The shortest one-way trip, using conventional chemical propulsion, would take six months. If you include the time spent on Mars waiting for the two planets to move back into optimal alignment and also the trip home, the total mission would last at least two and a half years. The crew would have to endure extremes of boredom, isolation, and radiation, and they would require a vast amount of fuel and rations packed into a vessel sturdy enough to shield them from the harshness of space. Simply landing a spacecraft safely on a planet with an atmosphere and substantial gravity poses stunning challenges. And then there’s the matter of keeping the crew alive on the Martian surface.
Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, and as JFK said, we do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
NASA has posted photos of the Apollo landing sites as seen by the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter (LRO). This is the first time the sites have been photographed, as no Earth based telescope, or even any satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope, have the resolution to resolve anything on the moon that’s smaller than about a mile wide.
40 years ago today, Apollo 11 lifted off from Earth on its way to the moon. The Big Picture has some great photos from the misson. Looking at the photos makes me really wish I were alive at the time, but hopefully we’ll be back sometime soon.
This image, taken in the Mare Nubium region of the Moon, shows a heavily cratered area. The scale here is amazing: the whole image is 1400 meters across, or just under a mile. That’s like looking out your airplane window… if you were over the frakking Moon!
When LRO settles into its final orbit, it will be able to resolve objects only 18 inches across. I can’t wait to see the shots of the Apollo landing sites (which I mentioned earlier).
Included in the article is a video of Apollo 17’s lunar module taking off from the surface of the moon (embedded below). This is the only footage ever recorded of a LM leaving the lunar surface, and it is also the last footage ever recorded on the moon.
To record the video, they used a camera on the lunar rover, which was positioned a fair distance away. One reason previous attempts to record the lift-off failed was the positioning of the camera–if it was too close, it was knocked over by the power of the rockets.
(Note: I uploaded the video to Viddler, so I could embed it here; as far as I know, all NASA videos and images are available for public use, so I shouldn’t be violating any copyright by posting this here.)
A great piece on facts regarding nuclear energy, alternative fuels, and several other topics. I’m not sure I agree with #4, that we shouldn’t be sending more humans into space, but I can certainly see where the author’s coming from. The nuclear energy section, however, is right on the money.