[Fwd: [>Htech] Advocating an improved Saturn V for returning to Luna
(fwd from firstname.lastname@example.org)]
Joseph S. Barrera III
jsb at polymathy.org
Sun Nov 2 19:20:02 PST 2003
It's got presidential politics and references to a new improved Saturn V.
How can you beat that?
"I always knew I would see the first man on the moon.
I never dreamed that I would see the last."
- Jerry Pournelle
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [>Htech] Advocating an improved Saturn 5 for returning to Luna
(fwd from ljk4 at msn.com)
Date: Sat, 1 Nov 2003 16:32:14 +0100
From: Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org>
Reply-To: transhumantech at yahoogroups.com
To: transhumantech at yahoogroups.com
----- Forwarded message from LARRY KLAES <ljk4 at msn.com> -----
From: "LARRY KLAES" <ljk4 at msn.com>
Date: Sat, 1 Nov 2003 10:04:24 -0500
To: "europa" <europa at klx.com>
Cc: "BioAstro" <bioastro at setileague.org>
Subject: Advocating an improved Saturn 5 for returning to Luna
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Reply-To: europa at klx.com
Is new lunar mission pie in sky?
Expert says it's on the table, but others think time's not ripe
By SHELBY G. SPIRES
Times Aerospace Writer, shelbys at htimes.com
Take a good look at the sliver of reflected moonlight hanging in the sky
tonight. Six American flags stiffen in the cold lunar vacuum there.
The Bush administration is considering the possibility of planting more
in the lunar dust with a far-reaching plan that could return Americans
to the moon.
Plans are quietly being discussed in the White House about directing
NASA to set up a plan for advanced space exploration missions beyond the
space shuttle and International Space Station, space experts in
Washington said this week.
Options for NASA include a return to the moon, exploration of asteroids
and, ultimately, a human mission to Mars. Huntsville was at the
forefront of America's previous moon missions with the design and
building of several Saturn stages and the management of the massive
Saturn V Apollo moon rockets. Marshall Space Flight Center also managed
a number of space-related science projects during the Apollo years.
"There is a task force within the White House on NASA issues, and it is
looking at a whole range of options that would take us out of low Earth
orbit and proceed beyond the International Space Station," said Brian
Chase, executive director of the 20,000-member National Space Society -
a group that frequently pushes the benefits of space to lawmakers. "A
return to the moon is on the table. There are a lot of things on the
table. The plan covers a range of options, from what I understand. It
goes from doing nothing to going to Mars in steps.
"Returning to the moon is one of those steps that gets us to Mars."
Chase said a number of details have to be worked out, including costs
and schedules. There may or may not be a grand John F. Kennedy-type
announcement in the near future, but serious thought is being given to
returning to the moon.
"The plans I've seen range from doing nothing, which we think would be
awful, to a human mission to the moon and one day, years from now, a
mission to Mars," Chase said. "Obviously, (the National Space Society)
supports those activities."
-- No moon plan yet
The space agency is continuously planning and seeking new objectives,
but one with a specific lunar vision is not officially on the table
right now, a NASA spokesman in Washington said Friday.
"I'm not aware of a plan with that specific goal as an objective," said
Bob Jacobs, NASA Headquarters spokesman.
Today, the space shuttle is the only American space vehicle capable of
taking humans off the planet. But it is not designed for lunar flights.
The solid rocket boosters and the external tank don't carry enough fuel
to take the shuttle out of Earth orbit.
Any trip to the moon would require a new, heavy-lift rocket.
A space exploration plan would be a stepping-stone path to putting
people on Mars. First, humans would return to the moon for lengthy stays
to accomplish science missions. Then, human missions would venture out
to far points in space, including asteroids. Eventually, there would be
a lengthy, multiyear mission to Mars.
A return to the moon would help develop heavy rockets, radiation
shielding and high-speed computers that could be used to explore the
solar system, Chase said.
"It's right around the corner and, if there's a problem, it would be
easier to get a crew back," he said.
New technology needed
Space experts pointed out numerous problems in planning a return to the
moon or expanding human space exploration. New technologies would have
to be developed. Also, America's space program isn't geared to use lunar
The Apollo launch towers were modified in the late-1970s for use on the
space shuttle program. There is no production line geared toward
building large, Saturn V-style heavy-lifting rockets. Rocket plants used
to build the Saturns were shuttered or converted for the space shuttle
in the early 1970s.
"There is no doubt it would be a difficult undertaking, but I believe we
should consider returning to the moon," said Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, now
90, who was a key member of Dr. Wernher von Braun's German rocket team
in the 1960s. "It would be hard, and it would take a national commitment
like we had from John F. Kennedy and the public, but it could be done,
there's no doubt of that. We did it before, and I think it could be done
better today because of improved technology.
"It can't be done without a commitment, however."
The benefits of returning to the moon include building a base for space
observation and mining a unique element on the moon, Helium-3, which
scientists say could be used to provide clean, cheap power here on
Earth, said Stuhlinger, who helped design the original Saturn rockets.
"I'm sure, in the long run, it will be accomplished, but by whom and
when I don't know. Maybe it will be done by the Chinese. They certainly
seem dedicated to the task of catching up in space now," said
Stuhlinger. "We should first find out what is needed to get us there,
and then think about what we want to do when we get there. That's the
-- Improved Saturn V?
Stuhlinger, who still consults with NASA engineers, said the basic
technology that was sound for the Saturn V would probably be considered
for a return to the moon. Kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel would probably
be used to push a large rocket's first stage. Cryogenic (extremely low
temperature) fuels could be used for the upper stages.
"The logical thing to do is build an improved Saturn V, and it could
take advantage of lighter, improved materials," Stuhlinger said. "Von
Braun and his coworkers thought all the time that Saturn V would be just
one milestone along the path of space exploration. ... The Saturn V
wasn't supposed to be the last large rocket."
The political will to accomplish a moonshot might be in place now,
almost 43 years after Kennedy committed the nation to landing a man on
the moon before the end of the 1960s.
"That it's being talked about is encouraging," said Huntsville attorney
and NASA Advisory Council member Mark McDaniel. "I think, from what I've
seen, there is solid commitment from the White House to take the
appropriate steps in space exploration."
Politically, a permanent human presence in space would mean commitment
of people and resources. The original moon landings cost between $25
billion and $28 billion. Translated into today's dollars, the cost would
exceed $150 billion, said Dr. Howard McCurdy, a space expert with
American University in Washington. There have been rumors, though, a
return trip to the moon would cost about $50 billion, he said.
"The figure $50 billion has been talked about a bit," McCurdy said.
"That would actually be a modified Mars mission cost estimate, because
(former NASA Administrator) Dan Goldin asked NASA managers to develop a
trip to Mars for a third of what it cost to get to the moon.
"Now, I think they are just using that cost basis."
-- No moon race
Don't expect a plan that rushes to the moon within another decade,
either, McCurdy said. That might not be feasible or affordable because
there's nothing in place to build the rockets now.
"It would be hard to go there in eight years this time," he said. "We
don't have that infrastructure left over. Also, I wouldn't think anybody
would want to spend $6 billion a year in today's dollars to race to the
moon. I don't know how incremental it would be, but it would take more
than 10 years to return to the moon."
As political administrations change so do priorities. Multiyear science
projects are always high targets for lawmakers who don't have a NASA
center or contract in their district, McCurdy said.
And there is a thought this could be political grandstanding by the
White House, McCurdy said.
"Several sitting presidents have turned to space when they were running
for office again," McCurdy said. "Nixon did it with the space shuttle in
1972, Reagan did it with the space station in 1984 and there have been
space announcements in other election years. It looks good, sometimes,
to the voters."
Congress was impatient with NASA's first lunar program. Debate raged
across Capital Hill throughout the late 1960s in efforts to kill the
Apollo program. In 1970, Congress succeeded in slashing the last three
-- Hard sell
McCurdy said it would be a harder sell to the American people and
Congress today. It might be a grand mission, but tax coffers are being
emptied to pay for a war on terror and social programs. There's scant
money for space exploration.
"There's a reason to go, and then there's a reason to spend the money on
anything," McCurdy said. "For humans, Americans especially, the reason
to go is that it is in our genes. We go places. We explore. ... Now is
there a reason to spend the money? I want a 50-foot yacht, but it
doesn't mean I'm going to justify buying one.
"It's not going to happen. The money's not there for this. It's nice to
talk about, but there's no money for this type of space exploration
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