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Billy Jean
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Milky Way Days
Returning to the new frontier.

By Dennis E. Powell

When President Bush delivers a speech recognizing the centenary of heavier-than-air-powered flight December 17, it is expected that he will proffer a bold vision of renewed space flight, with at its center a return to the moon, perhaps even establishment of a permanent presence there. If he does, it will mean that he has decided the United States should once again become a space-faring nation. For more than 30 years America's manned space program has limited itself to low Earth orbit; indeed, everyone under the age of 31 more than 125 million Americans was born since an American last set foot on the moon.

The speech will come at a time when events are converging to force some important decisions about the future of American efforts in space. China has put a man in orbit, plans a launch of three Sinonauts together, and has announced its own lunar program. The space shuttle is grounded, and its smaller sibling, the "orbital space plane," may not be built. The International Space Station, behind schedule, over budget, and of limited utility, has been scaled back post-Columbia.

The content of the speech does not appear to be in doubt; the only question is timing. While those who have formulated it have argued that it be delivered on the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight, there exists a slight possibility that it will instead be incorporated in the State of the Union address at the end of January. This has its own, less triumphant, significance, which is in the form of a chilling coincidence. Every American who has died in a spacecraft has done so within one calendar week: The Apollo 204 fire on January 27, 1967; the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986; and the loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

If the president goes ahead with the plan to announce an ambitious new program to carry Americans beyond Earth's immediate gravitational pull, he will argue that the new lunar explorations are justified not only for what they themselves might produce but also as a means of developing the technology and skills necessary for a mission to Mars, which is expected to be mentioned, though in less-specific terms, in the address.


http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/powell200312030858.asp

What will be different this time? What ship is in the planning to take us there? Technologies and challenges? Is this feasible and will the US be as behind it this time around like in the sixties?
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Aquilla
Personally, I'd love for us to do it, but I'm afraid I might be in the minority. Space is a tough sell, even in good economic times, and one of the first cuts made in the not so good times. Back in the 60's, we had the Soviets competing with us and that helped the politics of funding space exploration enormously. Don't have that anymore, even with the Chinese entering the game.
Juber3
Personally id also like to see it done. We need to always be ready to go to planets to learn about their planets/moons. America is a country driven on learning, If i heard correctly (from the History channel) then we (Americans) build(s) the newest technology most of the time. America needs to travel to the moon and gather information. That is all.

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Victoria Silverwolf
QUOTE(Billy Jean @ Dec 4 2003, 01:28 PM)


What will be different this time?  What ship is in the planning to take us there? Technologies and challenges?  Is this feasible and will the US be as behind it this time around like in the sixties?

I will be the first to cheer if this happens, but I am very skeptical that it is possible.

What will be different this time? I question whether the money is there to start another Lunar program. For better or worse, there seems little realistic possibility of there being a major cut in federal spending, given our wartime status, the prescription drug bill, and so on. With tax cuts, where is the money coming from?

What ship is in the planning to take us there? We need to ask moif or some other space expert in this group for an opinion. All I can say is that a permanent Lunar station would require vastly different technology than currently exists. I read an article in The Economist recently which made a strong case that the shuttle should be abandoned as unsafe and ineffective.

Technologies and challenges? Besides what I've said above, living on the Moon is going to require an immense technological effort to allow human beings to survive for any length of time. Can oxygen be extracted from the Moon? What about water? Would it be possible to grow any kind of food?

Is this feasible? I'd say very unlikely in the short run. Maybe over several decades.

Will the US be as behind it this time around like in the sixties? I'd like to see an international effort instead.
cusbilla
It's interesting you bring up the space shuttle. You wanna know why it has performed so poorly? The government is in control of it! I just whached a special about the shuttle the...what a great progrm. The shuttle was NEVER designed to be torn apart every single time it went into orbit and THIS is why is hasn't performed the way it should. It was supposd to be just like a commercial jet with all the gizmo's to indicate a problem with a component.

Anyhow, I hop the next generation craft have unique propulsion systems. I would love to see us do it though.

cusbilla
GoAmerica
I would like to see us back in space. But...before we can do that, we need to replace the current shuttles. The current shuttles are from the era of the birth of NASA. They are very old but are always retro-fitted with latest technologies...like the B-52 bomber.

Here is the new age of shuttle tech that can be used: SpaceX Falcon
Gray Seal
I watched a CBS Evening News segment on the possibility on the United States returning to the Moon. What I gleaned from this report, CBS has the impression the idea came from the news coverage China has been getting for its space program. Heaven forbid some other country than the United States getting recognition as being a progressive leader in space exploration. The official policy will be that we admire and encourage China and others to explore space but remember the United States has the lead in this science.

The administration sees it as a good PR thing to do to attract support from a segment of the voters where they do poorly. The idea seems to be at a very Clintonesk trial balloon leak of the idea to see how the public reacts. The political advisors will poll to see what sort of language and plan creates the most positive response.

I expect the polls will show very good support from that segment of the society which does not like the Bush administration very much. Whether this will carry over into votes is dubious. I expect the final decision on this effort will be decided by calculating political pollsters. This is not the way this decision should be made but if it gets the ball rolling, I will take it.

Will the U.S. be behind this like in the 60s? The thrill of discovery will capture the imagination of even the nay sayers. When we set foot on the Moon again, most will be glued to a T.V. to see it happen. I am not so sure the support will be as uniform for non-dramatic aspects of such a long term project as establishing an outpost on the Moon.

I do not know of the options technology wise. I expect the planning and deciding on such will take the longest. It will be a brand new space program as opposed to reopening an old one or piggybacking it upon present endeavors.
Venom
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I watched a CBS Evening News segment on the possibility on the United States returning to the Moon. What I gleaned from this report, CBS has the impression the idea came from the news coverage China has been getting for its space program. Heaven forbid some other country than the United States getting recognition as being a progressive leader in space exploration. The official policy will be that we admire and encourage China and others to explore space but remember the United States has the lead in this science.


I agree with you that I think this came about as a result of the Chinese space programs advances, however I don't think the United States is doing it to "one up" the Chinese as a PR stunt, but for the simple fact that the Chinese have come out and said that they want to use space as part of their military. China is probably the closest country to the US as far as military might goes and the US isn't gonna allow the Chinese to pass them in "militarizing" space. I don't think it would be prudent to allow that.
rebelkate
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What will be different this time? What ship is in the planning to take us there? Technologies and challenges? Is this feasible and will the US be as behind it this time around like in the sixties?


Hmm... I am a huge proponent of the space program. I actually worked at Space Camp in Alabama for many years smile.gif So I actually learned a few things about the space program too.

The biggest thing that seems different this time, is that if we do go, it will be more out of a scientific interest than for military purposes and public morale. Consider the last time we went to the moon, only ONE actual scientist (a geologist) actually walked on the moon. Pretty odd considering of the the offical goals of the Apollo program was "Intensive scientific study of the moon". Honestly, I'm not sure how useful a military lunar base would be? Considering most military uses for space involve unmanned satellites. So, if we really do this, the nation would need to make a commitment to the actual science behind living on the moon. To me, it really is the next logical step if we want to get to and stay on Mars. The ISS has been good (if for nothing else) to prove that it is possible to build such a large structure in space using astronaut EVAs (spacewalks) and the RMS (robotic arm). Consider that until they started building, many people were unsure if we could actually build something in space.

What ship?? Technologies and challenges? That is a good question. The technology we have today is sadly outdated. I have been a proponent of space travel - and consequently the shuttle simply b/c it is the only space vehicle the US has developed for modern use. There are many projects (X-plane projects quickly come to mind) that have fallen by the way side through the years due to funding cuts. A lot of it comes from the general public lack of interest (or at least lack of media exposure) but in the past two years or so, it seems this is beginning to get better. The major problem with the shuttle technology in general is its reliance on Solid Fuel! Wehrner von Braun (the "father of the US space program) said he would have nothing to do with such a solid fuel system b/c of its many dangers. The Apollo rockets ran on liquid Kerosene mostly... and liquid fuels (like your gas grill) can be turned on and off - but solid fuels (like a fire cracker) cannot! When we lost the Challenger crew in 1986, there should have been a serious redesign more along the lines of the Russian shuttle equivalent the Buran which uses solely liquid fuel and was much safer in many respects (but not fully developed due to lack of funding, and oddly enough Kazakhstan now has two of these Burans).

Heres the official Russian Buran site:
http://www.russianspaceweb.com/buran.html

The other major space system in use is the Rockets - like the Russian Soyuz system - but the US has several rocket systems we use for satellites and other unmanned payloads. Of course, biggest concern with a rocket is the inability to reuse any of it. So, in order to have an economical, sustainable base on the moon - there is going to have to be some serious work. Even most of the reusable systems NASA has toyed with developing over the years have only been earth orbit systems like the shuttle (not designed to leave earth's gravitational pull). I predict that the system that will work will need to be a creative fusion of the better parts of the Rocket systems (esp the russian systems - if you want lifting power, go to the russians) and the US reuseable systems (we do much better at distance). The biggest challenge will be designing something economical, within the time limit expected by a *reasonable* public, but is still safe for the astronauts. We don't want a repeat of the 1967 disaster that killed arguably two of the greatest astronauts (Gus Grissom - second US man in space and Ed White - first US man to perform an EVA). This resulted mostly from the rush to beat the Russians with a disregard for many safety protocols. Indeed, the other US deaths can be attributed largely to a rushed effort that ignores safety in order to try and get things accomplished while the public is still interested. The Challenger should have never flown w/o knowing the effects of the freezing conditions on the shuttle, and the problems with the ETs should have been addressed when it was first raised in the early 90s.

Will the US be behind? What is strangest about the shuttle program is to think its development was approved by pres Richard Nixon while John Young was standing on the moon during Apollo 16. When the shuttle first flew, it had five general purpose computers that were only 286s. In fact, they did not upgrade these computers until the past three years - while we would laugh at any friend still using a computer this old! But I think much of the NASA works on the idea, if ain't broke, don't fix it - and don't go looking to hard for cracks! So, while right now we are ahead of other countries, simply due the relatively better funded programs and sheer seniority in years at the game when compared to China - we could very easily fall behind if we aren't more willing to take a serious look at what is worth keeping in our technology, and what needs to be discarded b/c it does not work as well as something else could! Consider China only has to do a few yahoo or google searches to get the unclassified plans to building our current shuttle system - put a few dollars into it - and they will be "caught up" with us!
I, of course, hope that the US will be willing to cooperate with othe countries - like the Russian Space Agency and the European Space Agency when it comes to developing the technology to reach the moon again. There are numerous instances throughout the history of NASA and the Russian Space Agency where one agency made a mistake and then the other made the same deadly mistake (Apollo 1 for example!) - something that could have easily been avoided through cooperation. But luckily, it seems the scientists in these agencies have a much better record of cooperation than the countries (even if they can't seem to use the same system of measurement!)
amf
I can't imagine how/why we'd be going to the moon or Mars if we can't keep the space station up, which we're having trouble doing. Seems like we're -- once again -- shifting our attention from something that's hard to something we've done before, just so we can claim victory.
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rebelkate
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I can't imagine how/why we'd be going to the moon or Mars if we can't keep the space station up, which we're having trouble doing. Seems like we're -- once again -- shifting our attention from something that's hard to something we've done before, just so we can claim victory.


Yes, we should at least finish the ISS first. One of the biggest problems once again is funding... there is a habitat module that was completed in May 2001, flown to Kennedy for launch in June 2001, but almost as soon as it arrived, the funding to launch it was cut (by July 2001 - so pre-9/11). And of course, with the shuttle fleet grounded, now the only hope is using a Russian proton rocket, but it will of course take funding to get the module from Cape Canaveral to Star City. If we were to send this hab module, it has a port for docking a second Soyuz escape module, which would then allow the ISS crew size to double - from 3 to 6 inhabitants. (B/c the "fire code" only allows for as many crew members as there are escape modules - we did learn from the titanic smile.gif ) I think since the only way to the station is currently through the Russians, maybe they should start taking some more millionaire passengers willing to pay. I mean, while NASA has trouble taking private funds for anything period, the Russians have never been shy about selling ANYTHING (check out ebay... at one point you could actually purchase one of their Burans!)
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