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I'm on a deadline crunch today, trying to wrap up some consulting work, and a long essay for The New Atlantis, but it's Monday, which means Jeff Foust has lots of good stuff up over at The Space Review, including a book review of New Moon Rising, a slapdown of Professor Van Allen (something apparently required every few years, ever since the dawn of the space age, yet he never seems to learn), and a proposal to send a Soyuz to the moon.

Posted by Rand Simberg at August 02, 2004 08:25 AM
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A couple questions about the Soyuz mission:

1) Are there any currently available engines capable of pushing a Soyuz onto a free-return trajectory? Presumably they would have to push the logistics module as well, but obviously there's no data on mass for that.

2) What is the condition of a Soyuz after 6 months in space? Is it still capable of flight? I remember that the Soviets used to have to "change out" Soyuz spacecraft at their older stations, but that was a couple generations of development back.

3) Has a Soyuz-derived spacecraft ever sucessfully executed a double-dip reentry? Has anyone? I know Zond was supposed to use that profile, but IIRC at least one of the test flights was lost when it failed to complete the reentry profile.

4) What is the plural form of "Soyuz", anyway?

Posted by Jeff Dougherty at August 2, 2004 11:20 AM

"What is the condition of a Soyuz after 6 months in space? Is it still capable of flight?"

It is still safe enough for the taxi mission return to earth.

However, the Soyuz does indeed have a shelf life, and would require a number of modifications to safely extend that shelf life for such a mission. It is not that the Soyuz turns into a pumpkin at six months and one day, but do you really want to be using a vehicle at the end of its life to begin a _new_ mission?

Mr. Foust's article was diplomatic in noting that right now this is primarily a thought experiment as opposed to a real proposal. The idea of finding a private customer willing to spend what would undoubtedly be multiple tens of millions of dollars for a moon tourist flight seems pretty dubious.

If you think about it, this proposal involves a lot of typical hand waving aside of serious issues. They want you to think that it is an attractive idea because it reuses hardware that is already paid for and available, but then they tell you that they a) have to heavily-modify that hardware, b) have to build an entirely new logistics module, c) have to launch that logistics module (at what cost?), and d) probably have to conduct a test flight ahead of time.

"Honestly, it's a good car for camping. Cheap too. Of course, you'll need a new engine. And tires. And brakes. And it had a habit of starting on fire even when it was new, so you will probably want to redesign the fuel system. Oh, and you cannot sleep in it. So you will have to buy a trailer to tow behind it. But good and cheap!"

Posted by at August 2, 2004 02:55 PM

Van Allen as a myth is much scarier than Van Allen's article. I asked Issues to put it up on the web so it would be easier to demystify it.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at August 3, 2004 02:43 PM

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