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China's First Lunar Lander To Launch Today; Manned Mission Planned By 2030

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the new-cheese-mines dept.

China 137

c0lo writes "A Chinese Long March rocket is scheduled to blast off to the Moon on Sunday evening at about 6pm UTC carrying a small robotic rover that will touch down on to the lunar surface in about two weeks' time – the first soft landing on the Earth's only natural satellite since 1976. China has been methodically and patiently building up the key elements needed for an advanced space programme — from launchers to manned missions in Earth orbit to unmanned planetary craft — and it is investing heavily. After only 10 years since it independently sent its first astronaut into space, China is forging ahead with a bold three-step programme beginning with the robotic exploration of possible landing sites for the first Chinese astronauts to set foot on lunar soil between 2025 and 2030. Prof Ouyang Ziyuan of the department of lunar and deep space exploration and an adviser to the mission commented to the BBC on the scale of Chinese thinking about the Moon. He said the forthcoming venture would land in an ancient crater 400km wide called Sinus Iridum, thought to be relatively flat and clear of rocks, and explore its geology. China.org.cn promised live coverage of the event."

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137 comments

Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (0)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 5 months ago | (#45561141)

. . .and raise you a busted website.
Because #Progress.

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561313)

I predict there will be dead Chinese Astronauts on the moon.

50% chance they will become stranded and die and 50% change they just crash and die.

I think I remember reading those were pretty much our odds too.

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (4, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 5 months ago | (#45561329)

I predict there will be dead Chinese Astronauts on the moon.

That permanent presence will back their territorial claim over the entire satellite, followed by a declared "defensive identification zone".

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (2)

wooferhound (546132) | about 5 months ago | (#45561809)

If the US government thinks that another country is going to seriously land humans on the Moon then everything will change. It will become a second Space Race and US people will be the first to land there a second time.

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562329)

If they are, it'll be a private company that lands them there. The american government has repeatedly shown they have no real interest in space exploration or, for that matter, pretty much anything that could benefit their people or the future of their country. There's a reason their military sucks down NASA's entire budget every 10 days, and China's military budget every 2 months.

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about 5 months ago | (#45563095)

"The american government has repeatedly shown they have no real interest in space exploration "

How do you explain all the unmanned probes flying around and even flying out of the solar system? Or the various Mars landers which have been instrumental in testing the various technologies and capabilities needed for further space exploration? Or the X-37B reusable space plane that has been flying missions into orbit for the last 4+ years? Or the manned version of the X-37B currently being tested? Looks like someone in the US is still interested in space exploration and developing the technologies needed to expand space exploration. Add in the private companies willing to risk huge sums of money for potential profits well into the future and space exploration is being pursued quite vigorously. Also you may want to check into the Chinese defense budget a little closer. Their budget has been growing exponentially over the past 15 years and that is assuming that the budget numbers the Chinese government publishes. If they want to go to the moon good for them. The US has already been their a couple of times and discovered there really is not a whole lot to see other than some rocks. Maybe in the future it will be possible to build a base on the moon but there are still some technologies needed to protect humans for extended trips into space.

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 5 months ago | (#45562495)

Yeah, this, except I'll bet you five bucks that once they have their "lander" on the moon, manned or not, they'll try to claim the entire Moon as a Chinese territory.

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562601)

You mean just like the US tried to when they planted their flag on it?

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (2)

mlts (1038732) | about 5 months ago | (#45561695)

Technology has improved greatly. This doesn't mean it will be trivial to do, but we got people on the moon with computers far less powerful than an embedded Bluetooth controller.

With the advancement of unmanned space probes, the path to get men back on the moon is made far easier. Things like a blown oxygen tank can be just a blip on a sensor, not a major funeral or cause to build a monument. Of course, this doesn't downplay the effort it takes to get stuff to the moon, but mistakes which would be in the history books would be relegated to "just" money lost, and if there is one thing China has, it is capital.

China is breaking ground, but this isn't completely uncharted territory. They have all of Russia's experience (and mishaps) to start off with.

Re:2030? (1, Interesting)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 5 months ago | (#45561925)

I'll be surprised if there aren't tourists on the moon long before 2030. SpaceX's next-gen "man-rated" Dragon capsule will be flying in a couple of years, and the gap between that and a lunar landing/return capability is pretty well understood territory. It's not quite "off the shelf" yet, but there are plenty of folks working on the necessary technology. And if, in the meantime, they get their Grasshopper RLV into service, that will slash the cost dramatically.

Hell, Elon expects to have people on Mars before that. AFAIK he hasn't talked much about a moon trip, but others have. It's just a matter of time.

Re:Beijing: we'll see your lunar launch (3, Interesting)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 5 months ago | (#45562593)

And it may be that any new lunar lander should use a similarly capable computer. If the urge to use newer hardware takes over, it won't be long before some asshole suggests the next lander be controlled by software written in Java running on Android. Ask the astronauts about the laptops they were given to control ISS systems. But only if you're prepared for an earful.

Add to that the fact that modern low voltage, tiny feature size hardware is much more susceptible to the affects of cosmic rays than the old gear. Once you leave the Van Allen belts, you're getting pelted with a lot more crap, and it's much easier to flip a bit in modern RAM than it was in the older stuff. If you want radiation-hardened chips, suddenly you're talking about 4 or 5 generations back, if you're lucky. Didn't Intel say they were going to stop making their radiation-hardened gear at all? So now you have to provide external shielding, and preferably multiple redundant tell-me-three-times systems, so if one of them loses its feeble mind during operations, the other two can agree to ignore it and still get you landed in one piece.

The problem remains nontrivial and expensive simply because nobody has been doing it much. There are no economies of scale beyond LEO and there are only any economies of scale to LEO now because of SpaceX. It won't be easy, for China or anyone else.

Space race anybody? (5, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 5 months ago | (#45561145)

Good for them. I wish them the best of luck.

I kind of hope this kicks off another space race. That would be so much better then a battleship arms race (see WWI) or a nuclear arms race (see cold war).

Re:Space race anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561169)

Because in space, no weapons are allowed except by Bigelow... and he's dead.

Re:Space race anybody? (1, Interesting)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 5 months ago | (#45561233)

the space race was really about making ICBMs. sputnik intentionally looks like the nose cone of a missile.

why do you think the whole thing was supported by the DoD?

Re:Space race anybody? (4, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#45561381)

the space race was really about making ICBMs. sputnik intentionally looks like the nose cone of a missile.

It's worth noting that the nose cone of orbital-capable rockets would look like nose cones of ICBM missiles anyway, because they're solving the same problem - handling high atmospheric loading on the front of a rocket.

And if you're already making ICBM missiles (the R-7 being the first such and the basis for the Sputnik rocket), it makes sense to base an early orbital vehicle off that frame as well for economies of scale (US private industry did the same with the Atlas, Titan, and Delta series).

So Sputnik probably would have looked like an ICBM even if that wasn't the actual intent of the Soviet program.

Re:Space race anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561507)

It's worth noting that the nose cone of orbital-capable rockets would look like nose cones of ICBM missiles anyway, because they're solving the same problem - handling high atmospheric loading on the front of a rocket.

Launch and reentry are aerodynamically different problems. A reentering vehicle, including a missile, needs to lose enough speed to reach the ground without burning up (but doesn't need to avoid crashing if it's a missile) while an ascending vehicle needs as little drag as possible and is also moving slower (while in the atmosphere).

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#45561585)

Launch and reentry are aerodynamically different problems.

The ICBM and the orbital rocket both have to launch. If that fails, one doesn't get to a reentry problem. And a reentering warhead can take both substantial heating and deceleration.

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#45561413)

sputnik intentionally looks like the nose cone of a missile.

And it was launched with a rocket that had been developed as an ICBM.

Oddly enough, Redstone (suborbital Mercury flights) was an IRBM, Atlas (orbital Mercury flights) was an ICBM, and Titan (Gemini launches) was an ICBM.

Re:Space race anybody? (3, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#45561669)

sputnik intentionally looks like the nose cone of a missile.

Sputnik was spherical. Cones, surprisingly, are conical.

Stop making stuff up.

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#45561857)

Sputnik's antenna roughly define a cone. Presumably to fit under the aero shell used at launch.

Re:Space race anybody? (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#45562237)

Since there are IIRC four of them you could equally claim it "roughly defines" a square-based pyramid.

And unless you're close you don't even see the spindly things, just the body. So no, it doesn't look like one at all.

Re:Space race anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45563713)

sputnik intentionally looks like the nose cone of a missile.

Sputnik was spherical. Cones, surprisingly, are conical.

Sputnik 1 was spherical. Sputnik 2 and 3 were conical. (That said, the GP is also an idiot. Rockets for all purposes have the shape they do because of physics.)

Re:Space race anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561693)

the space race was really about making ICBMs. sputnik intentionally looks like the nose cone of a missile.

why do you think the whole thing was supported by the DoD?

Except sputnik does not look like a warhead. It's spherical, not conical.

Re:Space race anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562035)

The Space Race was a politically popular way to leapfrog technologically. Everybody loves space exploration - citizens, politicians, scientists/engineers, contractors. It's kind of a no-brainer and amazing we haven't been pushing ourselves harder into new frontiers.

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 5 months ago | (#45561281)

A race when an opponent has reached the finish line in friggin 1969?

Well, apparently a man on the moon is the second technological feat that is impossible today but achievable in the 70.
The first one is packaging things in a way that can be opened easily. I could easily open a pack of c90 tapes one handed as a 10 years old, I couldn't do the same with CDRs at 25 using both hands, i can't unpack an SD card without some tool now. I guess lasers will be needed in 10 years.

You Misunderstand (4, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 5 months ago | (#45561341)

A race when an opponent has reached the finish line in friggin 1969?

The equation is different now. There are resources to be mined on the moon. It's not a matter of if we will exploit the moon's natural resources, it's when. China already holds the cards on many basic materials of technology, they would like to hold more.

Re:You Misunderstand (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about 5 months ago | (#45561769)

It seems inevitable that there are resources to be mined. But the problem is setting up the facilities to mine it in the first place. Then there's shipping. Doesn't make much sense to send a million dollars worth of material back if shipping will cost 10 million dollars. So we're pretty far away from that, IMHO.

Re:You Misunderstand (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 5 months ago | (#45561835)

Depends really, if this million dollars of materials easily obtainable here? Is it even available here? Imagine if gold is found on the moon having been formed back during the moons initial creation. You don't think people would mine it regardless the costs.

Re:You Misunderstand (2)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 5 months ago | (#45562137)

gold isn't formed anywhere, except at the center of the sun. and in my basement from a supply of lead bricks.

Re:You Misunderstand (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 5 months ago | (#45561943)

Doesn't make much sense to send a million dollars worth of material back if shipping will cost 10 million dollars.

Not now . Who knows about the future.

It may not be "profitable" now, but the ground work for the mining technology has to be done sometime.

And as some commenters have suggested, China may very well declare some large slice of moon to be Chinese territory by having a human plant a flag...

Re:You Misunderstand (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 5 months ago | (#45562105)

I thought the UN had put a ban on any country claiming the moon as their territory.

If it's as simple as planting a flag the US did that.

I think the first country to establish a permanent settlement on the moon would have more claim over that territory.

Re:You Misunderstand (1)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#45562251)

I thought the UN had put a ban on any country claiming the moon as their territory.

And why is that supposed to be relevant? They're a powerless about stuff in space, unless someone with actual relevant power decides to enforce their rules.

I think the first country to establish a permanent settlement on the moon would have more claim over that territory.

Quite true. Possession is nine tenths of the law.

Re:You Misunderstand (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 5 months ago | (#45562671)

I think the first country to establish a permanent settlement on the moon would have more claim over that territory.

And what exactly do you think China is doing developing manned moon mission technology?

Re:You Misunderstand (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#45562499)

Electromagnetic rail FTW. You only need what, 1.5 km/s? That's definitely not beyond the realm of possibility.

Re:You Misunderstand (1)

tibman (623933) | about 5 months ago | (#45563099)

It doesn't have to go back to Earth. A million dollars worth of fuel on Earth is probably worth 100 million dollars in space.

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#45561415)

A race when an opponent has reached the finish line in friggin 1969?

Well, apparently a man on the moon is the second technological feat that is impossible today but achievable in the 70.

That second part is important. By doing so, China demonstrates that it can do one of the greatest feats that mankind has done to this point. If at the time, the US is incapable of duplicating that feat, then that's a bit of a propaganda advantage in China's favor.

The first one is packaging things in a way that can be opened easily. I could easily open a pack of c90 tapes one handed as a 10 years old, I couldn't do the same with CDRs at 25 using both hands, i can't unpack an SD card without some tool now. I guess lasers will be needed in 10 years.

Then you don't get the point of packaging. It does more things than merely protect from physical damage and deliver a product. It markets the product and it protects the product from theft. Merely, throwing a little electrostatic shrinkwrap on such things would work for the most part, but it'd be invisible on a retail shelf and walk out the door easily.

Re:Space race anybody? (2)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#45561461)

The first one is packaging things in a way that can be opened easily.

There is a handy tool designed specifically for opening such packaging. Unfortunately, it comes in its own blister pack.

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 5 months ago | (#45561713)

Eventually it will. Space is the ultimate high ground, and the nation which controls space can just chunk pieces of metal from a satellite for nuclear-blast effectiveness. No need for nuclear weaponry when throwing rocks or metal rods, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" style works just as well.

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 5 months ago | (#45562147)

Eventually it will. Space is the ultimate high ground, and the nation which controls space can just chunk pieces of metal from a satellite for nuclear-blast effectiveness. No need for nuclear weaponry when throwing rocks or metal rods, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" style works just as well.

I don't understand this point. can you elaborate?

Re:Space race anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562773)

I don't think crayons work on this site...

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 5 months ago | (#45562021)

I kind of hope this kicks off another space race.

For $DIETY's sake why ?
 
All the last one did was piss away billions of dollars without returning much of anything. And no, before the fanbois bring it up, it didn't produce anything much in the way of spin-off technologies despite what decades of NASA propoganda would have you believe. (NASA piggybacked on the DoD right down the line - and weather and commsats would have happened without Mercury/Gemini/Apollo.) If you want to expand into space, pretty much the last thing you want is another sterile reality program.

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 5 months ago | (#45562649)

I would argue that they did a lot of great basic science. The type of science for knowledge sakes, which tends to lead to commercial discovers 10 to 20 years later. And yeah, it is hard to qualify. And yeah, when can get into contrafactual arguments that it would have been better to do different research.

But if we are going to get into a pissing contest with China, I would much rather that it be a space race then a arms race.

Re:Space race anybody? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 5 months ago | (#45562877)

I would argue that they did a lot of great basic science. The type of science for knowledge sakes, which tends to lead to commercial discovers 10 to 20 years later. And yeah, it is hard to qualify.

In other words, you want me to accept your argument on faith.
 

And yeah, when can get into contrafactual arguments that it would have been better to do different research.

No, I'm not getting into a contrafactual argument with you because you haven't introduced any facts.

Re:Space race anybody? (2)

Lotana (842533) | about 5 months ago | (#45563267)

For $DIETY's sake why ?

Because the last space race has inspired a generation of kids to pursue careers in engineering and science.

Who are the role models of kids today? Lady Gaga?

Re:Space race anybody? (1, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | about 5 months ago | (#45562831)

I kind of hope this kicks off another space race.

I hope not. The 1960s space race was detrimental to long-term manned space travel. Before Sputnik, in the mid-1950s the U.S. plan for getting people into space was with a hypersonic plane [wikipedia.org] which used both aerodynamic lifting surfaces while in the atmosphere, and a rocket for lift when the air got too thin. Several of the X-15 pilots flew high enough to earn the USAF's astronaut wings (50 miles), and two flew high enough to enter the international definition of space (100 km).

With the space race and especially the race for the moon, projects like this took a back seat to the quick and dirty (and expensive) solution - rockets.

After playing around with rockets for a few decades, we are now... researching a hypersonic plane for ferrying people inoto space and around the world. Except now we're 4 decades behind where we could've been if we hadn't been distracted by getting to the moon before the Soviets. Rockets are great once you're in space, but they burn a prodigious amount of fuel just to counteract air resistance, and generate a lot less lift per kg of fuel compared to aerodynamic lift. The economics still favor a vehicle which flies like a plane until the air is very thin, then has a rocket take over.

Re:Space race anybody? (2)

Lotana (842533) | about 5 months ago | (#45563417)

I hope not. The 1960s space race was detrimental to long-term manned space travel.

Detrimental to long-term?! Even if one were to agree with your view that the space race went in the wrong direction, it still developed technologies that would be essential to any space activity.

You want human activity in space? That means you need stuff to be launched up there as cheaply as possible. Show me a hypersonic plane design for cargo delivery and tell me how much it could carry per launch. I bet you that it is less than 100 metric tons to Low Earth Orbit. Because only Saturn V (for USA) and Energia (for USSR) launch vehicles are capable of that. Both of those were developed for the purposes of the space race. I do not believe that two hyperplane launches at 50 tons each will be cheaper than one Energia mission. And the shuttle spaceplane was notoriously more expensive than straight up rockets. Buran (Soviet's responce to the shuttle) was said to be so expensive that some point to it as a non-trivial factor of USSR's collapse.

Next even you admit that rockets are good in the vacuum of space. Therefore the space race was beneficial to the long-term, because it improved our knowledge of rocket design that will need to be used once you are in LEO.

Next you seem to hope that there is no another space race while still supporting space activity. That is contradictory. Space race means that the country devotes much more attension, recources and funding towards this area of R&D, which is exactly that we need to get any significant progress.

Re:Space race anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45563703)

Until China starts claiming the space over the moon..

Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45563805)

Best of luck to the team.

Funding for planetary science, no matter where it comes from, is welcome in my books. Competition for scientific prestige, likewise, is welcome, as it can only help us all.

Go Chang'e, go!

priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561153)

Maybe when china finishes exploring the mooon they can explore why so many of their people are dying from the pollution caused by producing shitty products...

Re:priorities (0)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#45561479)

Because that's an obvious either/or choice. You can't obviously do both space stuff and environmental improvement. The US showed that.

Re:priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561553)

And who do you think is buying the shitty products?

And during that time..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561157)

US, Europe, russia , and so on, are cutting space program budgets.........
When you think that the computer aboard Apollo (the AGC) was no more powerful than a pocket calculator you have to wonder if it s just a question of money keeping us down, or if it s also a risk avoidance mentality.
I dont know but i m longing for something to unite people and for a while the space race was that thing.

Re:And during that time..... (2)

couchslug (175151) | about 5 months ago | (#45563395)

"you have to wonder if it s just a question of money keeping us down, or if it s also a risk avoidance mentality."

Wait to send meat passengers until robots are perfected. Development of remote-manned systems can proceed faster, and as space is permanently and utterly hostile to human life we wil require robots to do almost everything outside the areas we will live in anyway. No an option, so sending meat first is not just silly but counterproductive as a use of resources if you wan to send meat later.

Human passengers have unwittingly become an obstacle to effective space exploration.

SIDZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561163)

Will they set up a space identification defense zone? (Or maybe moonspace identification defense zone?)

I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about 5 months ago | (#45561209)

The [dividing] line between us and those other nations is surely being narrowed. After the Chinese shot down a satellite [youtube.com] in 2007, I knew it was just a matter of time.

No wonder they are now challenging us in the east [slashdot.org] . To make matters worse, they own most of our debt [washingtonpost.com]

If nothing is done, we'll be a nation of no consequence in a few decades.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (0)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 5 months ago | (#45561243)

And any new US innovations are routinely stolen by Chinese Gov't hackers and given to Chinese Companies.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561267)

Stolen? No, they are just given away, after all since they are produced abroad there is no need to steal anything, we give them the blueprints and even send some engineers to set up production.......

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (2)

Reliable Windmill (2932227) | about 5 months ago | (#45561399)

Do you mean innovations that are built upon previous innovations and technology, the aggregate of which involves every nation? You might as well say the whole world, the self-entitled and trigger-happy U.S in particular, stole from China because they invented gun powder and the first explosives. There's nothing being made today that is not enabled by centuries of research and innovation by people from all over the world, China included.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

rtaylor (70602) | about 5 months ago | (#45561249)

Agreed. If the chinese are going to the moon you can expect them to stay there permanently, claim ownership, and begin sending back resources (rare-earth metals necessary for many manufactured goods).

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 5 months ago | (#45561561)

begin sending back resources

What resources? The only natural "resource" the Moon has is being most of the way out of the Earth's gravity well. If there had been anything of value (once the cost of getting to it and shipping it back had been subtracted) there would be permanent Moon bases already ... maybe even ones that are considering declaring independence from their over-taxing overlords.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561973)

The only natural "resource" the Moon has is being most of the way out of the Earth's gravity well.

Never heard of helium-3 [wikipedia.org] , have you? A number of projects
are in planning to collect for use in generating fusion power.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562423)

yea and the leprechauns are going to shit out gold as well

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45563289)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/26/AR2005122600648.html [washingtonpost.com]

Why we are going back to the Moon

Paul D. Spudis

The recent release of the details of NASA’s proposed plans for human return to the Moon in response to President Bush’s new Vision for Space Exploration of last year has drawn much comment: some positive, some negative, and some simply perplexed.

Although the reasons for undertaking the new Vision were clearly articulated in the President’s speech, it is important to re-examine why the Moon is the cornerstone of the Vision and what we hope to achieve by returning there.

The Moon is important for three reasons – science, inspiration, and resources. All three aspects are directly served by the new lunar return architecture. Implementation of this program has the potential to make significant contributions to our national economy and welfare.

The Moon is a scientific laboratory of extraordinary facility, richness, and benefit. The history of our corner of the Solar System for the last 4 billion years is preserved and readable in the ancient dust of the lunar surface. This record is lost on the dynamic and ever changing surface of the Earth. Other planets do not record the same events affecting Earth and the Moon, including impacts, space particles, and the detailed history of our Sun. The recovery of this record will let us better understand the impact hazard in the Earth-Moon system as well as unravel the processes and evolution of our Sun, the major driver of climate and life on Earth.

The Moon is a stable platform to observe the universe. The far side of the Moon is the only known place in the solar system permanently shielded from the radio noise of the Earth. That uniqueness allows observation of the sky at radio wavelengths never before seen. Every time we open a new spectral window on the universe, we find unexpected and astounding phenomena; there is no reason to expect anything different from the opening of new windows on the universe from the surface of the Moon.

The Moon is close in space (only three days away) yet a separate world filled with mysteries, landscapes and treasures. By embracing the inspiring and difficult task of living and working on the Moon, we can learn how to explore a planetary surface and how the combined efforts of both humans and machines enable new levels of productive exploration.

In 21st century America, our existence depends on an educated, technically literate workforce, motivated and schooled in complex scientific disciplines. Tackling the challenges of creating a functioning society off-planet will require not only the best technical knowledge we can muster, but also the best imaginations. One cannot develop a creative imagination, the renewable resource of a vibrant society, without confronting and surmounting unknowns and challenges on new frontiers.

Although of fairly ordinary composition, the Moon contains the resources of material and energy that we need to both survive and operate in space. With its resources and proximity to Earth, the Moon is a natural logistics and supply base, an offshore island of useful commodities for use on the Moon, in space, and ultimately, back on Earth.

Water is an extremely valuable commodity in space – in its liquid form, it supports human life and it can be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. These elements make the highest energy chemical rocket propellant known. Water exists in the dark and cold regions near the poles of the Moon. Scientists estimate that each pole contains more than 10 billion tons of water, enough to launch a fully fueled Space Shuttle once a day, every day for over 39 years. The ability to make fuel on the Moon will allow routine access to Earth-Moon space, the zone in which all of our space assets reside.

The Moon’s slow rotation, unclouded skies, and abundant local materials make it possible to build installations specifically designed to harvest solar energy on the Moon. Solar power, collected on the Moon and beamed to the Earth and throughout Earth-Moon space, provides a clean and reliable energy source not only for space-based applications, but ultimately, for users on the Earth as well. Lunar solar power solves the apparent “show stopper” of other space-based solar power systems – the high cost of getting the solar arrays into space. Instead of launching arrays from the deep gravity well of Earth, we will use the local soil and make hundreds of tons of solar panels on the Moon.

Living on the Moon will expand the sphere of human and robotic activity in space beyond low Earth orbit. To become a multi-planet species, we must master the skills of extracting local resources, build capability to journey and explore in hostile regions, and create new reservoirs of human culture and experience. That long journey begins on the Moon – the staging ground, supply station, and classroom for our voyage into the universe.

Living on the Moon will expand the sphere of human and robotic activity in space beyond low Earth orbit. To become a multi-planet species, we must master the skills of extracting local resources, build capability to journey and explore in hostile regions, and create new reservoirs of human culture and experience. That long journey begins on the Moon – the staging ground, supply station, and classroom for our voyage into the universe.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

Lotana (842533) | about 5 months ago | (#45563577)

The post was made to point out the reasons to go back to the moon (Which it does), but the depressive thing is that this was written back in 2005. Bush's "new" Vision for Space Exploration was nothing but yet another bit of polical pretension of doing something other than rearanging deck chairs on the Titanic. The whole thing was cancelled as soon as Obama got into office.

Constellation Program [wikipedia.org]

Now Obama got his own version. When next president is elected that will be scrapped because another version will be made. At this rate, my hat goes off to all the NASA personel that get any achievements carried out under such conditions.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

Lotana (842533) | about 5 months ago | (#45563463)

Fusion? Last I heard, that power generation method has still failed to produce more power than is being put in. It has been worked on since 1950s and while progress has been made, it still doesn't work as well as we need. It is used as a poster child of empty promises. How long has it been 6 years in the future perpetually?

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561291)

we'll be a nation of no consequence in a few decades.

You're a little behind the times. We – the U.S.A. – have been a nation of no consequence for a while now.

We make very little any more in the way of consumer goods, and when we try to, we find we can't. The super rich are eating the middle class, e.g. Walmart and the Waltons are making taxpayers foot the bill to feed Walmart employees. We're not much better than Brazil or South Africa AFAIC.

Yeah, go ahead, mod me down. You know I'm right.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

Lotana (842533) | about 5 months ago | (#45563521)

You're a little behind the times. We â" the U.S.A. â" have been a nation of no consequence for a while now.

That is incorrect. USA as of this moment is still millitary-wise the mightiest superpower. Economically it is still one of the top nations. And while its physical territory area is not biggest the world has ever seen, influentially it is the greatest.

Every nation has internal problems. IMO the golden era (That peaked with the moon landings. USA will be forever remembered and respected for that) is over, but there is still VERY long to go before you can say that USA is of no consequence.

We can only hope that when the day finally comes of the collapse (Long time in the future) that it will be a clean and peaceful one.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

russotto (537200) | about 5 months ago | (#45561365)

So while China is putting robots on the moon, the US has had robots on Mars for some time now. China declared an air defense zone, the US military sent B52s over to pointedly ignore it. (The Japanese and South Korean militaries have also sent flights through the zone without following China's rules). As for the debt, there's a saying that if you owe the bank $100 you have a problem; if you owe the bank $100 million the bank has a problem.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (0, Flamebait)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 5 months ago | (#45561429)

The [dividing] line between us and those other nations is surely being narrowed. After the Chinese shot down a satellite [youtube.com] in 2007, I knew it was just a matter of time.

a) who cares?
b) we already cooperate with those we used to call enemies (like russia) and we made an international space station.
c) considering the average quality of life in china, i think we are several decades ahead.
d) china steals all their technology, we invent it.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 5 months ago | (#45563439)

b) we already cooperate with those we used to call enemies (like russia) and we made an international space station.

But forbid [wikipedia.org] cooperation with China (not formally an enemy even now) in spite of the other participants in ISS agreeing to it.

d) china steals all their technology

It doesn't need to. China cooperates [wikipedia.org] with the same partners as US (probably with the exception of Japan). And them some others - e.g. Brazil [wikipedia.org] closer to Equator, better suited for space launches.

we invent it.

Wrong tense. NASA's budget in decline [wikipedia.org] drives NASA in the role of a museum custodian [theconversation.com] rather than a science/technology promoter.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (4, Informative)

Ksevio (865461) | about 5 months ago | (#45562309)

To make matters worse, they own most of our debt

That's not true in any sense. The US owns most of its debt. China owns the largest share of foreign held debt (though less than 1/4 of that). Altogether they hold less than 10% of the US debt.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

zoffdino (848658) | about 5 months ago | (#45562371)

The fact that China holds a large portion of US debt highlight their weakness: if they declare war with the US, what stop Congress from passing a constitutional amendment that nullify this holding? They will find their pocket short 1 trillion coins or so. Militarily, China is no match for US. Nobody has invested as heavily in military technologies as the US since World War 2. The Soviet Union went bankrupt trying to keep up. Their own version of the Vietnam War—the Afghan War, drained their treasury much worse than the Vietnam War on the US.

China sees itself as the center of the world. Their very name translates to "the elite center". If anything, they are becoming the Japan of the early 20th century, invading (in this case, claiming exclusive rights to) nearby resources.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562703)

Not really. For those who don't know their history. China was the most advanced country in the world technologically pre-17th. Therefore their current ascent to superpower status is simply a return to normalcy. It was only the blip of European industrialization that briefly interrupted their status in the world.

Furthermore they're their own country, not comparable to any other, and particularly not Japan since their economy is already far larger than theirs.

Re:I am afraid tech lines are being narrowed... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562999)

"Components. American components, Russian Components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!"

Meanwhile in the U.S.... (2)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 5 months ago | (#45561265)

Instead of spending tax dollars on hiring people and companies to do the same, the government is choosing to give the money away for nothing in return...except votes. Well played, entrenched politicians.

Re:Meanwhile in the U.S.... (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 5 months ago | (#45561373)

Instead of spending tax dollars on hiring people and companies to do the same

there is (currently) no reason to go back to the moon. besides, rovers can do a better job of science experiments and are waaaay cheaper to send. we may use it as an outpost for deep space stuff when we get to that point but it's a waste of money right now.

Re:Meanwhile in the U.S.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561759)

Yeah, the hydrogen and oxygen is completely useless. We can send that stuff up from here.

Re:Meanwhile in the U.S.... (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 5 months ago | (#45562883)

Not entirely the point. The general public for the most part doesn't care about rovers because they can't fantasize about being one. But, send humans and people want to be part of it.

UTC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561401)

must be the time zone for China that I haven't heard of. Did not know that China uses AM and PM. I thought they were on Military time: 6 PM = 18:00 local. Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern is all I know.

Re:UTC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561551)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coordinated_Universal_Time [wikipedia.org]

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is one of several closely related successors to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). For most purposes, UTC is synonymous with GMT, but GMT is no longer precisely defined by the scientific community.

posting anon to save mods ~Ganjadude

historical perspective (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45561707)

Googling slashdot over the past 15 years or so, it seems like China is always just ten years away from putting a man on the moon. Vaporware or hype? You decide:

http://science.slashdot.org/story/02/05/20/1224219/china-plans-moonbase
http://science.slashdot.org/story/07/10/04/2117217/the-new-moon-race
http://science.slashdot.org/story/04/05/18/1639246/china-scrubs-moon-mission-plans
http://science.slashdot.org/story/03/05/30/1227223/

An old joke (3, Funny)

snaFu07 (1111263) | about 5 months ago | (#45561785)

In the old days of Soviet Union and iron curtain, there was a joke about Russians painting Moon red and Americans putting up there Coca-Cola sign after.
Today it looks more like Moon will be China-red and Coca-Cola sign written by them too....

Re:An old joke (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 5 months ago | (#45562583)

It's from Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon [wikipedia.org] .

The protagonist got funding by claiming the Soviets were going to paint a Hammer & Sickle on the moon. He also got funding from the "Moca-Cola" corporation by claiming that rival company "6+" was going to paint a 6+ logo on the moon.

Re:An old joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562817)

Nope. This time it will be a giant "Made in China" sticker, after which the moon will suddenly deorbit and kill us all.

I wonder (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about 5 months ago | (#45561879)

Will they plant their flag right next to the U.S. flag?

And the Russians - they came close but failed in the long run.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45562075)

Will they plant their flag right next to the U.S. flag?

They'll bring the U.S. flag back with them.

Independently? (1)

amightywind (691887) | about 5 months ago | (#45562409)

After only 10 years since it independently sent its first astronaut into space

Independently? The Chinese do nothing independently. They fly to space on a glorified Russian Soyuz.

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