"… that leaves more than 14 million square miles left to explore"

By Phil Plait | December 10, 2010 1:45 pm

When you write something and put it out there into the world, you never know what will happen. It may get an interesting response, or it may drop like a stone off a cliff.

And then sometimes you get something totally unexpected, like when Robert Krulwich wrote about Apollo 11 for NPR, and got a response from someone with some experience about it*.

The response is fantastic, discussing why we need to continue to explore the Moon (see the title of this post!)… and though I have disagreed with the author of that response from time to time, he and I are %100 on the same wavelength here. Go read it.



* It reminds me of when I first wrote about the Moon Hoax. I posted my description of Apollo 16, and how they had a hard time gauging distance on the Moon. A couple of days later, I got an email correcting me about one of the assumptions I had made… and it was from Apollo 16 lunar module pilot Charlie Duke!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Piece of mind, Space

Comments (47)

  1. Joel

    #$%£& me, Neil Armstrong is awesome.

  2. jfb

    Now the question is, do we send people, or do we use an unmanned system?

    40 years ago you could argue that you had to send humans to do basic exploration, as the tech simply wasn’t there yet for an autonomous or semi-autonomous system (at least not for the same amount of mass). That’s no longer the case. The Mars exploration program has pretty well proven that the tech is there, and it works pretty darned well.

    If you’re really interested in learning more about the Moon, rather than living out a romantic dream of exploration, then the option that makes the most sense is the option that delivers the most equipment for the buck, meaning an unmanned system (orbiters, stationary platforms, and rovers). You can build platforms like the MSL for doing analyses on the lunar surface and command them remotely. Add a string of comms satellites and you can start exploring the surface of the far side. It will cost less than manned missions, it will be less risky than manned missions, and we can do this with tech we have right now, tech that’s been proven several times over. We don’t have to wait for someone to build a new BFR or lunar spacecraft.

    HSF for basic exploration simply doesn’t make sense anymore. Save it for colonization (after you’ve done the basic exploration and built up an infrastructure to support people in space).

  3. Pshaw

    100,000 years from now, Neil Armstrong will be the only person who is alive today that will still be remembered.

  4. Chris Winter

    It’s undeniable that robotic tech is much better now that in the days of NASA’s Apollo missions. Also, for the Moon the speed-of-light communications lag is not a serious limitation, so telepresence is useful. Somebody could be sitting in an office at JPL and commanding a rover on Luna’s farside through a constellation of relay satellites. A quite comprehensive database could be built up with a series of missions like this.

    But…

    If the goal is to really learn about the Moon, to do real science (which almost always requires recognizing and dealing with the unexpected), you must have a human presence on site. I am with Paul Spudis on this. Robot probes will play an important part in our exploration of the Moon, but as precursors and assistants; they cannot yet replicate human capabilities.

  5. Chris Winter

    I wonder if Neil Armstrong is opening up a bit to interactions with the public.

  6. BJN

    If you’ve seen what humans on ATVs have done to desert landscapes in the desert Southwest and other sensitive areas, you’d shudder like I did with the suggestion of Moon-buggy-driving idiots tracking up millions of square miles of lunar surface. While the tracks here are Earth will take decades and longer to weather away in desert terrain, I’m pretty sure that lunar regolith will take a lot longer to recover.

    It’s seems like most folks who advocate human space exploration seem to be blind to humanity’s history of trashing landscapes and resources before we even have a chance to understand and appreciate them.

  7. Chris Winter

    Easy answer: We don’t send Moon-buggy-driving idiots.

    Of course once there are large numbers of humans on the Moon, there will be environmental damage, just as there is on Mount Everest now. But it will be a long time until conditions on Luna permit the kind of wanton behavior you describe, if they ever do. The lunar population will be composed of careful people, competitively selected.

  8. John Powell

    I say send scientists and engineers on a one-way trip with the dual mission of studying the Moon and building a colony (or colonies). Essential supplies and additional personnel can be periodically ferried up to them. Robots tele-operated from Earth could be a big factor in mission success as well.

    Oh yeah, we should also send some radio astronomers to the far side so they can set up their antennas shaded from our noisy planet.

  9. Zucchi

    BJN, I guess you really wouldn’t like my long-term plans for terraforming the Moon . . . .

  10. MaDeR

    @jfb:
    With modern technology you still cannot get anywhere as much rocks (both in mass and quality) with automated systems than with humans. So automats are still not as good as people. And this will conitnue for long time.

    “Now the question is, do we send people, or do we use an unmanned system?”
    Both. You seem to be one of these naive people that thinks if someone cut out completely manned spaceflight, this would mean more cash and resources for unmanned spaceflight. No, this would mean complete cease of any space exploration, manned or not. So I consider this kind of thought idiotic.

    @BJN: Erm, I understand concern about environmental damage on Earth, but Moon? This piece of dead rock with “atmosphere” with mass of several tons? Give me a break. This is not ecology, it is eco-loony. :|

  11. Matthew

    This is why I love Bad Astronomy and check it every day. Not only was a recent letter from Neil Armstrong brought to my attention, I also learned about a cool webpage – Howbigreally.com. As I added this to my favorites I counted how many dozens and dozens of amazing links I’ve learned about from Phil. Thanks!

  12. Michael Swanson

    I’m actually a touch saddened when I think of widespread moon exploration and the footprints, tracks, holes and detritus it would leave. I know it’s a little silly, but there’s something reverent about an untouched environment. Like seeing a perfect snow field in the morning trampled by the afternoon – except in a place where it will never snow again.

    Obviously it would take a seriously long time to mar even a small percentage of 14 million square miles, but each square mile trod upon will remain that way (barring new meteor strikes). It’s just the romantic in me sparring with my inner scientist. The scientist almost always wins, but it doesn’t mean the romantic’s feelings were worthless.

  13. Larry

    What a treat to read anything from Neil Armstrong, especially providing more details about his mission to the moon. While Neal has been very protective of his privacy, he can’t shirk the hero-worship I and many others who grew up during that period in the 60s when the race to the moon was in full swing have for him. Neil and the other Apollo astronauts performed acts of daring and bravery that boggle the mind and have earned every bit of my admiration and respect.

  14. Joel

    @13 Larry: That’s basically what I was trying to say, in my concise and vulgar manner.

    @12 Michael Swanson: You do raise an interesting point. It’s like the scientific equivalent of seeing a fresh snowfall in your garden, untoughed and pristine and beautiful, and the awkward decision that you inevitably have to make of whether to just sit inside and admire the magnificent desolation, or go out and make a massive snowman but leave unsightly footprints and muddy patches everywhere.

    As for the manned/unmanned debate – surely the way forward would be to send a few more robotic probes up there, then a couple more Apollo-style manned missions just so we can be sure we’ve still got everything sorted with the whole procedure of getting people to the moon and back safely, then we try and get some sort of permanent base built – not one to be inhabited permanently, but one that can be reused, with some sort of science centre and possibly even basic accomodation features for future missions to reuse. Then when that gets going well we can move onto something we really can keep a full time presence in…by which time hopefully we will have started doing something similar to Mars too.

    Well, I can dream.

  15. Jamey

    Sure – robots can do a lot. But how much more could they do with a few humans around to help them out from time to time? How much more could Spirit get done with someone available to run out there, shove some rocks under the wheels, and let it get out of the sand trap it’s in? Maybe reset it’s mission clock?

    You can sit back and admire, or you can go and do. I kinda prefer Riki-Tiki-Tavi’s choice, myself.

    After all, while the true astrophiles will always find new shots of Europa, Mimas, Titan, the Andromeda Galaxy and others fascinating and educational, most people look at pictures from the Hubble and go “Oooh, pretty” – right-click->set as wallpaper – until the next pretty picture comes along. Space won’t be really popular until people start coming back from it and saying “Damn, that was a really cool job. I think I can get you on with us in the next round. Wanna go?”

  16. Thameron

    There still needs to be a reason to go to the moon. If you want to go back simply to satisfy the obscure curiosity of a few exogeologists then all I can say is good luck finding the funding for that.

    Analogies between the discovery of the ‘New World’ and exploring the moon fail badly. There was a great variety of plant and animal life in North America. There were a goodly number of civilizations in North America. There were differing climactic zones and weather in North America. Is anyone expecting to find anything other than rocks, dust and vacuum on the moon? It is not even dead because it was never alive. It is a lifeless, dust-covered, cratered rock and there is no ecology there to ruin with tire tracks.

    So what is the compelling reason for humans to go there? Mining is impractical and as far as I know the moon is not mineral rich compared to nearer sources on the Earth. Science alone will not inspire the public to fund a moon mission. Remember these are the people who think dinosaurs and humans coexisted. Science is not uppermost in their minds.

    A military outpost might get the funding. There is also a possibility that a low-G sports stadium might also manage the funding considering the huge amount of cash that goes into sports. Tourism (including zooming around on LEMs while doing the rebel yell which no one can hear in space) might also scrape together enough money for it, but if you are looking for a pure science or practicality mission (as in not having all human eggs in one basket just in case) then you are dreaming.

  17. Mark

    Those interested in details should take a look at the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.

    Phil, if you haven’t blogged about the ALSJ, I think you should. It is a fantastic resource.

  18. @Thameron – “There still needs to be a reason to go to the moon.”

    Agreed. There is one: to create a permanent space-faring infrastructure.

    Modern life (e.g., weather prediction, communications, national security) depends critically on our space satellite assets. They are in a variety of orbits from low (~100 mi.) to geosync (22,000 mi.) and beyond as well as all of the points in between. Right now, we have no way to get people and machines past low Earth orbit to service and maintain these satellites, so in consequence, we are mass- and power-limited to whatever fits on the largest rocket we have. When a satellite quits, it is abandoned and another is launched.

    But Space Station showed us that we can build large, distributed, capable systems out of smaller pieces. So what we need are the means to get to all of these points in Earth orbit.

    It is expensive to go into space because launch costs are high. Costs are high because launch volume is low, but even if that increases, we are still mass- and power-limited to what we can lift out of the deep gravity well of Earth. If we had a re-fueling station in Earth orbit, this entire template would change from one-off, throw-away space assets to reusable, maintained extensible space systems.

    We now know that the Moon has abundant water (100’s of metric tonnes at each pole). It has zones of near-permanent sunlight, providing unlimited solar energy. We go to the Moon to extract its water to make propellant to create a permanent space transportation system, one in which we re-use equipment and re-fuel it with rocket propellant (hydrogen and oxygen) made from lunar water.

    By creating this transportation system to access to the Moon, we get as a by-product routine access to ALL of cislunar space, the zone in which all of our satellite assets (weather, communications, remote sensing, GPS, national security, scientific platforms) reside. And, such a transportation system can also take us to the planets.

    A return to the Moon to use its material and energy resources revolutionizes the paradigm of spaceflight.

  19. ozprof

    Mark,

    I totally agree with you re ALSJ and its companion Apollo Flight Journal. Wonderful stuff there.

  20. BTW…I have just found out, in the latest Rabbids game for the Wii there is a hilarious scene where the rabbids veer the LM off-course, causing poor Neil to land NEXT to a large boulder, thereby making it impossible to open the exit hatch…

  21. amphiox

    Robots for exploration. People for colonization.

    Then, when colonization is well under way, the people who are already on the moon as a result will complete/continue the exploration, spontaneously, and at essentially no additional cost.

  22. Jeremy

    Cool stuff. I’m trying to track down the info Phil referenced about Apollo 16. It seems the post is here http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/tv/foxapollo.html
    but the video he links to is in RealVideo format which these days is kinda like trying to watch a VHS or listen to an 8-track. Does anyone know if this clip has been posted to YouTube? Also, is there a link to the email from Charlie Duke?

  23. Tony

    Nic e to see there were only two or three idiots in the comments of the letter claiming the moon landings were faked, instead of the ten to fifteen I expected. That was about 6% of posters. Maybe someday everyone will realize the truth.

  24. There’s also this :

    http://news.discovery.com/space/neil-armstrong-what-really-happened-on-the-moon.html

    account of this story – complete with a semi-related trailer giving an alternative possibility for what could’ve happened during Apollo 11‘s historic landing that’s bursting at the seams with some very bad astronomy. Michael Bay, surprise, surprise is involved.

  25. Great story & good to see neilArmstrong being that little more involved and less reclusive. :-)

    @3. Pshaw Says:

    100,000 years from now, Neil Armstrong will be the only person who is alive today that will still be remembered.

    I whole-heartedly agree and consider the Apollo Moon landings the most significant and greatest accomplishment in Human history. Full stop.

    Although I hope its NOT just Neil Armstrong who is remembered but also Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins as well. Plus Werner von Braun and that theere were thouands of people making Apollo possible just the astronauts – despite some mixed feelings on Von Braun’s past history.

  26. @21. amphiox Says:

    Robots for exploration. People for colonization.

    &

    @2. jfb Says:

    Now the question is, do we send people, or do we use an unmanned system?

    What is it with some people seeing things only in zero/sum, either/or terms? Really? :roll:

    The answer is clearly BOTH! People *and* robots as well as private *and* government groups.

    As frequently happens, it doesn’t necessarily *have* to be one thing or the other – and it almost certainly won’t be.

    As (#10.) MaDeR correctly noted :

    @jfb: With modern technology you still cannot get anywhere as much rocks (both in mass and quality) with automated systems than with humans. So automats are still not as good as people. And this will conitnue for long time.

    “Now the question is, do we send people, or do we use an unmanned system?”
    Both. You seem to be one of these naive people that thinks if someone cut out completely manned spaceflight, this would mean more cash and resources for unmanned spaceflight. No, this would mean complete cease of any space exploration, manned or not. So I consider this kind of thought idiotic.

    @BJN: Erm, I understand concern about environmental damage on Earth, but Moon? This piece of dead rock with “atmosphere” with mass of several tons? Give me a break. This is not ecology, it is eco-loony.

    For once, MaDeR, we are in full and complete agreement there. Well said.

    @16. Thameron Says:

    There still needs to be a reason to go to the moon.

    There are many reasons not least because if we don’t we run the risk that nations hostile or indifferent to us & our way of life and values will go and take it over – and they may well not come in peace as we do. :-(

    Also here’s a list of five possibilities for you – just for starters :

    1. Helium three which could be a fuel of the future.

    2. Possibly water ice, possibly minerals – we may find that extracting ores from the Moon works cheaply and easily and, of course, won’t have the environmental or social issues we get on Earth. Uranium mining on the Moon, for instance, could help stop the worries about radioactive elements being launched from Earth, avoiding the sort of protests that Cassini for instance suffered with its RTG component. Maybe we could actually build such spacecraft and launch them from the Moon itself?

    3. The Moon also offers a low gee, hard vacuum environment which is could have its advantages for some industrial processes – and a wide range of temperatures. Ditto. The Moon would also be an ideal place for using solar power : long days, no clouds (or air) in the way, huge tracts of land available and some locations with permanent sunshine – polar craters.

    4. The opportunity to practice colonisation and artificial ecological sustainability techniques and learn how to create artificial biomes (think the “Biosphere II” experiment) more rigourously than on Earth and perhaps more accurately – for planetary environments than space stations but in a way that may be more ethically responsible than on Mars – *if* Mars has some life forms of its own.

    5. Dare I suggest tourism? No seriously, if places like Antartica and Mt Everest are becoming tourist sites of sorts (& they are) then why not the Moon too? There are many aweoem recreational possibilities for tourists such as the ability for peopel toactuallyfly under theri own power in a suitable area.

    Now all we need is to get the fungineers designing the Lunar theme park…

  27. sHx

    “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Yes, there is ‘a’ problem there. ;-)

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5398560.stm

    Here is my pet Moon conspiracy theory. According to BBC, “Mr Armstrong says that he came up with the phrase in the hours between the touchdown of the lunar module and his first steps onto the Moon’s surface.” That, I don’t buy.

    It is just too good to be true… that such a profound statement wasn’t cooked up by PR agents and advertising hacks.

    Of course, there are those who disagree:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8081817.stm
    “It may well have been that spontaneity that led to Armstrong’s slight mistake. But according to Mr Olsson – Armstrong may have subconsciously drawn from his poetic instincts to utter a phrase that, far from being incorrect – was perfect for the moment.

    When you look at the whole expression there’s a symmetry about this. If you put the word ‘a’ in, it would totally alter the poetic balance of the expression,” he explained.

  28. Gary Ansorge

    7. Chris Winter

    “there will be environmental damage”

    I believe, in order to have environmental damage, you must first have an ENVIRONMENT, something in which the moon is seriously deficient. Hard vacuum really doesn’t qualify for the term environment.

    Telepresence only works for near space(Luna). On Mars, if your ‘bot is trucking toward a cliff, you might well be pressing the stop button for five minutes AFTER it’s fallen off.

    Gary 7

  29. frankjad

    Oooookay…gotta go back to the moon…right…um…in both Canada and the States we have unemployment, lack of funding for education, affordable housing, etc., a rising number of people toeing the poverty line , etc.,etc…
    But hey, we gotta take a few billion and check out the moon!
    Yep, that’s a priority!
    Reading about astronomy and the various missions to asteroids, planets, etc. is exciting. The pictures of the universe that can be seen today are stunning.
    But really – aren’t there are a few more important things that need $$$ more than a manned moon mission?

  30. Gary Ansorge

    29. frankjad

    Actually, if one is going to space to build solar power satellites, that would be one of the best ways to put all those people back to work.

    Vacuum welding via telepresence may well become a sought after skill set.

    Gary 7

  31. Unfortunately I’m on my phone right now, but there’s a blog called rocketpunk observatory that recently had a very interesting analysis of exactly what kinds of colony sizes, launch costs, economic activity etc would be required, both to sustain a space colony economically, and to sustain It as a working, self sustaining entity. Once again, phone post :ox

  32. @29frank: so spending scad of gov $$s on a space program won’t create jobs? Exactly how does one create jobs with federal funds? :)

  33. Joseph G

    My bad, it was several different posts here: http://www.rocketpunk-manifesto.com/

    Still, quite an interesting line of reasoning.

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    @28. Gary Ansorge :

    7. Chris Winter :“there will be environmental damage”
    I believe, in order to have environmental damage, you must first have an ENVIRONMENT, something in which the moon is seriously deficient. Hard vacuum really doesn’t qualify for the term environment.

    Exactly. There’s no ecosystems, no living or even inhabitatable environment on the Moon to damage – until we build one.

    Telepresence only works for near space(Luna). On Mars, if your ‘bot is trucking toward a cliff, you might well be pressing the stop button for five minutes AFTER it’s fallen off.

    There’s still a light travel time delay factor for the Moon of about two seconds. That’s not as bad as for Mars true but there are certainly cases where it could be an issue.

    @29. frankjad :

    Oooookay…gotta go back to the moon…right…um…in both Canada and the States we have unemployment, lack of funding for education, affordable housing, etc., a rising number of people toeing the poverty line , etc.,etc… But hey, we gotta take a few billion and check out the moon! Yep, that’s a priority!Reading about astronomy and the various missions to asteroids, planets, etc. is exciting. The pictures of the universe that can be seen today are stunning. But really – aren’t there are a few more important things that need $$$ more than a manned moon mission?

    Again with the zero-sum thinking. :roll:

    As (#32) Joseph G has pointed out the money is spent and creates jobs on Earth. Space travel is an investment – in many things – and it offers us knowledge and boosts the national morale and presteige and mood in all sorts of ways. There’ll be lots of spin offs and serendiptioiys discoveries -the technology will enable us to do and achive all sorts of things that will help and add a whole new perspective. Its well and truly worth it and alot more than just “pretty pictures.” (Although there’ll certainly be plenty of those too!)

    You cannot fix all the worlds’s problems simply by scrapping thespace program(s) & doing so won’t divert the money successfully into fixing all the old beauty pagent speeches dreamtalk of ending poverty, fixing all th environmental messes, creating world peace, etc .. etc .. :roll: Not tobe a downer but some problems are always going to be with us and cannot be fixed with any amount of money.

  35. Messier Tidy Upper

    @29. frankjad :

    I also think you are – among many other errors there – forgetting how very little money relative to other things is invested in the national (& international & I guess you could say even interplanetary) space program.

    People always seem to think a lot of cash is wasted on space exploration and
    space technology development – but really, there’s not much spent on it at all. Its an area that’s been grossly under-funded – especially relative to its its importance and value for the future.

    The November 2010 ‘Air & Space Smithsonian’ magazine had a good article on the end of the Space Shuttle program featuring several workers directly commenting on the programs end and what it means :

    “We had our hands on spaceships and we learned how to make them increasingly safer and then Washington pulled the plug. … We won’t have the ability to put an American on the space station, in an American rocket, for at least a decade,” he says. He doesn’t hide his disappointment with President Barack Obama. “We all knew for years that the Shuttle program had a sunset but Constellation was supposed to provide human access to the space station. When Obama cancelled Constellation, he cancelled the pride that every American should have in our accomplishments. One half of one percent of the federal budget funds NASA and they can’t afford this program?”
    – Gregory Cecil, Space Shuttle tile technician quoted on page 47, “Throttle down” article in ‘Air & Space’ magazine, Nov 2010.

    There are many, many other things and areas where money could be cut or better spent before even thinking of cutting the space program.

    I strongly urge you (& everyone) to read the BA’s post here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/11/21/nasas-budget-as-far-as-americans-think/

    A lot of people think NASA is a waste of time and money, and maybe this is why; they have a grossly overinflated idea of how much NASA spends. …[SNIP]… I remember hearing a talk by a Hubble scientist years ago, and he said that if you download two or three Hubble images and use them to decorate your office or as a desktop wallpaper, you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of the telescope. I think he made a really good point. Exploration, science, understanding, beauty: the price on these is small, and it’s even smaller than most people think!

    & also read the post here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/08/06/neil-tyson-on-exploring-space/

    (Which was linked in that first blog post item I’ve linked to but *that* link doesn’t seem to be working.)

    From Neil Tysons article there :

    “What is the total cost in taxes of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the space station and shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit and missions yet to fly?” Answer: less than 1% on the tax dollar — 7/10ths of a penny, to be exact. I’d prefer that it were more, perhaps 2 cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to no more than 4 cents on the tax dollar. … [SNIP] … So, with 99 out of 100 cents going to fund the rest of our nation’s priorities, the space program is not now (nor has it ever really been) in anybody’s way. Instead, America’s former investments in aerospace have shaped our discovery-infused culture in ways that are obvious to the rest of the world. But we are a sufficiently wealthy nation to embrace this investment for tomorrow—to drive our economy, our ambitions and, above all, our dreams.

    Bold added for emphasis.

    In this particlar matter – if NOT others – I have to say I completely agree with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    PS. The slight difference between the percentage figures cited by Tyson and the Shuttle technician could be due to rounding by the Shuttle worker or it could reflect the updated funding cuts made by since Tyson’s article was published (August 6th, 2007 – the Bush era not the Obama one) by later budgets. I’m not sure which.

    ***

    “This [space] is the new ocean and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none.”
    – President John F. Kennedy after John Glenn’s first orbits in ‘Friendship-7’ on Feb. 20th 1962.

  36. Nigel Depledge

    John Powell (8) said:

    Oh yeah, we should also send some radio astronomers to the far side so they can set up their antennas shaded from our noisy planet.

    Hoo, yes!

    In fact, we should make the far side of the moon a reserve for astronomy of all kinds, from radio up to gamma-ray, and keep the whole far side of the moon dark at all wavelengths. So that, even when the near side is colonised (probably in about 1000 years from now, at the rate we’re going), and therefore lit up at night, there will still be a dark site on the moon (well, for 2 weeks out of every 4, anyway).

  37. Nigel Depledge

    @ Thameron (16) –
    Sadly, I find myself agreeing with much of what you say here.

    Certainly, the parallels between Columbus (and other explorers from the 15th – 17th centuries) and the Apollo programme are limited. Columbus expected to get rich quick from finding a shorter route to the East Indies.

    As it happens, his calcs were way off, and he discovered the West Indies instead.

    Nevertheless, those first explorers and settlers often went there to make money that they could spend back home. Consider the Spanish conquest of South America, as a prime example.

  38. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (34) said:

    Exactly. There’s no ecosystems, no living or even inhabitatable environment on the Moon to damage – until we build one.

    A lack of a habitable environment is not the lack of any environment. The environment is simply the set of conditions that pertain to the environs under discussion.

    Whether or not that is worth preserving is a different discussion, but let’s not make the assumption that there is no environment on the moon for us to exploit or damage.

  39. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (34) said:

    You cannot fix all the worlds’s problems simply by scrapping thespace program(s) & doing so won’t divert the money successfully into fixing all the old beauty pagent speeches dreamtalk of ending poverty, fixing all th environmental messes, creating world peace, etc .. etc .. Not tobe a downer but some problems are always going to be with us and cannot be fixed with any amount of money.

    Mostly, I agree. Certainly, countries without much of a space programme to speak of have pretty much all of the same problems as that portion of the world that does have space programmes.

  40. réalta fuar

    A manned moon mission would give just about the least science per euro spent than any science mission one can dream up. If you want adventure, then go somewhere potentially useful, like a NEO or Mars. (and if you die doing that, as people will, as they will going back to the moon, then at least you’ll be much better remembered for trying something new). Of course, if you truly want to spend 100 billion euro sending people back to the moon, then you should at least recognize that that will put a stop to probably ALL other astronomy and planetary science missions while you do so.
    I don’t think I know a single working astronomer or planetary scientist who isn’t directly involved in lunar science who thinks sending people back to the moon (NOW) is a good idea. Sometimes, though it’s unfashionable to say so, EXPERTS really are right about things.

  41. Gary Ansorge

    40. réalta fuar

    Your 100 billion euros is less than one percent of the European unions GDP.

    From Wikipedia:European Union GDP

    11,808,717,000,000 (in Euros)

    I think that’s a paltry expenditure in a potentially open ended investment environment.

    Can we grow our economy forever? No, it can only grow as large as the observable universe, but that SHOULD be enough, even for us.

    Gary 7

  42. Gary Ansorge

    38. Nigel Depledge

    “A lack of a habitable environment is not the lack of any environment. The environment is simply the set of conditions that pertain to the environs under discussion.”

    True, but saying a hard vacuum is an environment is like arguing that zero is a number. Yes, it is an environment but it’s the zero point reference against which all other environments might be measured.

    Whatever we do to it can only shift that environment toward something that might be livable and it’s LIFE we’re trying to enable.

    Gary 7

  43. Anchor

    @40 réalta fuar, who says: “A manned moon mission would give just about the least science per euro spent than any science mission one can dream up.”

    Surely it would deliver far more science per Euro than the same expended on manned missions to low-earth orbit.

    Gotta start somewhere. Why NOT the Moon? It’s conveniently close, it can provide suitable shelter and resources, and is safer (if not necessarily cheaper) to reach than any asteroid.

    Otherwise, I agree with you completely. Now may not be the best time to embark on it, certainly not in the current economic environment (we must be realistic), but it will inevitably come to pass. Once we establish a permanent presence on the Moon, we’ll be FLOODED in lunar science that centuries of automated probing couldn’t possibly match. Like everything else, it takes a little capital investment to begin seeing a proper return.

    Take just ONE out of countless potential examples: wouldn’t it be nice just to find ancient Earth meteorites containing actual fossilized specimens of ancient life on Earth? That would be quite difficult for remote rovers to find, but it might be a cinch for a human geologist on the scene.

  44. Ian

    “Sincerely,

    Neil Armstrong

    Commander

    Apollo 11″

    Greatest signature line EVAR.

  45. #29 frankjad:
    You clearly don’t have the slightest clue about the actual ( ass opposed to wildly imagined ) cost of spaceflight.
    As Phil told us a few months ago, this year’s entire NASA budget amounted to a paltry 0.3% of the US GDP. Even at the height of Apollo, it never accounted for much more than 1%. Saving that 0.3% would really make a great difference to unemployment, education, etc., wouldn’t it??? But spending it on going back to the Moon would make a difference, in the opposite way to that which you imagine; it would create many thousands of jobs, and inspire a new generation of kids to become interested in science.
    But let’s put the actual numbers into perspective, shall we? The entire cost of Apollo, from start to finish – the most expensive space project ever undertaken – was comparable to the amount which the American population spent, during the same period, on cigarettes!!!

  46. Nigel Depledge

    Gary Ansorge (42) said:

    True, but saying a hard vacuum is an environment is like arguing that zero is a number. Yes, it is an environment but it’s the zero point reference against which all other environments might be measured.

    Perhaps so, but that’s not the point I was trying to make.

    A previous commenter had suggested that there was no environment to damage, so whether we humans litter / pollute / churn up / mine the surface of the moon or not didn’t matter. My point was, irrespective of the debate about whether or not we should do these things, there is an environment there that our presence would change.

  47. Nigel Depledge

    Ian (44) said:

    Greatest signature line EVAR.

    Seconded.

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