Posted tagged ‘Mars’

SEND IN THE ‘BOTS: An Editorial

January 16, 2012

Yes, NASA is sending in some robotic type exploratory craft. Certainly Curiosity, on its way to Mars, is a magnificent application of robotic technology for space exploration. In fact, our entire Mars exploration program is a glorious history of robotic successes. Good beginnings, and now it is time for more advanced humanoid-style robots to be developed for the next step in our exploration of our solar system.

Yes, I hear your shouts about human spaceflight and the long history of human exploration. I acknowledge all of that including a great but furtive human exploration of Luna, but in my opinion, right now and for a considerable length of time human spaceflight, except maybe back to Luna, is beyond our future budget picture. By future, I mean the next two decades. You betcha, I hear those shouts too about how stingy the White House and Congress have been in funding space exploration programs, but right now we are nearly broke in a bad way.

By broke in a bad way, I mean we have let our industrial prowess become gravely anemic. We, this nation, have been reduced to a bunch of greedy investment types who play games with our money for their enrichment. The net effect is a starvation diet for innovation and industrial growth. In fact, we have shipped lots of it overseas. Well, that has got to change and soon, if we are going to get back up off the floor and begin to design, develop and produce in a competitive manner with the rest of the world. Eventually we should strive to capture the lead again. This will take time and an intense investment in both dollars and sense. To inspire this, we must also cut off the flow of lobby-largess that influences boundless political stupidity.  To do all this in just two decades will take a concentrated effort by the innovators and their public support. Of course, this assumes we are willing to make that kind of commitment for our future.

Space-bots of a humanoid type are a good and necessary next step. Costs for this type of exploration program are less both in launch costs and the reduced costs from not having to design in human support systems. Robots eat less and breath less, in fact they do not need either food or air to perform in an efficient and productive manner. Yes, some of the drama associated with human spaceflight is lost for now, but inside those space-bots is the incredible brilliance of our space scientists and engineers. In other words the human element is very much there and absolutely vital. The Bots Are Us in an important and innovative way.

There is no doubt we can do this. The energy, the imagination, the drive are in the wings right now vibrating with eagerness and extreme impatience. We must release this powerful and progressive force to begin to both return us back into real space exploration and also begin pulling America back up off the dirty, dingy, stingy floor.

I can cheer, even weep a bit, as I watch the launch of our first space-bot team. The thrill and the throb of that powerful launch renews my hope and my courage. How about it, will you join me?

In the meantime lets remember our first and only real human space exploration of our solar system and take inspiration from that. We will honor them by starting again with space-bots because those bots will emulate those great beginnings and successes.

IMAGE CREDIT:

Space_bot – Courtesy of Wallpaper Box – http://tinyurl.com/8ylskf7

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LUNAR LUNACY or LUNAR SMARTS

June 7, 2011

Well lunacy got its first use as a way to describe the suspected effects of our Moon (lovely Luna) on human behavior.  Luna, of course is the Roman Moon Goddess and it did not take long for early philosophers to assign strange human mental behaviors to the work of Lady Luna and lunatic has been with us ever since.

There is no denying the many influences Luna has had on human history. One could fill an entire library with all the scientific studies, novels, plays, movies and music that talk about or talk to our Moon. For most of us, all the above represent deep expressions of endearment we all feel for Luna. In fact the Moon affects most of life. Wolves and dogs howl at Luna, owls hoot hello, bats dance in her light, some exotic flowers wait to bloom at her bidding, and legions of tiny creatures break into boisterous song upon her appearance. So, should we Earthlings be satisfied with just one, brief visit with Luna? Can we really be satisfied with that fleeting assignation and go galloping off to Mars and beyond?

Now some serious space exploration advocates believe a return to the Moon at this point would be a bit loony when there is Mars out there waiting for us. Well, we will go to Mars, the important thing is how we go, and how well we stay there. The establishment of a fully active and fully international Lunar Research Base will offer a host of scientific knowledge that will directly affect all of our future space explorations. There are cosmic messages waiting to be discovered and read on Luna that relate to the evolution of our solar system, and most likely to the development of exo-systems like the newly discovered GL581 system. So, returning to Luna with an international team would be what we see as Lunar Smarts. Nothing loony and filled with both scientific and promising commercial discoveries that will hold promises for both research and private development.

There will be obstacles, even life threatening ones, as well as revelations about humans existing functionally in the rather unfriendly environments of Luna and certainly Mars. What is learned in working on Luna will better ensure a safe and highly productive exploration of Mars and beyond. All of these lessons will be provided at a lower cost, than a gallop to Mars that is fueled more by “guts and glory” than by careful and concentrated scientific investigations. Of equal importance, is that while we are learning on Luna, when serious things happen that need rescue, it will come quickly whereas on Mars, it most likely will not come at all.  This development will not deter our exploration of Mars, but when we do make the trip we will go with extensive Lunar foreknowledge and an established rescue protocol based on time and distance from Earth.

Lastly, if we bypass Luna, others will not, and we will immediately lose any leverage about what should happen both scientifically and commercially on our only Moon. Those kinds of assessments and decisions should be derived and followed internationally. We can assure that only if we, this nation, take the initiative to bring it about in an orderly manner. If we wait and in a startled and rushed response seek to resolve that problem. it most likely will fail.

Brave men, dedicated support staff, tons of money were spent to visit Luna. Let us not waste all of that great achievement by casting aside those first, magnificent steps across the wide, wide river of space. Luna awaits with open arms, a greater supply of water than we initially thought, and as stated above a glorious and important history lesson about how we all came to be. So lets be Lunar Smart and set sail, soon, for lovely, lovely Luna.

IMAGE CREDIT: Image of Orion spacecraft approaching Luna courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

BACK TO THE MOON – Together

April 15, 2011

The multi-lingual calls to return to the Moon shown in the above image are just a few samples of the many other national languages all calling for a revisit to lovely Luna. Well Russia is gearing up for it, China too and one must ask, why this nationalistic attitude when we could all work together? We could be combining scientific and technological brilliance with shared costs to create the second greatest International Space Station: The Moon.

Yes, everyone wants to go to Mars too, but a second International Space Station located on the Moon would be a significant step forward in the bolstering of an already international climate for joint space exploration programs. The diplomatic breakthroughs in putting this joint effort into being would also be an incredible leap forward toward global peace. It would also be a definite enhancement of humankind‘s continuation on this planet and beyond. In other words we learn to live and work together, thereby living longer and reaching further into space. Seems like an awfully good idea.

This big event would most likely be a joint activity of both governmental and commercial programs all joined together for a common goal. The sharing of technological expertises as well as the sharing of the ongoing costs for such programs mandates a global consortium. There is no question that we can do it. The only question is will we even try?

It is natural for humankind to be competitive, but it is also natural for us to come together and succeed jointly. History certifies this fact. So, lets make history again. There are already solid, cooperative links between many of the space-faring nations. We should use those as the  foundation upon which to build the WILR – the World Institute for Lunar Research. The biggest step is for each space-faring nation to give up the desire to be “first” and instead accept a joint “first place” for all humankind.  In other words a world full of heroes, with an international flag implanted on the Moon’s surface. When we accomplish this we will ensure that not one single astronaut/cosmonaut that has visited space ever did so for naught.

Now is the time, while all space-faring nations are scrambling to keep some level of space exploration alive. Sub-dividing that effort nation by nation is a starvation diet. If we come together our joint efforts will both survive and prosper.

Let’s do it! Давайте сделаем это! Faisons-le! चलो यह करते हैं! Hebu kufanya hivyo!

HEADER IMAGE: NASA image of astronaut Bruce McCandless II who performed the first independent space walk.