Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Forty years on

(I wanted to post yesterday but Cox Communications is crap. It dies at the first clap of thunder.)

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The USA landed 6 missions and 12 men on the moon over a period of 3 years, and since 1972 no one has been back.

As a science fiction writer, I imagine a future where space travel is commonplace. Today, that future seems a very long way off.

When are we going back to the moon? When will we visit the next pretty bauble in the sky - Mars? In the 60s it wasn't too unbelievable to imagine that by the twenty-first century we'd have lunar shopping malls and a Martian Disneyland. Compare the state of technology then and now, and marvel at our lack of ambition and adventure.

Here are two ideas in the works about how to get to Mars and establish a base (after all, it takes 9 months to get there, so we'll be staying a while).

The first stems from Bush's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration initiative: we first build an outpost on the moon, both as a trial run for living on Mars and as a launchpad to the red planet. NASA estimates we may get to Mars by the 2030s.

The second is a quicker, cheaper method because it skips the moon altogether. Developed by the Mars Society, Mars Direct involves launching an unmanned Earth Return Vehicle ten months ahead of the manned craft, the Mars Habitat Unit. The ERV mines methane and oxygen from Mars, which provides the fuel for the return flight.

Either way - or some other way altogether - I hope we get there.

1 comment:

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

For us to get farther in space exploration, we have to be willing to face the probability of some deaths along the way. As long as we insist on absolute safety, and turn that into a hammer hanging over anyone who dares imagine exploration, so long will be stay here on Earth and not do much.