Ares V rocket

No Moon Missions, That’s a Relief

1 Feb , 2010 by

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The rumors were true, Constellation is cancelled. No Ares 1 crew vehicle, no Ares V heavy lifter, no Altair lander. No bases on the Moon, and no human exploration of Mars. NASA is canceling the human return to the Moon.

Good.

Obviously I’m a huge fan of human space exploration. I’ve dedicated my life to it. I’ve raised my children in the certainty that they’re going to be the first humans to set foot on the surface of Mars, and I mourn the end of the Apollo program. Where’s my flying car? But I’ve also felt deeply unsettled about the Constellation program. Maybe it was the best way to reach the Moon 40 years ago, but things are different now.

As some of you know, my background is in software, where the competition is fierce. And half of this is a mental game; you win the information war in the minds of customers through FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Make your nervous customers wait, and hope that your next great solution is going to solve all their problems. Although we’re talking space exploration here, I see a parallel. Why work our tails off to go to the Moon or Mars if NASA is going to just make it happen for us?

Well they aren’t, and I’d argue that they never were. It was just a matter of time before the political parties changed, budgets tightened, and priorities shifted. It was inevitable that this would happen, and if it didn’t happen this time around, it would happen with the next shift in government. No long term goal could ever survive. And time spent waiting for NASA to make it happen was wasted time.

As the guy watching stats at Universe Today (2 million readers in January, 2009), I can guarantee that interest in space and astronomy is continuing to rise. The demand and interest is there, and thanks to the Internet, thousands of flowers are blooming as space advocacy groups are coming together to get things done – like the Mars Society, and the Planetary Society. Private companies are making human space tourism a reality, with Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, and Bigelow Aerospace. There are privately funded prizes available for the completion of technical accomplishments, like the Google Lunar X Prize.

But with NASA handling that “back to the Moon” thing, space advocates probably thought they could relax a little.

I think that NASA has an enormous role to play in human space exploration. They have the ability to solve problems that private enterprise just doesn’t have the funds for. Sure, NASA put a man on the Moon, but it’s the trickle down technologies that we appreciate every day. Like velcro! NASA needs create the tools and technology that will enable a vibrant and healthy private space industry.

What’s the best way to extract fuel from an asteroid? How can ion engines cut down flight times? Is there a better way to make a spacesuit? What are some good materials for space elevators? What are some safer rocket fuels? How can we make rocket launches better for the environment? Is there a way to make velcro better?

They can do this through pure research, competitions, university grants, prizes, and private/government partnerships. They can team up with other governments to cut costs on the really big challenges.

And you know what’s strange? They already do this with science. NASA listens to scientists to hear their greatest challenges. “We need to see through gas and dust to see star formation and protoplanetary disks” – here’s Spitzer. “We need to see high energy regions around supermassive black holes” – that’s Fermi. “We need to know if there’s evidence of water on the surface of Mars” – that’s Spirit and Opportunity. NASA does this so well with science? Why don’t they answer questions and solve problems in the same way for space exploration? There are so many questions, and NASA can help point us in the right directions.

NASA can help me build my flying car, but I still want to choose the destination.

Don’t worry, the Moon is still there, and Mars isn’t going anywhere. And my daughter is still going to be first person to squish the sands of Mars between her toes (thanks to remote toe-sensing technology developed by NASA).

Here’s an article about the 1st man on the Moon.

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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
brink
Member
February 1, 2010 11:28 AM
NASA is full of crap. This is insane that they aren’t willing to explore the heavens. 3rd World countries are going to beat us to the punch, just like they did before we “blew up the moon”. Even though the pictures of us “blowing up the moon” looked like a 1960s piece of crap camera. NASA is a fraud. There is no question or doubt in my mind. They are a F R A U D. And there missions are all just a money siphon. This is absurd to keep the human population stranded on a slave planet. Bring back to the power of the people and we’ll win the universe over. ETs will love us for freeing… Read more »
Aqua4U
Member
February 1, 2010 12:25 PM

SAVE THE HUMANS! spread out….

Uncle Fred
Member
Uncle Fred
February 1, 2010 11:40 AM

This article seemed to ramble. What has been a software engineer have anything to do with the sentences after?

Encouraging the private sector is all well and great, but one can’t hide the fact Mars is now a long way off. Seems nothing short of a new space race is necessary to kick-start human exploration again. Unfortunately, the Chinese and other space agencies are only in their infancy.

Seems like Mars is getting further away…

Emission Nebula
Member
February 1, 2010 11:50 AM

As much as I want to scream at NASA too, this is because Obama cut the funding.

Thameron
Member
Thameron
February 1, 2010 11:57 AM

A relief indeed. They have freed up all that future time I might have spent reading about and watching future manned planetary landings so that I can instead read and watch all those things that are more important.

ZomZom
Member
ZomZom
February 1, 2010 12:08 PM

It’s Bush’s fault for not adequately funding Constellation but Obama should be praised for cancelling it outright? The machinations of the liberal mindset amaze.

Trippy
Member
Trippy
February 1, 2010 12:19 PM

I was initially opposed to the idea of canning the missions to the moon, but I think Fraser may be right, this could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Too many people, with too many ‘revolutionary visions’ who think that NASA should be doing it their way to make a 20 year plan viable.

strongenough
Member
strongenough
February 1, 2010 12:30 PM

Goodbye universetoday.com. It was nice knowing you, but this went too far.

gr8hifi
Member
gr8hifi
February 1, 2010 12:34 PM
Think how much could be accomplished if Elon Musk was given and additional 1.2Bn dollars a year for his program. If you want to get political about it, show me in the constitution where it says that my government should run a space program…. I am all for private venture. Let NASA open up their files to each of the private companies, make the plans for the Saturn rockets public domain. Sure another country may build something and launch it up there, but, if they did, you might get a nice repeat of Kennedy’s moon shot. Competition is always a good thing and fat NASA hasn’t had enough of it. Trim the fat, take a few chances, and… Read more »
digidan
Member
digidan
February 1, 2010 12:38 PM

I’m not sure what happened to the exploratory nature that our country was founded on. What about the olden days of exploring the wild west and settling new lands and new parts of the world? Does this not apply to the universe as a whole? I think we should at least try to get back to the moon, if not Mars and beyond. We should colonize the solar system and galaxy with the same gusto as we did the new world.

Andy F
Member
February 1, 2010 12:46 PM

I agree with what you say in this article, Fraser. NASA should be facilitators, but also engage in programs that are of great scientific interest, but are not commercially viable in the private sector (terrestrial planet finding telescopes, gravitational wave detectors, Mars science laboratories and the outer solar system etc.).

There can’t be any return to the glory days of Apollo because the political momentum required for such a gargantuan project in the 1960s came from defence during the Cold War, not science.

Thameron
Member
Thameron
February 1, 2010 12:56 PM

You know what these private companies are going to do when they get into space, to the moon and to the other planets?

They are going to put up banner ads. The man in the moon will be replaced by the McDonalds, Nike and Coke logos.

That will be progress.

Gerald
Member
Gerald
February 1, 2010 12:58 PM

Sorry, but I think that column of smoke you see off in the distance is NASA’s funeral pyre. The “bold new approach” with no clear direction or objective will just lay the groundwork for more cutbacks and downsizing in the future. When Bush announced the “return to the moon” plan in 2004, I bet a friend $5 that we’d fail to execute. Rather than collect my $5 today, I’m going to make a new bet: Once NASA pulls out of the ISS program in 2020, there will be no more NASA human spaceflight program.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
February 1, 2010 1:15 PM

What will happen now is that China will send manned missions to the Moon and the US stood there and just looked unable to go themselves. Since they failed to create the technology for it.

Obama just killed manned US space exploration by only have the experience in Low earth orbit.

And to the public, no human hero’s since ISS is low earth orbit so very boring by now. Just as exiting as watching a ship leaving the harbour.

SpaceNinja
Member
SpaceNinja
February 1, 2010 1:38 PM
Do you really think the Obama administration honestly believes that this plan sets us up for human space flight to Mars, or anywhere besides LEO? Of COURSE when you are trying to cut the legs from under a program, you don’t say “I’m cutting the legs from under the program.” What you do say is “Bold new direction….blah blah blah….no moon, but MAYBE MARS!!!….blah blah….” The only president that was able to move a nation to land a man on the moon is long dead, and he had an entire nation backing him. Obama just mumbled “Mars”. If he really meant it, the speech would be much more grandiose. He would call us to action, and lay out… Read more »
Darnell Clayton
Member
February 1, 2010 1:54 PM

Thank you Fraser!

I’m tired of people claiming the space movement is dead because NASA is no longer in the game!

Yeah, this means the government has “less control,” as they are not doing it entirely themselves and costing us a fortune.

But, it also means that businesses may be able to (finally) establish outposts upon the Moon that are (wait for it) profitable!

Anyways, glad to see this up on UT! smile Makes me proud to be a space geek.

Surak
Member
Surak
February 1, 2010 1:56 PM
It’s downright sad seeing how some people are trashing NASA / Obama / ‘Liberals’ for the current state of NASA. NASA Does want to do human spaceflight … they can’t without money. Bush never funded NASA sufficiently to enact the PR stunt dream of his to go back to the moon and on to Mars, he actually CUT funding. Blame the ‘Liberals’? ya … blame the people who have to clean up the catastrophic $1.6 TRILLION deficit and $10+ TRILLION accumulated debt of the American People’s duly elected governments. This is what you get from Bush’s rediculously unsustainable tax cuts, brutal unjustifiable war in Iraq, and deregulation of the Banks allowing them to screw you and the world… Read more »
Surak
Member
Surak
February 1, 2010 1:59 PM

Forgot to say ..

Keep up the good work Fraser

Too many Americans have trouble seeing the problems they’ve given themselves as clearly as those of us North of the border.

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