back to article Scientists ponder future Moon mission activities

A clever fellow once observed that the Moon is a harsh mistress. Humanity's subsequent jaunts up to the place indicated it was a pretty solid hypothesis. The Ritz-Carlton it is not. Now NASA has the vision of not only returning astronauts back to the orbital dustball in 2020, but establishing a long-term moon base there. …

COMMENTS

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Coat

What a bunch of lunnies

thats all.

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Don't need fleshbots

The Russians got this right from the start: send machines.

Assuming, for a second, that 1960s USA had technological equivalence to the Russians, there were no technical reasons to send people to the moon. Sending people to the moon was purely political.

The Russians were still able to take photos and return them as well as scoop up samples and send them back. ie. Achieve all the science that the NASA missions did.

The only benefit in sending humans is to play low-g golf and bring back some posterboys to divert a nation's attention from Vietnam.

So why send more people to the moon? Sending robots to Mars does not even make the news any more. Surely sending a few to the moon is the space equivalent of driving to the Chinese takeaway and asking for a No.37 with extra rice.

Robotic missions are far easier to engineer, cost far less and can use much more experimental approaches. Crash a robot, as the Russians did a few times, and there are no weeping widows. It really does not matter if you try something and it does not work first time.

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Heinlein was Brilliant, not "clever"

Great article and I hope we actually get there. However, referring to Heinlein as "clever" is like referring to Marilyn Monroe as "cute."

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Anonymous Coward

An alternative.

It costs a lot less to put people in orbit around another moon or planet than to put them on the surface (assuming you are planning on bringing them back alive). From a position in orbit, robotic devices could be dispatched to the surface, and directly controlled by the people in orbit, since the transmission delay would be negligible. There would be no need to recover the devices. People could stay longer, see more, and explore further, with much greater safety.

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Rob

if at first you don't succeed..

..move to another moon/planet and see if you don't destroy it in the process?

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Alien

NASA astrobiology institute

if by successful, you mean 0% success rate.

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Anonymous Coward

Human Aspirations

Human aspiration (or, as some would say, the human spirit) will drive us to explore space. But don't underestimate the economic drivers. There will come a time, many, many years hence, when space activities become profit bearing ... and I expect mining will be one of them.

Given the success, or lack thereof, and expense of the ISS, I wouldn't hold your breath for a manned moon-base. But, eventually, the idea makes sense and it is a logical stepping stone to broader extra-planetary activities.

Consider this: Can humankind remain solely on planet Earth forever (think thousands of years), no matter how advanced we become? I don't think so. It's inevitable that, in the fullness of time, humans will exist permanently elsewhere .... so long as we don't makes ourselves extinct in the meantime.

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Coat

Send Robots... The Completely Wrong Attitude!

While sending robots may be cheaper and safer, it is not the right attitude to have. Sending a bunch of machines to do the exploring and sending back selected samples has is not able to really give people the same in-situ information and context that a person can. It also goes against the human spirit of exploration and discovery.

If everyone just stayed in the nice safe and inexpensive confines of home and sent the robots to do the exploring then the world would be a completely different place.

Africa would have a starving human population in the billions while the President of the United States would be Optimus Prime and China would be ruled by Megatron and his band of metallic misfits.

In relation to the poor widows left behind after an accident, what did you expect when you are pushing the boundries of human intelligence and ability! People have died in space exploration and there are more to come. It's a sad thing to happen but it's necessary and unavoidable part of the adventure.

Take the early ocean exploration finding new continents like the Americas or Australia. Just because a few boats sank killing the crews and making a whole stack of widows, doesn't mean you stop exploring.

Then you got aviation, just because a few early planes crashed didn't bring the whole thing to a screaming halt, the planes crashed, killed some people, others worked out what went wrong and worked out ways to make it not happen again, or at least not happen so often.

Mines the US$22,000,000 airtight one with the big bulky boots and fishbowl shaped hat with "NASA" printed on the sleeves.

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Grav

Besides the maiden voyage for the shuttle replacment to establish a moonbase, if a moonbase ever happens which would have to be more nuclear power, artificial gravity should be worked on,

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Pirate

Bits and Bytes of IntelAIgent Packaging .......Tempting Guidance with ITs Vain Kiss

Re Heinlein .... Did they discover the Secret Key which Unlocks IT for Future Creation..... the CyberIntelAIgently Designed Paradigm/Change Phase which Posits that the Future is Digitally Arranged, as Agreed on by Binary Peers/Crack Coders, for Feeding as Media Content for Earthly Realisation.

Thus MetaDataMorphing Evolutionary Changes into a Series of Quantum Leap XXXXPeriences ReCreated for Media EduTainment which may have Everything and Nothing Much 42 Do with Packetwars ....... http://tinyurl.com/64ef4v

IT certainly would have a Bone to Pick with Professor Dawkins.

<<<"Dawkins refuses to share a stage with creationists. “I don’t like giving them the oxygen of respectability, the feeling that if they’re up on a platform debating with a scientist, there must be real disagreement."

That is not the act of any brave man and a tad pretentious/elitist... such a shame.

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article4331024.ece>>>

Prepare for boarding, me young buckaroos/Permission to Come Aboard, Admirable.

There's a whole lotta Shakin' going on in CyberSpace, Folks. And Presently, Key Stakeholders are Required to Consolidate their Claims, with their Virtualisation for Continued Proxy Control. This is Most Simply Arranged through AI Licensed Virtual Services with Administrations in and of the Cloud.

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Go

You bunch of jessies

What's wrong with you lot, and where is your sense of adventure?

Did you not hear the man? "We will learn how we can live on another world."

We can't send robots to do that!

If as a species we want to continue living with our advanced knowledge and technology then we'd better get packing off to another planet. One with more resources and less the boneheads that we keep alive here.

If you personally don't agree with the risks and think robots should go in your place etc, then simple: don't become a Cosmonaut. For the people that do I imagine it's their dream come true.

I for one think we should be ploughing ten times the effort into populating another planet.

So ner

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Alien

We have no choice

The bottom line is that the human race has no choice but to colonise. Unless you can think of a decent method for population reduction or at LEAST population growth halting, we have, say, 10,000 years before there's just no more room, and probably only 2,000 years before there's no more earth-bound resources.

I know that many people just can't get a grip on this because they're too concerned with the here and now, but let me ask you this.. if the purpose of our species existing isn't to expand, grow and propagate.. what IS our purpose?

I would like to see a human colony living on Mars in my lifetime

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Re Don't need fleshbots

Apollo missions. 842 lbs of moon rock..

Russian probes 0.66 lbs of moon rock

And the American samples were selected by men with geology training and one fully qualified geologist.

We'll learn more from one manned Mars mission than from all the probes we've landed so far. The only time robots have the edge, is when taking photos from orbit.

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Send robots?

I'm not a robot and I want to go to the moon!

I was going to go to the pub later but maybe I'll send a robot instead - it would be much easier - it could be designed with a greater capacity so it could drink more _and_ not have to pee, and no hangover either. Perfect..

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ignore the philistines

Should we put more men on the moon? Of course we should, and why aren't they there now?

The average human being is a curious creature - it wants answers (even if sometimes it doesn't know how to frame the questions). Going to the moon is simply another step that began when Australopithecus climbed down out of a tree and stood upright to see how that would work out.

Providing we don't destroy ourselves, I sincerely hope that in the future, humans will be exploring all of our solar system; perhaps some day not too far in the future, people will be visiting other suns to see what is there.

What benefit will come from this - I can't tell you. But when the Phoenecians built their first reed boats, did they guess that this would lead to modern civilisation? We have come a long way in just the last 3 centuries - imagine what wonders we might see if it were possible to travel to the future.

Many cultures claim the wisdom "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." For us, that first step was taken a long time ago, and our journey is not just a thousand miles or even a thousand years. We have taken many steps, and there are many more to come. I for one can't wait.

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Alien

@Charles Manning

There are numerous reasons for sending people to the Moon. I agree that the first moon landings were a political stunt but they should not stop further trips to the moon.

The simple fact is that a human on the ground is for more adaptable than a robot, the number and variety of things they can do in a given time is far better than an automated system. Just look at the fuss with Phoenix on Mars and just trying to get the dirt into the analyser - took them nearly 2 days. A human could have stuck a finger in and fixed it in seconds.

As for the moon I fully support sending people there and setting up a permanent or semi-permanent base. The inevitable spinoffs from the process of setting up the base would outweigh most of the costs in the long term. Plus a Moon base would be a great place for certain types of research and as a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system.

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Exploration

There's a ~purpose~ behind any exploration. It's not just exploration for exploration's sake. People wanna find stuff. Resources. Things we can use. Places we can go.

Getting a handle on this Moon thing opens up a whole new frontier. There's a whole slew of challenges that no private group can afford to figure out.

That's why we have public space research agencies like NASA.

By the way:

"Assuming, for a second, that 1960s USA had technological equivalence to the Russians"

^^^ This is really, really funny considering that the Russians actually tried to send people to Moon even past the end of the Apollo program and never quite made it.

I'll bet you also think the Mig-25 can sustain mach 3 and are impressed with the Russians faking an orbital intercept?

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@Mike Peachey

Can colonisation ever be a real solution to population pressures? The sheer number of people you have to move to make much difference is surely prohibitive. There are plenty of good reasons to go, but I don't think that's one of them...

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Anonymous Coward

Allow me to retort

1. Actually you can learn how to live on another world by sending robots: the robots measure the local conditions and you create a simulation here.

2. If we don't have the resources to feed people on Earth then we sure as hell don't have the resources to send them to another planet because - guess what - space travel needs greater resources than feeding people. We already have a decent method for population reduction: all you simply do is raise the standard of living. Countries like Britain would already have a falling population if it weren't for immigration.

3. Comparisions with the 1960s aren't that useful because robotics has progressed immensely since then. I would guess that if we wanted a few tonnes of moon rock now it would be cheaper to send robots. Perhaps it would have been cheaper in the 1960s, too.

4. There's no rational reason for caring about the long-term survival of humanity, but even if you do, pushing space exploration in the short term probably decreases mankind's chances of survival as it is a distraction from the real and immediate problems that mankind faces. The Earth could remain habitable for millions of years yet if we don't fuck it up. The best way to prepare ourselves for surviving on other planets is to learn how to live in peace and prosperity on this one. Other planets are likely to be harder, not easier places to live.

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Sounds good

We need to colonise somewhere and the easiest place to start is the moon, which we can learn the technologies needed for space stations and mars.

@robert heffermen

I agree right up until you said.

"the President of the United States would be Optimus Prime"

America as the good guys? LOL

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@Don't need fleshbots

That's actually a REALLY stupid statement considering one of the high points of Russia's space technology, the Soyuz, was built to send people to the Moon.

This MANNED spacecraft is still in use and NASA has even bought a few flights.

Unfortunately the rockets they were hoping would send it to the Moon kept blowing up.

You can read all about it here, or just ignore it and go with your "mighty Russian pencil" fantasies.

http://www.fas.org/spp/eprint/lindroos_moon1.htm

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Go to the Moon

Yes, yes, go forth, colonize, and get off my planet!

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@Don't need fleshbots

2 qoutes

"a human is the best computer we can put in a spacecaft and the only one we can build with unskilled labor"

"a human is better that a computer in a unexpected situation a human can atleast do somthing"

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Alien

Mars Zones ...... from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe via Holywood and Hollywood.

What would Man Build on Mars? A Mirror of a Model Built on Earth?..... and at No Astronomical Cost. Future Savings for Lavish Present Earth Investment ? :-)

Just what Paulson and Bernanke need? A Change of Reality.

Priceless by MIReckoning.

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Re@Charles Manning

"I agree that the first moon landings were a political stunt"

It was when Kennedy announced it, but they achieved much more. Probably far more than JFK expected.

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Go

Re: Don't need fleshbots

OK, you can stay here on earth with its time limited future. Let people go to the moon who understand _why_ they're going there instead.

Anybody give me a lift?

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@Mike Peachey

"I know that many people just can't get a grip on this because they're too concerned with the here and now, but let me ask you this.. if the purpose of our species existing isn't to expand, grow and propagate.. what IS our purpose?"

There isn't one. Why does there have to be one?

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@ Charles Manning

Actually the Russians didn't get it right from the start. Their robot sample return missions were a fall-back when they realised there was no way their N1 Moon rocket was not going to be ready in time to beat the Saturn V.

They did consistently beat America with their Luna probes but this was down to the greater throw weight of the R7 launcher and its derivatives over American rockets of the time. But the American Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter probes were more or less doing the same job as the early Luna probes.

Where the Russians really scored was Lunokhod which roved the Moon for months and could be sent into areas that it was impossible to put manned landers. It's a shame they didn't go on with later missions - a robot roving the far side would have been awesome - but the technological problems would have been huge.

The astronauts of Apollo did an impressive job bearing in mind with one exception, none of them were geologists; but the lack of time was crippling. Expeditions on Apollo 15 and 17 had to be curtailed because of lack of oxygen. Maybe the best solution will be for future astronauts to have a robot buddy they can drop off at sites of interest and leave it to do a prolonged study of the area when they blast off back to Earth.

I suppose I'm grouchy because I was too young to be an astronaut when Apollo was sending men to the Moon and now I'm too old for the next missions. If anyone from NASA is reading - PLEASE - I was a doozy at studying europium anomalies in lunar samples - and I can't use that line in my CV anywhere else!

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How will colonising other planets fix the earth?

Unless we come up with teleportation and cold fusion to power it?

If we run out of resources to feed/house/whatever the billions on this planet, just how are we going to come up with the resources to send the millions, possibly billions of excess earthlings into space?

Maybe we should be researching a more realistic social/ethical arrangement that limits the unchecked procreation of humans and makes things better for the people of earth, rather than waste enormous amounts of money/resources on visiting a dead, orbiting rock?

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Alien

On the shoulders of giants

I think the problem has been that NASA went for and scored the big Kahuna first time off. Mars is the only way to top the moon landings and it's a very different prospect. No other planet is even vaguely habitable and it's nearer than relying on a regular asteroid service.

Trouble is, it's just the moon all over again. You go there and think, "Er, what now? I know lets get some souvenir rock". And that's all you can do for now, so you do it again a few times just to make sure. Then what?

The moon did very little to progress our understanding of the universe and there is no guarantee that Mars will be different, so given the lack of reward why bother? And so NASA loses its way, justifying it's existence by taking things into orbit and doing science to them.

The trick to get things to progress is stop everything being such a massive hurdle.

We have numerous craft capable of delivering the components for large and complex machinery into orbit. Good. Then use them to make the ISS an platform for building space craft. That way the craft built there don't have to to withstand launch from and re-entry into an atmosphere and so can just be good at transporting people and equipment through space.

Next, use the new craft to establish a moon base. It's the easiest place to start and you need to gain the experience somehow. Landing on and taking off from the moon is easier (relatively) than from Earth. This provides us with an easier base from which to launch a manned mission to Mars, ultimately establishing a base there also.

From then on, pick your moons or asteroids. Establish mines to provide raw materials to increase the existing facilities. Get traffic flowing in the solar system and make intrasystem space travel a commonplace thing.

We know we can do all this, it's just a case of extending what we do already. I often wonder what NASA thinks it is acheiving these days. At least this way we can do the same old relentless human expansion but in new places.

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Anonymous Coward

What, so did we actually GO to the moon last time?

Whilst mostly harmless, indeed quite informed, and strangely entertaining... AC at 9:21: point 2... just to add an even more efficient method of population reduction - WAR. All we really need is a good ole' wholesome war to get those pesky population figures down again and the bonus is that we will also be providing a welcome boost for the advancements of science and generate a stabilising effect on the economy. Watch this space eh?

Mike Peachey... it is the purpose of a *virus* to "expand, grow and propogate". We humans are (mostly) worthy of so much more than that. We can learn and interact with a self determined reason (rightly or wrongly), we can deduce and investigate (for the joy simply of knowing), we can explore without the need to exploit (well, some of us can anyway)... but to attribute our existance with a purpose is a little premature, given we can't even agree within small groups on wether or not we even believe in a God (of any definition) who would by his/her/its' very nature bestow upon us some purpose.

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Shooting at the Moon - whatevershebringswesing

> "The conference is organized by the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), a fledgling NASA-funded organization made to supplement and extend existing lunar science programs... partnership between the US space department and other independent [sic?] research organizations across the nation working together to help lead research activities. [hep hep hooray?]... The institute plans to initially fund about seven competitively selected team investigations... The organization will specialize in utilizing data rather than building the instruments.."

NASA needing supporting narratives, or is it just pissed with its PR dept? (And quite frankly, who wouldn't be given the hot air they generate - but I expect its now a fiefdom inside NASA that noone will touch). As usual only amanfromMars mines the data to extract the nugget from the crucible.

This is Radio Luther, broadcasting on the X-Ray wavelength, for your entertainment. And now, for the boffins at NASA, a cool little number called Moon River to help you dream on...

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Paris Hilton

This sort of thing always makes me chuckle

Return to the moon in 2020 - lol. More like go there for the first time.

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Given time

All planets get a set time to evole and expand, and ai cant really simulate artificial gravity with a sphere of electro magnets with a controlled pulse like magnolev/other, to simulate a planets magnethc field

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Coat

but of course

we must dump nuclear waste up there and wait for the explosion that knocks the moon out of orbit and starts it, and the crew of the moonbase on a journey of discovery and adventure.

Oh, and we need Eagles

Mines the one with moonbase alpha stencilled on the back in a futuristic font.

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go back???

cant go back to where you never were.

My Demand:

IF (really big IF) the US did get to the moon back in the 60's with that crap technology, repeat it today with the same kit. Same rockets, same moon buggy, same lunar module, same cameras etc.

I will allow some modifications for safety, but essentially the same stuff.

Watch it all disintegrate as it hits the stratosphere.

Going back in 2020 !!... ha, apparently they could do it back then, but need another 12 years to figure it all out again. Crap.

now, on more serious matters... wonder who will be the first couple to 'christen' the moon ;-)

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Flame

Young people today....

Men exploring the Moon, supersonic airliners... Tell young people today that and they just won't believe you.

I don't think America will go back to the moon short of Iranian solar-power death-ray satellites.

And then so idiot will fire a tracer-round in a 15psi oxygen atmosphere.

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Boffin

robots and humans

Saying that we should send people into space because it inspires the human spirit, etc., is just bogus. Sure, there was a lot of interest in the first few landings on the moon, but by the last few missions the major networks preferred to cover sports. And let's not forget there are manned space missions going on now, but how many people can tell you about the crew of the ISS without a quick Google?

What makes most sense is using robots to prepare the way - constructing facilities and a usable habitat before anyone returns to the moon, rather than trying to fix problems to situations we've simply had no experience of, and when people's lives are on the line. Far better to lose a few rovers, and suffer a delay in the project, than losing people, and trying to learn from that.

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Bolacks

"The bottom line is that the human race has no choice but to colonise."

Colonize where? We know of no other inhabitable planets. I know that many people can't get a grip on this because they've watched too much Star Trek but it's true. We know of no other planet that has a breathable atmosphere at a tolerable pressure and temperature, let alone one with enough water and arable land to feed a sizable population.

"let me ask you this.. if the purpose of our species existing isn't to expand, grow and propagate.. what IS our purpose?"

Humanity doesn't have a purpose. To say it does is proto-religious nonsense. We were not created to fulfill a grand universal plan. We evolved from slime.

If you really have to imbue a nonsensical "purpose" to humanity, it doesn't have to be "our purpose is to spread like a virus across the universe". It could be "our purpose is to live on the one planet we've actually got ... long term."

But no, let's go on burning limited resources like there's no tomorrow and pin our species' hopes on moonbases. FFS.

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Go

By-products.

Wasn't one of the by-products of the Apollo program teflon? And where would we be without teflon? No Sunday morning fry-up that's where. Well at least not without having to chisel the eggs off the bottom of the frying-pan.

Also, integrated circuits. Where would we be without those eh?. No computers that's where. On second thoughts, ban the space program: I hate computers.

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@go back???

"IF (really big IF) the US did get to the moon back in the 60's with that crap technology, repeat it today with the same kit. Same rockets, same moon buggy, same lunar module, same cameras etc."

It was not crap technology. I strongly suspect you have no idea what technology has even changed.

Let me guess - you're extrapolating backwards by comparing your iPod to a walkman. M I RITE?

They don't even WANT to repeat Apollo. They do need to design new equipment, with a dramatically smaller budget in mind and much loftier goals. That's time consuming. Deal with it.

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Death rays

"I don't think America will go back to the moon short of Iranian solar-power death-ray satellites."

Death rays have been just around the corner since the 30s, and the only idea sillier is basing one in space; power is very difficult to come by. Solar power isn't going to make a very deadly death ray at all. And have fun venting heat in full sunlight with practically vacuum air pressure.

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Tim
Stop

The moon? Nah, you wanna put a base on mars!

It's bigger and the pilgrims will need to develop bigger muscles. Imagine what they'll be like when they return to earth after a few years! Everyone will want on the bandwagon after that!

Anyway, undersea cities are a little more realistic than moonbases.

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mars

mars is to colonize, jupiter is next after the storms made the hydrogen from the semi formed crust explode like a blimp slowly but surely the 2o cools the rest

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Black Helicopters

@joe cooper

"It was not crap technology. I strongly suspect you have no idea what technology has even changed.

Let me guess - you're extrapolating backwards by comparing your iPod to a walkman. M I RITE?"

OK, let me clarify in as fisher price language as i can.

The technology/knowledge they had back then was very limited and in comparative/relative terms to what they have today its would appear basic.

The advances in computing power, metallic compounds, power usage, safety systems, build & design technology in the past 40 years are not to be ignored.

so, seeing as i dont have a degree in padding the crap out of a sentence i call it 'crap'. Maybe its my upbringing.. blame the parents.

i'm sure it was cutting edge back then but the point of my post was :

Do it again with what they had.. hell, even do it with what they have now-a-days.

I personally dont think they can/will. Man was never on the moon

and dont ever diss my walkman again... it has a play AND fastforward button AND i can change the batteries when i want. ;-p

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Joke

Moonbase...

If we don't get a moonbase up and running, how are we going to convince the telephone sanitisers et al to board the colonisation ship?

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Its Possible

Its easy to reach the moon when you need with a new aerospace, modern carbon fiber/graphite only came around in the 80s, and ion thrust using power from a solarpanel not a nuclear reactor

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Tuned Into HyperRadioProActivity ..... for Rapid Progression.

"This is Radio Luther, broadcasting on the X-Ray wavelength, for your entertainment. And now, for the boffins at NASA, a cool little number called Moon River to help you dream on..."....By Luther Blissett Posted Tuesday 22nd July 2008 12:49 GMT

Nice Crack, Luther Blissett. Is Dreaming On Together Virtual Conspiracy or Advanced NeuReal Activity .... Great ARG Works which could have been Vistas

These Colonists could certainly do with Motherland Help ...... http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08637t.pdf ......

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jj

@ moon landing naysayers

I bet all you lot think that the plane won't take off the conveyor belt either *sheesh*

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Paris Hilton

@ Sean Ryan (blame his parents?)

No mate - your parents were absolutely right to bring you up as a skeptic... yes mate, it's crap. And yes, given all of the advances in lighterweight and stronger materials, improvements in engine design and output, improvements in fuel and combusion issues, improvements in strength loadings and resilience to shock, vastly enhanced knowledge of conditions in "outer space"... Shirley with all these fantastic bonuses available it would be possible not only to repeat the apollo mission - to land a person on the moon and bring them back safely - but also to do it much quicker, much cheaper and much more safely.

Paris agrees with Shirley.

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