January 31st, 2004

2013

b-day shout-out

Happy Birthday Coleman!

My nephew turned 9 years old today. I'm extremely proud of the 'lil bugger. :o)
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2013

Easterbrook on Bush's lunar lunacy

In the days to come, any administration official who says that a Moon base could support a Mars mission is revealing himself or herself to be a total science illiterate. When you hear, "A Moon base could support a Mars mission," substitute the words, "I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about." Hint to reporters: If any administration official says "a Moon base could support a Mars mission," quickly ask, "What was the fuel fraction of the Lunar Excursion Module?" The answer is two-thirds. The LEM was what landed on the Moon during Apollo, and rocket propulsion has not changed much since, meaning that any future Mars spacecraft that stops at the Moon will expend two-thirds of its weight merely to land there and take off again. This renders the idea of stopping at the Moon on the way to Mars patent drivel. (Actually only about 15 percent of the descent weight of the LEM returned to lunar orbit, so the fuel-fraction calculation for a Moon stopover is even worse.)

...

Now we're up to an 1,125-ton spacecraft and a $28 billion launch cost. (Probably a Mars mission would operate in segments, with several robot supply ships departing long before the manned craft; but for the cost calculation, the driving factor is total weight.) Twenty-eight billion is twice NASA's budget and, again, that is just the cost to launch the thing, not to build the ship, staff it and support it. When Bush's father asked NASA in 1989 about a Mars mission, the agency shot back a total program cost of $400 billion. That's $600 billion in today's money, and sounds about right as a Mars mission estimate. This is assuming no pointless stopover at the Moon; add a Moon base and the price zooms toward $1 trillion! We're getting into the range here of the national debt.

[Full article @ The New Republic Online]
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