18 thoughts on “Apollo 45th Anniversary

  1. Godzilla

    I hope we eventually do something spectacular enough to forget about it. But I would not be betting on it happening any time soon.

  2. Chris L

    The event itself is impossible to forget. To be a 10 year old boy who watched (“Live From The Moon!”) Neil and Buzz walk on the Lunar surface, is to be a witness to an historical event that is quite literally unparallelled. I feel very lucky to have been able to do that, very lucky indeed.

    That being said, I understand how the Apollo model doesn’t really work for long term exploration/settlement of the solar system. I also understand how trying to replicate that model is just a waste of money. So I’ll keep my memories of that night and keep an eye on what guys like Elon Musk are doing.

  3. Mark R. Whittington

    Apollo was the greatest peacetime technological feat in history the benefits of what still redound decades later. Naturally we must never do anything like that again.

    1. Rand Simberg Post author

      So you’d like to see another half century of expensive stagnation in space?

      Are you completely unaware of how stupid you sound?

      1. Mark R. Whittington

        I’m pretty sure that one does not necessarily follow the other. Your solution is, though you deny it, is to not do exploration at all. Elon Musk’s constant boasting that he will have us on Mars in ten years do not count.

        1. Trent Waddington

          Actually knowing and understanding your opponent’s argument is not just good grace, it allows you to construct informed arguments. You should try it sometime.

        2. Andrew_W

          Your solution is, though you deny it, is to not do exploration at all.

          Perhaps you should consider the possibility that you’re talking nonsense, and that your nonsense is a reflection of just how out of touch with reality you are?

        3. Edward Wright

          Your solution is, though you deny it, is to not do exploration at all.

          Mark, you’re the one who constantly denies reality. You want to believe socialism and “no exploration at all” are not the only two options. That is not true.

          As we have explained to you countless times, most exploration is done by private individuals, not government. A mountain of historical evidence (which you simply ignore) supports that statement. You have offered nothing to counter it except logic fallacies (citing one or two examples of government explorers and generalizing to conclude that all explorers must, therefore, be government employees) and outright factual errors (like your belief that John Cabot was funded by the government, rather than the Bardi banking firm).

          You like to boast about your “BA in History,” the basis for your supposed expertise in space policy. It’s ironic, then, that you show such pigheaded invincible ignorance when it comes to history.

    2. Chris L

      The thing is, we can’t do something like that again. The NASA that made Apollo happen doesn’t exist any more. The one that exists today is just another federal bureaucracy who’s main mission is self-preservation, not space exploration.

      And even if that weren’t true, the political environment that spawned Apollo doesn’t exist any more either. Today a multi-administration manned project that costs tens of billions of dollars and a decade to complete will not work. No administration is going to risk political capital on the space dreams of the previous administration.

      It only worked in the 1960’s because you had the combination of a very specific goal, cold war politics, and the legacy of a popular slain president. That kind of nexus of political, strategic, and emotional forces does not exist today. It was a unique moment in time, but it is over. Space has to be settled now, not just explored.

      1. Thomas Matula

        You also had a young agency filled with a mission. But as you note NASA today is not the NASA of Project Apollo and space development would be a lot better if it was shut down.

  4. Ken Murphy

    Well, here in North Texas we’ve been celebrating the anniversary for half-a-dozen years now, with our sixth Moon Day event coming up on July 19th. Over two dozen local exhibitors, like the Monnig Meteorite Gallery, the Perot Museum, Texas Instruments, NSBE, Mad Science of DFW, Fort Worth Astronomical Society, and many, many more. Over ten hours of family-friendly Moon Academy programming on topics like Telescopes 101, Composite Materials 101, and real Moon Rock Disks. A half dozen hours of adult-level Lunar University programming on topics like Cislunar Space Development and Mars Settlement. Tons of activities like Solar telescopes, inflatable planetariums, crater-making, Moonbots, and both Lockheed Martin and Texas Instruments will be holding mini-STEM-Faires within the larger Moon Day festival. Lunar Sample Bag swag bags for the first 200+ kids stuffed with over five pounds of informational materials and goodies, from copies of “Where No Man Has Gone Before” from the NASA Chief Historian, to XCOR Aerospace sew-on patches (Awesome! Thanks guys!). from Celestron Telescope catalogs (& frisbees) to GPS posters from GPS.gov. I can’t wait to see what SpaceX is sending us. We even have a special patch that Girl Scouts can earn as part of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas STEM program, and we’re having some of the special award winners from the local Science Fair show off their projects..

    We had over 1,200 visitors last year, and I anticipate more this year as word is getting out about just how much fun Moon Day is.

    Apollo and NASA? Well, um, we do celebrate on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. We get a fair amount of materials from various NASA areas to distribute in the Lunar Sample Bags. Walt Cunningham’s Apollo Moon rock is on display, and we incorporate that into our Girl Scout patch program. We also have the Apollo 7 capsule on display. Haven’t been able to get JSC involved though; PAO doesn’t seem to want to hear from me unless I rent an astronaut, which on my budget for the event of $0 is tough to do.

    Social media? Pshaw. I’ll take a real, live social event any day.

  5. Robin Goodfellow

    Apollo was an incredible, inspiring, history defining achievement. It will resonate throughout history for generations, likely millenia.

    But it would be folly to view it as an archetypal effort for interplanetary exploration or colonization. We do not today use dogsleds to travel to the South Pole as Amundsen did, we do not walk if we wish to get across North America as Lewis and Clark did, we do not use batteries made out of copper pennies and sheets of zinc as Faraday did. We can still remember and revere the achievements of Apollo without making its mistakes and without being trapped in an outdated way of doing things just because it worked once.

    Part of the problem in regards to Apollo is that we have failed utterly to follow up on it and to advance beyond what was done nearly half a century ago. That has resulted in a view of Apollo as an achievement that was won, and then lost. It is today inspirational and evocative as an isolated historical event. Today there is a great need and desire to undertake an effort which produces that level of inspiration and pride in the present tense rather than as an echo from the past. That desire is at such a level of intensity currently that to many it is becoming desirable to follow in the footsteps of Apollo. But that is not a testament to the technical or strategic merits of the Apollo model in terms of interplanetary exploration and colonization, far from it. It is merely a commentary on the current state of society, culture, and faith in government. It is no longer merely assumed that we can set lofty goals and achieve them through sufficient application of pluck, cunning, fortitude, and determination. Perhaps because we fear those qualities have drained away and somehow we can bring them back by making an offering to the gods of nostalgia or by following the forms that brought them to the fore previously.

    In any event it is a peculiar type of Cargo Cultish activity. We cannot assume that performing a stage play of the Apollo program will magically summon up the same degree of inspirational spirit or the noble and desirable qualities that surfaced during Apollo which contributed to its success and to its perception as a worthy activity.

    We need to find our own path to the stars, and only by doing so will we prove that we still have the grit, tenacity, and savvy to achieve something great on our own. By replicating Apollo we seek to demonstrate that we are peers with our past selves, but that will not work. We must have our own achievements, making use of our own best qualities including our judgment and wisdom; making our own unique mistakes, discoveries, and victories; with success (or failure) attributable only to ourselves and our abilities to achieve that which we set out to do. To prove our status as peers of our past selves and to validate our stewardship of America and western civilization during our generation.

  6. Fletcher Christian

    I’m not convinced that a Mars exploration mission is possible within any sort of reasonable timeframe, because of the immense cost and the completely unknown risks involved – and the known ones, such as solar flares.

    I’m one of those that think that a Mars landing is probably inevitable – but only after the development of really significant space infrastructure, to include large numbers of people (thousands at least) living in space structures. Going back to the Moon is desirable – but this time with an intention to stay and to exploit its resources.

    Hell, O’Neill said all this in the 1970s! Why hasn’t humanity started?

    On top of that, giving in to von Braun’s disintegrating totem poles and dropping the real Orion like a hot potato aborted another route to space. One that would have had a manned mission to Enceladus in perhaps the 1980s.

  7. GaryMike

    “…it’s time to let go of Apollo.”

    Twice I’ve been in the company of Mr. Aldrin. Once on a.m. radio in studio.

    He can’t remember me. I am not in his universe.

    Aldrin was not an Apollo architect. He was payload.

    It’s time to let go of spent cargo.

    Brilliant orbital mechanic, lousy policy advocate. I prefer someone who will acknowledge the fact of the existence this taxpayer, and my voice.

      1. Thomas Matula

        Not to mention the role of Dr. Aldrin in inspiring space ventures like Virgin Galactic.

        http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2013/03/features/up

        Up: the story behind Richard Branson’s goal to make Virgin a galactic success

        [[[In 1995, following a conversation with Buzz Aldrin, Branson began seriously exploring the potential for democratising space travel.]]]

        Perhaps if the other Apollo astronauts were as in involved in space policy, and understood it like Dr. Aldrin, we would be further along in space.

  8. Ed Minchau

    I have been playing Kerbal Space Program for a couple of years now. It’s a sandbox-style space game that lets you design rockets and aircraft and then launch them. There’s an entire solar system to explore, and little green men are your pilots. It is pretty unique in that the game was released years ago but is still in alpha.

    If you really want people to understand why things like propellant depots and ISRU are better than enormous rarely-used rockets, show them this game.

    I have added a couple of mods (there’s a huge modding community) to the game, in particular one called Kethane. This is a resource (a hydrocarbon slush with embedded bubbles of Xenon) which can be found throughout the Kerbal system, mined, and processed into propellant. The addition of this one mod makes ISRU possible in the game, and completely changes the complexion of the game.

    For the last major update to the game (0.23.5), the developers teamed up with NASA to add asteroid retrieval missions to the game. New parts in the game include major elements of SLS. The next major addition coming up for KSP (0.24), due out in the next few weeks, is money. In Career mode, players will be given limited funds at the beginning of the game, and will thereafter be awarded funds for achievements.

    When that happens, it will become so obvious just how much more expensive it is to launch huge rockets compared to orbital rendezvous and propellant depots.

    BTW KSP is also a great way to teach the basics of orbital mechanics. http://xkcd.com/1356/

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