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To the Moon Today Versus Apollo

02/15/2015 1:18 PM

If we were to return to the Moon today, how would our program differ from the Apollo program? Would we use Saturn-size rockets, 3 stages, a command module and a separate LEM with lunar rendezvous? Would we use the ISS as a staging area? Considering all the technology advances, how could we do it better, safer, cheaper?

This assumes there is some reason to send men again. Maybe robots could do anything men could do. What do you think?

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#1

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 1:20 PM

Given that the only part of an Apollo mission that comes back is the capsule containing the three incumbents, and that mankind has developed reusable launch systems since, future missions would be different, less wasteful, and would therefore be less expensive.

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#2

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 1:36 PM

We would send robots like the Russians planned to back in the 60's but didn't for various reasons (like the technology just wasn't available yet).

Only reason to go back to the moon now is for mining (energy and/or minerals).

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#7
In reply to #2

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 2:54 PM

Ah, but the Russians DID send a lunar rovers to the moon...lookup Lunokhod 1 & 2.

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 3:04 PM

Probably should have mentioned that I was thinking of the one that was supposed to come back to earth with samples, not just transmit images.

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#3

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 1:39 PM

By the time all the politicians got their cut, the safety regulators had all their desires fulfilled and both the earth and lunar environmentalists had their requirements met I doubt we would even dare fire a 25 cent bottle rocket towards the moon for anything under a billion dollars within a 15 - 20 year work plan.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 1:49 PM

Maybe Elon Musk can build a battery-powered graphene hyperloop....

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 2:11 PM

I think tcmtech could generate enough hot air to put a ship into lunar orbit.

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#5

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 2:09 PM

I don't think it would significantly differ.

NASA would want to do it as efficiently as possible, so a large multistage rocket with something like an Orion capsule would be the best bet.

The separate lunar excursion module (LEM) would also be on the ride since it is the most efficient way to get to the surface of the Moon and back. Taking the Orion capsule down is pretty much impossible as it is designed as a Earth reentry vehicle.

The ISS is in the wrong orbital plane for a translunar injection. There probably would not be any advantage even if the ISS was in the lunar orbital plane, so duplicating the same trajectory as the Apollo program would still be the most economical means there and back.

Even having the Shuttle would do nothing to help the mission. Possibly assembling a rocket dedicated for getting to the Moon and back might be nice, but the cost of the assembly station in LEO would be huge. You still need to get all the material and the individuals into LEO, plus supplies to keep people alive and working. Then you still need to ferry astronauts to the launch station. Great SciFi stuff, but not very realistic.

The only technological advances we really bring to the table this time around is somewhat better efficiency in engines, better navigation equipment, and a somewhat more comfortable working environment (better EVA suits, crew quarters, etc.).

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#9
In reply to #5

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 6:30 PM

I disagree. I think that it would have to be significantly different because our incentive to go to the moon is now different. Allow me to elaborate.

We (USA) no longer have a political motive to be the first to put people on the moon. Putting people on the moon for a long weekend stay no longer provides the same political bragging rights for the USA and it only offers other countries a "me too" quality. I do agree with you that replicating exactly our achievement and going no further would most efficiently require the exact same approach we stopped doing forty years ago but I doubt that anyone wants to just proclaim "me, too". They will want to surpass these brief expeditions.

How they decide to surpass Apollo is what will change the approach. Assuming that the step beyond will ultimately be a long term stay on the moon with an eye on self sufficiency I say that in space fabrication and assembly techniques will lead to reusable vehicles for transiting to and from the moon along with a reusable moon lander vehicle. I suspect that a third reusable cargo vessel that puts material into lunar orbit will be needed. Possibly a lunar space station will also be needed. You are clearly correct though that the ISS will not be used itself in this approach. It is does not orbit in the correct plane.

This grandiose pipe dream will certainly not happen quickly if it ever happens at all. Unfortunately to answer this thread as asked the only real answer is that people cannot go back to the moon, today.

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#13
In reply to #9

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/16/2015 7:55 AM

I like your point of view. The driving reason to return would undoubtably shape the way we approach it. I also agree that there is no driving reason to return right now and I suspect that will be the same for many decades to come.

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#10
In reply to #5

Re: To the Moon today versus Apollo

02/15/2015 6:58 PM

no problemelevate!

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#11

Re: To the Moon Today Versus Apollo

02/15/2015 8:16 PM

I think the major difference will be in the methods and materials used to construct the vehicles.

No slide rules and T-squares, no Vellum, mechanical pencils and electric erasers.

Smart phones and I-pads will replace pounds and pounds of computing gear.

Communications devices will be smaller.

Graphene composites and 3D printed gizmos will see wide spread use.

Smart suits with built-in sensors and environmental controls will offer much easier movement and comfort.

I can't see much difference in the function of transportation modules and the number.

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#14
In reply to #11

Re: To the Moon Today Versus Apollo

02/16/2015 8:13 AM

The smart phones and iPads will not be used for anything remotely mission critical. Although, I can't imagine a smart phone having much value in this instance.

Any electronics that are at all mission critical will not be COTS, but specifically designed and certified for the job.

This means all software will probably need to be certified to DO-178 level A or at least B to meet mission requirements and all hardware must meet DO-254 for airborne electronic hardware certification.

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#12

Re: To the Moon Today Versus Apollo

02/15/2015 8:44 PM

The orbital and transfer energies remain unchanged.

Although there were some disadvantages of on-orbit assembly mentioned earlier; such assembly would allow for a much larger lunar transfer package. The more stuff you can take with you the longer you can stay and the more you can do?

Orbital Express shows it can be done.

http://archive.darpa.mil/orbitalexpress/index.html

Helium 3 may be reason enough to go in the future?

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#15

Re: To the Moon Today Versus Apollo

02/23/2015 10:13 PM

If we're ever going to Mars, we must return to the Moon.

But NASA no longer has engineers working for it with the experience to conduct a manned lunar mission.

We must return to the Moon if we are ever going to Mars, because we must first demonstrate that we can conduct a cislunar mission and return man safely to Earth.

It's important to demonstrate our legacy astronautical engineering know-how to conduct a successful manned mission to the Moon because attempting a deep-space interplanetary mission to the Red planet has risks that are far greater in all respects.

Whether this is undertaken by a private space enterprise firm, or again by NASA, our manned space program will have to take the steps to go . . .

/Back To The Future

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: To the Moon Today Versus Apollo

02/23/2015 10:29 PM

I am not so sure that the Moon is critical to going to Mars. In fact, it would be cheaper to simply focus on Mars.

Long range I think a lunar base would make some sense, but there are better places to launch interplanetary missions from that Earth or the Moon, such as the Lagrange points between Earth and Moon.

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