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Author Topic:   Anything gained?

Posts: 861
From: Virginia
Registered: Apr 2002

posted 01-09-2005 08:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mensax   Click Here to Email mensax     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One day we will return to the Moon, and then on to Mars.

I wonder how this period of "low orbit" will be viewed. Have we gained anything by waiting, by catching our breath, before moving on? Have we improved any of the technology that will allow us to move forward cheaper, safer, or better?

I know there are a lot of ways that this "pause" was bad (loss of momentum, equipment, experience). But, is there anything positive to be said about taking a "time out"?



Posts: 117
From: Vilano Beach, FL, USA
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 01-09-2005 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for star51L   Click Here to Email star51L     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think so as far as gaining from the 'time-out' period. Apollo became a much better spacecraft in the period after the fire, I think some aspects of the shuttles were improved after Challenger. This time around, there seems to be alot more changes 'from the ground up'; hopefully they are for the better, and with the designs of new spacecrafts in the works, hopefully all this knowledge will be taken into consideration and future 'time-outs' won't occur.


Posts: 225
From: Syracuse, New York, USA
Registered: May 2003

posted 01-09-2005 05:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Carrie   Click Here to Email Carrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think credit should be given to the space stations as a first step in learning how to live in space for a long duration (as the Mars mission surely will be), making do on the fly. Maybe a moon base could (and will) serve the same purpose, but it was probably a good idea to have an intermediate step in there where the crew could return home more easily if need be. -C


Posts: 1181
From: Huntsville, AL, USA
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 01-10-2005 11:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my mind, asking if the Shuttle-ISS period was a waste of time is like asking if the Gemini program was a waste of time. Sure, it was less glamorous than landing on the Moon in Apollo, but there would have been no Apollo without rendezvouz, without EVA, without "long" duration spaceflight.

What have we learned from the "period of low orbit" of Skylab, Shuttle and ISS? It would be hard to even begin to list even just things that will benefit us on the way to Mars and living on the Moon, but here's a few seconds worth of thought about the more obvious ones:

1) Like Carrie said, we now have experience with long-duration spaceflight. We've learned things about how the body adapts to microgravity that were never dreamed of after Borman and Lovell set the pre-Skylab endurance record. This experience will assure that not only will people be able to fly to Mars, they'll be able to get to work as soon as possible when they get there.

2) We've gained space operations experience. Through A17, spaceflight was about either testing out equipment (pre-A11) or reaching a destination (A11-A17). There were a few experiments conducted in space, but they were definitely secondary concerns. Beginning with Skylab and continuing through today, the focus shifted to doing things in space. Having the focus be on the journey was great for the relatively short trip to the Moon, but on trips to Mars, the crew will have to have something to do. And, of course, there's no point in setting up a Moon base if you're not going to do something there.

3) In just the last few recent years, we've gained on-orbit assembly experience. Kennedy's Apollo deadline meant that the von Braun method of developing an infrastructure for leaving LEO had to be scrapped in favor of a "heave it all to the Moon" Saturn V approach. To return to the Moon, and to go on to Mars, could very easily mean going back to an approach much more like the one von Braun outlined. Fortunately, we now have the experience to do that.

4) As recent events on the ISS have demonstrated, we're developing increased on-orbit in-situ repair capabilities, another must-have skill for making trips to Mars. The A13 crew's famous CO2 scrubbing fix is the highlight of this sort of thing in the Apollo period, but they still had to make a quick return to the planet. On a trip to Mars, that quick return will not be an option, and so it's vital that we know as much as possible about anticipating the unplanned and responding to the unanticipated on the way there and back.

5) We've proved over the past decade that nations can work together in space productively, and that together can accomplish more than any could individually. It's hard to imagine this experience won't be incredibly important to leaving LEO again.

Like I said, that's just a few of the more obvious ones. Sure, leaving LEO is far sexier than circling the Earth, and Apollo will almost certainly be remembered as a more impressive feat and A11 will always be one of the most historically significant dates of the 20th century. But, I believe in the long run, this LEO period will be remembered as incredibly productive in our evolution to becoming a space-faring people.

"America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow." - Commander Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17 Mission, 11 December 1972


Posts: 1567
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 01-10-2005 03:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bravo, David - well said!



Posts: 258
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 01-10-2005 04:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my opinion what we have learned in the last thirty years about human space flight and exploration could have been learned in three years if we had some motivation to do something important within a limited period of time. Yes, we learned from building and operating the space shuttle - for a few years. Now we learn how to hold together decades old equipment to do the same thing over and over again - and spend billions to do it over and over again. I say shut down the NASA manned program now - and give one percent of their budget to fund private enterprises that will try to commercialize human space travel. Then we might learn something worthwhile in the next decade. NASA won't do it. We will do the same thing over and over again until we have a Mars race with China. I look forward to that day.


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