Fly me to the moon..

Late last night, Brishen and I were discussing how uninteresting space has become – I feel like we’re past the space age, which I think of as the 60’s through to the 1980s. Perhaps the Challenger explosion marks the end of that, but I feel even that was post-space.
These days, I don’t feel like we’re stretching the limits of human capabilities in space – there’s these ho-hum missions to add things to the space station, repair satellites, change crews – but nothing terribly exciting. The experiments of zero-G biology, etc – not so interesting, and if you read some reports, not so useful.

The space station in particular I feel is a colossal waste. As they’re starting to add the spine of it, let’s think about it some. The space station has received poor reviews from it inhabitants – citing noise and cramped quarters. There have been no groundbreaking experiments performed on board there. There’s no plans for it to be a base for further exploration. It seems like a case of international politics winning out over scientific progress – the Russians had a space station and so American MUST have one. That the cold war ended before they got started is somewhat incidental. This space station is America’s, not the world’s, despite protestations to the contrary.

Time and time again, the cheaper, often unmanned missions have proven to provide far more interesting data. Hubble, and ageing satellite, has done more to advance human knowledge of the universe than any experiment in any space mission and has revolutionised the fields of astronomy and physics. Hubble 2, which keeps being postponed, reduced, etc – promises to do that yet again.

I read a report out of France some time ago proposing a permanent manned settlement on the moon, with an orbiting fuelling station between it and the Earth. The benefits of this? Observatories on the dark side of the moon, allowing greater clarity looking out. The settlement itself could be more stable and more permanent. Sending new supplies and pieces could be accomplished much easier, as there’d be no need for manned flights – simply launch a rocket to ‘crash’ gently into the moon – some airbag, thrusters, etc – the same tech. used to land those probes on mars. Additionally, it would be a significant step towards understanding how a settlement on say, Mars would work. Experiments in hydroponics could be undertaken, etc. As the base could be larger, quarters might not be so cramped and the extra distance to travel could be alleviated by longer stays.

And you know what? I bet a moon-base would captivate the world’s imagination far more than yet another space station. But I feel it’s too late now – too much money has already been sunk into this space station to abandon it – to the detriment of space exploration and research projects everywhere.

6 Replies to “Fly me to the moon..”

  1. I had a big long diatribe all typed up, and something went horribly wrong. I am too lazy to reriterate, so let me sum it up thusly: perfecting orbital space station technology is a necessary prerequisite for building lunar or Martian bases. The ISS is but part of the means to such ends.

  2. I had a big long diatribe all typed up, and something went horribly wrong. I am too lazy to reriterate, so let me sum it up thusly: perfecting orbital space station technology is a necessary prerequisite for building lunar or Martian bases. The ISS is but part of the means to such ends.

  3. Hmm – in what way? long-term zero-G existence? I guess arriving in a ship that becomes a space-station from which to launch sorties to the surface becomes useful. I don’t know. And I certainly speak wistfully rather than factually. Maybe my issue is more with how the station is being built. If they can launch satellites into orbit with pin-point precision, wouldn’t it be much more cost effective to simply launch ISS module into space that way, so that they arrive near the space station, and equip the ISS with some sort of space-only shuttle to go and collect them, then use that giant arm thing to attach it, much like they already do? These manned missions just don’t seem the right way to do it, and the whole thing just goes so slowly.

  4. Hmm – in what way? long-term zero-G existence? I guess arriving in a ship that becomes a space-station from which to launch sorties to the surface becomes useful. I don’t know. And I certainly speak wistfully rather than factually. Maybe my issue is more with how the station is being built. If they can launch satellites into orbit with pin-point precision, wouldn’t it be much more cost effective to simply launch ISS module into space that way, so that they arrive near the space station, and equip the ISS with some sort of space-only shuttle to go and collect them, then use that giant arm thing to attach it, much like they already do? These manned missions just don’t seem the right way to do it, and the whole thing just goes so slowly.

  5. With missions of this type, the astronauts are undespensible backups to what is largely an automated process already. The margins for error are extremely small, and machinery can (and does) fuck up badly – the whole problem with getting the arm working is a prime example.

    Anyway, the real boon of the ISS project (IMO) will be in optimizing the costs and logistics of putting large pieces of equipment into orbit (and the techniques for building lighter components), as the first major lunar and Martian bases will have to consist entirely of components constructed on Earth.

  6. With missions of this type, the astronauts are undespensible backups to what is largely an automated process already. The margins for error are extremely small, and machinery can (and does) fuck up badly – the whole problem with getting the arm working is a prime example.

    Anyway, the real boon of the ISS project (IMO) will be in optimizing the costs and logistics of putting large pieces of equipment into orbit (and the techniques for building lighter components), as the first major lunar and Martian bases will have to consist entirely of components constructed on Earth.

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