Thursday, 16 July 2009

Happy Apollo Launch Day!

Today, 16 July, sees the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Saturn V rocket which took Apollo 11 to the lunar surface. Regular readers and compatriots will know my love of space exporation, retrofuture, and steampunk, and you can check out some of my other posts here or here.

The ensuing months will see a myriad of posts around the aether about the moon, about the mission, and about the verbal slip of Armstrong's on such a momentous occasion - although, to be honest, concentrating on not slipping down the ladder in order to make the first human impression upon an extra-terrestrial body with your foot rather than your backside is probably a good thing, overall.

The reinvigorated space missions, starting with GW Bush's statement of purpose in September 2004, promised to herald a new step in human space exploration, with robots and humans venturing into the solar system.

However, a main foundation of this new adventure - that of a permanent lunar base - is reportedly under threat. Detailed plans for a lunar base were developed in the 1980s , which would have seen semi-permanent bases established there between 2005-6. As per usual, however, other life events intervened.

Man is scheduled to return to the moon in 2020, and from there, push into the wider system, including Mars. Now, however, it appears that NASA is, due to the new financial climate, scaling back on its plans. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations heard in April that the moon may now be bypassed, with the concentration now on pushing out straight away. This will depend upon the 2010 budget. There are draft plans to delete the lunar base completely, and use manned asteroids instead.

That said, two new missions to the moon (LRO and LCROSS) are continuing, one objective being to determine the nature of any water on the moon. As we all know, water is vital for any exploration mission - it's crucial for survival, yet is bulky, heavy, and does not dehydrate! The more sources of water we can find in the solar system, the better the chances of humanity pushing out from this lonely and precarious ball of rock we call home.

In the interim, work upon the space station continues, as it also does upon the manned mars mission, including the spacecraft which will take our intrepid explorers to the Red Planet. Other organisations then NASA, including the Mars Society, MarsDrive, Haughton-Mars, Mars Institute, and Mars Foundation are pushing the envelope, as well as, reportedly, state missions including China, Japan, India, and Russia.

Our patron saints Mr Wells and M. Verne would be pleased to know mankind continues to view the stars and pursue ways of making their dreams a reality!

It could get crowded out there, guys!