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posted by janrinok on Friday April 20 2018, @06:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the refried-space-beans dept.

NASA is going back to the Moon, perhaps permanently, as seen in a new road map (image):

Four months after President Trump directed NASA to return to the Moon, the agency has presented a road map to meet the goals outlined in Space Policy Directive-1. The updated plan shifts focus from the previous "Journey to Mars" campaign back to the Moon, and—eventually—to the Red Planet.

"The Moon will play an important role in expanding human presence deeper into the solar system," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, in a release issued by the agency.

While the revamped plan may share the same destination as the Apollo program, NASA said it will approach the return in a more measured and sustainable manner. Unlike humanity's first trip to the Moon, the journey back will incorporate both commercial and international partners.

To achieve this, NASA has outlined four strategic goals:

  • Transition low-Earth orbit (LEO) human spaceflight activities to commercial operators.
  • Expand long-duration spaceflight activities to include lunar orbit.
  • Facilitate long-term robotic lunar exploration.
  • Use human exploration of the Moon as groundwork for eventual human missions to Mars and beyond.

This may be the best outcome for the space program. Let NASA focus on the Moon with an eye towards permanently stationing robots and humans there, and let SpaceX or someone else take the credit for a 2020s/early-2030s manned Mars landing. Then work on a permanent presence on Mars using cheaper rocket launches, faster propulsion technologies, better radiation shielding, hardier space potatoes, etc.

Previously: President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1

Related:


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  • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Saturday April 21 2018, @05:38PM (3 children)

    by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 21 2018, @05:38PM (#670119) Journal

    There's no place as good for a radio-telescope as the backside of the moon. Nearly total radio silence. And if you're going to put one there, you might as well put an optical telescope there too. Space, though, is probably better for an infra-red telescope, because all you need is a heat shield, there's no heat conduction. OTOH, you can get a lot of insulation against heat on the moon just by building the thing on insulating stilts.

    The other advantage of the moon is that you don't need to depend on gyroscopes to hold your position. This, though, may be counter-balanced because you are more limited in the directions you can look.

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday April 22 2018, @12:11AM

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday April 22 2018, @12:11AM (#670197) Journal

    The other advantage of the moon is that you don't need to depend on gyroscopes to hold your position. This, though, may be counter-balanced because you are more limited in the directions you can look.

    If the scheme can result in a big and cheap telescope, it's probably worth it. Kepler [wikipedia.org] got great results from looking at just 0.25% of the sky. The Hubble Deep Field [wikipedia.org] astounded the astronomical community by just focusing on a tiny "empty" piece of sky. Chances are we can find something interesting to point a darkside moon telescope at.

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  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Sunday April 22 2018, @02:34PM (1 child)

    by Immerman (3985) on Sunday April 22 2018, @02:34PM (#670351)

    > you don't need to depend on gyroscopes to hold your position

    That's because, just like on Earth, you CAN'T hold your position. The best you can do is to set up the most incredibly smooth gearing system you can afford to compensate for the fact that the planet is steadily rotating. The moon spins 30 times slower, which would certainly improve things a lot, but it still means any really long exposures will be plagued by actuator jitter destroying the fine detail.

    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Sunday April 22 2018, @07:48PM

      by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Sunday April 22 2018, @07:48PM (#670455) Journal

      On the moon, as on Earth, you can hold your position quite well. Telescopes have been doing it with increasing precision for over a century. It *does* take a bit of mechanism, but the mechanism is already well developed. (Doing it in a vacuum, however, might throw in a few kinks.)

      But gyroscope failures are one of the major failure modes in space based telescopes.

      No if you mean the bodies on which the telescope reside rotate, that's true. And so what. It's even a bit of benefit, because it means you can cover more than half of the sky, if not all at the same time. It does, of course, add a bit of complexity, but it's a complexity that's been well developed over the centuries. And the moon rotates considerably slower than does the Earth, so longer exposures would be possible. (Probably over 14 days. And nobody has been taking photos with that kind of duration, not even Hubble, which could, if there weren't a lot of competition for access.)

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