No further than the moon

Nov 15th, 2016 | By | Category: International

The supermoon caused a buzz of conversation, as close as it had been since 1948, the Moon would not be as close to the Earth again until 2034. The continuing power of the Moon to fascinate is perhaps testimony to our continuing failure to send a manned mission any further, a fact to which most people are indifferent.

Looking back now, it’s hard to imagine the excitement that the Space Race created through the 1960s. The first manned missions, the first spacecraft to orbit the moon, the first moon landings, each moment memorable in the mind of a small boy. I remember the Moon map that came free with the daily newspaper, so that we could identify the spot where Apollo 11 astronauts would land and I remember being called from my sleep to see Neil Armstrong step from the lunar module and make his giant step.

There was huge optimism, Neil Armstrong expressing the belief that he would return to space as part of a regular tourist industry. There were even cards of spacecraft inside packets of tea that could be collected and stuck in albums. The names of the craft were household words.

Then the space powers, the United States and the USSR, seemed almost to lose interest in the project. They had done all they could do and there was nothing more to be achieved with the technology that humanity possessed. The Hubble space telescope and the long journeys of unmanned probes have told us more about our solar system and about our little corner of the universe, but human beings have remained very firmly Earthbound.

Trips to the Moon are like going out of the back door to a shed in the backyard, we haven’t even got the technical capacity to go to the house next door, to the red dust of Mars, and to hope to return. A manned mission is planned, but unless there is a technological breakthrough, it is a one way trip

I once read that there is more computer technology in the average home PC than there was at the entire mission control at Houston in 1969, but one reads many things, and it may not be true. True or not, when we have the technology to do endless pointless things, like creating extraordinary computer games and filling the internet with fifty million pointless blogs, you would think that someone might have invented a propulsion system good enough to get people next door and back in a half reasonable time.


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  1. Technically speaking, to photograph the moon you need at least a 600mm, but more likely double that. And while those numbers at the low end aren’t outside many photographers you will need extension tubes to extend the overall length of existing glass. If you had to buy big glass you are into many thousands, and while there is interest in the moon there’s no way that much.

    On the PC thing. I’ve wondered a bit about those statements.
    Me, I’d say they didn’t need that much by way of crunching power. They were asking one question at a time. A bit like a ship leaving dock and moving into the sea roads. There’s calculations being made one by one, there’s no need for every possible scenario to be plugged in. And lets face it, the the basic physics is the same in a syringe. So all they had to do was know ‘near-enough’ how long to push thrust out of rocket ‘a’ to nudge it ‘left a bit’.

  2. I suppose there was the navigation system and life support systems of some sort. I remember being absolutely fascinated by the whole Apollo project and then becoming disappointed in teenage years when it was abandoned.

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