Friday, September 01, 2006

Hramblings: When it comes to space travel, the second times the charm...not!

I'm still mystified as to how we went from Alan Shepard's sub-orbital flight to the Apollo 11 landing in 8 years and it will take 13 years for the first Orion-based moon shot.
NASA has announced that Lockheed Martin will build America's new space capsule, called Orion. Expected to orbit Earth by 2014, Orion is expected to reach the moon by 2020 -- NPR's All Things Considered
After 35 years of improvements to materials science, computers, avionics, and the like it apparently takes nearly twice as long to execute the same voyage. Is this because its not primarily a proxy military battle? Or because of the bakesale mentality of the current administration toward the sciences?


At 1:47 PM, Blogger Dave New said...

Having worked in the Engineering Cost Group at Marshall Space Flight Center back in the early 70's, I was amazed at how cheaply we put man on the Moon -- total outlay for the entire Apollo program was under $1 Billion US (in 1972 dollars). At the time, we were doing the cost estimates for the upcoming Shuttle program, and the costs for a reusable Orbiter with solid rocket boosters was carefully weighed against a continuing program of one-time use boosters and multi-stage rockets. The Orbiter concept won, with the side-effect of effectively derailing our interplanetary manned space effort for the foreseeable future. Never mind that we still used a great number of non-reuseable rockets (launched mainly from the Western Test Range) to launch all manner of satellites that needed to be in polar- or near-polar orbit, which the Shuttle was never designed to achieve.

The Shuttle program was sold as a "Mission to Earth", with immediate paybacks in Earth Sciences, et al, due to our unique scientific microgravity platform in space.

In the meantime, all interplanetary missions were relegated to robotic (unmanned) stuff, done 'on the cheap' (where $100 million for a Mars landing is considered cheap).

We've been to the Moon, thank you. Kicked a few rocks around, shoot a couple of golf balls. Where we need to be concentrating our efforts is on Mars, now, with the thought to establishing a permanent human presence there.


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