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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @03:44AM   Printer-friendly
from the to-the-moon-but-not-back? dept.

Howard Bloom has written a guest blog at Scientific American addressing the Trump Administration's plan to return to (orbit) the Moon. That mission would use the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, which have cost $18 billion through 2017 but are not expected to launch astronauts into space until around 2023. Bloom instead proposes using private industry to put a base on the Moon, using technology such as SpaceX's Falcon Heavy (estimated $135 million per launch vs. $500 million for the Space Launch System) and Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable habitat modules:

[NASA's acting administrator Robert] Lightfoot's problem lies in the two pieces of NASA equipment he wants to work with: a rocket that's too expensive to fly and is years from completion—the Space Launch System; and a capsule that's far from ready to carry humans—the Orion. Neither the SLS nor the Orion are able to land on the Moon. Let me repeat that. Once these pieces of super-expensive equipment reach the moon's vicinity, they cannot land.

Who is able to land on the lunar surface? Elon Musk and Robert Bigelow. Musk's rockets—the Falcon and the soon-to-be-launched Falcon Heavy—are built to take off and land. So far their landing capabilities have been used to ease them down on earth. But the same technology, with a few tweaks, gives them the ability to land payloads on the surface of the Moon. Including humans. What's more, SpaceX's upcoming seven-passenger Dragon 2 capsule has already demonstrated its ability to gentle itself down to earth's surface. In other words, with a few modifications and equipment additions, Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules could be made Moon-ready.

[...] In 2000, Bigelow purchased a technology that Congress had ordered NASA to abandon: inflatable habitats. For the last sixteen years Bigelow and his company, Bigelow Aerospace, have been advancing inflatable habitat technology. Inflatable technology lets you squeeze a housing unit into a small package, carry it by rocket to a space destination, then blow it up like a balloon. Since the spring of 2016, Bigelow, a real estate developer and founder of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has had an inflatable habitat acting as a spare room at the International Space Station 220 miles above your head and mine. And Bigelow's been developing something far more ambitious—an inflatable Moon Base, that would use three of his 330-cubic-meter B330 modules. What's more, Bigelow has been developing a landing vehicle to bring his modules gently down to the Moon's surface.

[...] If NASA ditched the Space Launch System and the Orion, it would free up three billion dollars a year. That budget could speed the Moon-readiness of Bigelow's landing vehicles, not to mention SpaceX's Falcon rockets and could pay for lunar enhancements to manned Dragon 2 capsules. In fact, three billion dollars a year is far greater than what Bigelow and Musk would need. That budget would also allow NASA to bring Jeff Bezos into the race. And it would let NASA refocus its energy on earth-orbit and lunar-surface refueling stations...plus rovers, lunar construction equipment, and devices to turn lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, and breathable oxygen. Not to mention machines to turn lunar dust and rock into building materials.

An organization that Howard Bloom founded, The Space Development Steering Committee, has been short one member recently (Edgar Mitchell).


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  • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:16PM (3 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:16PM (#472832) Homepage Journal

    "Not seeing how that gets you food, water, entertainment, and other essentials."

    When you've killed off the competition, and subdued the remaining population, you claim tribute. Water, liquour, food, women, wine, song, jewelry, whatever. No need to mine asteroids, if you can just conquer earth. Of course, when that cataclysmic event happens, then it's "Good night, mankind!'

    --
    “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ― George S. Patton on Ukraine
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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:59PM (2 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @04:59PM (#472862) Journal

    When you've killed off the competition, and subdued the remaining population, you claim tribute. Water, liquour, food, women, wine, song, jewelry, whatever. No need to mine asteroids, if you can just conquer earth. Of course, when that cataclysmic event happens, then it's "Good night, mankind!'

    Ok, genius, how do you get that tribute up to your sky fortress now that you're whacked the infrastructure for moving stuff into space?

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:35PM (1 child)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @05:35PM (#472893) Homepage Journal

      Transporters.

      Actually, you can probably come down and enjoy a life of ease after you've subdued the population.

      But, come on, man - I'm the guy pushing the idea of getting OUT THERE - the rest of this scenario is just so much bullshit. Let me out there, and I sure as hell don't want to come back. The only reason I would come back is, I can't make it. I'm not good enough, the tech isn't good enough, the support isn't good enough. Let me out there, and I'm gonna do my damnedest to make things work, so that I don't HAVE to come back.

      --
      “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ― George S. Patton on Ukraine
      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:04PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 28 2017, @06:04PM (#472919) Journal
        Come on, Runaway. You break out the Ming the Merciless outfit *after* you get the death ray. Publicly speculating about all the tribute you're going to get once your "asteroid mining station" is operational is a bit premature.