Friday, December 14, 2012

Forty Years Ago Today


Apollo 17 descent stage imaged by the lunar rover camera after the ascent stage lifted off at 5.55 PM EST December 14th 1972.

3 Comments:

Anonymous talkie_tim said...

Gosh. There's a sad anniversary.

December 14, 2012 8:47 PM  
Blogger Mark Pontin said...

Not necessarily so sad.

[1] Given cosmic radiation beyond the Earth's protective magnetosphere -- which extends through cislunar space to the Moon -- we really weren't going to march on out into a radiation-heavy solar system a la the Campbellian-Heinleinian expansion model. "The Man Who Lost the Sea" or "Scanners Live in Vain" seem closer to how that would have ended up.

[2] The technological capability to go to the Moon remains well within our reach, especially if we do it the way Werner von Braun originally wanted to do it -- the sensible, non-Space-Race-driven way. That is, we launch our moonships from the ISS or similar Earth-orbit space stations.

Heinlein was right to stress that once you're out of Earth's gravity well and in orbit, for practical purposes anywhere in the Solar System is reachable for about an equal expense of energy. Given that, the emergence of SpaceX and lower-cost launchers than Apollo are a favorable development.

December 16, 2012 4:29 AM  
Blogger Mark Pontin said...

I meant lower-cost launchers than the _Saturn_ rocket, which was the launcher for the Apollo missions. Sorry.

December 16, 2012 4:32 AM  

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