody mention the fusion fuel thing?

  12. Plankmeister
    Paris Hilton

    Mars Direct @ Zubrin

    Zubrin's got the right idea. Check out his books "The Case For Mars" and "Entering Space". Both very interesting, and he does a good job of highlighting NASA's obsession with over-engineering things for the sake of the engineering.

    Mars Direct is the only way to go. It may take another 25 years for the politicians to realise it, but I'm 100% certain that the first mission actually undertaken to reach the Red Planet by humans will be exceptionally similar to Zubrin's Mars Direct plan, if not sticking to it 100%.

    Using the moon as a technological stepping stone is folly. At least claim we're doing it because it's the moon, rather than camouflaging the motivations to appeal to the SF-fan voters...

    Bloody politicians.

    Paris, because she fires my rockets. :D

  13. Chris Simmons

    It sounds... he's been bought-off by Zubrin.

    Mine's the one with water-ice in the pocket dust.

  14. D

    I thought the moon was packed with tritium?

    Based on a Horizon I saw some time back, a couple of pounds of moon rock would pay for the whole space program and give you change for a couple of nights out as it's apparently easy to make a functional fusion reactor powered by the staff.

  15. Jerry Nelson

    Bring back the Saturn V

    Head straight for Mars. Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200B.

  16. Webster Phreaky

    Cure Cancer, ALS, Alzheimer, MS, etc FIRST. SCREW space travel!

    What the Frak are we spending a single damn cent on NASA, ESA, space travel, Moon, Mars, etc. when we have a world wide population that is still dying of all these diseases, plus ones previously concurred like Malaria, Polio, Measles and Rickets just because the people or corrupt countries which can't afford to prevent them!!!???

    FU@K these A-holes and the space waste, UNTIL we take care of Humanity here at home Blue Marble home FIRST!!

    At you people stupid or WHAT? No I suspect that you all just still live in a juvenile state of mind dreaming of comic book Buck Rogers fantasies.

    If you want to go to the Moon or Mars, there better be god-damn OIL THERE and a lot of it!!

  17. Moz

    @ Garth and 'nucular'

    Ooo - sorry to hog the page, but I discovered something the other day... Probably old news to many... But it looks as though there's an argument for us Brits and educated Americans to stop being so smug about ignorant Americans saying 'nucular'.

    Apparently - and confirms this under its entry for 'nucleus' - the word 'nucleus', from which we get 'nuclear', actually stems from the old Latin word 'nucula', meaning 'little nut'.

    Okay, not strictly relevant, but I thought I'd share...

    Coat, then.

  18. Geoffrey Summerhayes
    Thumb Down


    The major problem with the space elevator is the amount of destruction it can cause if something goes wrong. Convincing a country to host one is probably less of a problem than getting their downwind neighbours to accept it. Construction-wise, the 'easiest' method to build one is from geosynchronous orbit so it can be kept balanced while it's being built, but who wants a few kilometers of cable flapping about over their heads? Best bet is to build them in other gravity wells first where the effect on the solar systems population won't suffer as much should something go wrong. (Yeah, I know, NASA's never made a mistook) But that means getting to another planet first and getting the raw materials there.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    But if we don't have the George W. Bush Lunar Freedom Fortress

    What are we going to do with the guys we are stuck with when we close down Guantanamo?

    Actually, I can see that being a great way around those pesky defense lawyers, Supreme Court justices and human rights activists! "We want access to your prisoner Ali Dirka-Dirka Jihad!" "Sure! Drive on out whenever you want! Visiting hours are between 9 and 3. Please be sure to park in the Sea of Tranquility lot after checking in at the main gate."

    Paris, because I am sure she could sent the an uptight criminal defense lawyer over the moon!

  20. Anonymous Coward

    @steven kraft

    Never fails... they mention George Bush in the article and someone has to comment with some stupid political garbage that's neither funny nor interesting.

  21. Anonymous John

    Re Cure Cancer, ALS, Alzheimer, MS, etc FIRST. SCREW space travel!

    NASA takes about 0.5% of the US Federal Budget. Take it away, and use it elsewhere, and it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference to the causes you mention.

    Like just about everyone else, you spend far more on holidays, leisure activities, drink,etc, than you pay in taxes to support your country's space programme.

    If you feel so strongly, feel free to give all your money to Cancer charities, etc, apart from the bare minimum needed to keep yourself alive.

    Google on NASA Spinoffs. The world we live in we would be very different without the various space programmes. We're spending too little, not too much.

  22. SilverWave
    Paris Hilton

    From the 2005 Authorization Act for NASA,

    Mike Griffin speaks and takes questions <>

    ---start quote

    "The Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon, including a robust precursor program, to promote exploration, science, commerce, and United States preeminence in space, and as a stepping-stone to future exploration of Mars and other destinations." "The Administrator shall manage human space flight programs to strive to achieve the following milestones,

    (A) Returning Americans to the Moon no later than 2020.

    (B) Launching the Crew Exploration Vehicle as close to 2010 as possible.

    (C) Increasing knowledge of the impacts of long duration stays in space on the human body using the most appropriate facilities available, including the ISS.

    (D) Enabling humans to land on and return from Mars and other destinations on a timetable that is technically and fiscally possible."

    ---end quote

    Manned missions are only really about national prestige...

    ...but what the hell - if that's the only way the Americans will fund space transport, go with that for the time being.

    The key longer term, is to find a cheaper way to get off earth... so any work like this is useful.

    Big production runs of disposable rockets, look to be the only viable solution with our present level of technology and material science... pity :(

    Even Paris knows that reusable spacecraft(space shuttles) eat up too much money to be practical.

  23. Robert Heffernan
    Dead Vulture

    @Webster Phreaky

    As Anonymous John pointed out, NASA takes 0.5% of the US Budget to explore, educate and discover peaceful uses and applications of space.

    The US Military takes a whopping 3.7% of the budget to kill and maim innocent women and children, invade sovereign nations with deliberately falsified "intelligence" about WMDs, and generally working out new and more efficient ways to secure oil.

    I am thinking if they took the US$439,300,000,000 military budget and spent it on medical research then the whole world would be a much better place, but I am guessing that by your comment about there had better be oil in space, you would be one of the ignorant Americans who has no issue with killing for oil.

    Also, if you done a little look into what the latest information the space program has gleaned from it's 0.5% share of the budget, it's that Saturn's moon Titan has more liquid hydrocarbon (oil) reserves just laying on it's surface in lakes than the US could EVER use.

    Dead bird because thats how you look when you stand between America and it's oil!

  24. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    @AC @ Steven Kraft

    Trashing George Bush is like taking candy from children - easy, maybe, but you still get the chocolatey goodness. Long may it last.

    The reason no-one is working on a Space Elevator's is it's still science fiction. There are no currently existing materials that can support their own weight for a cable that length, let alone lift a payload. Carbon Nanotubes might, but as they've been grown to only a few mm so far it's kind of a moot point. Wake me up when we have 100km of the stuff.

    Incidentally Europe "own" Guyana, which is where the French launch their rockets from. Right on the Equator. Of course by the time they build a working elevator we'll all be living in harmony under one government, pottering about in our flying cars playing Duke Nukem Forever, so this isn't so important.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @John Glenn

    So, John Glen matey-boy, letting space tourists up into a place where only astronauts go doesn't meet your approval? Hot Dog stands eh?

    Well, buddy-boy, the world isn't impressed by elitist fly-boy 'spam-in-a-can' jocks anymore, this is the era where anyone with the cash can do it to!

    And that's the way it should be - it's how the old human pioneering swashbuckling land grabbing claim staking has always been done.

    Pah, I spit in the face of your elitist attitude!

    Bring it on!

    (er, has anyone got a spare 20 million pounds dollars?)

  26. Anonymous John

    @ @AC @ Steven Kraft

    The Space Elevator was science fiction 30 years ago when Arthur C Clarke wrote "The Fountains of Paradise".

    The idea is certainly being worked on now. NASA is funding some research, and there is a competition involving Space Elevator technolgy.

    See . If it's possible at all, I think one could be built in 20 or 30 years, if we have the will..

  27. Wesley Parish

    John Glenn's right, you know

    Earth orbit's where all the action starts, whether you're going to the Moon or to Mars; where else? So why add to the hassle and stop over at the Moon? Unless there's a decent pub or corner dairy there ...

  28. Richard Scratcher

    If the moon were made of CH3NHNH2

    An early Moonbase wouldn't be a way-station nor would it be a factory for building interplanetary craft or probes. What it might be useful for is a factory for making fuel. There is water on the moon and various minerals that can be used to propel rockets. The Moon receives lots of solar energy, which could be used to process the raw materials into rocket fuel.

    Most of the weight of an Earth-based rocket is the fuel required to lift the payload fuel up into orbit. Rockets lifting fuel off the Moon will be more efficient because they don't have to fight against air resistance and, of course, gravity is much lower.

    John Glenn must know all this, so I can only imagine he's trying to put people off so that the fake moon landings remain a rumour.

  29. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Luna base for robots

    If you have a spaceship building industry on the moon, it would be able to build transport to Mars cheaper than a spaceship industry based on Earth. An Earth-built one shot trip to Mars is much cheaper than building a huge infrastructure on the moon and then using that infrastructure to go to Mars. If you wanted ten thousand trips to Mars, then it would be worth checking the price of setting up shop on the moon. As far as I know, no-one is ready to pay for ten trips to Mars with present technology.

    A rush to Mars is about as useful as the rush to the moon. You get some pictures of space suits lurching about on a barren wasteland, but it would be decades before you build up infrastructure to the point where someone will pay for another trip.

    A more sensible long term plan might involve advancing robotics on Earth to the point where robots can run a mine or a factory with minimal human supervision. There is a diamond mine in South Africa that is getting too hot for humans, so there is a practical application for mining robots now. Factories already have a considerable amount of automation. There is a new story about killbots every week so there are plenty of funds for improving robotics.

    When robots can do a good jobs of building spaceships from raw materials on Earth, send them to the moon. Let them build mines, factories, human habitats and all the infrastructure for cheap travel between plannets. By the time that is working we might have a cheap enough way of getting off Earth to use it.

    NASA are not in the business of making sensible long term plans. Instead the go for plans that they can get funding for. If you do not like that, vote for someone with a clue:

    "Mars is essentially in the same orbit... Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe." - Dan Quayle, 1989-08-11

  30. Michael J Welker Jr

    @Webster Phreaky, @Robert Heffernan

    Have either of you looked at how much U.S.A. (and it's citizens) contributes to charity and research? How about your own nation?

    Look to your own affairs first. The US, and it's citizens, are the most charitable on the planet. We're the ones you look to in times of trouble. It's easy to 'bash' someone when you don't need them, but if history tells us anything, it's that you'll need us again. Fortunately for you, we'll be there, and we won't hold your current haughtiness against you.

    No, we generally don't agree with government programs and subsidies. We believe in freedom and individual choice.

  31. Don Mitchell


    One of the great things about the Apollo program was the way it stimulated new technology, an interest in science, and an understanding of systems management. Repeating the exercise will not have the same revolutionary effect, and let's face it, there is absolutely nothing on the Moon of value.

    Mining Helium-3 on the Moon is pseudo science. No real evidence the He3 exists in a recoverable form, no sign that a working fusion reactor will exist anytime soon, and helium is not a good fuel because of its stronger electrostatic mutual repulsion of nuclei.

    NASA has spent a fortune supporting ISS, something nobel prize physicist Steve Weinberger has called a "flying turkey". There is just no sound scientific reason to maintain a space station in low earth orbit, except as a political exercise. Space tourism is possibly the _only_ good idea to come out of the space station.

    If we are going to spend fortune on a new scientific adventure, let's at least do something new. The exploration of the ocean floor is far behind the exploration of Mars. Instead of building the ISS, why didn't we build a permanent manned spacecraft, nuclear powered perhaps, that can visit nearby planets (both the US and USSR designed such crafts decades ago).

    If you care about science, rather than pointless exercises in nationalism, then unmanned probes are the way to go. We could learn a great deal from a well funded program of orbiters, landres, rovers and sample-return missions to planets, moons and asteroids.

    But I'm with Thomas Friedman, when he suggested that a national program to achieve energy independence would be the best way to stimulate technology and help the nation. I'd gladly turn over the entire NASA budget if I thought it would help us solve the energy problem. We ain't going anywhere in space if we run out of fuel and the world's economy collaspses.

  32. Moz

    @ Anomalous Cowherd

    I take the point that the materials to construct an elevator aren't available yet. And the other points made by yourself and by Geoffrey Summerhayes are fair. I'm not sure I agree that it would be unavoidably necessary to go to another planet to obtain the means to build one - but I concede I'm not an expert so can't really argue that point.

    I would say, though, Anomalous, that when I think of 'working on the space elevator', I'm *including* the work necessary to develop the technology and materials to build one. Saying it's 'just science fiction' isn't in itself a reason not to work to make it a reality - however long that might take. *If* we agree that it's a project that would generate huge benefits in the long term, at least. If we take that attitude then there's not much point hoping for any technological development at all: so much of the stuff we have now was once considered science fiction. Now it's real.

  33. Richard Brown


    I don't know exactly how close to the equator a space elevator would have to be but Diego Garcia is just 7 degrees south, owned by the Brits, run by the Yanks, and there is no one downrange for hundreds of miles to be concerned about falling elevator cables.

  34. Roger Moore


    Yuri Gagarin was the first human in orbit. The Americans seem to like to forget that they were not the first in space but I expect better from El Reg.

  35. dom

    John Glenn says no to space tourists

    Thankfully now it is not John Glenn or even just NASA that decides who should be given access to space. They did it first 50 years ago when with ancient technology and my Dad was just 12, and still only a select/very rich few go each year. Should be more interesting now ESA, Virgin, and even China are getting into the act. Come on, hurry up!

  36. Robert Heffernan

    @Michael J Welker Jr

    While this may be getting a bit off-topic, I'll rebut your arguments about charitibility.

    It's easy to be the worlds most charitable nation when you are working with the sheer number of people the USA is. Now being charitable is a noble exercise and generally a good thing for everyone involved, but my argument about diverting military spending from killing and building better sabers to rattle, to medical research, free public health care, public housing, education, green sustainable energy research, etc would make the USA and indeed the world a much safer, healthier, and happier place.

    When it comes to the charitability of my own nation (Australia) We are a pretty helpful ourselves, sending lots of millions of AU$ to various overseas nations when disaster strikes, we send personnel to help with aid relief, rebuilding, search and rescue, and so on. We have whole teams of medical professionals who each year, for their idea of a vacation, pack up shop in Australia, head overseas to various third-world countries and perform hundreds of complex and expensive surgeries completely free of charge.

    Basically my argument was, instead of slashing space exploration, why not slash the military (in the USA and across the globe) and the world's problems would be solved, people would be safe, everyone would have a home, health care and education, no one would be staring down the tip of nuclear weapons because there would be no need for them. If thats not a realistic vision of a utopian society, I don't know what is!

  37. Goat Jam
    Black Helicopters

    Surely in order to return to the Moon

    someone must have been there before?

    Or maybe that is why they want to go there now, so they can freight up an old Apollo Lander or three and some US flags before the Russians get there and discover that the first landings really were just a big scam.

    Huh, what's that noise? Sounds like helicopters . . . . . .

  38. Kevin Kitts
    Dead Vulture

    @ Moz and others...

    the biggest problem with armchair technology-philosophizing is that none of us here (at least none of us with security clearance who aim on keeping it) have any idea what technology is available to the US government, and even if they did, they sure as hell wouldn't post it on here. So, this argument is moot.

    If you don't have a complete list of the technologies available, you can't come up with the best solutions. Score 9 out of 10 for security, but minus several million for advancing science.

    And for my 2 cents on colonizing the moon, didn't the latest version of "The Time Machine" spell out what adding or subtracting mass to the moon would eventually cause? For those who missed it, it involves knocking the moon out of orbit, splitting it due to excessive subterranean drilling, or changing the earth's magnetic field due to resource shifting. The moon controls the tides, which control the weather, which is the biological time clock for most animal species (see migration and spawning habits). Large-scale colonization of the moon is like playing russian roulette (except that a losing game slowly kills off the entire human race). Mars is far enough away that colonizing it won't have much of an effect here, save for any huge mass transfers from Mars to Earth.

    Our money would be better spent on a Manhattan Project on a new power source, which would provide a new propulsion unit. More efficient propulsion equals a faster and safer voyage (not to mention more voyages per time interval). And the civilian power generation technology spin-off would be an added bonus for global warming and anti-petroleum people. Then we can make the Mars run in under 12 parsecs. ;)

  39. Roger Heathcote
    Thumb Down

    Waste of money & perplexng ironies...

    For a start I have an inexhaustible list of better things to spend that money on... Feeding, vaccinating and educating the worlds poor might be a good place to begin. Getting nuclear fusion working may be of some help. Subsidising home energy efficiency programs also good. Free sunblock ofr al. Bigger tax breaks for hybrid vehicles. Better sex education & the male pill. FFS even asteroid defence should take higher priority than sending people to Mars! I could go on all day, but I wont, however...

    If there IS going to be a manned space program it SHOULD be privately funded, the russians have got the right idea and my mind boggles at the comments of that cranky old american fart arguing that space travel should be the purview of the state only, while the ex commies embrace the market economy. Grayhound busses? Hot dog stands? Aren't they supposed to be good things?

    Roger Heathcote.

  40. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    @Webster again

    There's already been several good comments. But, I should like to add 2 comments:

    1) US military getting 3.7%? It's like 50%. Maybe 3.7 towards the actual maiming, the rest goes towards pork-barrel billion dollar planes and such I suppose. This of course makes them an even BETTER target for some budget cuts to fund cancer.. like I say below though, there's definitely a limit to how much cash will do any good. It'd be great to use some of it to pay down the US's crippling debt though.

    2) Researchers and cash are not 100% fungible. It literally doesn't take a rocket scientist to do cancer research -- it takes a biologist. If NASA were cut out, it's not like all these space researchers and rocket scientists would be like "Screw space, I'm doing cancer research". Economically, of course, it's just assumed that throwing 10x as much money at cancer research would get 10x as much research done but I just don't think that's the case. The research just isn't that costly and I think most researchers who want to work on cancer research already are.

  41. Plankmeister
    Dead Vulture

    Space Elevators...

    ...are LONG. The geosynch altitude for earth is approx 35,000km up... And you need either an asteroid at the other end that's equal to the weight of the elevator shaft/cable, or a double-length shaft/cable to act as a counterweight, which also has the added benefit of slingshotting interplanetary craft off the end at a very tasty d/v. So if the elevator had a catastrophic failure, and snapped in half, or the asteroid twanged off the end, it would wrap almost once around the earth.

    And depending on how much resonance there was in the cable, a fairly wide band all round the equator would be in danger.

    Billions, maybe even trillions of tons of (probably) bonded and spliced carbon nanotubes crashing into the earth would cause an unhealthy amount of global devastation.

    And if the cable went for the double-length approach (and it snapped), there'd be a new artificial satellite in orbit around the sun right in the Earth's ecliptic, and there would undoubtedly be a time in the future when the two would collide... Which would be even more devastating than a falling cable.

    Best we steer clear of space elevators, methinks.

  42. Zmodem


    Dont have a clue what they want to do, nor a organised way about doing it

  43. Steen Hive


    "The US, and it's citizens, are the most charitable on the planet."

    As a US citizen you personally donate 1/50th of the amount that a citizen of that mighty global power Luxembourg does, so pull the other one.

    And no, the $500 billion you have "spent" bulldozing Mesopotamia doesn't count.

  44. Oldfogey

    There is no point in curing diseases

    only to have the resulting increased population die off from starvation and wars caused by resource shortages.

    Cure the population explosion first, then cure the diseases.

    The notion of controlling populations is pure poison to some people...

  45. Charles Manning


    Want to know what life is like in a hermetically sealed bubble? Do it on earth. Where's the gain in doing it on the moon? The only difference are solar radiation levels and gravity, which are different again when you go to Mars so no variables are being solved by doing the experiment on the moon.

    This has already been done (biosphere project) and the landing/takeoff bit has already been done. Hopefully someone can find the notebooks ad just read up on what was done in the 60s and 70s with no need to repeat the experiments.

  46. Paul


    All you need to get to the planets is a Lagrange point, you just go there, add a little thrust at the right point and start falling to the destination. Long and boring trip but efficient in fuel. Getting to Mars, Jupiter or Uranus is not the problem. We all want to see space travel take off, man kind not be stuck on the one rock to get wipe out by the next cosmic event. To do that we have to put industry up there. Its got to be worth it. The moon is not the best spot for industry, but if we can get them started there then the heavens open up to us. Otherwise its just another white elephant, spending billions for a flag waving exercise... Kinda like [Insert your favourite government program here]

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Roger Moore

    Probably why the article said "first American in Earth orbit" then. Unless you're suggesting Yuri was a closet yank?


  48. Robert Brockway

    @Webster Phreaky

    I'm glad someone asked why we are bothering with space travel as now I can issue my canned response. Space travel has been a huge boon to the world economy and has brought forth advances throughout science (including in medicine and food production).

    Computer technology has had a massive boost and this is having run-on effects everywhere. Read up on "Bioinformatics" for a perfect example. "Computers: bringing the cure for cancer to a hospital near you". (ok i'm being a bit flippant there but I hope it gets the point across).

    Space exploration has been claimed to return $3-7 dollars to the world economy in peaceful technologies for every dollar spent. I understand even may-sayers have been forced to admit a 3:1 ROI.

    Weapons technology on the other hand only returns a small fraction of the investment as peaceful technologies. A lot more money is spent on weapons too.

    Having research the topic I have concluded the money spent on space exploration is money well spent as it has a demonstrated history of making lives better here on Earth.

    So the next time you want to say "let's not spend on space exploration" why not change it to "let's not spend on stuff that kills people".

  49. michael


    I like your point but let me point space elevators are held down not up if it snapes most of it will be calutapulted out not fall down and any of it far enought up that dose fall down is likley to burn up.

    but my major point is it is worth the risk there are 100's of ways humanity can be made extint atm if we move on to 2 planets instede of 1 there if half the risk

  50. Adam Foxton
    Thumb Up


    Also, can you imagine the terrorist threat to it (serious rhetorical question- someone with a chainsaw to that cable would be able to demand just about anything)? And what'd happen if it was damaged rather than broke- how would you get a repair crew up on a sufficiently stable platform to fix it- and without risking further damage to it? Zeppelin?

    I think a space elevator would be a pretty good idea on the moon or somewhere else with lower gravity- or even if it started off on a hovering platform at a decent altitude.

    Then again even at 35,000ft (747 cruising altitude) that's only 1/3rd of the distance to your quoted geosynch orbit. I guess with a Concorde-cruising-altitude (60,000ft) base platform a space elevator could be a practical idea. Still bloody expensive, but should be well within current technology- hydrogen filled dirigible, lots of solar panels to help offset the power usage (i.e. it could provide lighting power), and a landing strip for a specially designed carrier aircraft. Think something along the lines of Cloudbase from Captain Scarlet or the Valiant from Doctor Who. Just with a bloody big pole sticking out of the top.

    And @Charitable

    You spend millions on charity? IIRC the UK's up to about £7Bn a year in charity payouts from the government to other countries, which is pretty much matched by the private-citizen donations. From a mere 60M people.

  51. Michael J Welker Jr

    @Robert Heffernan, @Steen Hive

    @Robert Heffernan

    "If thats not a realistic vision of a utopian society, I don't know what is!" I'm afraid it isn't, at least not from my perspective.

    Who's going to convince Pol Pot (or any of the others) to surrender their weapons? Or do they just become 'magically enlightened' when the rest of the world does?

    To quote an outstanding man, who lead this nation to the fall of Europe's greatest threat:

    Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated. - Ronald Reagan

    @Steen Hive

    When it comes to charitable support, Mr Heffernan's arguement was much more relevent than yours. Are you stating that Luxembourg contributes more annually than the US? Or are you dividing it per capita? Do you include services as well as funding? How about food, manpower, etc? What nation does every other look to in times of crisis? While I'm missing the exact reference at the moment, a Canadian editorial piece about 5-6 years ago covered it well. The US is a easy target in times of peace and prosperity, yet when times are hard, we're generally the first to step up to the plate.

    We could argue this all day, but perhaps we're going at it the wrong way. What percentage does each of your nations spend on their military?

  52. Anonymous Coward

    Space Elevator

    Bloody hell!

    That's one f*cking big ladder to climb when the b*st*rd breaks down!

    And it will.

    Time to clone Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing?

    Coat & Spade please.

  53. Alex

    @Richard Scratcher


    Personally, I like the ideal of a Moon base. Some people may think that it's pointless, but even with the Moon's gravity, it's still going to be a damn sight cheaper to lift off from the moon. For every delivery from earth, you'd expect to have an average of 2 trips by the fuel payload it could deliver. Remember that the vast amounts of fuel needed to lift off from Earth actually deliver the thrust to lift off the remaining fuel. on average, you'd only need a fraction to lift off from the Moons surface.

    As for Bio-Domes - it's a great idea! research on Earth has proven that it can work (yup, even by the truly appauling film with the Loverrrly Kylie in it), but not outside the protective atmosphere of earth, nor in a lesser G atmosphere.

    You could say that SciFi has a lot to answer for, but it is something I feel is needed for progression in the space race. What I will say though is "Finish the Bloody ISS!!"; it's long over due now, and seemes to be needing an update here and there (see blockage of the bogs!)

  54. Dave

    @Robert Heffernan

    Hydrocarbons != Oil

    Useful stuff, no doubt, but absolutely not oil. (Much closer to Natural Gas, IIRC)

  55. Kurt Guntheroth

    don't know how to go to mars

    We don't know squat about going to Mars. We don't know how to keep astronauts from going all floppy and boneless on the 1 year trip. We don't know how to feed them and provide air for them in a feasible way. We don't know how to land a heavy craft in the Martian atmosphere. We don't know how to get enough volatile rocket fuel either delivered to Mars or made on site to get them back out of the gravity well, and we don't know how to keep them from going nuts on the trip home. Yeah, we could manage all this stuff by brute force, given an absolutely unlimited budget, but that's not what we have.

    It's not like a 9 day mission to land on the moon, which we can do with spam in a can. The astronauts have to do actual repairs, actual flying, mining, farming, etc., and all by themselves. And they absolutely can't make any serious mistakes or we get stinky spam in our can.

    The moonbase may help us figure out some of this stuff. Maybe. Launching the mars rocket will no doubt happen from low eart orbit, but that's not what the moon is for.

  56. Steen Hive

    @Michael J Welker Jr

    "When it comes to charitable support, Mr Heffernan's arguement was much more relevent than yours. Are you stating that Luxembourg contributes more annually than the US? Or are you dividing it per capita?"

    Of course I'm díviding it per capita - "personally" should have given a clue. It's easy to be a big-hitter when you're playing around with a massive economy and several hundred million people but your aid contributions per capita and as percentage of GDP aren't enough to justify bombastic claptrap like this.

    Furthermore, few outside the US and the military bases you have in 159 countries would concur that the US "steps up to the plate" in most cases for anything except it's own interests. Of course there are exceptions to this, supporting heinous dictators and terrorists to the costs of billions while Amnesty International were being lambasted as pinkos for calling you on it not being among them.

    There is a small town not 50km from where I live that has taken more refugees from your 30-year-long Babylonian atrocity than the UK and US put together - that is "stepping up to the plate".

  57. Michael J Welker Jr

    @Steen Hive

    "It's easy to be a big-hitter when you're playing around with a massive economy and several hundred million people"

    Perhaps you should take the time to become a 'big-hitter', then tell me how easy it is. We have states bigger than many countries, and the population management to go with it. If you'll reveal which country you're from, I'm sure we can review examples of the US 'stepping up'. There's more to it than just wedging people into a welfare state.

    Perhaps you could also elaborate as to the "30-year-long Babylonian atrocity" you refer to so I might reply?

  58. Steen Hive

    @Michael J Welker Jr

    As wildly off-topic as this is, I'll bite.

    "Perhaps you could also elaborate as to the "30-year-long Babylonian atrocity" you refer to so I might reply?"

    I'm so sorry, I erroneously said "30", when I meant "50".

    We can go back all the way to 1959 and 1963 with your sponsorship of the pan-Arabists and Ba'athist assassination attempts against Qasim and the following purge against the communists that enabled Qasim to control Iraq. Assassination of a foreign head of state is about as clear-cut an act of war as it gets, and it destabilised Iraq for decades. You were complicit.

    Fast forward to 1980 and your pet CIA-boy Hussein is in power, blatantly violating international law and borders, gassing Persians and annexing land all with your approval and support, to 1985 when you are arming both sides of the conflict to help you finance the destabilisation of Central America, to 1988 when he gassed the Kurds and your state apparatus helped him blame the Persians and Reagan had given him $40 billion in "aid". You paid for this. Amnesty International are howling at you for supporting the bastard, but they're just pinkos.

    Don't even get me started on the starvation sanctions of the 1990s and the past 5 years' rather successful attempt to hand most of Iraq to the Persians on a plate. (Of course now you are going to have to fuck Iran over too).

    Any more, take it to email. It's got bugger all to do with John Glenn.

  59. John Thomas

    It's not as simple as technology

    Who am I to disagree with someone of the experience of John Glenn?

    Someone with no professional experience of space technology certainly.

    But I do have a lot of professional experience of complex technological innovation.

    That experience, if it applies to space technology, says John Glenn is wrong.

    He's completely correct in pure energy terms of course. But in my experience solid infrastructure takes far more time and resources than the planners can imagine.

    I haven't worked on safety critical infrastructure either. A Mars mission system has to support the entire life support, communications, navigation and propulsion for anything up to three years beyond help from Earth.

    A program of testing that involves evolving similar systems for a journey to a body three days away is not just a nice thing to have, it's a necessary precursor. (Presuming that by the time Orion is heading for the moon, they have one or two craft far enough along the pipeline for a rescue launch at a moments notice. ) Even if there are launch systems the US government has kept from the world, I suspect it is very unlikely they have anything that could currently head for Mars in time to make any difference to a stricken vehicle using today's technological infrastructure.

    It was technically possible to launch a mission to Mars forty years ago, maybe even further back. But technically possible does not equate to enough mobile phone masts to make a viable national network. It was probably also technically possible to build a business application system that could support all business operations in a multi-national company in a user-friendly fashion. But it would have cost more than the entire GDP of all the countries in the world to equip one large company at that time. And some of the concepts necessary had not even been thought of at the time.

    Once upon a time, some of our fellow humans' ancestors crossed the vast Pacific successfully to populate new island paradises in not much more than large canoes with a sail. We have no record of how many of those "missions" were complete failures. Probably a very large number given the limited life support they could carry, the lack of navigational capabilities and propulsion by wind and oar.

    But it is unlikely that any public, let alone the American public, would today accept Mars missions launched where there was say a 1 in 100 chance of the highly skilled, highly trained, probably well-rounded human beings involved coming back home alive.

    FWIW I don't like agreeing with GWB on anything. But some of his advisers may have got the puppet to say this one right.

    Just a pity us Brits can't show you how you're not the invincible nation you think you are by getting there first...

  60. Mark

    re: Can't see the point....

    Well you pick a target window to the moon that minimises the energy cost. So you need fewer lifts or smaller more efficient lifts to get there.

    Then wait until the moon has moved to a position where it is most efficient to get to Mars.

    The total of the two trips can be a lot less: you're using the Moon to get a lift where you would have had to take your rocket and its' fuel.

    This isn't necessarily why, but it is possible.

  61. Mark

    chainsaw to that cable

    Hmm. These cables will be isolated mostly. They will be few in number. And they'll be harder than diamond.

    So you'll need a bloody expensive chainsaw. And a boat.

    and when it breaks, half will go into orbit and half burn up on reentry. Total Damage? Bugger all, unless you take them ALL out. You can use any surviving cable to get to orbit and create a new one pretty cheaply.

  62. Mark

    @Kevin Kitts

    How much MASS would we have to add to the Moon to get it to move?

    Given that the moon is currently moving AWAY from the earth, what weight would be put on there to make it stay (and keep the total eclipse of the sun going)? Billions of tons? No. Trillions? Maybe. Quadrillions? More like it.

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