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Can someone explain...

Posted by: skyhigh - Fri Oct 29, 2004 2:53 am
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Can someone explain... 
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Post Can someone explain...   Posted on: Fri Oct 29, 2004 2:53 am
I've found the whole X-Prize fascinating and am happy about the sparking of the world's imagination.

However, I have a question. I recall reading an article a while back, when Bush made his talk about going back to the moon, that the cost would be about $500 Billion (half-trillion). How can it possibly cost that much? Back in the 70s a computer was the size of a room. Now we have calculators more powerful. We have a space shuttle. I remember going to the Smithsonian and seeing a duplicate of the Hubble telescope. It was huge and I seem to recall it weighed like 10 tons.

Now if we have a space shuttle, it seems to me the hard part is getting it into space. We can do that already. Once its in space everything is weightless. Now what if instead of carrying a 10 ton Hubble telescope, it carried 9 tons of fuel, and then food, oxygen etc.... Why can't we just "point" our space shuttle at the moon and fly there, land, and voila we are on the moon.

Why would it cost half a trillion dollars? I just don't understand the mathematics. Can anyone explain?


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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 29, 2004 3:24 am
The simple answer is that it can't cost that much. First of all, no one would ever ever give NASA that kind of money to play with, only guys like the millitary and social security get sums of money THAT huge. Secondly, it simply wouldn't cost that much. In the wake of Bush's January speach, the doom/gloom pundits came out and assumed that his "vision" would cost as much as the estimates of Bush41's "vision" that was put forward in 1989. The original Bush plan called for an absolutely obscene amount of infrastructure to be created, giant space stations, on-orbit construction shacks and refeuling stations, moon bases, pretty much the whole possible shebang just to send a few people to Mars. Shortly thereafter, Robert Zubrin put forward the Mars direct plan that, even with the most pessimistic cost projections, could send four people to Mars for a stay time of two years for at most $60 billion. That's total, probably spread out over ten or so years. No matter that NASA quickly adopted this plan as their baseline, the media had their juicy space sticker-shock story and stuck to it. As you can see, they are still stuck to it.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple to return to the Moon as just firing the shuttle off towards it. The shuttle was designed for Earth orbit, any use beyond that would require changing it so much it would be a completely new vehicle and it would actually be cheaper to simply design something new from scratch. For one thing, even if it could create enough impulse to get to the Moon, it would definately not be able to take the added stress of reentry after coming back from lunar orbit. The shuttle would need a great deal more radiation shielding and a method of landing, and many many other things, sorry but it really just wouldn't work. I'm not trying to shoot down your enthusiasm (btw, welcome to the message boards), but the fact remains that it is sort of a moot point.

Not that it would be that hard to return to the Moon. Think about it, we went there in a time when kidney transplant surgerys were high-risk, last-resort operations and tailfins, rather than airbags, were standard on cars. There is absolutely no excuse why we can't go there again, especially after the experience we've gained from the first time. In fact, with the private industry invovled, we have an enormous advantage over the Apollo era, as private companies could be pitted against each other, just like in the X Prize. 8)

In short, the mathematics are not wrong, they're just not there in the first place. Most journalists aren't scientists or economists, so they don't really have any incentive to be accurate on matters like this. In reality, returning to the Moon and going to Mars would be relatively cheap endeavors compared to the "war on terror" and similar operations. Ah, what an age we live in. :)

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Post Thanks for the response   Posted on: Fri Oct 29, 2004 3:34 am
What you said makes more sense than what I've read in the press. If we could get to Mars for $60 billion, I'd say go for it. It would be great to accomplish that goal. And that really is pretty cheap in an $11 trillion economy. As you mentioned, the Iraq war in itself is going to cost over $200 billion.

I do wonder about this thing I've read called 'Helium Isotope 3'. Apparently the moon is covered in this element, which could provide cheap, clean energy. If they made the moon profit driven, that alone could pay for the costs I would think. I mean the U.S. imports like $400 billion per year in outside energy (I think thats close to the right figure).

Thanks for the reply.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 29, 2004 6:59 am
Hello, Senior von Braun,

you are describing a special kind of systematical lack in lunar and space plans implicitly.

Bush 1 had a design that could be called a 100%-solution - Bush 2 has a design that is no 100%-solution and that it is not as special as the solution designed by Bush 1.

What's really needed is an evolutionary view based on "Think big - start small".

Between the two designs there is a vacuum that has to be filled. Bush 1 is "Think big" - the Apollo missions were "start small".

So it would be a good way to look what at least is required today to simply go to the moon and simply land there. If this is found out on this basis it could be decided what to be carried there. It could be things required to build and establish a lunar station for let's say three people at first. This station step by step and time by time can be extended - by privates too! Bigelow Aerospace's inflatables could be used - in modified versions for example. And so on.

All this would be smaller than the Bush 2 design. The basis is "What is required at least and what is possible most the ressources given".

There has be something like a timetable that has to be updated - an investment plan mere - and a controlling looking at what's going on from the 100%-solution.

...



Dipl.-Volkswirt (bdvb) Augustin (Political Economist)


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Post    Posted on: Sat Oct 30, 2004 9:41 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
What's really needed is an evolutionary view based on "Think big - start small".


Sounds great, but this would really be death to any government-lead space program. If the job isn't done in at least ten years, someone is going to come along to kill it. One of the unfortunate side effects of democracy is that if a program isn't completed within a decade or so, a new administration will come along with differing views and pull the plug. This is exactly what happened to NASA in the 60s and 70s; once the Kennedy/Johnson administration left office, Apollo had its heart systematically cut out by the Nixon administration. If we start small by, say, aiming first for the Moon, we just might get there, but that will be the end of the story.

If you want to see results you have to think big and aim high right from the start. I'm all for returning to the Moon, but we don't have to do that to go to Mars, in fact it will make getting to Mars more difficult because it will stretch NASA more thinly and require a longer timeline. Starting small works for pirvate companies like Scaled and Spacex because they are run essentially like autocracies where the vision will stay intact throughout the years and won't be dimmed by future successors. Burt Rutan will maintain his vision of going to the Moon for however long it will take to get there. NASA won't if they take their time. Stepping stones are NOT the way to go.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Oct 31, 2004 7:40 am
I was speaking of a concept itself only. Bush 1 should have provided and Bush 2 should provide now first a concept only - then this concept should and could be like I described it withou effecting NASA anyway.

Thinking of NASA and the effects on that agency would and has to be the second step - this second step has to include the privates too as recommended by the Aldridge report. Then development, construction and work could be shared between NASA and the privates by criteria like size of the step, amount of required finances, existing of markets, political obstacles etc.If there markets for things required for a step these things could be left to the privates for example. If NASA has to expect political obstacles the thing faced to these obstacles could be left to the privates - and so on.

Doing so would mean that the presidential concept would be a special kind of political program in which each enterprise and each citizen (voter, tay payer etc.) can participate freely. It could be apositive program providing economical prosperity - it could provide new jobs, new chances for everyone. And it would have positive effects on the whole world. Even Russia and the russian citizens could be faced to positive effects and new and better chances.

If the presidents have NASA in mind only then you are copmletely right.

But we are going to have private space flights now and e are going to have a private space station within a decade or so at least. Scaled is involved in t/Space and I have read of a special infrastructure concept including Mars designed by Boeing at the website of the german section of the Mars Society. Other concepts have been added to that site last Thursday or Friday.

The Boeing example is suggesting that perhaps there should be privates working on infrastructures only but not on vehicles and stations and others working on vehicles only and still others working o vehicles only. In concrete - Let Bigelow build stations, let Scaled, SpaceX, Interorbital etc. build vehicles and let other privates and/or NASA work out, where the Bigelow's stations are to be placed and where the vehicles should fly to.

"Think big - start small" is a mulitdimensional thinking - one dimension is "private - public" another "station - vehicle" a third "equipment - location in infrastructur" amd others more.


Sound interesting? Or does it not?





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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 22, 2005 3:14 am
skyhigh wrote:
I do wonder about this thing I've read called 'Helium Isotope 3'. Apparently the moon is covered in this element, which could provide cheap, clean energy.

Note that Helium 3 is a rare, stable isotope of Helium, that can be made and purchased on the Earth. It is used in some cryogenic experiments, because - unlike normal Helium 4, it does not become a superfluid, has a higher vapor pressure, and – like its more common cousin, does not freeze (at standard pressure) even at absolute zero.

It participates in some promising fusion reactions – as easily demonstrated with a low power particle accelerator. However, while more than enough Helium 3 can be purchased to run a demonstration fusion reactor – no such machine has ever approached power break even – with this or any other fuel.

If a fusion reactor using this fuel can ever be developed, and this fuel and no other is needed to run it (and it can’t be adequately produced by bombarding Lithium 7 with the copious neutrons produced in such a reactor) then it is interesting that modest quantities may be extractable from Lunar materials.

If this “Energy Alternative” sounds like a fairy tale built atop another fairy tale, that resembles the truth.

I hope that nuclear fusion becomes feasible, in part because it is necessary for a practical starship. Solar power systems won’t work between the stars. The Helium 3 fusion, while having a higher ignition temperature than the Deuterium reactions, (as I recall) yields virtually all its energy output as CHARGED particles which would be trapped in the magnetic confinement system. This promises a smaller reactor system than those which yield high energy neutrons. The energy output would make possible ULTRALIGHT starflight, reaching Alpha Centuri in less than twenty years.

On topic, the kind of people who showed us a manned "plastic" spaceship last year will take us back to the Moon (and on to Mars) at prices which will make NASA estimates look as silly as Dr. Langley's (Oct. 1903). Note that NASA possessed no capability of transporting any human being above 100 km in 2004.


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Post Re: Can someone explain...   Posted on: Tue Mar 22, 2005 4:38 pm
skyhigh wrote:
I've found the whole X-Prize fascinating and am happy about the sparking of the world's imagination.

However, I have a question. I recall reading an article a while back, when Bush made his talk about going back to the moon, that the cost would be about $500 Billion (half-trillion). How can it possibly cost that much? Back in the 70s a computer was the size of a room.


Apollo's wasn't, and it did quite well.

Everyone else has already answered but I'll just chime in for the hell of it. The Space shuttle can't get to the moon. It will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever happen. The space shuttle has one job it does very well: bringing things back down from earth orbit. Everything else is probably cheaper from other solutions. The STS requires a standing army of thousands to support it, whereas some of the newer launch vehicles can be supported by dozens of personel instead.

Finally I don't think Bush said $500,000,000,000. You may be thinking of George I (1988-1992), with the cost estimates for SEI, but that was Truly a mistake. (Pun intended)


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