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Old October 15 2012, 01:45 AM   #235
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Envisioning the world of 2100

^ That's exactly the problem: everyone's talking about NASA repeating its previous achievements, essentially a reboot of the Apollo program; the thinking is that NASA went the wrong direction AFTER Apollo, so what we need to do is time travel back to 1974 and make NASA turn left instead of right.

The truth is, that kind of mission was never going to evolve into anything else. Apollo's goal wasn't to colonize the moon or setup long-term habitation. Apollo's goal was to BEAT THE RUSSIANS TO THE MOON. That it was allowed to continue on and do some useful exploration afterwards was just the icing on the cake.

We don't need more Apollo missions. We don't need a new Saturn V, a new CSM, a new LEM or a new SIVB. What we need is a robot transfer vehicle with an ion engine or something that can run supplies from the Earth to the moon; we need a permanent space station that can receive those supplies and coordinate with expeditions on the surface, and we need a fleet of small surface-to-orbit transports that can shuttle people and equipment back and forth from that station to the lunar surface. We need a VASIMR-equipped space tug that can get crewed vehicles to lunar orbit in three or four weeks, and we need cheap and efficient space taxis that can take people to those vehicles and carry them safely back home again.

In other words, we need a Trans-Lunar Railroad. It's going to take ALOT of rockets to build that, a lot of hardware put into orbit and tested in situ. It's going to cost a lot of time and money and maybe even lives. Which means what we REALLY need right now is not a racing stallion, but a workhorse.
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