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Asteroid Missions May Replace Lunar Base Plans

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the take-a-triangular-ship-just-in-case dept.

Space 237

An anonymous reader alerts us to a story about efforts to modify the United States' space exploration plans to focus on asteroid missions rather than a lunar base. Scientists, astronauts, and former NASA division directors will be meeting next month to develop an alternative to the Bush administration's Vision for Space Exploration. We have previously discussed the possibility of a manned asteroid mission. Quoting: "Numerous planetary managers told Aviation Week & Space Technology they now fear a manned Moon base and even shorter sorties to the Moon will bog down the space program for decades and inhibit, rather than facilitate, manned Mars operations--the ultimate goal of both the Bush and alternative visions. The first lunar sortie would be flown by about 2020 under the Bush plan. If alternative-vision planners have their way, the mission could instead be flown to an asteroid in about 2025."

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237 comments

So it begins (-1, Troll)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116450)

With the US economy taking a bit of a downturn (that Bush is sure won't turn into a recession. Honest. Keep spending money please!) some government spending has got to go and whilst this is being billed as a 'change' it sounds like its actually a cut-back. Of course, nobody suggested cutting back on idiotic military campaigns. Your government has to focus on important stuff after all.

But don't worry. I'm sure the Russians or the Chinese will yet you tag along with their moon missions when yours are cancelled.

Re:So it begins (3, Insightful)

johannesg (664142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116570)

Given how there was no funding to begin with, it is hard to see how it can be cut back. However, the resulting confusion is indeed highly likely to get rid of both missions at the same time.

So... (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116452)

Just because he was an unpopular president everything he did is wrong, and needs to be reverted, once he leaves... Come on get realistic Presidents are people like you and me they make mistakes sometimes huge ones but they are not wrong all the time... I would like to see more work on the moon vs. asteroids. Asteroids seem much riskier without the benefit yet. The moon on the other hand is fairly stable and we could really work out the kinks in exportation.

Re:So... (0, Troll)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116482)

***IS***. George Bush IS an unpopular president. We still have another year of the little Alfred E. Newman lookalike bastard.

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116606)

***Come on get realistic Presidents are people like you and me they make mistakes sometimes huge ones but they are not wrong all the time...***

Perfection is difficult. But George W Bush is as close to a perfect fool as I want to see in my lifetime in charge of any major country.

In any case, the reason for going to the Asteroids instead of the Moon is that it is a probably a more effective way to spend money. We've been to the moon. What major unanswered questions do we have about the moon? None that I know of. Colonization? We aren't going to build a viable lunar colony with our current technology base any more than the Vikings were going to use their base in Labrador to colonize Malibu Beach The Asteroids surely have a higher payoff scientifically and possibly financially as well.

Signs of intelligent life at NASA after all these decades. Didn't see THAT coming.

Re:So... (-1, Offtopic)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116706)

You know what? I don't usually bother to post in response to things like this, but I think I will stab the groupthink one last time before the Elections are fully upon us.

George W Bush is many things. But he is not a fool.

Just because the New York Times et cetera all love to hate him, and always pick the stupidest-looking pictures from any speech or event, and love to harp on any verbal misstep ("is our children learning" et cetera). But that's not smartness or intelligence or even savvy, that's Speechmaking - and heck, Hitler was a great speechmaker, and look where it got him. I mean, from time to time I hear people (left-leaning anti-bush people) decrying politics as too pretentious and false, too many too-prepared speeches, but when it comes to Bush, they'll hang him for every little verbal typo.

It's The Media. You've been played. Your precious Fourth Estate (is that the term?) is what's convinced you otherwise - because Bush-hate sells, like hotcakes. No one but Fox ever got anywhere by saying anything good about the man - and Fox has issues, yes, but even as the liberal-leaning-lefty types decry it as playing to the sheep, they are themselves forming the worst Flock you ever did see. If you're really about things like Independent Thought and Diversity and such, how come everyone over there seems to think the exact same way about the man? It's a real good pat-on-the-back for yourself to say "My enemy is a fool!!" but it's not really all that healthy of a thought process.

Bush is a decently intelligent man. He just believes in different things than you do, and has different priorities than you do. Heck, he has different priorities than me. And he's undoubtedly Wrong about plenty of things, policy and otherwise. (So am I. and so are you.) But the Left/Liberal/anti-Bush crowd does themselves and the world a disservice with the "Bush is a zomgfool and an idjit" rhetoric and hate. It gets us nowhere. It didn't even get him out of office in 2004. (And it won't get Hillary into office in 2008.)

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22116882)

Continuing on this off-topic thread... sorry.

Whether you like him or despise him. Bush and a Republican congress have left the U.S. weaker than it was before he took office.

1. The debt has increased by over 3.4 Trillion Dollars.
2. The dollar is at it's weakest level versus the other major currencies
3. The U.S. military is over-stretched with stop loss and other "draft light" policies keeping soldiers in the field
4. Our $90 / gallon oil addiction is continuing to fund terrorism
5. Thanks to Abu Gairab and Gitmo we no longer have the moral high ground when pursuing foreign policy

So, I realize facts are not going to change your outlook, people like you look at all this like it's a football game with the motto: Republicans are te cool and fuck the U.S.. But, on a personal level, I love this country and Fuck You for supporting the Republicans who are trying to destroy it.

I'm just asking for more groupthink downmods, but (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117076)

Yes. There are legitimate criticisms of GWBush. Some of your listings are among them. (Others, like the state of the dollar, are only incidentally related - there, it's the culmination of a long-standing trend, and criticisms of Greenspan would be more accurate than those of Bush).

P.S. Original poster gets + Insightfuls. I get - Offtopics and - Overrateds. I'll admit to Offtopicness, but I suspect that the moderation was not, in fact, applied for Offtopicness so much as Disagreeingness and that some of the +Insightfulness was just the "yay bush sucks!"ness.

P.P.S. in some vague notion of on-topicness (*waves a dead chicken over the post*):
this big Mars space program idea of his is a big stupid waste of money. Axe it, please.
(At least the asteroid idea has a modicum less nonsense to it.)

the dog ate the middle of my comment (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117122)

(stupid tag) and it went like this.

Your criticism, however, is orthogonal to the point that I was making. It's not that "Bush rocks!!!" ... just that he's not the drooling idiot that so many people like to pretend he is in their intellectual/political masturbation exercises. I just wish people could take a step back from the constant war of agenda-pushing every now and again.

Re:I'm just asking for more groupthink downmods, b (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117376)

Others, like the state of the dollar, are only incidentally related

So you don't feel that the actions of this administration over the past 7 years have contributed to the state of the dollar? Right...

Re:So... (0, Offtopic)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117130)

There is a show on one of the cable channels called "Gangland". One of their recent episodes discussed how the lowered requirements for "volunteers" entering the military has led to widespread infiltration by gangs. They showed lots of tagging over in Iraq and related it back to gangs in American cities. They also showed a German nightclub packed with "soldiers" bouncing up and down and flashing gang signs.

They were talking with military people who were outlining what this is doing to our military, to the cities where these people are deployed and the attitudes towards the USA because of the new levels of crime, and how this is putting our National security at risk as well as our relationships with the countries that allow us to have bases there.

All thanks to a war that never had to happen, was pushed for by a corrupt president and vice president, and was cheered by the republicans.

Admit it or not, but the USA is becoming a worldwide pariah. And it can virtually all be laid at the feet of little "dubya".

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117712)

You're a fucking idiot.

1. Thanks to Bush, though the debt has increased in dollars, it has dropped by 800 Billion Euros in the same period. What's that you say? A good thing the trade deficit means we've been trading dollars for euros and such all along? Since most debt is recycled anyway when due, those dollars aren't the same dollars--we bought and buy good money now for bad money later. Not such a bad trade, if you're an American, I say.

2. The dollar is not at it's weakest level versus the other major currencies. This isn't even English--what is it you're trying to say exactly? The dollar is at its weakest level ever? Uh... no. Weakening? Uh... I guess. Nothing to cry about though, unless you really want to pay that 3.4 trillion in 2005 dollars.

3. These words, they do not mean what you think they mean. The six month extension is used to wrap up deployments and allow soldiers a cooling-off period at their home duty station before becoming civilians. Unlike during the Vietnam war, someone thought it'd be a good idea to not let newly discharged veterans freak the fuck out on the streets of American cities.

4. That's actually $90 a barrel, which holds about 55 gallons... so I think you mean the $1.64 a gallon oil. Nice shot in the dark though. And by the way, we don't buy Iranian oil--so we'll just go ahead and call a spade a spade: the Iranians are funding the terrorists.

5. Moral high ground? We still hold the moral high ground. We hold it because we seek to provide security, health care, economic development, and opportunity while our enemies seek the opposite. Perhaps we don't hold the high ground in a war with France, or Germany--but we're not fighting a war against France or Germany. In fact, they decided to not join in before Abu Gharaib. Plus, we hold the physical high ground, the economic high ground, the political high ground, the middle-high ground, the low-high ground, the low-low ground, everything in between, the technological high ground, the organizational high ground, the tactical ground--basically we hold the rest of the ground except for some caves and countries with inviolate borders. We're holding our ground, and the enemies, just fine actually.

So, I realize facts are not going to change your outlook either--but you'd damn well better pray to fucking god that if this country ever gets half as fucked over as your delusions lead you to believe it already is, neither Democrats nor Republicans are going to be able to save any of us. Open your eyes, fool.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22116940)

Sorry to continue on this thread, but I do have a question.

Were you proud or ashamed with the pictures of Bush rushing to the middle east to BEG despotic Saudi princes to lower oil prices? I personally was ashamed. I'm happy for you that you like Bush, but Fuck You and Fuck Him for embarrassing our country in this way.

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117250)

George W Bush is many things. But he is not a fool.

I agree with you, I don't think he's a fool, or that he's stupid. I've also defended his verbal gaffs, similar to the way you do -- I don't care about speechmaking, I care about results.

So, speaking as a Republican, what the hell *is* wrong with him? Is it arrogance? Hubris? I really can't defend much of what he's done. He's allowed spending like a drunken sailor. The war has been so totally mismanaged I literally can't believe it ("Wait, you mean we weren't keeping people there after we cleared out the town ALL ALONG?? WTF?") The idiotic waffling on what torture is or isn't. That supreme court nomination that even Rush Limbaugh couldn't stomach. The arrogant dismissals of Europe.

Again, I don't think he's a fool -- that's media created. But based on results, you can't conclude that he's anything but stunningly incompetent, and I don't understand where it all went so wrong. He had such grand opportunities at the start of his presidency, and it was all pissed away.

Re:So... (1, Offtopic)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117344)

***Bush is a decently intelligent man.***

There is no evidence whatsoever for that. I thought his dad was reasonably OK. But the kid is a disaster. I thought that long before Katrina and before the Main Stream Media media started grumbling. Look at his record. With the exception of Tsunami relief he has done not one single significant thing right. Not One. It's a remarkable record of duplicity, incompetence and stupidity. (To be fair, he did manage to get reasonably honest elections conducted in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, but I don't think he would have done that had he been smart enough to forsee the consequences. Certainly not in Palestine. Probably not the other two either.)

I'm not wild about John McCain, but had he been elected in 2000, he'd probably have been an OK president and the country would be far better off today.

There are many things that Bush says he believes in that I agree with. I thought when he said them that he was lying. The record shows that I was right. When he said them he was in fact lying.

Let's look at the record:

  • Tax Cuts for the wealthy that would pay for themselves: They haven't
  • No Child Left Behind: Probably well-intended, but unworkable. Destined to be duct taped again and again into just another huge dysfunctional government program like farm supports.
  • Iraq: An utter debacle.
  • North Korea: Six years to get back to where he was when he started.
  • Iran: When he took office, Iran had a moderate government that was trying to reach to the US. Bush has done every conceivable thing to alienate the country, undermine the moderates, and sow the seeds of even more discord in Southwest Asia. In Don Henley's words "Beating plowshares into swords".
  • Medicare Prescription drugs: Probably the best of a rum lot. But not funded. Put_It_On_Someone's_Tab economics.
  • Economic Policy. You probably aren't fully aware of the situation that is unfolding. Most people aren't. But we have a three headed crisis -- currency, the banking system, commodities. Bush-Greenspan-(Bernanke) are responsible for the first two and could have hedged against the third. This is going to be a lot clearer to you by November. Check http://calculatedrisk.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] . I don't think things are as bad as many there would portray them, but they are bad and getting worse.
  • Civil Liberties: Worst record of any American leader ruler since George III

These are the works of an intelligent man? You sir, have a really strange idea of intelligence.

Let me sum up the virtues I have observed in George W Bush. He's not a racist. That's the only positive quality I see in the man. Our dog isn't a racist either (she loves everyone even the mailman). She is very likely smarter than Bush. And she'd probably have made a better president.

BTW, I'm actually fairly conservative. But my party -- the Republicans -- has been hijacked by 'f***king crazies'. (the phrase attributed, possibly incorrectly, to Colin Powell)

Re:So... (0, Troll)

Cr0vv (1223332) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117540)

Something ELSE you for sure haven't seen coming, is the large magnetic giant PLANET in the solar system that George and his cronies are secretly trying to get close to, under the noses of the public. This "new" focus of space travel is something they have been wanting to do, but have been looking for a reason that won't tip off the public. This is known by a lot of people, but not the general public. NASA, and the completely corrupt White house, have not told US that this planet has long been known (first reported in 1983 - Washington post) to be approaching Earth (will pass within 53 Million miles) and cause massive global earthquakes and send us back 100 + years in culture and technology (daddy, what's a computer?). They are also stifeling the increased Earth changes (earthquakes & other natural disasters) that are caused by this planet that is 27 times the mass of earth. Don't believe me? Just keep watching, they can't stifle the days getting increasingly longer to point where a day is 50% as much longer! Crow.

Re:So... (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117630)

All that paranoia and nothing to cite to backup your assertion? Well let me help you a bit. The sun is about 93 million miles away, has a mass that pales freakin' Jupiter by comparison, and yet you think that a planet 53 million miles away and only 27x our planet's mass is going to set us back 100 years? Sorry, I ain't biting without some answers. Sounds like the old "Black Sun" or "Black Planet" or whatever else the conspiracy nuts were calling it.

Re:So... (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116884)

it is more profitable to fly to an asteroid because then we are able to mine them.

Re:So... (4, Insightful)

luna69 (529007) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116890)

The Moon is a white elephant.

The Moon will certainly be useful someday - for mining, for energy collection, for tourism, for pure science...but it isn't a useful stop on the way to Mars, nor has it ever been. We've looked at the Moon in recent years for two reasons, both interrelated: first, the big contractors (Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, etc.) figure they can bleed us for the Moon and increase their profits before ever beginning the Mars project. Second, the U.S., and humanity in general, suffers from acute myopia and timidity.

We can go to Mars, and we can start NOW. No need for holes on the Moon into which we pour money...and more importantly, time.

Re:So... (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116926)

I think we need to define what the long-term goal of the space program is - not just "let's go to Mars!", which, cool as that would be, is not the sort of goal we should be striving for in and of itself. If our goal is to get off of earth in such a way that any random asteroid can't kill us all off, setting up a permanent base on the moon would seem to be a practical step in that direction.

Car Analogy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117708)

We can go to Mars, and we can start NOW. No need for holes on the Moon into which we pour money
You don't buy a car without first kicking the tires. Why would you set out for a long duration stay on Mars before first knowing if we can do it on the Moon? Mars is a few orders of magnitude farther away than the Moon so any mission to Mars is going to be a long-duration stay - you can bet on it.

The moon is a much safer place to try the first attempt at a colony. If someone gets sick, injured, the complex collapses, gets a hole in it, aliens attack or if people just get space madness, a lifeboat to Earth is much more likely to succeed because you don't have to wait for the orbits to align themselves just right. Only after we have figured out solutions to some of the problems we have not even thought about yet, then we will be ready for Mars.

And to summarize with one more analogy: you don't take a trip to the next town over until you can first walk out of your own back yard.

Re:So... (3, Insightful)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117222)

Asteroids seem much riskier without the benefit yet. The moon on the other hand is fairly stable and we could really work out the kinks in exportation.
Thanks for weighing in with that informed opinion.

Re:So... (1)

scarboni888 (1122993) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117254)

I only wish that it was because he was an unpopular president that made everything he did wrong. Only the converse is true.

Gravity Well (1)

ukemike (956477) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117472)

Asteroids make more sense. It will be much more practical to mine asteroids because there is very little expense in escaping the gravity well of an asteroid to get the mined material back here.

Bush Screws Up Everything He Touches (0, Troll)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116472)

At least NASA has the intelligence and a plan to reverse the idiocy that George threw at them in his effort to paint himself like JFK.

Asteroids are a danger. The odds of one hitting the earth are slim, but if one did, it could end most life on the planet. I'm glad NASA is able to stand up to the little dictator.

Re:Bush Screws Up Everything He Touches (3, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116486)

Manned asteroid missions have little if anything to do with asteroid deflection strategies. If you want to keep the Earth safe from big nasty dinosaur-killers, you spend money on tracking every Earth crossing Asteroid in the sky, not on sending people to 1 or 2 of them. Early detection of potential dangers makes any deflection strategy (almost certainly unmanned, despite what your favourite movies might tell you) more plausible

The purpose of visiting asteroids is looking for something to mine or doing science to investigate the origins of the solar system.

Has Nothing To Do With It (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117198)

I agree with the other reply. Manned asteroid missions probably have very little to do with detecting and preventing asteroid collisions... which definitely are a priority. But we are talking apples and oranges here.

A great idea (5, Informative)

Phil Karn (14620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116484)

If true, this is very good news. Asteroids, the smaller and more numerous ones being undifferentiated bodies, have considerably more scientific value than the moon. It's actually much easier to rendezvous with and return from many asteroids than to land softly on the moon and return. The moon is relatively large, with a big gravity well, and without an atmosphere, aerobraking is impossible. Landing from lunar orbit and takeoff to orbit each require delta Vs greater than 2000 m/sec. Entering and leaving lunar orbit takes even more. Asteroids require earth escape, but that is only slightly more than reaching the moon's high altitude (400,000 km). The velocity change required to rendezvous with the asteroid could be minimized by careful choice of asteroid and launch window.

Asteroids would take much more time to reach, and a mission could not be quickly aborted in an emergency. The communications lag would also be significant; real time conversations would be impossible and communications might even be blocked entirely by solar conjunction for a few days at a time. These are challenges for human space flight, but not insurmountable ones.

Re:A great idea (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116498)

There is still plenty we do not know about the moon, seeing as we have sent precisely one real scientist there in all of human history. The moon is also a far more practical setting for a manned base, which is ultimately the point of expanding into space. But, hey, like I said I'm sure you can tag along with the Chinese or Russians.

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22116680)

The moon is also a far more practical setting for a manned base, which is ultimately the point of expanding into space.

Hey by any chance do you like science fiction? Anyway China and Russia aren't starting up a moon base anytime soon, invoking nationalist sentiments seems a little premature.

Re:A great idea (1)

s2cuts (1223682) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117414)

It's always a competition with you guys...

Re:A great idea (5, Interesting)

mccalli (323026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116526)

If true, this is very good news. Asteroids, the smaller and more numerous ones being undifferentiated bodies, have considerably more scientific value than the moon.

I am unqualified to evaluate what you say and so I will not quibble with any of it. However, can I come outright and say that I honestly do not care about scientific value at this point? I want to see a moonbase. I want proof it can be done on a small planetary scale. I want to see new settlements of humans off this planet, even if only to our nearest satellite. I want to see the whole thing shown to be do'able, not for study's sake, but because it should be being done. I want to see a practical application and a first step to living elsewhere. I think a base on the moon provides that in a way that asteroid exploration just doesn't.

Cheers,
Ian

And then what? (2, Interesting)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116796)

Not sure there is any future in putting people on the moon, or down on the bottom of any other gravity well. To prove it can be done? Well, we proved that in 1969, and that didn't get us anywhere.

I'd much rather see us put people (or robots) somewhere that actually direct us towards a future in space. Mining the asteroids has potential, not for putting anything back to Earth (too expensive), but for raw material for further space exploration, building space stations, and manufacturing specialized composited that require weightlessness.

Eventually, we may send expeditions and construct bases on the bottom of the gravity wells. But that should be done from our permanent bases in space, not from Earth.

I suspect there is a limit on how many blind alleys we get a chance to explore. Let's go towards where there is most potential. And that is not on the bottom of any gravity well.

Re:And then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117636)

I can hardly stand to read your post because you keep saying "gravity well" like you are trying to make it seem natural by using it repeatedly. Way to go! ... er, I mean, totally rufus!

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22116806)

Spoken like a true manager. "Just do it. I don't want you to waste any time with feasibility studies. I just want you to build it!"

Re:A great idea (2, Informative)

luzr (896024) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116914)

Well, if you want to see human settlements off this planet, you definitely should be happy about this direction. The Moon is the most stupid place to settle. The real settlements are much better on orbit and asteroids are much better way how to obtain resources to build them. The idea that we should be living on Moon or Mars is the most stupid one. Why, once we leave that deep gravity well, should we bound ourselves to another one? All resources we need are sun for energy and matter from asteroids. Also, if you do want to have any chance of long term settlement, Moon or Mars are bad too - too low gravity, say bye bye to bones and muscles. Which is much more easily solved on orbit again...

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117026)

Because physiologically we just don't do so hot in low/zero gravity. That's why.
Asteroid belt exploration/mining will be critical, don't get me wrong.
But if we want to expand out into the solar system permanently we're stuck living in gravity wells for the long term.

Re:A great idea (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117136)

'Gravity' is much easier with asteroids than the moon. The moon has very low gravity (about 0.1g, low enough to cause permanent bone damage after short periods of exposure)) and there isn't much you can do about it. In contrast, a moderate sized asteroid has almost no gravity, but can be hollowed out, filled with air, and spun to provide the illusion of gravity relatively easily. The process of hollowing it out will also give a lot of raw materials with potential uses and a base that's relatively easy (compared with something on the moon, at any rate) to move around the solar system.

Re:A great idea (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117240)

In contrast, a moderate sized asteroid has almost no gravity, but can be hollowed out, filled with air, and spun to provide the illusion of gravity relatively easily.
Uh... What are you talking about? That seems totally infeasible to me. Did you just make that up, or can you site a serious proposal to do such a thing?

Re:A great idea (1)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117144)

Because physiologically we just don't do so hot in low/zero gravity. That's why.

Well, how we do in low gravity is an open question. What's our data, a half dozen experiments for a few days a piece surrounded by longer stretches of free fall?

But making the assumption that we don't do well in low gravity, the Moon is as bad as it gets. One sixth gravity is low enough that any negative physiological effects are sure to arise, but high enough that you can't trivially use centripetal force to simulate higher gravity. Getting high gravity in open space near an asteroid requires a tether and a short rocket burn. Getting high gravity on the moon would require serious investment in anchoring and bearings for a centrifuge.

But if we want to expand out into the solar system permanently we're stuck living in gravity wells for the long term.

In the long term you just dispense with the tethers and build whole space stations large enough to rotate.

Re:A great idea (2, Insightful)

s2cuts (1223682) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117262)

...I honestly do not care about scientific value at this point? I want to see a moonbase. I want proof it can be done on a small planetary scale. I want to see new settlements of humans off this planet, even if only to our nearest satellite. I want to see the whole thing shown to be do'able, not for study's sake, but because it should be being done. I want to see a practical application and a first step to living elsewhere...

Cheers,
Ian
How many times did you say 'I want...' in your post? Honestly, if this doesn't sum up the American mentality, I don't know what does. Me me me me me me me me me... Try opening your mind long enough to realize that A, the world doesn't revolve around you, and B, you should leave the decisions on scientific research to scientists. What makes you think that we need 'proof' of something that man will undoubtedly do well after you're dead? Why spend a huge amount of resources to make you happy, when all we need is scientific progress in the areas that make the most sense today. Namely, sending out robotic explorers in our place. People have to learn to accept the FACT that we will not know everything, discover everything, and conquer everything in their life times.

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117492)

Yeah because Europeans never say I want. Stop with the American attacks. They are lame and boring. The GP Post is a selfish douchebag but you're just a plain old douchebag.

Re:A great idea (2, Funny)

mccalli (323026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117676)

Honestly, if this doesn't sum up the American mentality, I don't know what does

I'm British.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117264)

You will see a moon base, and you will probably even be able to go there and eat chinese food.

Re:A great idea (2, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117290)

how about an asteroid base? they require less fuel to go to and return from and they have plenty of cool stuff that the moon doesn't have... like frozen water, diamonds and precious metals [iridium, platinum, gold etc.] the moon OTOH has relatively strong gravity compared to an asteroid making leaving the moon far more difficult. the lack of anything usable like nitrogen, water or carbon also make the moon a worse place to set up a base. it would need o be constantly supplied from Earth while asteroid bases could in principle, be fairly independent.

Re:A great idea (2, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116996)

Landing from lunar orbit and takeoff to orbit each require delta Vs greater than 2000 m/sec. Entering and leaving lunar orbit takes even more. Asteroids require earth escape, but that is only slightly more than reaching the moon's high altitude (400,000 km). The velocity change required to rendezvous with the asteroid could be minimized by careful choice of asteroid and launch window.

Slightly greater than 2000 m/sec to land/take-off from lunar orbit. Rather less then 2000 m/sec to enter/leave lunar orbit. Closer to 700 m/sec than to 2000 m/sec.

Velocity change required to rendezvous with an asteroid is rather higher than you seem to think, though. Unless we find an asteroid in very close to the same orbital plane as Earth, with perihelion and aphelion within the range of Mars' and Venus' orbits. Even under ideal conditions, we're talking more than a trip to the moon, and a much longer voyage. Keep in mind also that we prefer free-return trajectories, which take even more delta-V - especially for something like a near-Earth asteroid....

One of the lovely things about doing our learning on the moon is that we're only three days away from Earth in case something goes south. Would be really embarrassing to find that we ran out of vitamin C three months into a 16 month mission, with no way to shorten it (a free return trajectory for a hypothetical asteroid mission will take about 18 months to return to Earth in case the "free return part has to be invoked. At least).

Re:A great idea (1)

MattBD (1157291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117016)

Also, a lot of asteroids are a LOT more mineral rich than the Moon. I've heard that a small metallic asteroid would be worth a trillion US$, and that's apparently quite a conservative estimate. Moon rock, by comparison, is roughly equivalent to the slag left over after mining an asteroid. Also, if you go for one of the near-Earth asteroids, it takes no more fuel to reach it than to reach the moon. If anything, it's easier to rendezvous with an asteroid because it's got far less gravity. So, a mission to an asteroid makes more commercial sense. There's even the possibility of mining it out, spinning it to generate artificial gravity and cutting out a cylindrical cavern in the middle and setting up a colony inside. Obviously, something like this is just the first step, but an asteroid mission is a much better idea than a moon mission in many ways.

Re:A great idea (1)

Steve1952 (651150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117104)

I am a longtime fan of human spaceflight, but:

Most human spaceflight ideas were formulated 50+ years ago, at a time when modern electronics just wasn't there. Given all that modern computers and robots can do now, We need to rethink things.

Since human space flights seem to be running about 10 to 100x more expensive than robotic missions, it would make sense to list the objectives, and only use humans when it makes sense. Our hidden agenda is probably to spread humans throughout the universe, which is fine with me, but we need to articulate this objective, and then make plans consistent with this idea.

Re:A great idea (2, Insightful)

gammaraybuster (913268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117108)

Asteroids ... have considerably more scientific value than the moon.

That's debatable, but to the extent it is true we should be sending unmanned probes to the asteroids, not expensive manned missions. Besides, manned missions really don't have much to do with science.

The moon is much more like Mars than any little near Earth asteroid. Before we go to Mars we'll need to learn how to live there for several months, and constructing a base on the moon is a great way to gain that knowledge. It's far enough away and a similar enough environment to require similar engineering solutions, but near enough to rescue the mission if something goes awry. Also, landing on and lifting off the Moon is just what we want to be good at for a manned Mars mission. The moon's gravity is about 1/6 earth, Mar's is about 1/4. The main difference is Mar's atmosphere, but we won't learn anything about landing on an atmosphered planet from an asteroid mission.

Personally I think going to Mars is going to be a hell of a tough prospect, much harder than most people think. I can imagine a future where the first successful two-year mission barely survives the ordeal and the bleakness and suffering of the explorers turns everyone off the whole idea. Probably what we need is a faster, better, cheaper propulsion system to get us there in a month or less.

Re:A great idea (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117218)

Landing from lunar orbit and takeoff to orbit each require delta Vs greater than 2000 m/sec. Entering and leaving lunar orbit takes even more.
Leaving lunar orbit only takes about 800 m/s.

Try it yourself:

Orbiter SFS:
http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/ [ucl.ac.uk]

Project Apollo:
http://nassp.sourceforge.net/wiki/Main_Page [sourceforge.net]

(Bwwhaha! Now I've ruined your life by turning you on to this most addicting simulation. See you in rehab!)

No it isn't... get the facts straight. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117266)

While your comments are not put together very clearly, apparently you are trying to claim that sending a rocket to an asteroid from a "deep gravity well" (earth) is easier than sending one from a "shallow gravity well" (the moon). And that is pure nonsense.

Given that there is at least a manned base, and both (earth and moon) have rockets prepared and ready to go, then it is FAR easier and less resource-intensive to send a mission from the moon than from earth. All your spouting about delta-v does not change that. The "delta-v" for leaving from the moon is much less than that necessary from earth, which also means that the vehicle can be MUCH smaller and lighter.

A low-gravity base that is well supplied with equipment is our best bet for frequent "outward" missions. That means a moon base. Yes, it would be expensive in terms of total resources. On the other hand, we have constantly been learning more about what raw materials are available from the moon, and how to go about extracting them. The results have been encouraging.

Re:A great idea (1)

O2H2 (891353) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117802)

Asteroids are a nuisance to get to from an orbital mechanics standpoint with long transit times that are not compatible with humans who want to get home too. At present they can be explored with far better science returns with unmanned vehicles. The Mars rovers should be the model here- not Apollo.

Asteroid misions are important (1)

Frozen Void (831218) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116518)

They provide valuable data on contents and structure of these rocks. Moon doesn't have a chance to fall on Earth anytime, but these
  zap through atmosphere everyday.
There are dozens of large asteroids which pass pretty close http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/ [nasa.gov]

Mining? (3, Interesting)

toppavak (943659) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116524)

Its fairly logical to think that if its so expensive to get stuff into space, just build it there. While manned missions to the moon and on to mars would certainly be amazing, I fail to see the point of a manned mission to an asteroid. Just send a probe and play around with altering a small asteroid's orbit and bring it into a lunar orbit. Creating an automated system that collects small asteroids (small enough that they'd burn up in atmosphere) and bring them to the moon to be processed would be a tremendous step forward in human expansion into space. Unfortunately, I don't think anything like this would happen until commercial space missions start making it further out there.

For anyone that hasn't heard of him, I'd strongly recommend you check out Bill Stone's [ted.com] TED talk. The whole thing is pretty cool, but its the last chapter in the video thats really amazing.

Re:Mining? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117170)

A decent sized asteroid would make a good, cheap, spaceship hull. Getting enough material up there to build a hull with enough radiation shielding to get people to Mars in good condition is prohibitively expensive (in terms of energy cost). If you start with an asteroid and hollow it out then you've got a few metres of rock for radiation shielding and a load of minerals from inside that can be refined to produce the more complex parts of the ship. If you can find an asteroid with rich uranium deposits then you've also got the power source for your ship without having to ship much up from Earth. My plan would be:
  1. Survey reachable asteroids for useful mineral contents (unmanned probes).
  2. Send simple automated equipment for mining and refining metals up to a few of them.
  3. Construct automated factories around a few.
  4. Find a decent sized one with a solid structure and begin hollowing it out.
  5. Spin it, pump it full of air, and start putting people in it.
  6. ???
  7. Profit.

Armageddon? (1)

Undead Ed (1068120) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116546)

Didn't they already try exploring asteroids?

I seem to remember the NewsReel.

Ed

A little sad (1)

Dr.Enormous (651727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116550)

Obviously, there's pretty much no scientific value in sending manned missions to the moon anymore, and there is a lot we can gain from meeting up with asteroids.

But it's a little sad, because it really is incredibly cool that we can put a man on the freaking moon, and I was rather looking forward to seeing them start doing it again.

Re:A little sad (3, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116578)

Why is there no scientific value in sending people to the moon? Its not like NASA explored the whole thing in the 1960s. We don't know much at all about the levels of water and helium-3 in the surface, both of which are important. Furthermore, seeing as the Earth and Moon seemed to have formed at the same time, investigating the moon can tell us more about the Earth. There is loads more to learn.

Re:A little sad (4, Insightful)

Dr.Enormous (651727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116612)

Because we can send robots there for half the cost, and the space saved in fuel, life support, and whatnot will allow them to carry much more in the way of instrumentation and tools.

Re:A little sad (3, Insightful)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116656)

Don't you think that the far longer distance to the asteroids make the overhead of a human presence on the trip there somewhat bigger, compared to a trip to the moon? A continuous presence on the moon would be realistic before 2030, reusing the same equipment with different crews. I fail to see that on the asteroids. Heck, for the moon it would even be possible to get down to Earth in a somewhat conceivable manner in a medical emergency, not so in the asteroid belt. (Ok, we can choose to land on one that passes nearby, but then it's a very limited time window anyway. It's a series of short excursions, not a permanent project.)

Re:A little sad (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117188)

Don't you think that the far longer distance to the asteroids make the overhead of a human presence on the trip there somewhat bigger, compared to a trip to the moon?
Communication delays are important. Sending a signal to the moon takes around a second, making it feasible to use telepresence to explore the moon. Send up something like a solar powered Asimo or two and it can stay up there permanently and be controlled by scientists on the ground 24 hours a day. This is a lot cheaper than a real human. Once you get much further, realtime control is no longer feasible and so having scientists and technicians on the spot is a lot more useful.

Re:A little sad (2, Informative)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116662)

A robot is not a scientist. The result of each experiment informs scientists how to construct the next experiment. This is easy if they live on the moon, it can take a decade if they don't.

Re:A little sad (2, Interesting)

KKlaus (1012919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117868)

So build a robotic moon base. It would be a good first step, and if it became self-sufficient, it would let us skip the hugely expensive "escape earth's gravitational field" part of lunar exploration, ultimately bringing costs down.

Further, I think advanced robotics is clearly one of those areas that could use some public funding to get through some of the early extremely expensive hard stuff that keeps out large scale private investment. What better (and more exciting) way to do that than with a moon base?

Re: Scientific value (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116752)

Why is it "so hard" to duplicate a known result 50 years later? The kudos go out to the first designers who did it with 1960's tech. Our computers are gloriously more powerful now, and their target deadline is another 8-ish years out anyway. (Past Windows Seven, Running *nix?)

Isn't there value to learning how to commoditize "it nearly killed us last time, now it's only $10,000,000."

Re: Scientific value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117446)

Sure, the technology got better, but the fuel is still the same and got a lot more expensive...

Sounds fine to me (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22116586)

Practical, cheaper, potentially immediate benefits.

* Learning how to manage NEOs in case of the ultimate nightmare scenario
* Applying and extending our experience in microgravity
* Potential to access resources far easier than on the moon (metals, water, oxygen)
* Returnable to earth orbit for building an orbital industrial infrastructure
* Easier to build completely reusable vehicles a possibility
* Nasa guys clearly read Stephen Baxter, Kim Stanley Robinson, and have played Eve Online.

Both missions has their merits (4, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116592)

The difference is that a manned moon-base is relatively resource-demanding while asteroid missions not necessarily has to be manned. It can be more of a problem doing a manned asteroid mission than a robotic one.

The only problem with an unmanned asteroid mission is that it may require some human decision from time to time - but normally there is no problem with time delays there. Not much that's in a hurry on an asteroid unless it's heading for Earth. Just put the robot to sleep for a while and recharge the batteries. Keep in mind that there may have to be different robots there compared to the robots we have on Mars.

The thing that's more interesting with a permanent moon-base is that there is a possibility that a lot of the material found on the moon can be used as construction material. It will require a processing plant - and it can't be used for everything, but it's there. Much of the soil is composed from oxides - which means that you can extract oxygen. Allocation of area for growth is no big problem either. The catch is that all this may have a high cost. But what is the cost when the Chinese decides that it's their turn to go to the moon?

Infrastructure Development.... (1)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116778)

This is a situation where we need a concrete reason to develop the heavy lift infrastructure needed.

And a moonbase makes as much sense as the "International Space Station".

The REAL driver for developing the infrastructure remains Space Based Solar.

http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/library/final-sbsp-interim-assessment-release-01.pdf [nss.org]

If we started TODAY, in 50 years we'd have all the pieces. Sustainable, Renewable, Non-Polluting Energy; Heavy Lift to GEO; And the ability to deploy a workforce to GEO to do the work needed.

We'd go to the moon for R&R. What happens on Luna STAYS ON LUNA!

Good! (3, Informative)

bug (8519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116596)

Good, I hope that they succeed in changing that strategy. For any colony to actually be useful and self-sustaining, there has to be some hope of an economic return on investment. The driest deserts and coldest tundras here on Earth are like tropical paradises compared with anything outside our planet, whether that's the moon, Mars, or a space station floating around the asteroid belts. Any space colony would be heavily dependent upon imports for survival (e.g., food, clothing, natural resources, manufactured goods, etc.). That will require a roughly equal amount of exports to balance trade, probably in the forms of valuable minerals and manufactured goods that are best made in microgravity environments. That becomes rather difficult to accomplish if you're stuck in a gravity well like a planet or relatively large moon, because lifting those items back out would be prohibitively expensive. We need to stop obsessing over planets and moons, just because we happen to be bipedal and live on a planet now. Asteroids are the way to go.

Re:Good! (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116670)

With the risk of resurrecting a /. fad of old, a space elevator on the moon is much more realistic than the Earth counterpart right now. No atmosphere, a much lower gravity well (less public opinion with more or less irrational fears). With that kind of approach, one would get a surface and a good way to transport things. Considering the issues of communication lag, and the latency for physical transport, I think that it's most likely that the first major presence outside Earth should be within a few lightseconds of here. Basically, that means the moon.

Short term vs. longer termed solution (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22116650)

I really can't help wonder if some people try to keep us from going to the moon (again) and this time actually see for ourselves what has been going on there in the past. Or they simply are incapable of looking at the big picture. A moonbase would be a much better solution, but in the longer run. Simply because launching rockets and other spacecraft from the moon would require tremendous lesser amounts of energy, thus reserving those to be used during the mission. And once you've overcome that problem even asteroid missions could be a lot easier to accomplish.

And thats not even touching other big advantages over a lunar base. For example space exploration. The best way to look into space now is Hubble. I'm pretty sure that a telescope on the moon would also give us lots more insights then we have now. Simply because the "distractions" from the Earth would be nearly gone (talking about light interference and such). And what to think about asteroid tracking? Its not very easy to simply "shift" the Hubble whereas a stationed telescope might be able to cover more parts of the sky due to a more dynamicly approach.

All in all I can't help wonder if people aren't trying to get their short termed solution suddenly accross. Perhaps even fed with the disdain most people have gotten from that nincapoop president.

Re:Short term vs. longer termed solution (1)

H3g3m0n (642800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116808)

Problem is that in order to launch rockets for the moon, you need rocks on the moon first, theres nothing up there to build em from so everything must be shipped up. If you going to be shipping up all that stuff up on rockets then its better to build stuff in orbit and save taking off from the moon. A telescope on the moon has been planed, from memory it involved a large dish of reflective liquid (quick sliver?) instead of a mirror since having a massive mirror gets you a much better telescope with longer range. But once again its probably better to launch a few small satellites and like them together to get one large image. Theres nothing we can really do on the moon that we can't do in orbit, and do it with less work since we don't have to relaunch stuff from the moon. About the only thing I can say about a moon base would be that it would be there to stay, Mir was deorbited, skylab too, and the ISS requires orbit boosts so one day it too will be gone. But you don't want to be relying on equipment that is too old anyway (like 30 year old shuttles :/ although they are being phased out in 2010 with a Orion orbiter to replace them in 2014, dunno what happens in that 4 year gap though)

Agreed (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117412)

Contrary to the first reply, I agree that a moonbase would be a much better long-term solution. Lack of available local resources was apparently the primary objection in the other reply, but in fact the moon is resource-rich, as we have been learning. Iron, aluminum, oxygen, lesser amounts of other minerals and metals, oxygen are all there in abundance. All that is needed is the energy to extract them.

There is a bit of an energy problem, in that it has to be stored for long periods of darkness. But when in the light (half the time or so), energy is abundant and free! So with storage, it is not really a problem at all.

We also must consider that a rocket lifted from the moon only has to be a small fraction of the size (actually, mass) than if sent from the earth. There is no atmosphere to overcome, and much less gravity. Less gravity means less fuel, which is a feedback loop... less fuel to lift the mass means less fuel necessary in the rocket, which means less rocket, which means even less fuel... so it takes A LOT less. probably about 1/10th. When you consider that 90% of an earth rocket's mass is fuel, that is saying a lot.

Once we have a shallow-gravity-well base, with resources, we will be much better-placed to send more "outward" missions.

What's the Goal? (5, Insightful)

spaceman375 (780812) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116718)

All these people seem to think that getting to Mars is the ultimate goal, that gathering scientific data is the point, and we've been to the moon already. This is starry eyed gee-whiz thinking. The quote at the end of TFA explains the REAL goal - we need a permanent colony somewhere other than here. Yes the Moon is a harsher environment, but the cost in time and money to put a colony on Mars is so much higher than putting one on the Moon that it just doesn't make sense. Sure, while we're there we should do some science, but getting people to live there will produce more sustained value than dozens of brief scientific visits to places with only scientific interest. Look at how they consider the Moon now - if a place is only worth visiting a couple of times at most, we're going to run out of places to go pretty quick. A colony would provide LOTS of incentive for private company participation. Building an Earth/Moon ferry service is feasible in 50 years - no private company is going to invest in one to Mars anytime soon.
I want a Moonbase!

Re:What's the Goal? (1)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116888)

Actually I think that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress =P

How about both? (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116720)

The US government wastes billions every year. By waste I don't even mean programs that I might disagree with. I mean money that just goes missing. How about we fix that, get rid of earmarks, and put that money towards deficit reduction *and* space exploration among other scientific endeavors.

Wait a minute (0, Flamebait)

Xenaero (1223656) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116722)

Shouldn't we solve our own little worldly conflicts before we go ahead and conquer other planets/moons/asteroids and claim them in the name of [insert country here] so we can have full-blown interplanetary wars?!

Re:Wait a minute (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117032)

uhh no.

Last time I checked our little worldy conflicts have been going on for thousands of years, and that is most likely not going to change for thousands more.

Re:Wait a minute (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117454)

Not only do I agree with the first reply, there is the little fact that it simply does not work that way!

For one thing, no matter what the conditions here at home, we need a frontier. Not want, but need. We MUST have one.

Second, a lot of people do not seem to realize that space exploration and related technologies have actually paid for itself many times over in terms of science that affects our everyday lives. Microwaves, teflon, satellites, lasers, etc. You might not be aware how those things are used in manufacturing, for example, to make the things that make our lives better, but they are. Everything from your television to better breeds of corn to the internet directly or indirectly relied on technologies related to space exploration.

Sounds Good (2, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116744)

I've been watching a lot of the old Twilight Zone episodes lately, and based on the examples they show, asteroids look like a better destination than the moon anyway. Asteroids seem much more habitable to humans. It looks like they have breathable atmospheres, earth-like gravity, and in fact they look almost exactly like our own Mohave Desert. In comparison, the moon is a bleak airless wasteland. I'm all for it.

hitch a ride on an asteroid (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116800)

just hope the orbital path of the asteroid does not bring it to a location in space where it can collide with other asteroids...

Great Idea (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116984)

I wish I had mod points for you. It's a great idea.

1) You could attach probes to passing by roids and then detach when they're about to pull back towards the sun. Saves on fuel and gets the probe further out our system.

2) If we could make lots of inexpensive tracking satellites we could track lots of roids. I think it would give us a lot of useful data as well as give us automatic collision warnings.

3) You could make an asteroid into a manned spaceship by landing on it. Why bother with the moon when an asteroid gets to see more things, albeit more dangerous of course. :)

Re:Great Idea (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117322)

"1) You could attach probes to passing by roids and then detach when they're about to pull back towards the sun. Saves on fuel and gets the probe further out our system."

Those are some whacky orbital mechanics you've got there.

In order to attach a probe to an asteroid you'd have to rendezvous with it, which means you'd be in the same orbit as it is anyway. No fuel saved.

You can make an asteroid into a manned spaceship (well, one that can't maneuver much) by landing a spaceship on it. Or you could just keep your spaceship unlanded and be able to maneuver too!

yeah, right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22116854)

The US is $9 TRILLION in debt [treasurydirect.gov] .

There will be no asteroid mission. There will be no lunar base.

Case For Mars (3, Informative)

usul294 (1163169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22116938)

In the book, "The Case for Mars" the author, also the creator of the Mars Direct Plan, argues skipping the moon all-together and go straight to Mars. This is because Mars is full of resources that could be used to make a self sustaining colony, whereas a Lunar base requires everything to come from Earth. Differences between a Lunar Base and the ISS? The Lunar base is on the Moon, and on the Moon you can do geology and astronomy particularly well; on ISS, there's not much useful science.

I'm not sure cruising to asteroids is the answer, but at least there are probably lots of interesting and diverse resources, and the missions could be made lightweight(no lander required). The geology of Asteroids is probably alot different than the Moon's because there was no volcanic past or differentiation. But my opinion is, cut to the chase, go to Mars, its the most interesting thing out there.

Re:Case For Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117004)

And the geology of the Moon is very similar to that of Earth, seeing as how it was originally a part of the Earth. The old adage of "work with what you know" seems to make a whole lot of sense to me.

DOD will push back (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117008)

It is not just NASA that wants the moon.

They should go to the asteroids, (2, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117050)

I have felt this for a long time.

A number of Earth-crossing asteroids are easier to get to, energetically, than the Moon. (Apollo could certainly have
reached some asteroids, which was pointed out at the time, and a lot more Earth-crossing asteroids are known now.) The trip times tend to be long,
so you need to be prepared for long duration flights (which is not that different from being prepared for long duration lunar visits, and is also
true of any trip to Mars). And, you don't need anything like a lunar module. (With most asteroids, and certainly all of the Earth crossing ones, you will "dock" with
them more than "land" on them, the gravity is that week.) The weight saved from the lunar module can be used for provisions instead.

There is plenty of science to do, and if we are ever going to economically exploit the materials in space, we are much more likely to
do it with asteroids than with either the Moon or Mars.

folks, it's a no-brainer (1)

MacarooMac (1222684) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117112)

The moon's like, just hanging round up there all day long: let's face it, we've all seen that old boy before! At least them asteroids are always goin new places.
Now, if I was a spaceman (and i'm not saying an alien or anything - just a regular spaceman from down Florida) i'd much rather git aboard one of them asteroids and go to new places - wouldn't ya'll?

Anyhoo, I hear them asteroids git hot damn good fuel econ: so none of that bitchin''bout the vironment and all that polushon jazz, now boys!

Re:folks, it's a no-brainer (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117468)

Sure... right up until you ran out of air. Then it would be a no-brainer, indeed.

money money money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117132)

Because they are more likely to find valuable metals, etc. in the asteriods for mining. There's not any money to be made on the Moon. :)

The first manned mission (2, Funny)

definate (876684) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117180)

Can I be the first person to suggest that the crew of the first manned mission to an asteroid absolutely must be...

1) Bruce Willis
2) Ben Affleck (Hey, send Matt Daemon too, sure it has nothing to do with the movie, but I think he deserves to be in space)
3) A sketchy guy (Who I can't remember the name of and don't care) and some big black guy for racial equality (Who I also can't remember the name of and don't care)

Either way, this is the only way I see a mission like this succeeding.

Besides this happening, I believe it would be much cooler to establish a colony on the moon, however the first colony absolutely must...

1) Setup an amusement park
2) Setup a monument in said amusement park to the first whalers to land on the moon
3) Send Matt Groening there to show him that, this is what happens when you make a popular show which resonates with nerds who have a huge sense of irony

Both of these activities will garner the support NASA needs to undertake these missions from the common man, while increasing the future success of the human species, specifically as it pertains to colonization of the universe.

So to conclude:
4) ???
5) Profit!

Baby-steps, we need to start over (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117306)

We need to take baby-steps for these kinds of projects, and because of our abandonment years ago, we need to start over.

Facts:
We don't have any astronauts that have experience landing on satellites or anything other than the Earth.
The moon has a very stable orbit around the Earth
Asteroids do not have very stable orbits around the Earth

From these observations, as well as other common knowledge, I'm willing to state that it would be easier to have a Lunar mission than a mission landing on an Asteroid. Why? Because it's most-likely easier to land on the moon than on an asteroid. Also, by the time we have finished doing whatever we were doing on the asteroid, it will (most likely) be much further away from the Earth than it was when we landed on it.

Sure, I don't see any real reason why we shouldn't do any manned asteroid missions. I just think we need to work our way up to them. As it is now, astronauts don't have the experience to be able to land on an asteroid. They should be able to get enough experience to land on the moon rather quickly. And I know I've ignored the ground crews, who have no experience sending people to the moon any more, so the same comments about the astronauts also apply to the people staying on the Earth.

Re:Baby-steps, we need to start over (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117360)

"Landing" on an asteroid is pretty much like docking with ISS, except without the need to hit the docking collar precisely.

Landing on the moon is just that, landing. If you screw up you get splattered all over the landscape. The gravity is lower than Earth, but in many ways landing is more difficult because there isn't any air: no parachutes or wings.

Asteroids more distant than Mars (1)

Cinnaman (954100) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117312)

That proposed mission seemed at bit strange at first because the asteroids are further out, but not having to escape the gravity of a small planet would make it a lot easier. It seems a lot more exciting to go that far out than returning to the Moon.

It is NOT about excitement! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117484)

If it were, maybe we would be going to Uranus...

Sounds like a plan! (1)

Aging_Newbie (16932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117326)

Let's let China and India bring back the Helium 3 and we will buy it from them. -- That's probably the only good reason to go there anyway, but if we go there we might have to use Helium 3/deuterium fusion for our energy. That would really disappointment the coal, gas, and petroleum industry.

Going to Mars via asteroid trips is a good idea because it will spend lots of money without any of those annoying technology returns and society-changing science findings to cope with. Also, nobody else will be pursuing Mars, so we won't be embarrased by our failure when somebody who still has technology and manufacturing resources beats us there.

Base might be better (1)

doubledjd (1043210) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117428)

Don't get me wrong. I am really interested in seeing both lunar and asteroid exploration. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020416073334.htm [sciencedaily.com]

Criswell estimates that the 10 billion people living on Earth in 2050 will require 20 Terrawatts (TW) of power. The Moon receives 13,000 TW of power from the sun. Criswell suggests that harnessing just 1% of the solar power and directing it toward Earth could replace fossil fuel power plants on Earth.
This idea has been around for quite a while. It is fun to daydream of what we could do with inexhaustible clean energy. Not like petroleum companies are going to let that happen...

I no longer care. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22117506)

NASA had their shot. They got us to the moon and back.

Since then the shuttle has been a very expensive moving van to LEO. ISS is an expensive exercise in international relations (I hope the new science module proves me wrong, but I'm not counting on it).

NASA combines the best engineers with the worst bureaucracy on the planet, their "Can Do" attitude has been replaced by "I'll get back to you on that".

Returning to the moon sometime so far in the future that most of us are going to be retired or dead is being replaced by a mission even further in the future. Yeah NASA, whatever, I no longer care.

doable; cold war (3, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22117570)

One big advantage of a crewed mission to a near-earth asteroid over a crewed mission to Mars is that we simply don't have the technology to get to Mars. A transfer orbit to Mars takes 1.4 years (total round-trip time). (This is simply the period of a body in a Keplerian orbit that's tangent to the Earth's orbit at perihelion and tangent to Mars's orbit at aphelion. A spaceship isn't like a car, which takes less time to get there if you drive faster. A spaceship only thrusts with its engines in order to change its orbit.) The big unsolved scientific and engineering problem is how to keep a crew of human beings from getting exposed to unacceptable doses of radiation when they're in Earth-Mars orbital space for that long. The radiation intensity from galactic cosmic rays [wikipedia.org] is much, much higher out there than it is in Earth orbit. Feasible amounts of shielding actually make the problem worse rather than better, because of secondary radiation. According to this article [space.com] , the duration of a mission to a near-earth asteroid could be 60-90 days, so it avoids this very tough, unsolved problem. There are many other aspects of a near-earth asteroid mission that are also a heck of a lot easier than a Mars mission. You don't have to land in a deep gravity well and then take off again, for one thing. If you look at the history of uncrewed Mars missions, it's pretty damn scary -- the success rate is very low, and that's for missions that don't have to take off and return to Earth, and don't have to provide life support.

The big question in my mind is what is the rational justification for government-funded crewed spaceflight at this point. There's no scientific justification; uncrewed probes give more bang for the buck. The shuttle's only mission is to go to the ISS, and the ISS's only mission is to give the shuttle somewhere to go. Thirty or forty years ago, this was all basically cold war propaganda stuff. It seems to me that the U.S. is having a hard time dealing with an unanticipated outbreak of peace. The rational thing to do would have been to continue harvesting the peace dividend, start ramping down our foreign military commitments, and let both crewed and uncrewed space exploration make the transition to the private sector. Instead we've been blundering around like idiots with our ridiculously large military, and in terms of space exploration we've been choking the scientifically productive uncrewed program by diverting the available money into extremely expensive projects like the ISS that have no rational justification.

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