Back to the Moon!

NASA and its partners are back in the manned deep space mission business with the successful launch of the Artemis I mission.

The platform used for the mission is the new SLS (Space Launch System) which is an entirely new launch platform for launching heavy duty space capsules into deep space.

If you haven’t done much research on the Artemis space program, here’s a link to the overall program and it’s components.

The cost of this program is immense - $35B and counting. But like Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle before it, science will benefit from the immense amount of data and learning that we will obtain from our investments in space travel.

I look forward to a successful Artemis program where we can send astronauts not only to the Moon, but to Mars as well. This is quite exciting to be able to watch and follow this space program.

==> a rocket lover from way back


I read that the ‘new’ Artemis was a collage of old systems used by NASA. Sorry I don’t have the link. Maybe it was just an Elon fanboy. :astonished:

The Captain

Wikipedia lists the old systems being used:

The first four flights will each use and expend four of the remaining sixteen RS-25D engines previously flown on Space Shuttle missions.

These solid rocket boosters use casing segments that were flown on Shuttle missions


From The Economist this week (“A white Elephant Flies”):

"The official reason for using technology from the 1980s is that it is tried-and-tested. But politicians are also keen to preserve existing, well-paid manufacturing jobs. This may help account for why, despite being built from well-understood technology, the sls has cost $23bn to develop so far, and each launch is projected to cost $2bn.

Cheaper alternatives exist…"


“When Jim Bridenstine, then NASA’s boss, suggested in 2019 that SpaceX’s existing Falcon Heavy rocket might offer a cheaper, quicker route back to the Moon, he was slapped down by pro-sls politicians. America will return to the Moon. But it will not be cheap”



To everyone who is super-excited about Artemis (as I am)

There is a TV show on Apple TV called “For All Mankind”. It’s a kind of hard-science-fiction documentary-drama about the space race, told from the viewpoint of various people at NASA. Without spoiling too much, it’s an alternative history with two main differences. These are:

  1. Russia gets to the moon before the USA. 2) something else

and everything rolls onwards from there, history takes a different path.

If you are into NASA, spaceflight etc, this show is ADORABLE. It is beyond adorable.

It’s full of joy and heart-break and hope. I can’t think of any other show to compare it with.

Looking at the Artemis program, I see a lot of shared spirit with this show.

Artemis represents taking ALL of mankind to the moon, and beyond. The first woman is going to the moon, the first person of colour is going to the moon.

I’m white and I’m a bloke and I am OVERJOYED to see this, humanity’s exploration of the universe should not be a privilege reserved for people that look like me.

And they’re going to build a base camp on the moon! Wow! Way to go, USA!

Looking forward to seeing the first human set foot on Mars in my lifetime, as part of this program.


Not me. We can do 90% of the research t 10% of the cost and 0% of the danger using robots rather than humans. Maybe someday, but Erickson and Columbus didn’t get across the Atlantic in a rowboat, and that’s where our technology is today. And there’s no earthly reason (ha ha, I make a joke) to develop the kinds of wunderkind hints that would be required to take fragile humans to Mars for a long time to come.

(We made it to the moon, barely, and nearly had catastrophic disasters that would have set the space program back decades. It was a great propaganda coup - and spun of some ancillary technologies to be sure, but overall, a bunch of rocks, hardly worth hauling them home.)

We could put up 100 James Webbs (or similar) for the expense of putting a single person on Mars. Or imagine if we used those resources to, oh I don’t know, make this planet great again?


I can HIGHLY recommend this book:

No earthly reason? Any tool that allows a human to survive and do work on mars and the moon, allows them to survive in the earth’s harshest environments of cold, heat, environments without air.

Environments such as… most of the earth’s surface. Is this your first time on planet earth? Do you realise how much of the earth’s surface is desert, ocean and ice?

There’s a lot of real estate and a lot of mineral wealth out there too. There are millions of asteroids out there, and one of them (Psyche 16) is a 140 mile wide block of gold, platinum, iron, nickel. Robots might be able to mine it, but humans might be better at it. Robots have not fully replaced human mining even here on earth.

Another issue is that robots, while hardy, are not flexible enough to cope with the range of problems out there.

The physical reality of our universe is that light takes a finite amount of time to travel anywhere. You either solve the problem of human-level intelligence (very hard problem) and put einstein on a chip and send it, or you send dumb/mostly-dumb robots, and limit yourself to problems that can be solved with a 3 minute lag between sense,act,sense,act. Anything requiring real time skills, improvisation, reacting to unanticipated problems rapidly is out of the question with robotics.

Simply ‘carrying a weight up a slightly rocky hill’ or ‘descending a cliff with equipment’ is far, far, beyond the limits of robots on Mars currently. Carrying meaningful amounts of weight. Tying a knot to repair a broken cord, untangling a parachute, packing a parachute, building a shelter from weather conditions, improvising a cable as a rope, disconnecting and reconnecting cables and wiring. For a human, trivial. For current mars robots, hilariously impossible.

Looking at things (James Webb) is great, but we need to start doing things too.

There’s also the species survival question. This rock we’re on is doomed, one way or another, whether its tens, or billions, of years from now.

Anyway, if you don’t want humans to go, that’s fine. Vote accordingly and if you don’t like the result, migrate to a country where the tax money is spent as you like. Problem solved.

There’s no earthly benefit to sending humans to play sports, theater, music, performances, roles on TV, elderly care, school teaching either; they’re ephemeral, ‘pointless’ human experiences much like a mission to mars will be and we could replace the humans doing these tasks with robots and get a more consistent performance.

Oddly I never see people advocating to get rid of those sorts of things, even though the national budget for them is more than an order of magnitude larger.

This planet is about 0.00000000000000000000001 of all that’s out there to see and robots are a powerful but limited way of exploring it and a very limited way of interacting with it.

Besides, the entire budget of NASA including all these programs is 0.48% of the US budget.

If you care about costs and efficiency, I suggest you start advocating for the US to change to a rational healthcare model like the rest of the OECD has. You’ll get the same health and life expectancy outcomes, and the 5-10% of GDP you save will pay for 10-20 NASAs, we can devote a few of them for human exploration and a few of the others for robots and telescopes.


We’ve been to the moon. In the “been there done that”, it was 50 years ago, and (as you point out) we still don’t live on the bottom of the ocean, the middle of a desert, etc. So, not really a great argument.

So development of AI is important. Development of a new inflatable space suit to keep fragile human bodies alive in a hostile outer space environment, not so much.

Yes, I know. And we are never going to send actual humans to another solar system, much less galaxy, to live. We might send the precursors for life formation, a “Genesis” sort of project, and hope that in 1,000,000 years it gets somewhere, but putting humans to sleep and waking them up after intergalactic travel? Not science fiction, science fantasy, There’s a difference.

I wasn’t advocated cutting the NASA budget. I am advocating better use of it for things that matter. Not like, say “mining”, which is the dumbest argument yet. Like we’re going to send Bruce Willis up there with a Caterpillar rock truck to haul back some stones for processing. Give me a break.

Maybe Musk’s humanoid robot will have a place after all. Not stacking cereal boxes on Safeway shelves, but walking around the moon? Certainly easier if it doesn’t require messy things like, oh, atmosphere, water, food, and a bathroom.

PS: the closest star and nearby solar system is over 4 light years away. Put that in a scale of our ability to move things at rocket speed. Now double it. Double it again. And again. You’re still talking over 10,000 years of travel, longer than there has been civilization on Eairth. There is still no way we’re ever gonna put humans there.


A wonderful book I’ve recommended a few times here is Daniel Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease. Part of the book is what he calls mismatch diseases. That is, medical conditions that are either partly or entirely caused by our modern lifestyles being out of sync with our bodies’ evolutionary design. Mismatch diseases include apnea, asthma, carpal tunnel, Crohn’s, glaucoma, gout, hypertension, dental cavities, metabolic syndrome, flat feet, and many, many more.

The entire list is astounding. For example, most people have either had or need at least some orthodontics. But crooked teeth are unknown in our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The reason is that eating soft foods as children doesn’t allow our jaws to develop properly, hence the crooked teeth. Similarly, many autoimmune diseases are believe to be caused by insufficient stress of our immune systems as children. The list goes on and on and on. I say that to frame how important the natural world is to our well being.

Now let’s say, our heart, muscles, bones experience the wrong amount of gravity our whole lives. What effect does that have on our health. The light spectrum from out star is different and the diurnal cycle is different. What if the atmospheric composition is different? Perhaps enough oxygen, but different ratios of other gases that we breath for our whole lives?

With enough time and money we, could probably figure out work arounds for all those. Or we could figure out how to live in Earth. I’m not saying don’t go to Mars. Not at all. That’s not my point. I’m saying Mars or some other planet is never going to be our lifeboat. The Earth is our lifeboat. We will never find any place, ever, that is better suited for us.


Agreed. If we’re worried about survival here (given what we’re doing to the planet, it’s right to worry), then fix this. Fixing this just has to be cheaper than trying to survive on the moon, or Mars. Even the asteroid impact scenario has possible fixes (we even did a dry run for that lately!)

The monkey wrench to my argument is we seem to be completely unable to fix what we are doing to the planet, or even admitting we are harming it.


A (thought leader) insisted, a few days ago, that ocean levels will only rise by 1/16 of an inch over the next 300 years, so all the environmental protection regs are a pointless (“burden on the JCs”) so should be repealed.

Other material I see projects ocean levels rising 2 1/2-4 feet over that same time period, but people want to be told it’s nothing to worry about.



In any short time span (not short in human type times, but more in epoch type times) this is very likely to absolutely true. And even if there are nice earth-like planets out there somewhere, none of us will ever see them, and by “us” I mean anyone who will ever leave on a trip to those new places. The only people who will see it are their progeny one way or another (either many many many generations bred during the trip, or perhaps embryos that are artificially birthed and cared for upon arrival). That’s because the trip there could take thousands of years or more.


I do not believe a word of that. The caveman had it better book. Not a word of it. I get the claim is written that there was all the skeletal evidence. Really? Because someone wrote a book it was not packed with complete fabrications? It was.

Not a single word of truth in it. Pure fabrications.

My friend who still is not vaccinated and going to be saved by vit D believes all that stuff about modern society gone wrong. His problem is he was trained as a mechanical engineer. If it is a number with a scientific reason he has no comprehension that blankhead Ph.Ds that wont let go of complete bull…will write the book to sell. He just can not face that structural analysis or fluid mechanics all the math and reasons etc do not extend to medical science very often. He challenges all the doctors endlessly. But he has never sat opposite a patient and had to admit something is not working. He has no foundation in medicine by studying to be a doctor. He just reads a study and thinks it must be. It is all written there. Ha!

Very seriously many human beings come up with theories and need to publish. Ph.D students and graduates are full of candidates that can write copious amounts of detailed scientific materials. The problem is many human beings can not let go of a bad idea. Many of these ideas are later published to sell as a book. Many of these ideas end up in the most prodigious medical journals and are later abandoned as false or even dangerous.

Then there are people that just flat out lie. People eat that up as well. Ever seen that before?

What was the book that has all the measurements of the head to figure out if head measurements were indicative of much higher IQ scores? Not a single idea in it was reality based. Another friend swore by that book.

You think altering Earth’s orbit - perhaps even moving it to a different star (and keeping it from freezing during transit) will be cheaper?

(There’s a big event starting in about 3 billion years, that the Earth may have to dodge - and the solar system may not survive; there are too many variables, very roughly 1.25 trillion of them, to model; assuming we get past that with no changes - which is far from impossible - then about 4 billion years from now the Sun, swelling to a red giant, will melt and then evaporate any rocky bodies in/near Earth orbit. So we really need to be somewhere else by then.)

I’m reminded of a 1970 Larry Niven Sci-Fi book called Ringworld, and some offshoots as well… Huge ring, people lived on it’s inner surface, centrifugal force provided the gravity… At a million miles diameter and a central sunroof it’s own, it seemed the way to go, long term… But way out of reach in today’s bickerish world…

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IIRC, the Ringworld would not be stable…