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“We” are going to the Moon - Part 2

Published by Rob on Thu Sep 20, 2007 4:07 pm
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Read “We” are going to the Moon – Part 1 HERE

Colonising has never been an easy task, just look at the hundreds of deaths amongst Europeans sailing to America. If our planet is to begin the colonisation of another then there have been great lessons learnt through the centuries before us. Finding resources and “living off the land” were key to the pilgrims staying and thriving. The Moon has been highlighted as being the stepping stone to “beyond”, if this is the case then how do we go about doing it? And can we “Live off the land”?

Times are very different now to when sailors set out across the oceans in search of new lands. We have satellites for instance, objects that can trace an entire planet from space without even touching down. We have robots that can move around the terrain, make scientific judgements and beam data millions of miles back home to Earth. In fact we can almost know as much as we need before we even think about letting humans set foot onto a new world. Really we know what is on the land before we get there.

Early Government Attempts

Using the US as an example early craft struggled to bring back any good data from the moon in fact as this table shows, most failed to some level.

Pioneer 0 — Failure – first stage explosion; destroyed
Pioneer 1 — Failure – software error; re-entry
Pioneer 2 — Failure – third stage misfire; re-entry
Pioneer 3 — Failure – first stage misfire, re-entry
Pioneer 4 — Failure – targeting error; solar orbit
Pioneer P-1 — Failure – pad explosion; destroyed
Pioneer P-3 — Failure – payload shroud; destroyed
Pioneer P-30 — Failure – second stage anomaly; re-entry
Pioneer P-31 — Failure – first stage explosion; destroyed

Ranger 1 —Failure – upper stage anomaly; re-entry
Ranger 2 —Failure – upper stage anomaly; re-entry
Ranger 3 —Failure – booster guidance; solar orbit
Ranger 4 —Failure – spacecraft computer; crash impact
Ranger 5 —Failure – spacecraft power; solar orbit
Ranger 6 —Failure – spacecraft camera; crash impact

Ranger 7 —Success – returned 4308 photos, crash impact
Ranger 8 —Success – returned 7137 photos, crash impact
Ranger 9 —Success – returned 5814 photos, crash impact

Recently though most seem to be doing well, in the short timeframe from the 1960s to now successful launches are certainly outweighing the catastrophic failures. So if we can get there what are we looking for?

A lot of recent Moon activity has been on seeking places to send humans, places to build factories, temporary accommodation and perhaps the start of Lunar Cities. So what do we need?


For humans to live there we need water. Keeping in mind the price of taking enough water to live on all the way from Earth would cost millions it can be assumed for now that the better alternative is to find water where we are going.

Bringing us up to the present NASA’s Lunar Prospector Mission highlights some research that has been done into the Moon recently.

The craft had three parts to its mission.

The Primary Mission
mapping the entire surface of the Moon from a distance of about 100 kilometers (60 miles). Among the early returns from the instruments were those from the Neutron Spectrometer indicating significant amounts of water ice at the lunar poles.

The Extended Mission
The spacecraft was lowered, first to about 30 kilometers (18 miles) and then to within about 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the lunar surface. This allowed the spacecraft to obtain data at much higher resolutions

The Impact Experiment
originally, the mission was to have ended with the spacecraft crashing into the Moon when its fuel ran out. As the mission neared its end, however, the suggestion was made to use the crash as part of an experiment to confirm the existence of water on the Moon. The spacecraft was successfully directed into a crater near the lunar South Pole, thought a likely location for ice deposits, but “no water was detected in the resulting impact plume.”

come in many forms it may be fuel to power new ships, it may be minerals it may be something completely different but if there are benefits from being there then surely governments will stay interested and ships will carry on studying the Moon.

Smart-1 Was ESA’s Ion drive attempt to gain data from the Moon. Perhaps the project scientist for Smart-1 summed up a problem that is as large as the resources needed when we arrive, he spoke out on the political drive to go there.

He said “We believe that technologically it’s possible,”(Colonisation within 20 years) he later added “But it will depend in the end on the political will to go and establish a human base for preparing for colonisation of the Moon or to be used as a refuge for the human species.”
As the growing private space industry takes shape perhaps the political implications of such a trip will be forgotten. History has shown that although you may fail on the first attempts, if you keep going you can grow and accomplish more than thought possible.

Looking back again Christopher Columbus wanted to find a new route to the Far East, to India, China, Japan and the Spice Islands. If he could reach these lands, he would be able to bring back rich cargoes of silks and spices. These resources could be found and returned much quicker than the sailors going east.
Although he did not land on these shores he found something else valuable. It is in this mindset that we can view these new explorers and sit with wonder at what might await us on the journey out into space.

The Google Lunar X-Prize may be a stepping stone to other competitions, other destinations even. The Ansari X-Prize was inspiring it showed us that the private industry can efficiently accomplish what governments may spend millions doing. It is not certain whether the Google Lunar X-Prize will be completed but it is a certainty that people’s interest will stay strong and such prizes will help inspire. Ignoring the fact the Columbus died in 1506, a lonely and disappointed man still believing that he had found a new route to the East Indies we can look at these explorers and admire that what they do find they may not ever really know the value of what they have found. Lucky for us our new bold explorers can explore with rovers millions of miles away knowing where they are going but perhaps not knowing what they might find.

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