I’ve always loved the space program. I’ll watch any movie or documentary on the subject, and I’ve done many a school report on both its successes and its failures. I want us, the human race, to get out there iin the Universe and travel. As a step to that, we, NASA that is, is planning on going back to the Moon.
Now, this is one point where I disagree with lots of people as I don’t think we should go to the Moon. For one, there really isn’t anything there. Sure, we might be able to put a base up there, but it will be about as self sufficient as a space station, only much further away and more expensive to travel to. Second, going out into space, seeking out new life and new civilizations and stuff, we need to get over our reliance on Earth based launches. See, in space, you don’t need aerodynamics much… a brick flies as well as anything else in a vacuum. So, in my opinion, we should be focused on building three things… Cargo launch rockets, large capacity as efficient as possible to punch through the atmosphere and take supplies to orbit; Lander crafts, nice aerodynamic space planes for taking people in and out of the atmosphere; and Flying Bricks, for hauling cargo and lander crafts across the universe, built in space and never intended to enter atmosphere. But forget all that, and lets just stick to NASAs “the Moon is the key to space travel” idea.
They unveiled their plan… Apollo on steroids. They put up the lander module in space with one launch, then launch the crew capsule with crew later, dock in space and head to the moon. Fine, sounds like a nice plan, and they’ll be on the Moon by 2018. They plan on sending unmanned probes to the Moon to do some scouting too, in 2008 and 2011… and this is where I have a problem.
We’ve got these rovers on Mars. We launch them from here, rocket them to Mars and land them, and now we have these little motorized dune buggy science robots roaming around the planet looking at cool shit. Its a good design… so, why not just adapt the existing Mars lander probes to do stuff on the Moon? Are they saying its going to take over 2 years to build a Mars lander? Or are they going to needlessly go back to the drawing board and start from scratch?
We should have a Moon lander in less than a year, period, end of discussion… why? Because, given what we’ve been able to learn about Mars using the landers, we’d probably be able to tell if its even possible to build a functioning base on the Moon and we won’t have to wait until 2018.
One of the issues with living on the Moon will, of course, be oxygen. One of the cool things about the Moon is that there is already oxygen there, in the rocks. I know it sounds funky, but one of the more common substances on the Moon is called ilmenite which is made of Iron, Titanium and Oxygen. Currently there is a contest going on, like the X-Prize they did for putting a man in space, where the object is to design a functioning process to extract the oxygen from the rocks. This is also why we need a probe on the moon within a year, to make sure we can do it, because in two or three years we will need to be sending unmanned robot vehicles with test equipment to see if it really works on the Moon. I’d hate for us to design and test, on Earth, a process for making oxygen just to get to the Moon in 2018 and find out that it doesn’t work out there. Now, maybe this is what they are planning for the 2008 and 2011 probes, but they only mentioned searching for suitable landing places.
Anyway, enough from me… my main point here is that we already have the technology, why design the same stuff over again? Just rig up a Mars lander and get thee to the Moon already!