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back to article Apollo 11 vets urge Mars mission

Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins have urged NASA to scrub its lunar ambitions and set its sights on Mars, the BBC reports. Speaking at an Apollo 11 reunion of the pair and Neil Armstrong at Washington DC's National Air and Space Museum, marking the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing, Collins said: "I worry that the …

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Coat

I want to be the first to say...

Quaid, get your ass to Mars!

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Mars, yep, couldn't agree more .....

take the whole merkin populous with you as well if you don't mind. You'll love it there, the hydrocarbons are in abundance and there is endless pasture for billions of beef cows. You would even be rulers of an entire planet - let's admit it, deep down ...... Imagine the shopping malls, the casinos, you could recreate Hollywood there. The place has vacant posession, so what's stopping you, please go, now.

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Go

Ejector seat instructions

(printed on canopy of jet fighter)

1. Eject canopy

2. Umm...

Thats from Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins. A great read. I recommend it.

And from Tori Amos: Where's Neil when you need him?

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Anonymous Coward

"focus on the dream"

Space exploration today is all about trying, and failing, to get a toilet to work. But at least it engenders international cooperation as astronauts and cosmonauts allow each other to use their national toilets.

Nevertheless, I think I prefer the "sad substitute" of robots exploring Mars, on a much smaller budget.

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

Tend to agree. Not so much "forget the moon", but have priority attitude of a) "been there, done that" and b) "onwards & upwards". That said, for the miniscule amount it costs each citizen, can't see why they can't strive for both.

As for robots, whilst it may make more sense from a practical point of view, the human spirit doesn't soar so much when it just sends machines to poke around. Ultimately the vision is for mankind itself to explore, and the sooner the better, or we may all miss it.

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Stop

Moon & Mars = Boring idea from Dubya Bush

What exactly is the point in this? PR? Feel good factors for Merkins?

Seriously, who cares? The money could be put to far better use investing in the economy.

Stop wasting money, innit?

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Badgers

Mining?

No-one else thinks the reason for re-visiting the moon is part of Deuterium mining plans?

Only downside is America won't get to attack anyone over fuel rights ;)

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Terminator

practice

Surely a couple test runs to the moon would be required before even thinking about Mars.

Yes , we've been to the moon 40 years ago , but a lot of stuff has changed and this will have to be a fully international mission ( metric & inches ? ), actually, come to think it , can the world even afford to be thinking about this now , or would this be considered 'Stimulus'.

Mars.. Yes , but lets get some practice in first with something a little closer and continue to send robots to the red planet until such time we 1) know what we're doing and 2) the pro's and con's of financing such a project and understanding the potential global benefit are fully understood.

Final point.. The movie 'Mission to Mars' still ranks among the worlds worst ever made.

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FAIL

All up for mars

but its the impatientness of waiting 2yrs to get there and back again! In that time you will need food, water etc...

I think we need to invent Warp drive first!

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Joke

@Mars, yep, couldn't agree more .....

Umm I think your wrong about it being vacant bro. Unless I'm mistaken amanfromMars came from there and probably has a claim tothe land. . .

Course maybe he would be willing to lease it :)

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WTF?

where is he?

Surely "amanfrommars" should be adding his 2 cents worth to this pointless debate.

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Paris Hilton

<font color="white">I wonder if this will work?</font>

The main problem with a mission to mars is the time necessary to get there and back, with enough equipment and material to make sure it doesn't turn into a disaster. Putting that lot together and launching it direct from the Earths surface just isn't going to happen.

The two choices are to assemble all the bits in Earth orbit and go from there or to set up a colony on the moon which would be capable of producing the bits required from the moon itself.

The best long-term solution is to get a colony on the moon, capable of mining and refining everything that they need, but that would take a long time, which politicians don't tend to have a lot of, so it's unlikely that it will happen that way.

So we will be left with a larger version of Apollo, only leaving from orbit.

Since I was born in the 60's and was expecting to live in space, see flying wings and jet cars I can only say I am really disappointed by all this short-term non-risk taking, since to my mind it just means that humanity is less likely to 'inherit the stars' and more likely to go quietly into the night.

By the by - is PH acidic or alkaline?

TTFN

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@ Anonymous Coward

'Space exploration today is all about trying, and failing, to get a toilet to work.'

Which is why calling for an immediate mission to Mars is silly. If we can't get a toilet to work in low orbit, you don't want to think of spending 2 years in the company of a crapped out cyberloo. I don't think the Ares V is NASA's biggest challenge - it's the plumbing.

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Boffin

@ michael 82

id be quite happy to FFWD to warp drive but wouldnt mind skipping WW3 first!

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@ Moon & Mars = Boring idea from Dubya Bush

The money is invested in the economy. Providing jobs, developing new technology and even benefiting tourism. Manned launches are quite a tourist attraction in Florida. I've seen three and I'm from the UK.

The way some people talk, you'd think the money is sitting in a bank vault on the Moon.

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Moon or Mars - go somewhere, for f**k's sake!

Whether it's the Moon first then Mars or vice versa is not really important. If these astronauts will manage to stir up some public support and political will to go to Mars first - I am all for it. If not, then Moon will still be better than nothing.

I've learned that it is pointless to argue with people who demand that the space program funding should be spent on buying food for the poor of the world. They don't seem to respond to logic very well, so I won't waste my time on it.

As far as the robotic "exploration" is concerned - it is only good for maintaining a holding employment for a bunch of technicians and scientists while the times are hard and cash is not available for manned missions. Other than that, the returns from the robotic missions are absolutely minimal.

The rovers have been milling about for years without producing any definitive scientific results. A site visit by a bunch of astronauts with a shovel and a portable chemical lab would have given 100-fold better information in a couple of months.

We have no choice - we either go to space and expand our habitat as we are supposed to or die here on Earth. Our nature will take care of that - we are unable to live in harmony with the environment, we will always take more then we give back. As we deplete resources we must seek new ones. If we fail, we get punished - standards of living go down, there are famines, epidemics and natural disasters, which give more incentive to seek expansion. If we fail again - eventually we will collapse and go extinct.

The morale of this story is that we can do the space exploration while we still have plenty of everything here on Earth or we can do the space exploration when the chicken come home to roost and it will become much more difficult. Do it easy or do it the hard way - but there is no option of not doing it at all.

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Headmaster

@Paul Murphy

"By the by - is PH acidic or alkaline?"

Yes.

Also note to Mr. Aldrin: I know "Star Trek" did it first, but please stop splitting infinitives.

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Alien

They're right...

I agree with Aldrin & Collins, have for many years.

The moon may be useful for things like farside astronomy, but for real colonisation posibilities it should be bypassed altogether. The nearest possible place for a permanent colony - i.e. a place where people will live and breed - is Mars. For minerals etc - hit the asteroids, short period comets, etc. They have all that the moon can give, without the inconvenience of a gravity well to deal with.

The plans for a permanent Mars mission have already been drawn up by people like Zubrin with the 'Mars Direct' plan. And as for the psychological effects of a long voyage, surely fifty years of observing 'wintering over' staff in Antarctica and long duration nuclear sub crews should have given the psychs all they really need.

All that is needed is the will.... and the approval of amanfromMars

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Alien

We should head for Mars...

..But the getting men back on the moon. would be a slow but good first step.. even to just set up an observatory on the dark side as well as a communication node for future missions past moon's orbit..

But it should be in anything *but* the Aries / Constellation system being developed. It's basically reinventing the wheel.

Buzz has been a proponent of the "Direct V3" system which is basically as close to an "Off-the-Shelf" build that NASA can do safely. Building Rockets using proven technologies from the shuttle program. (basically the booster rockets Fuel Tank and Engines from the shuttle) reconfigured into a "Rocket" configuration with minimal work and development.

http://www.directlauncher.com/

It can be built quicker and cheaper than the Constellation / Aries system.

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Headmaster

@Steven Hunter

Oh, dear. A split infinitive nazi.

George Bernard Shaw writing to The Times:

<qoute>There is a busybody on your staff who devotes a lot of time to chasing split inifinitives: I call for the immediate dismissal of this pedant. It is of no consequence whether he decides to go quickly or to quickly go or quickly to go. The important thing is that he should go at once.</quote>

There is no "rule" in English which prevents the splitting of an infinitive, it is a grammatical choice.

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Grenade

what about the turtles?

I recall that some time ago, El Reg reported that these so-called Moon landings by the 'merkins had to be fakes, because the Earth is actually surrounded by a crystal sphere that holds the air in (obviously, or it would all evaporate into space) which sits on the back of a giant space-turtle which in turn is sat atop another, bigger space turtle.

hence why NASA has been in the weather satellite and space toilet business ever since, because nasty rockets might break the glass, asphyxiating the entire world and (I quoth) "seriously upsetting the turtles"

so what are the space turtles opinions on Moon nonsense ie lunacy? (literally)

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Flame

Re: Moon or Mars - go somewhere, for f**k's sake!

Vladimir Plouzhnikov writes, and not for the first time...

"As far as the robotic "exploration" is concerned - it is only good for maintaining a holding employment for a bunch of technicians and scientists while the times are hard and cash is not available for manned missions. Other than that, the returns from the robotic missions are absolutely minimal."

The returns are actually very reasonable for the amount of effort involved. And you wouldn't send manned spacecraft into even the upper atmosphere of Venus (like the unmanned probes in the 1980s sent by the Soviets), for example, without having done a significant amount of homework first, or even seek to do so at all without some pretty good reasons other than "the astronauts can see stuff with their own eyes", which in some environments isn't likely to be useful or desirable, either.

"The rovers have been milling about for years without producing any definitive scientific results."

This is like saying that the Apollo missions produced no science: simply untrue.

"A site visit by a bunch of astronauts with a shovel and a portable chemical lab would have given 100-fold better information in a couple of months."

Well, yes, but unless you can put together the substantial infrastructure to get humans there and back safely and with some element of redundancy, all you can reasonably do is send robots off to do as much as they feasibly can. Having a bunch of people orbiting Mars and taking pictures, for example, is a waste of time if a machine can do the job more reliably with less effort.

There are good arguments for human exploration in space, but belittling the necessary robotic exploration efforts isn't part of any of those arguments. Indeed, the costs of sending robotic missions pales into insignificance alongside sending manned missions to the same place. Fancy sending some people to Titan to take pictures: get a cheque with the amount it cost to send Cassini-Huygens and start adding noughts to the end of the figure.

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Go

Forgotten how?

Since Apollo 11 was 40 years ago, it's possible that NASA might have gotten a bit rusty since then. Including a flight to the Moon as one of the test steps in the run-up to a manned mission to Mars, just as there were intermediate steps before Apollo 11, such as the Mercury program, the Gemini program, which tested things like spacewalks and docking, the earlier Apollo missions, Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 in particular, would seem to have value.

Some NASA public statements focus on the Moon, but that's simply because that step is closer to receiving funding approval by Congress; current unmanned exploration of Mars is clearly focused on preparation for a manned landing.

So my advice to these astronauts is not to worry, at least not about the Moon, even if a Mars program still does need all the advocacy and support it can get.

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Silver badge

Er...

How about announcing a plan to make space accessible for everyone (eventually) and working for a sustainable presence in earth orbit?

The advantages to having several (who in Azathoth's name said we should settle for "the" space station? There's room up there for umpteen of them) structures designed for comfortable, long-term occupation by humans in orbit are too many to mention, but include communications, weather observation, power generation and transmission, astronomical operations and (all together) a statging point for the construction and dispatch of spacecraft to all points outward we care to attempt to visit.

That's not even listing the military applications or the revenues realisable from the reality show "six athletic couples bonking in zero-g in front of hidden cameras".

This generation lacks vision. They'd rather veg out in front of a movie screen watching people pretend to be spacemen and spacewomen than actually make it happen for real.

Von Braun might be dead, but apart from that demented episode working for Hitler World Rule Inc he had the right idea on this one. If you want to go anywhere on a regular basis you need rest stops and gas stations along the way.

The first operational space wheel should be called "Kubrik" too, just for laffs.

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WTF?

Where's the money, sonny?

The moon race was politically motivated, without a doubt. It occurred in the height of the Cold War, after the USSR decided ahead of us to send assorted junk (along with a dog) into space ahead of us so as to preen its feathers. The response at the time was kinda necessary to keep up international image. But with the Cold War over and done with, attention turns more to home matters and instability back home, not to mention discontent over such things as health care and banking troubles. For many people, a Mars mission in this day and age would be like sending out for some milk and eggs while the living room carpet's smouldering. Priorities, man, priorities.

The big question is, "What's the (deleted) point?!" Since politics is no longer the motivator for space missions, two other motivators have to fill in: buisness and R&D. And that's where the hard questions come in. What business do we have to go to Mars. Is there something over there that can turn the tide of human evolution and that absolutely requires a human presence to discover? In business terms, what's the Return on Investment, the ROI? As for R&D, figuring out how to survive long-term in a hostile space is nice and all, but do we need to go to Mars to figure that out? After all, there's plenty of hostile space just a few hundred kilometers over our heads. Heck, oceans are hostile environments, too. Might it be best to find cheaper solutions closer to home?

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>investing in the economy

@Seriously, who cares? The money could be put to far better use investing in the economy.

In aerospace companies perhaps?

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@Anonymous Coward 14:32 GMT

I would like to explain that in my previous comment I was only talking about robotic missions to Mars and the Moon (which were the subject of the original article) and of those I only mentioned the rovers and not the reconnaissance missions, which are necessary for the manned programs.

Robotic missions only make sense as a precursor to manned missions. Therefore, the cost of robotic exploration is additive to that of the manned programs. Outside of that context, the robotic exploration can only be justified in the areas where the manned programs are premature or currently impossible (as the examples you cited with Venus etc).

So, one type of robotic "exploration" of Mars, Moon (rovering around) is a net loss - the money spent on activities, which will have to be redone all over again by the manned missions. Their only purpose is the appropriation of funds, which would otherwise be completely withdrawn by the respective governments. It's like maintaining a camp fire even when you don't have any food to cook (and when it's quite warm around) for fear that if you put it out you will not be given matches with which to light it again.

The other type of robotic exploration (orbital surveillance) is only viable as part of the manned programs, otherwise see type 1.

And my point is: do the manned exploration so as to avoid squandering resources on type 1 or writing off the results of type 2.

P.S. I didn't quite understand your remark about the Apollo missions. The Apollos were manned, right?

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Just do something!

I had the honour of spending the best part of a day with Charlie Duke, dinner, helping organise the event he was apearing at and then finally watching his talk. A talk over dinner really made a few things clear about what has been done, will be done, and must be done.

What Charlie makes clear, and the other guys to, is that we need to do something. I can see some logic behind a Mars shot but a moon shot will prove that we can still do it and that the tech is there to go further. One thing is that while we have established tech to go to the moon, there is tech comming up the line (VASIMIR) that will be better suited to a Mars shot.

As for people saying its a waste of money, a sobering thought for you. If it all goes pear shaped down here, its all over. Not just you, your children or there children, the lot, end of humanity the whole 9 yards. We need to get out of this situation where all our eggs are in one basket otherwise money worries wont mean jack when the next 'insert space threat here' comes around. As it was niceley put by someone else (cant remeber who) I'ts pure luck we are here and the universe keeps making concerted efforts to make sure we arent around for much longer.

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Anonymous Coward

"what happened to man and woman on... Venus?"

I imagine they got squished, boiled and dissolved, all at the same time

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just about right

they were never on the moon and now that the talks of going there are going to prove that, they want us to bypass it and go to mars, helps keep their secret for another couple of decades !

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Troll

@ Mars, yep, couldn't agree more

If we left, who the hell would you borrow money from, France?

Your economy tanked because you were piggybacking. Try standing on your own for once.

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Grenade

Split infinitives

Buzz Aldrin is a badass who landed on the Moon and he can split infinitives all he wants.

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Go

@Dai Kiwi 1

I disagree about the superiority of asteroids & comets as a metal source.

While the delta-v needs are lesser, their orbits take them by Earth and then way out and yonder.

The Moon is always nearby.

This is useful because you can have epic armies of remote control robots operating on the Moon, teleoperated from Earth, with relatively low on-site staffing needs.

For staff you do need on-site it means they can bug out and come home at absolutely any time.

Thus it is accessible at all times.

The "pesky gravity well" is a small price to pay because we've already demonstrated single stage to orbit from the Moon using bog standard aerozine rockets.

If we can conjure up a way to fuel rockets on the Moon - and there are plenty of schemes that might work - than the problem is pretty much nailed.

There may be mostly intact, rare-metal-rich asteroids on the surface. Finding one near the pole where there is hydrogen may be a grand win.

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What good is Mars?

What's the fascination with visiting Mars? It's pretty much as inhospitable to human life as the Moon is, and it's a lot further away. Colonies on Mars or the Moon will need full protection from radiation, (Mars has an almost negligible magnetic field) and total atmospheric support at all times (whipping your helmet off for a quick whiff of the Martian atmosphere won't be advisable - even if it was breathable, the atmospheric pressure is a fraction of the pressure at the top of Mt Everest), so the question is - what can you do on Mars that you can't do on the Moon?

Obviously a human explorer on Mars could be a bit more "flexible" about examining his environment than an electronic shoebox with wheels. But it would cost hundreds of times as much to get the human there - much better to send a hundred robots if the real reason for going to Mars is to expand our knowledge.

The Moon, on the other hand, provides an much more accessible target for developing the sort of technologies that will be needed if we really do expect to expand humankind into space. The only way we'll ever see significant numbers of people leave the surface of this planet is if it becomes practical for private individuals to make that decision for themselves, and that will require an environment (if you'll excuse the pun) where entrepreneurs can see an opportunity to make money in space, whether by manufacturing in space or providing services. Mars isn't going to deliver in either area - the Moon might.

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Alien

The real reason we won't go to Mars...

is that they are still working to unravel the tech at Area 51. Once that's done, we'll go there at no cost, and be there in a week.

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Anonymous Coward

Ah - the jung unz today?

The atomic clock at two minutes to midnight (where midnight denotes total all out nuclear war)

World superpowers affirming MAD (mutually assured destruction) as a reasonable tactic

The race to stronger more effective missiles, nuclear warheads and nuclear bombs

No consideration of health and safety nor of reporting actual or near-miss incidents to the public

(I could go on)

The moon then was a target and the race to the moon was a non-destructive (although it was probably mildly destructive in other senses) race to demonstrate superiority.

The Ruskies won the first couple of rounds (think wrestling or boxing matches) and the US won the last round much against the state of play.

Someone once said it was a question of who had nabbed the best Nazi scientists at end of WW2 that was the decider.

It seems so far and distant from today's world that I expect Jung unz don't have a clue and those that did probably forgot?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Anonymous Coward 14:32 GMT

Vladimir Plouzhnikov writes...

"Robotic missions only make sense as a precursor to manned missions."

Will people be going swimming in the oceans of Europa, then? It's not even desirable to put people below the Antarctic ice, so there's limited interest in making a submarine for humans to go diving on Europa.

"Therefore, the cost of robotic exploration is additive to that of the manned programs. Outside of that context, the robotic exploration can only be justified in the areas where the manned programs are premature or currently impossible (as the examples you cited with Venus etc)."

Maybe in the far future it'll be possible to walk around on Venus, but the robots can do the science adequately until then, I think.

"So, one type of robotic "exploration" of Mars, Moon (rovering around) is a net loss - the money spent on activities, which will have to be redone all over again by the manned missions. Their only purpose is the appropriation of funds, which would otherwise be completely withdrawn by the respective governments. It's like maintaining a camp fire even when you don't have any food to cook (and when it's quite warm around) for fear that if you put it out you will not be given matches with which to light it again."

Yes, rocket scientists have to keep getting the money (if only to stop it being spent on banks, wars, quangos, expenses, and all that), but maintaining expertise is vital, too. In addition, you have to be able to send the relatively small payloads before you start building that giant spacecraft for humans, with all the essentials required for a multi-month (or multi-year) mission. So, sending robots is essential, and it's also relatively cheap compared to the effort required for human missions - you can write those costs off, because it's work you have to do, anyway. And the race to the moon proved that delivering humans anywhere is a step up from sending probes, as the Soviets will attest.

"P.S. I didn't quite understand your remark about the Apollo missions. The Apollos were manned, right?"

Yes, but many people seem to think that Apollo was just flag-waving and golf. That's like claiming that the unmanned Mars missions haven't achieved anything.

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Alien

I hate titles...

Can I say that for an article on going to mars there is a stupidly low number of alien icons!

If I remember correctly... Mars has an atmosphere of CO2 and the soil is mostly sand. So if my basic logic is correct, y don't we just plant a load of desert plants on it and get them to produce oxygen? Considering that there's water beneath the surface I don't see the problem. Besides the planet being inherited by cactuses.

I will now collect my fee plz ;)

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Coat

O Noes!

"The way some people talk, you'd think the money is sitting in a bank vault on the Moon."

You mean it's not?

OK Ron, you can cancel the getaway rocket. Nigel, you can give your mum her goldfish bowl back.

Bugger! Back to work inna morning then

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Go

Priorities ?

"But with the Cold War over and done with, attention turns more to home matters and instability back home, not to mention discontent over such things as health care and banking troubles. For many people, a Mars mission in this day and age would be like sending out for some milk and eggs while the living room carpet's smouldering. Priorities, man, priorities."

Well, we've not been to the moon for many years and yet we still have poverty, starvation and corrupt/incompetant bankers. Does anyone really beleive that if we don't do space then the money will be put into making like better & fairer for the rest of the world ? Of course not, it will be wasted on something else. At least with moon shots you feel that the human race is advancing in some way.

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The chinese will get there first

They have the desire, money and want the prestige.

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Go

Give the private sector a hand

Surprisingly, only a couple of people have mentioned the private sector. Several companies are now getting close to having a private manned capability to reach low Earth orbit, and heavy lift to LEO is clearly in the private sector's reach. What NASA needs to do is continue basic research into cutting edge technologies that can help us get into and through space more easily, and promote the boring stuff like a positive legislative and investment environment.

There shouldn't be any need for NASA to build new rockets to reach orbit. Use the private sector and build interplanetary craft in LEO. The ISS has shown we could do that, even if we're still working on the plumbing.

And one last thing. Stop trying to go it alone, Merkins. Interplanetary exploration is way to expensive for any single nation to build anything more than a flag-waving exercise, even the Chinese. Look how hard it's been to keep the ISS funded, and imagine that scaled up to a Moon or Mars mission. Obama's right to think the Constellation/Ares programme is just another Bush propaganda exercise, but with some imagination he could turn it around.

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Black Helicopters

What about the conspiracies?

Not suggesting that the conspiracy theories are right or wrong, but if they're right, and no-one's even been to the moon, then the upcoming mission to the moon can not be allowed to result in public knowledge of any new discoveries of, e.g. a game-changing problem that must be overcome, (since they would have already known about it years ago). Wasn't that in fact the point about the Van Allen radiation - shouldn't it have killed off Aldrin et al by now?

If that was the case, what's the chances of the current howling about Mars being merely a diversionary tactic by former astronauts still playing along with the NASA strategy? ("We (NASA) need to get to the moon for real, but you (oldie spaceman) need to publicly criticise us to make sure that your so-called achievements aren't called into question.")

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@Anonymous Coward 23:21 GMT

"Yes, rocket scientists have to keep getting the money (if only to stop it being spent on banks, wars, quangos, expenses, and all that), but maintaining expertise is vital, too. In addition, you have to be able to send the relatively small payloads before you start building that giant spacecraft for humans, with all the essentials required for a multi-month (or multi-year) mission. So, sending robots is essential, and it's also relatively cheap compared to the effort required for human missions - you can write those costs off, because it's work you have to do, anyway. And the race to the moon proved that delivering humans anywhere is a step up from sending probes, as the Soviets will attest."

Let's be fair - these arguments look like a part of a presentation to the funding committee designed to show why they should not close you down. None of this can be used to argue that unmanned missions are better than manned.

That just shows to me that you do the robotic stuff not because of its superiority over manned programs but because that's what you're allowed to do and what you're being given the money for. QED.

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