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What If the Apollo Program Had Continued?

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the man-that-would-be-a-cool-trip dept.

Moon 389

proslack writes "The die had been cast years before Apollo 11 had even reached the moon. In the late 1960s, the Vietnam war was straining US finances. A fatal fire on the Apollo launch pad in January 1967 had blotted NASA's copybook. The Soviet moon effort seemed to be going nowhere. In the budget debates during the summer of 1967, Congress refused NASA's request to fund an extended moon programme. What if things had been different that summer? Suppose Congress had granted NASA's wish, then fast-forward 40-odd years..." A nice little what-if sort of story that makes sorta nostalgic for a non-existent present.

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If the Apollo Program would have continued . . . (3, Interesting)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718487)

We wouldn't have had Vietnam (this frees up the money) and the Cold War would still be going on (this motivates rocket development).

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718571)

...Vietnam was effectively the cold war. Rather than fight each other an an arena that had very high stakes (an invasion of Russia and the USA) the USA and Russia decided to fight in a number of "proxy" wars such as Vietnam and Korea.

And similarly, the cold war would have already ended itself. Soviet Russia while an interesting "experiment" ended up failing due to the fact that human nature plus the Soviet version of communism ended up with a government who could not financially sustain itself.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (0, Troll)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718709)

And similarly, the cold war would have already ended itself. Soviet Russia while an interesting "experiment" ended up failing due to the fact that human nature plus the Soviet version of communism ended up with a government who could not financially sustain itself.

And now the US looks like it will be emulating the USSR in decline.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28718985)

Aside from Texas, do you really believe all the states are going to split off into independent republics?

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718995)

And now the US looks like it will be emulating the USSR in decline.


I presume you are talking about the economy? Capitalism has cycles. You can't take a 6-month period and extrapolate it indefinitely into the future.

Who is modding this "interesting"?

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (-1, Troll)

aardwolf64 (160070) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719269)

You're assuming what O is turning our country into resembles anything like Capitalism. Just like Soviet Russia, we're moving towards Socialism.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719445)

You're assuming what O is turning our country into resembles anything like Capitalism. Just like Soviet Russia, we're moving towards Socialism.

No, dumbshit, not just like "Soviet Russia". (It's just Russia now, FYI)

There's a whole spectrum between unbridled capitalism and total socialism. When a 12 trillion dollar economy cannot provide basic health care to all (no, ER visits don't count) there's a goddamned problem.

As we've recently seen, unchecked capitalism is not a good thing since the markets aren't rational after all. And as we've seen with USSR in the past, that doesn't work either. I see no problem emulating nations like Canada, New Zealand, or Sweden. Hell, I've got friends in South America with better basic health care for the poor than we have here in the states.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719069)

When watching a documentary on the space race they interviewed Americans after the Sputnik was launched and hit the news... The sense of alarm was palpable in the voices of people. http://atlantis2.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=3303172n has a great quote "We had better get on ours toes"

One must not forget the real historic event in the space race was not in the race itself but for one moment not often found in history one MAN decided to aim for something that was out of everyones grasp. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTyYM-dUgCI choosing to do it "not because it is easy, but because it is hard" it was reported that people at NASA thought it was a far stretch to accomplish it before the decade was out.

So see it for what it is, Humanity when it challenges itself can accomplish the unimaginable.

Just look at Baywatch.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719377)

"Soviet Russia?" Not nearly. It was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Lativia, Lithuania, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Chechnya, Georgia, and other VERY different national entities made up the USSR, in addition to Russia and others.

These nationalist forces ripped the Soviet Union apart as much or more than the "failed experiment" did.

Nationalism did in the Soviet Union as much as its inability to equitably deliver goods and services to its people.

Simplistic 'Russia failed because it was not America' arguments are completely unhelpful.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (1)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718751)

Mod parent up!!

A "cold war" is when both countries give each other the "cold shoulder" (Indirect fighting ect). In this case, they used puppet wars such as Vietnam and Korea. The cold war was more of an arms race more then anything, mainly to see who was the "Top dog" after WW2.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28718909)

Except the Soviets didn't really support North Korea. Even they realized they were crazy, but they were their crazy neighbor.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (3, Interesting)

Dracos (107777) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719061)

Would the Cold War have fizzled in the way that it really did, with Saudi Arabia flooding the oil market in 1984 and causing the oil dependent Soviet economy to collapse?

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719425)

You've almost got it. There was also the Soviet war in Afghanistan, though some historians call this the Second Cold War [wikipedia.org]. (I disagree.) . In a way, our current involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and to some extent with Iran and Syria is basically a "cleanup" of loose strings leftover from the Cold War. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about any other events surrounding these conflicts.

What if...Hilter won? Or Hirohito? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719273)

You'd all be talking German-Jap, which funny as it is, is not that funny now is it

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (2, Informative)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719323)

What? In 1969 Vietnam had been "won" already. If not for the US Congress deciding to pull the plug the whole fall of Saigon thing wouldn't have happened. But the most important thing is that the money for Vietnam was already spent. The remaining six years until the fall of Saigon was the US pulling out and telling the NVA to come back and be friends with their brothers in the South.

Too bad they didn't get the message amd decided that a brother that disagreed with them about politics was better off dead.

Re:If the Apollo Program would have continued . . (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719359)

We were already entrenched in the Vietnam war before we landed on the moon (let alone before Apollo was cancelled).

Bad news (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718493)

The whole thing was fueled by the ongoing Cold War pissing contest. Continuation of the space race would have meant dealing with the ever-increasing tension of the Cold War. So I'm sad we never got our cities on the moon, but it's a damn good trade-off for not having to worry so much about all-out nuclear war.

Re:Bad news (1, Offtopic)

l3ert (231568) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718679)

We survive because of our animal instincts. Gods forbid that one day our consciounes and intellect takes over. The future is an endless suburbia.

Re:Bad news (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719195)

You must be retarded. It is precisely because of MAD and *intellect* and communication (UN is the forum there) that nuclear war was averted. If all you do is rely on "god" and your animal instinct, then hell, this is exactly what is driving suicide bombers to blow themselves up. Their beliefs in afterlife and lack of consciousness and the entire thing about the-end-justifies-the-means that they are so reckless and dangerous. If USSR was anywhere as fanaticisized as Middle East, there would have been nuclear war in the 50s not to mention 70s.

The Cuban missile crisis averted war precisely because,
    1. Kennedy agreed to remove missiles from border of USSR in Turkey - USSR got it a major concession for not deploying nukes in Cuba.
    2. A political officer on board of a russian sub denied retaliation for US surface ship dropping depth charges at the blockade.

All this was precisely because of *intellect* and not stupid "animal instinct". Animal instinct is the retards on board of that US ship that started dropping depth charges. If it wasn't for the unnamed political officer to stop the "animal instinct" of captain to retaliate, the world today would most likely not include myself.

Re:Bad news (2, Interesting)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718811)

I can't see that this argument really follows... are you arguing that the cessation of the space program brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union? The Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse either way until Gorbachev (wisely) decided to try to make the collapse as painless as possible. It is perfectly feasible that would could have continued going to the moon through all of this, and I would argue that our society would be a better place if we had maintained the same zeal for space exploration that we had during the 60's. Certainly the "space race" pissing contest was a very large part of it, but you seem to be falsely assuming that correlation implies causation, space exploration would certainly not have continued the Cold War.

Re:Bad news (5, Funny)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719063)

If we'd continued the Apollo missions, we'd have found either:

1) That there was indeed a prehistoric alien civilization on the backside of the moon.
2) That it was almost impossible to hide the continued war between advanced US and Russian spaceships on the backside of the moon.
3) There was indeed a better alternative to space icecream.

Actualy, a resounding NO! (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719277)

The monumental amount of technical achievements which were instigated and generated by the moon program boggle the mind: digital electronics, computer engineering and microcomputers, satellite remote sensing technology, vast areas of communications, biomedical engineering, materials science and polymer chemistry, the list goes on and on ---- and lest we forget: TANG!

The Apollo moon shot required 90,000 lines of Fortran code....imagine what Windows Vista could accomplish!!! (OK - just kidding here...)

21st Century Reading List:

Other People's Money and It Takes A Pillage, by Nomi Prins --- Family of Secrets, by Russ Baker --- JFK and the Unspeakable, by James W. Douglas --- Hot Money and the Politics of Debt, by R.T. Naylor --- Brothers, by David Talbot --- John Kenneth Galbraith, His Life, His Politics, His Economics, by Richard Parker

Good News Wverybody! (4, Funny)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718501)

We would be working with Zoidberg and be drinking Slurm.

Re:Good News Wverybody! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28718831)

And we would have speech impediments!!!

Re:Good News Wverybody! (1)

KWolfe81 (1593877) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719151)

We would be working with Zoidberg and be drinking Slurm.

More like working with Austrailians in a slave-labor camp while that squid enjoys his krill!

Did we REALLY go to the moon? (0, Troll)

Zoidbot (1194453) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718527)

We've all seen Capricorn One...

I can't seriously believe that the same country that inflicted the Xbotch360 on us, that fails to work for more than a couple of months, is the same on that claims they went to the moon...

Yes - Unlike Your Shit Country, America Kicks Ass (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719171)

Has your shitty country ever even put anyone in orbit yet?

No, I don't mean hitching a ride to space from a strong country in exchange for blowing the mission commander. I mean building a rocket, throwing a few citizens on board and showing the rest of the world how awesome you are.

Come to think of it, has your shit country ever even produced anything nearly as advanced as the XBotch360?

No? Well I guess that means you need to shut the fuck up and show some respect to your superiors.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28718535)

The moon may have been a harsh mistress, but I guess we shall never know.

If Apollo program had continued (5, Insightful)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718545)

Highly likely that:
1) We would have full time orbital manned space station at all times.
2) Visits between Moon and Orbital station would be LESS frequent.
3) Visits between Moon and Earth would be MORE frequent. (because Apollo lifts off from Earth. Public-Private partnership would see to it that NASA doesn't use the most economical way of transport)
4) No Space Shuttle. Rockets all the way. (Why mess with something that works)
5) Ion Spacecraft launched to Asteroids.
6) Still no man on Mars. But a permanent computerized research station on Mars that operates from fixed locations.
7) No Mars Rover. The Rover was a roaming answer. Fixed stations would necessitate no rover.
8) SALT II would have long been abandoned and Earth would be surrounded by nuke armed stations.
9) No Cruise missiles. Why build a Mosquito when an Elephant would be cheaper.

Re:If Apollo program had continued (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718975)

4) No Space Shuttle. Rockets all the way. (Why mess with something that works)

We would have a space shuttle. It simply wouldn't be the "jack of all trades, master of none" we got.

The space shuttle was supposed to be a lightweight launch craft for transporting people to/from LEO where they could rendezvous with a space station and take a transport to a location like the moon. Economically, it made a lot of sense. It would have been fairly simple, cheap to operate, and with fewer disposable parts than the Saturn V. (Which basically throws away millions of pounds of hardware to return barely a few tons of mass. Very wasteful.)

So what went wrong?

Obviously, the same politics that killed the moon program. Nixon told NASA that they could have one launch vehicle, and the Saturn V was too expensive to be "it". Oh, and they needed to meet the military's needs for a launch vehicle as well, because the Titan rockets were also too expensive.

NASA got out their abacuses, ran some numbers, decided that the shuttle was key to a future space station, and committed to producing a super-shuttle that could be all things to all people. After all, they had the technology, right? Right?

Well, sort of. The engineers did an amazing job of producing the most sophisticated piece of space equipment ever designed. The power curves were incredible and the engines left the Saturn V in the dust. Only problem: It was a hellva lot of mass to send up and bring back, leaving little room for cargo. Worse yet, it was so complex that maintenance costs were through the roof. In the end, it would have been cheaper to continue operating the Saturn V with the economics of scale resulting in MORE cost reductions than the Shuttle ever realized!

What I'm getting at is that if we're going to play along with this dream-world where politics don't kill off programs, we'd have the Saturn V, the space shuttle, the space station (with artificial gravity!), and transport tugs originally envisioned by NASA. Because all those pieces have to fit together to make this mythical lunar base of 5,000 people possible.

Back here in reality, all those ideas were doomed from the beginning. The politicians only ever supported the space program to combat the USSR. By the 1970's, the Soviet Union had already collapsed. They were just coasting on momentum from there on out. That's why (save for a push by Regan to push the USSR to the brink of bankruptcy) the space program never recovered. There was no political need. And anyone who knows anything about politics knows that there has to be a need commiserate with size of the solution before there will be a large commitment. Hopes, dreams, and peaceful exploration ala Star Trek just don't cut it. :-(

Re:If Apollo program had continued (1)

Fallen Seraph (808728) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719307)

The irony is that the replacement for the shuttle is going to be... a rocket >.>

Re:If Apollo program had continued (3, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719427)

It's not ironic at all. NASA made an economic misstep by developing the Shuttle. The economics of launch vehicles favor the inline stack with smaller boosters for man-rated vehicles and larger boosters for cargo. Ne'er the two shall meet.

In absence of a clear need for a space station as a rendezvous point, taking a step backwards to more sophisticated capsules is how you get back on track for economic success.

Re:If Apollo program had continued (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719379)

Also, budget cuts at the wrong parts of development. Replacing titanium structure with aluminum, for example.

In retrospect, the real mistake was not acting on the Shuttle II papers in the late eighties and instead concentrating on even more complicated systems like the X-30 and X-33.

Re:If Apollo program had continued (1)

Beatlebum (213957) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719447)

>> The power curves were incredible and the engines left the Saturn V in the dust

Not really. The Saturn V was the most powerful engine ever built. It consisted of five F-1 rocket engines, each of which is more powerful than all three SSMEs(Space Shuttle Main Engines).

Re:If Apollo program had continued (3, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719017)

8) SALT II would have long been abandoned and Earth would be surrounded by nuke armed stations.
9) No Cruise missiles. Why build a Mosquito when an Elephant would be cheaper.

Read up on the Revolt of the Admirals [wikipedia.org] sometime. There's a good reason why we have cruise missiles and not nukes. It's not for want of orbital platforms.

Re:If Apollo program had continued (2, Insightful)

pha7boy (1242512) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719081)

I don't see the connection between rocket development, moon exploration, and SALT II. Reagan would still have been a nuclear abolitionist, his meetings with Gorbachev would still have discussed the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons, maybe even more so if there had ever been nuclear bases in space.

To me it's sad that what seems like a very plausible counterfactual of what would have happend had congress not hamstrung NASA in the late 1960s is now a work of science fiction. Then again, all is not necessarily lost. Maybe something can be salvaged, even if I will not live to see it come to fruition.

One of three things: (1)

itomato (91092) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718551)

1: We would be whooshing around in solid fuel powered Jet Packs, and global warming would be a non-issue.

2: We would be whooshing around in liquid hydrocarbon Jet Cars, and global warming would be tripled.

3: We would be whooshing around on in intergalactic cruise ships, reclining in hovering lounge chairs, clapping for robot-delivered lunch-in-a-cup.

Re:One of three things: (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719257)

Ironically, if you ahve number 3, then by necessity you wouldn't ahve a trash problem.
I mean, they could ahve just build self sufficient high rises. And it would have been cheaper.

I mean, how to do live on a ship for so many generation and dump your waste? Stupid.

Still a great movie.

What if Kennedy hadn't committed to the landing? (1, Informative)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718561)

What if Kennedy had set a lesser goal, such as orbiting the moon?

The Russians quite probably could have achieved with with Soyuz-based technology. We "know" this, sorta, because recently someone proposed putting a Soyuz capsule around the moon [constellat...rvices.com] for a rich billionaire with $100m to spare.

Now you're in the situation where both superpowers are orbiting the moon, which makes it a military race. You can drop stuff easily from lunar orbit down to the earth, so both powers have to remain there.

Assuming we hadn't ended up dead (this is a high risk alternate history) I suspect we'd be a lot further along in space travel and technology now.


Re:What if Kennedy hadn't committed to the landing (2, Informative)

flowsnake (1051494) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718703)

What if Kennedy had set a lesser goal, such as orbiting the moon?

The Russians quite probably could have achieved with with Soyuz-based technology. We "know" this, sorta, because recently someone proposed putting a Soyuz capsule around the moon [constellat...rvices.com] for a rich billionaire with $100m to spare.

The Soviets did have the Luna programme [wikipedia.org] - including Luna 10, the first artificial satellite of the moon. Interestingly, they focussed on robot exploration of the moon and remote collection of samples - probably closer in principle to the methods that will be used for future exploration of other planets in our solar system than manned flights.

Re:What if Kennedy hadn't committed to the landing (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719343)

What if Kennedy had set a lesser goal, such as orbiting the moon?

There's no tangible goal to take to the people there. What do you say? "Ha! We circled a man around the moon first!"? Doesn't hold much punch.

Do you remember who the first man was to orbit the earth? The vast majority of people wouldn't be able to answer. Some might answer "John Glenn". Only a small fraction of a percent of people would correctly answer Yuri Gagarin.

Do you remember who first set foot on the moon? Do you remember what his first words were? The fact that I don't have to answer either question speaks for itself.

We would have gone bankrupt (4, Insightful)

flowsnake (1051494) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718567)

The rate of spending was unsustainable; we simply could not afford it, no matter how useful the research outputs might have been. On a more prosaic level, once the Cold War posturing had been successfully implemented, the political benefits would be virtually zero - even if the science would be extremely valuable.

I'm sceptical. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718583)

Had we spent more on Apollo, we would have had more stuff on the moon. It is much less clear, though, that the economic relevance of doing so would have been any brighter than it is now.

TFA presents a fairly rosy picture, where lifting stuff, including vationers, out of Earth's gravity is routine and (relatively) cheap. Presumably, more Apollo would have driven some cost reduction; but that much?

TFA's predictions of bustling free markets on the moon seem even less plausible. With the possible exception of helium-3, the moon contains basically nothing worth shipping back to earth. Exploiting lunar resources really only makes sense to support lunar research activities(like big huge telescopes on the dark side) which might be "private" in the sense of "conducted by people not directly employed by the feds"; but would be largely publicly supported basic research stuff.

I'm not seeing it.

Re:I'm sceptical. (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719131)

Aluminum, Iron, and Titanium. All in sufficient quantities to be worth extracting. And putting a mass driver to get it up to space cheaply is not in anybody's backyard, especially if you do it on the dark side of the moon. For building large things in space (like a version of Iridium where the ERP was the same as a cellphone tower's or solar power satellites or space habitats or any number of other things) it's cheaper to mass-driver it from the moon and have a refinery in orbit than to ship it up from Earth, given that you can't be in somebody's backyard or use nuclear rockets in the atmosphere.

Johnson City is a nice place... (4, Funny)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718607)

...but it's got no atmosphere...

...not as nice as Wangville. (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719011)

Yeah, apparently shipping up lava tube sealant enough to make a kilometre diameter section airtight for the city would have been trivial.

I think they would have bust their heads trying to get moon-dust concrete to cure, never mind sealing vast cathedrals of lava tubes. Never mind the moon dust problem in itself.

Even if they had sensibly chosen a 20m diameter lava tube, it would have taken years to seal off, never mind having airlocks every 50m for safety. Given the speed of ISS construction, it would have taken a few years just to get a stairway from the surface to the bottom of the lava tube.

It simply wasn't viable. It would have been cool, but nothing was known about actually going beyond trips to the moon.

However I hope it happens within my lifetime.

The Secret Studios in Nevada Would be Busy.... (4, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718609)

The Secret studios in Nevada where they faked the moon landings would be really busy, they would be having to fake not only the moon bases, but the Mars landings and the bases there as well.

Because we never made it past low earth orbit.

The Above thread is sarcastic, if you hadn't noticed.

Re:The Secret Studios in Nevada Would be Busy.... (1)

WankersRevenge (452399) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718903)

Orbit? The last message I got through my tin foil hat was that they were still trying to figure out suborbital flight which I think is bogus. This whole flight thing is all a bunch of smoke and mirrors fueled by the liberal media so we will watch more television.

In any case, you should check out the movie Capricorn One [wikipedia.org]. It's an oldie but goodie where NASA fakes a mars landing. Would you believe it stars at young OJ?

Re:The Secret Studios in Nevada Would be Busy.... (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719253)

Why do you think they framed him for murdering his Ex-wife and her boyfriend???

Lucky for us OJ fought the power.

But that didn't help him as those sneaky snakes framed him for something else.

Re:The Secret Studios in Nevada Would be Busy.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719317)

The space shuttle never made it past low earth orbit. Other launch vehicles do make it past low earth orbit, take geosynchronous satellites for example or craft that travels other planets. Some of the communication satellites are as big as a bus the lunar landers were no larger. The lunar landers also had rockets made for them can can no longer be made which is why we are making new rockets for possible mars missions. We made it to the moon, it was hard, lives were lost in the progress and many new technologies resulted from the missions, Mars/moon missions would be no different, if we don't push the boundaries our civilization will die. There may also be resources out there that we can use that don't exist on the earth but how will we know about them if we don't even try to find them?

The plot of IronSky wouldnt make sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28718617)

and then Slashdotters wouldnt be able to welcome their Nazi ... oh wait.

Apollo (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718699)

Both programmes followed up on the German research, USSR took the workers, US the lead engineers and in the end the USSR was the first in space. Sputnik crisis. That was shocking for the US. The US space program was an attempt to catch up with the Soviets. So if the US had not succeeded the USSR would.

My guess (0)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718711)

We would now try to colonize the moon with all the negative side-effects you can imagine. But guess what, it didn't happen so there is no point in speculating because it will never become anything more than speculating.

Re:My guess (3, Funny)

PBoyUK (1591865) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719423)

You're right, such speculation is a needless waste of time. Though not quite as silly as reading and complaining about said speculation in response to an article on that very subject.

we need a definitive goal (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718767)

what i mean is, just going out there just to have a look-see isn't a valid reason to spend quadrillions. we need to

1. discover an alien race, or
2. be faced with the definitive soon upcoming extinction of earth as a supportive biosphere for some reason, whether man made or cosmic or terrestrial in origin, or
3. discover some fantastic energy source or resource out there (or drug... spice?)
4. more tribal chest thumping and grandstanding a la the cold war

these are reasons that are easy to grasp and easily capture the attention and the imagination of all. this provides the political and cultural and popular compunction to spend large sums of cash on the endeavour

sure, there are lots of reasons to go out there right now. except they are all amorphous and ill-defined and longwinded. something pressing and urgent and/ or clear and easy to grasp is what is needed to get us motivated

there really is no motivation to go out there right now. again, i mean solid, clear, urgent, and earnest motivation

Re:we need a definitive goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28718873)

Or if some interdimensional alien squid monsters teleported into major Earth cities, killing millions...

Re:we need a definitive goal (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718989)

The question is, 'is there life out there?'

The answer is a profound one whether it's yes or no.

but too vague and high minded (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719397)

you have to put the question in concrete direct and compelling terms, like: holy fucking shit, that planet we just found near regulus is showing clear signs of photosynthesis

then we have a deep and strong desire to get our asses to regulus. not some sort of vague idea to go "out there"

we need concrete goals, not nebulous ones (pun intended)

Re:we need a definitive goal (1)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719227)

discover an alien race

all we have to do is wait for ww3 to be over and wait for vulcans to show up once we construct a warp drive in montana :D

Re:we need a definitive goal (4, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719229)

Item 2 is a dead certainty. Take a look around with Google maps. See if you can find spots on the planet where there are marks of impact craters. Look at the small one in Arizona - it is 3 miles across and a mile deep still after 50,000 years of erosion. Now think about what the day was like 50,000 year ago when it hit. Likely to have been a very, very bad day in the Southwest US. I suspect stuff was falling in what is now San Francisco. Lots of stuff. Big stuff. If that rock hit us today it would likely wipe out all life in most of the Southwest US and possibly take out everyone in Mexico as well. Remember, 50,000 years ago there were people on the planet, people that you would recognize as human.

Take a look at Wolfe Creek in Australia - it is 35 million years old and you can still easily see it from space. Think about the day that hit.

There are plenty more examples. Look around for nice round lakes in Canada. A good portion of them are impact craters.

OK, these things are spread out over a long period of time. But the key here is that we haven't been hit in a long time. We haven't been hit by anything big in a very long time. Over a long enough period, it is an absolute certainty we will be hit again. Even a small rock is going to cause a massive loss of life, whereas a big one could wipe out all life on a continent. A water strike - actually the most likely - would probably scoure everything off the grouund for hundreds of miles on all nearby coasts. An Atlantic hit would utterly destroy Europe to nearly Switzerland and Indiana on the US side. South America would be almost devoid of life.

There are three choices: hope that God will protect us and it will never happen to his Chosen people (whoever they are), be able to go out and prevent an impact, or be somewhere else when it comes. Right now, we are operating under the first alternative which I suspect most people will agree sucks. The second is not utterly beyond our capabilities, but it would be tough and require plenty of warning. I'm certainly in favor of a combination of the second and third alternatives. The third implies a self-sustaining outpost that could survive if Earth was wiped out. We are a long way from that being a realistic possibility. But it is something to strive for.

The way things are now, all we can do is hope for a benevolent God that will protect us. And maybe hope for Santa Clause to come and give us all what we need if it did happen. Sorry, I gave up on these options when I was about eight.

http://www.ceptone.com/index.php (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28718799)

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What does the moon have, that Earth does not? (4, Insightful)

goffster (1104287) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718901)

Even the Earth has a whole lot of undeveloped acreage in the ocean.

Rosy bullshit (4, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718917)

All the discussions about the space program overlook a critical fact. It costs about $10,000 a kilogram or more to lift anything into low earth orbit. That means that the entire manned space program is virtually useless : there's no point in learning how to put people into space and have them survive if no affordable way for a lot of people and supplies to go into space exists. If every kilo costs 10 grand, it makes a heck of a lot more sense to send robots and equipment into space than to send people. Even repairing Hubble never made any sense : it would have been a lot cheaper to build a brand new telescope every time than to pay for each repair mission.

The only way a moon base or a space station or a space hotel or anything else will ever be practical is if that launch cost is reduced through new technology. Personally, out of all the proposals I've ever seen, only one new technology makes the slightest bit of sense : laser launch.

Re:Rosy bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719197)

Do you have any idea how expensive (and heavy) it is to make and transport the main mirror into LEO?

Re:Rosy bullshit (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719327)

For Hubble? I recall it cost about a billion to make the first one. Presumably, cheaper copies could have been built, and launched using rockets.

Re:Rosy bullshit (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719403)

NASA has existed since the late 70's largely as a corporate welfare program for defense contractors -- the companies needed a way to keep their skilled employees employed between contracts as the requirements of the cold war was shifting.

The shuttle was originally conceived as a cheap way to get to orbit, but even by the time it was first launched, the management knew that it was NEVER going to fly at the costs the public and some of congress were told to get it funded. For 30 years now the Shuttle and ISS have been used as excuses to fund each other precisely for those reasons.

Because doing things that make sense has never been a requirement of the manned space program, they continue to make ridiculous decisions for poor reasons. Fixing the Hubble, as you mentioned, is a perfect example -- they could've built and launched a new one for less than this last repair mission cost, but it got a week solid of national TV coverage to have astronauts doing it.

Shuttle missions, in general, are ridiculous -- it costs nearly as much to recertify the spacecraft between flights as it would to make a new one from scratch.

Things will start to take off when companies start doing this. There are fantastic things that NASA does with its science-focused arm, but the manned space program is one of the worst examples of government waste.

Simularities Bizzaro World (2, Funny)

chazd1 (805324) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718923)

We would still be driving around the planet in gasoline driven speedsters.

We would not have not cured world hunger.

We would have more than enough nuclear warheads to destroy the planet.

Wars would not have been abolished.

The 747 wouldn't still be the largest airliner.

Oh yeah.. wait a minute, where have I been?

Nothing too good (2, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718927)

We would have some buildings on the Moon, a much less unmanned space exploration history, a few more advances in the relevant technology, and even bigger a debt.

As interesting as going to the Moon can be, going there ourselves for 40 years continuously would serve little scientific purpose (cue the responses that we are meant to live in space like in all the cool scifi novels and that it should be our #1 priority regardless of reality), waste a lot of money (more than it'd be worth, scientifically) and divert resources from higher ROI science, like huge space telescopes and such.

So yeah, it was cool while it lasted, but I won't cry over what could have been, because it's not like there could possibly have been any drive to do more after over a decade of space racing.

Re:Nothing too good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719401)

thank you. this is good haber [birincikuvvet.com] prefabrik [imeceprefabrik.com.tr]

I see (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718951)

Apparently this alternate time line would be just like a 50s Science Fiction aimed at children, awesome! So I'll guess, the moon would be primarily inhabited by boy explorers who say "Gosh" a lot.

Re:I see (2, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719211)

"Gosh" said Billy.

Jane looked up, quizzically. "What's up?"

"I'm still coughing up blood," said Billy, who had stopped trying to revise his airlock safety certificate paper. "It's not getting any better. This moon dust is horrible. I wish we could go back to Earth, but sadly our bones are too damn weak. If only we had done some basic research before striking out into space and setting up colonies."

"Gosh", said Jane. "Anyway, it's time for your monthly wash, we've bought enough credits for 1 minute of hot water."

Retirement communities on the moon (1)

goffster (1104287) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718961)

Seems to me to be the best use of the moon. Hearts last longer, perhaps, in less gravity ?
Old rich people squander their children's inheritance to gain another 10 years living
on the moon. Retirement homes on Earth are about as lonely as living on the moon.

Re:Retirement communities on the moon (2, Insightful)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719089)

Less gravity is good for the arthritis, too.
That's a brilliant plan. Moon = new Florida.

Commercialization! (1)

zhilla2 (1586095) | more than 4 years ago | (#28718977)

It's a nice dream. But what strikes me as bit weird - is that there are AFAIK huge natural resources on the moon. It's basically a goldmine! So what is stopping today's multinational super-corporations from exploiting it? No natives to subdue?
And lets be realistic - only way human race is getting to moon again is commercialization.

Moon Porn for sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28718999)

image what can be done in 1/6 g.

A bunch of space cadet masturbation. (2, Informative)

cmowire (254489) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719073)

We still haven't established what happens long-term in low-gravity. We know that zero-g is not someplace you could live forever. Is lunar gravity sufficient? We don't actually know. And it's one thing to follow the science fiction cliche that the martians and moonies couldn't adapt to Earth gravity anymore.... it's another thing if the first moonie baby is horribly disfigured.

We don't even know if, were you to raise ten generations of rats in a 1-g centerfuge and ten generations on Earth if the centerfuge rats would be healthy by comparison.

Helium-3 is also present on Earth. You can buy it by the tank. If just getting access to Helium-3 was enough to make fusion possible, we'd at least have one pilot reactor that was able to produce a decent sized net energy gain.

There was a significant concern inside of NASA that our flawless luck of moon launches would run out. What if we had done a few more missions and 19 left us with dead astronauts on the moon when the LM couldn't lift off? Do you think we'd have continued at that point? Remember, there could have been one more moon landing with the hardware we had but NASA didn't want to launch it.

The problem is, cutting off the Apollo program in favor of the Space Shuttle made fairly good sense at the time and awful sense in retrospect. Even a fool can predict the past.

Re:A bunch of space cadet masturbation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719453)

You know, for a long time now I've wanted to raise a couple of generations of rats, in a 2-3 g centrifuge and see if I could raise a race of super-powerful rats. Ok, actually, I want to do it with humans, but I think we need animal trials first. Has anyone ever done this (with rats or mice or at least fruitflies)?

what if the Apollo program never happened (2, Insightful)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719075)

While a great triumph for NASA, the Apollo program was chiefly devised to beat the USSR to the moon and thereby provide an immense propaganda victory over the commies. Once that was achieved, it had little practical use in developing space exploration.

The US actually put its own space plane on the back burner for the duration of the Apollo program. What would have happened if the Apollo program never happened, they might have continued development of the X-15 and we would have had a safe reliable Space Shuttle decades sooner.

'The .. X-15 [wikipedia.org] rocket-powered aircraft .. set speed and altitude records in the early 1960s'

certain movies... (1)

stillpixel (1575443) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719103)

would not have been created, because we would know better than to believe in landing oil drilling teams on asteroids and trying to blow them up with nukes.

space station to be deorbited in 2016 (2, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719113)

Kind silly spending $100B on something that only lasts 6 years.

Small moon base (2, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719125)

The ISS and Hubble would probably be replaced with a small moon based research lab and observatory. While the value of the lab wouldn't be greater than the current ISS, moon-based telescopes (optical and radio) would probably far outperform anything we've got today.

The other changes would be the trickle-down effects of the technology developed to support such a base. Specifically, higher performance and cheaper solar power arrays would probably be commonplace.

I don't think a lunar base would be a stepping off point for a manned Mars mission. Robotics would be more or less where they are today, since the state of the art is not driven by NASA or military requirements. Unless the moon base revealed some necessity for having people on the ground, it might be an argument against further manned missions.

What if Apollo had continued... (5, Interesting)

theendlessnow (516149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719163)

If the Apollo program had continued:
  1. Children would still be drinking Tang.
  2. Saddam could have hid his WMDs on the moon instead of a suburb of New Jersey (shhh! it's a secret).
  3. Even more things could have been made from "space age materials".
  4. Apple would prohibit the Palm Pre from using iTunes (arguably, this happens no matter what).
  5. Michael Jackson's funeral would have been in space. Saving LA the hassle.
  6. Mythbusters would get to see if a large scale nuclear explosion really would push the moon out of earth's orbit.

Houston we have a problem (1)

pkbarbiedoll (851110) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719193)

America is going in the wrong direction. The Apollo missions were one of many highlights of America at its peak. Now U.S. schools barely prepare kids to be service workers, not scientists or engineers. America doesn't teach industrial education very much anymore (why bother when other countries with lower costs of living offer the same products at cheaper rates).

There are so many reasons why America as the world once it is coming to an end.

where would we be now? (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719241)


Police: Are you classified as human?
Korben Dallas: Negative, I am a meat popsicle.

Let me get this straight... (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719243)

After Apollo Twenty Congress took the manned space program away from NASA and handed it over to the Navy, there are now half a dozen space stations, two moon bases, and Admiral Heinlein never let the Soviets build spacecraft.

Or did I read the wrong article?

We would all be dead now. (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719249)

More missions would have lead to colonization of the moon, and would inevitably lead to us finding the secret alien outpost, which would piss them off and force them to eradicate us.

We'd have another antarctica (5, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719325)

... but on the Moon (and without the penguins)

What benefits would we have got? Hard to say, probably nothing tangible - just a group of half-a-dozen scientists and technicians spending a few months at a time far out of the public gaze. There might be the occasional documentary, but there's only so much footage of rocks and dust - and one patch of dirt looks a lot like any other. So I doubt there'd be much about it in the news (again, just like antarctica). Just about the only time it would make the headlines is when there's a debate about cutting funding (again), or when something goes wrong - or when there's an expose about the billions being spent on it, for not-much in the way of returns.

Is that what we thought we'd get?

Story in Asimov's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719375)

I recall a story in either Asimov's [asimovs.com] or Analog [analogsf.com] that posited this same idea. A single year extension and they discover ice on the lunar poles, then differences back home (Jerry Brown and Jesse Jackson as presidents) and a culmination with Walter Cronkite doing a live remote on the lunar surface to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first landing. One of the underlying themes was people in that alternate future wishing history had taken a slightly different course and even more had been accomplished. Anyone else remember this story?

I have a BETTER idea Than N.A.S.A.: +1, Helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28719399)

It's called Energia [energia.ru]

Hopefully, after the Shuttle is retired, N.A.S.A. will
outsource their launches to Energia rather than the U.S.-based fly-by-night private space launch companies.

Yours In Kazakhstan,
Kilgore Trout

Not apollo (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#28719415)

I would have rather they had stuck with the dropship idea like they ran with the X-15 and now Rutan's/Branson's method, at least for light duty, low earth orbit human movers. Big dumb capsules are good for moving bulk freight, but we need a real highly reusable, fast turn around and cheap spaceplane. The shuttle is a compromise between the two and just didn't cut it. There's trucks, then cars, we need both.

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