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August 2014
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Jade Rabbit has landed on the Moon.

China is now the third to reach another world-let.

22 comments to Jade Rabbit has landed on the Moon.

  • Giant Leap, Jade Rabbit. Welcome to the interplanetary neighborhood.

    I sincerely wish Congress would rewatch JFK’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech and read at least a couple of Heinlein’s books. Possibly, they should watch Firefly too.

    I also sincerely wish the superpowers will continue to get along with each other in trade and other ways. I sincerely do not wish for anyone to ruin this little oasis of a planet.

    How about increased cooperation between all the nations who’ve sent missions to space? Your country is great? Good! Built a great space station module, a great space shuttle, a great spaceship capable of a Mars exploration mission. That’s a huge effort requiring a lot of money, training, work, new technologies? Yes, it is. Those could help your people and ours and theirs. So all those nations join in and contribute, create and build those things back and forth. Everyone from factory workers on up benefits with jobs and a better lifestyle. We, you, and they all get to trade with each other, ideas and products and services. Isn’t that a lot better than throwing rocks or sharp, pointy objects or things that go boom?

    It is, at least, something to hope for, the expectation of things too seldom seen.

    A lot of fuss over a dusty rock at the edge of the river, a stepping stone from the shore to the ocean.

  • GreenWyvern

    I only wish the United States would spend more on space exploration than on war preparation (mis-named ‘defense spending’ – like the slogan in 1984: ‘War is Peace’).

    The US spends more on its military than the next 12 top-spending nations all put together: 682 billion in 2013. If that spending was reduced to a sane level – say, merely 50% more than Russia and China combined – then there would be an extra 300 billion to spend. They could increase NASA’s budget of 17.7 billion by 500%, and still have another 200 billion left over to spend on infrastructure and job creation in the US.

    It’s not as though the US seems to get much in the way of results for all its military spending. After 8 years in Iraq the US still wasn’t able to conquer the country and dominate the Middle East and it’s oil resources as it wanted to, and al Qaeda has gone from having a zero presence in Iraq under Saddam, to being a quickly growing force controlling whole cities in 2013. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is only waiting politely for the US to concede defeat and pull out, so that they can extend their control from two thirds of the country to the whole country.

    So in terms of bang for bucks (shall we say), the US military is probably the least effective military force in human history. What was the last successful war the United States fought? It must have been the invasion of Grenada (pop. 110,000) in 1983, in flagrant violation of international law.

    The fact is, most US military spending goes to civilian contractors. Then whatever money those corporations can spare from executive salaries goes to buy up senators and congressmen of both parties who will vote for even more military spending.

    All the generals know that if they award fat contracts to their buddies in the big corporations, they will be guaranteed a seat on the board and a huge salary themselves whenever they retire from the military.

    And in order to justify so much military spending to the public, they need to talk up dangers and find excuses for more wars.

    Meanwhile, in few years China will overtake the US in space exploration. They are carefully and systematically gaining the skills they need to expand into space. The next step will be to land astronauts on the moon, and then on Mars. The Chinese are very good at taking a long-term view, and I wish them all success.

    • Overspending on offense/defense was one of the main reasons the USSR collapsed. That, and creating intolerably restrictive conditions for their own citizens.

      That’s a track I hope we avoid. Maybe in addition to JFK’s speech and Heinlein, our elected leaders should re-read that bit about “government by the consent of the governed.” Those Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and the European and Classical thinkers they based their ideas on really weren’t too shabby.

      Come to think of it, I ought to reread some of those documents, and read the ones I haven’t. They were a pretty happenin’ bunch. Probably would be labelled as overly liberal these days. Heh. (Irony: I grew up, and still am, fairly conservative. But life has made me more liberal and outspoken.) I do wish someone would hurry up and invent a better system than we’ve got.

      —–

      That aside, I’d love to see the US into manned space exploration again.

      Besides the obvious benefit of not having all our eggs in one basket, rather literally, manned space exploration has plenty of high- and low-tech benefits for ordinary people. Things we take for granted now, from computers and electronics, to food storage and preparation, to those memory-foam mattresses to sleep on, are all by-products of working out how to put people in space.

      (I recently saw an article that the original spacesuits for the Apollo missions were designed and built primarily by…bra manufacturers: Playtex. It’s true!)

      It’s an example of those unexpected benefits of exploring space.

      Besides, if you have food growing on a space station, you can trade back and forth with Earth for what suits you. -And- if you have people out in space, and some calamity happens back on Earth, you have a better chance of recovery for the people back home and those in space. (This assumes they can stay in space and there are means to get them back, up, and down from space and the planet. It assumes a permanent space presence. By any nation or group who can make the leap. And no one throwing rocks down onto the planet. …Carrying refined asteroid materials, though, might be wanted and of benefit…)

      I guess it boils down to, I was a three year old little kid in pajamas and with a blanket, when I watched the “first men land on the Moon.” I’m not yet 50, but getting danged close, and we don’t have anything like a ship able to go to Mars and beyond, to Jupiter or Saturn, or regular commercial, public shuttle flights to a large space station, like in 2001 and 2010, which are long past now.

      As a boy and young man, I watched as we had many missions to the Moon and Skylab, a very public gesture of cooperation between two superpowers with Apollo-Soyuz, and then (wow) space shuttle launches, with much cooperation from Russia, Europe, Australia, Japan, and others. (That list of countries has grown too.)

      Yes, there were two very public disasters, tragedies. (I’m from Houston. I live here. Folks connected with the space program live and work here.) But those people, like their Russian colleagues, knew the risks. They strapped themselves into tiny ships on the backs of giant rockets, for goodness sakes. Not only liftoff, but succeeding in space, landing or docking, takeoff, and getting back safely to Earth, are all very tricky and can go wrong, yes. They knew that. They did it because they had a dream of the stars.

      Or Dr. Sagan’s popularization of why space was worth looking at. Or Clarke’s or Asimov’s. Or Heinlein’s. Or hundreds of other science fiction authors from Jules Verne to a lady named Cherryh….

      Space is worth the risk. It can mean a better, fuller, freer life for the people “back home” on Earth.

      You don’t want to send people up? You want to use robots and probes? Fine, but there are things humans can do that automated probes just can’t. So do both. It isn’t an either/or proposition, if you are willing to take the long-term, full-range view. Space is big and getting there is a huge challenge, yes. So let everybody in on the game, cooperate already, and let everyone, I mean the whole planet, benefit from the results. — And if we won’t, someone else will, and yes, they do get the benefits, including the higher ground, if you insist on thinking like that. So don’t get left out of the game. Share the risk and the results. Who knows, you might find out the other guys are OK, once you get to know ‘em. (And if they’re not so OK, well, maybe you’re not so lovely yourself, sometimes; and hey, you get to watch ‘em up close, keep an eye on ‘em. If you insist on that kind of thinking.)

      But I’m preaching to the choir, aren’t I? — How I wish the people in charge of the purse strings and green-lighting manned space exploration, both national and international cooperation by governments, and the private commercial exploration, would be, not merely allowed, but pushed for.

      I want more than a small ISS space station and a few shuttles, these days someone *else’s* vehicles, be it noted, instead of ours. I want us back on the Moon. I want to see Mars explored *by humans* in my lifetime, by a mixed international team, not one powerful country. Asteroid mining? Commercial shuttle flights on a regular schedule? Bring it on!

      • The main thing being: Just do it!

        Some simply do, e.g. http://www.copenhagensuborbitals.com/ in Denmark. It’s slow going, but steady, and funded by donations from all over the planet. Open source and all, expanding on the technology base that was invented 70+ years ago, but using off-the-shelf industrial or hobby products wherever feasible.

        The chinese moon landing is another example, they just do it, but with a lot more money.

        The money is spent on earth, not in space, so that’s no argument. But in order to get a long-term space program going, it has got to be self-sustaining. tourism, showcase, mining, industrial production (without environmental side-effects on our biosphere), you name it.

        It’s always better than building weapons, as those are lost. Either expended (and people get killed in the way) or obsolete and scrapped.

        Regards
        Ektus.

    • Walt

      “Yes, there were two very public disasters, tragedies.”
      We should not forget Apollo 1, Soyuz 1, Soyuz 11, and the various training incidents.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_accidents_and_incidents

  • Aja Jin

    I watched the landing live via the internet. It really reminded me of the days of Ranger (my first memory of space), surveyor, and of course all the Apollo missions. While I’d like the US to get back on the right track for manned exploration, I’m also looking forward to seeing anther manned mission from any country.

  • CJ

    The US is always stimulated to do more when it sees somebody else do it. We’re good at sitting on our laurels until we realize there’s a competitor coming.

  • Walt

    My father worked on Apollo and my mother on the shuttle, so I’m pretty pro-space. But, I don’t really think we should be setting up a Moon colony until we have an economic case for it. Otherwise, it’s just an extremely expensive hobby that takes money away from other space goals.

    We get so we can claw our way out of Earth’s gravity well, and we’re all, “Look! Another gravity well! Let’s jump in!” (Shakes head.)

    I think the next step, assuming the assays work out, is asteroid mining. That has a payoff, so it will keep moving under its own power. If we can get an asteroid smelter working in Earth orbit, and have it build a rotating space habitat, then those habitats can exist most places in the solar system.

    Add fusion power, and you don’t have to stay near the Sun. Then it’s just a matter of where you want to be; one place is much like another. If you want to go to Alpha Centauri, why not? Sure it’ll take centuries and the view won’t be much on the way, but you need little more than current technology to do it–the ecology may be tougher than the fusion engineering.

    If you get to Alpha Centauri and there’s no good planets (though we should know fairly soon if there are), you’ve still got your self-sustaining habitat and (presumably) lots of asteroids to mine before you head out somewhere else.

    All this assumes that asteroids are, more or less, what Earth is made of; but I don’t know of a reason to think differently.

    • paul

      Rub it in! I worked on Apollo! Space Division of North American Rockwell in Downey, CA, built the Command Module. I worked there at the tail end, 1968.

      I rather think the KLOP, Known Laws Of Physics, rather dictate we’re going nowhere en mass. This is what we’ve got, as shown by the Apollo 8 photo of Earthrise, so we’d better do a better job of taking care of it.

    • Walt

      Maybe you knew my father. Also went by Walt. Project Management.

  • I find this video by Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson to be one of the best arguments for us to resume our place in space exploration.
    http://www.wimp.com/tysonnasa/

    Aside from the fact that it’s prestigious, recall how much of modern technology has derived from the needs to miniaturize and streamline equipment, especially electronics. The advances in electronics have resulted in such other advances as in medicine (magnetic resonance imagers, PET scans, CT scans, microsurgery, etc.), not to mention the computers we’re all using to access this board, or the smartphones people walk around as though there’s an umbilicus attached to them, etc.

  • Walt

    Though for a slightly different perspective, in 1965 Gordon E. Moore made the observation known as Moore’s Law, that computational power doubles every eighteen months. Moore and Robert Noyce founded Intel a few years later, and has used Moore’s Law for long term planning ever since, forty-five years, and made every goal. (I wonder if Moore had said doubles every twelve or twenty-four months, whether those schedules would have been adopted, too.)

    And now we’re supposedly in the post-PC world. I argue the reason is, no consumer software needs the power of a top of the line Intel PC. The little processors in smartphones and pads do all consumers want, aside from the geeky fringe. So why is Intel making still faster computers? Merely because they decided to do so, not from any real need for them. (Though some applications get clunkier and clunkier because the excess compute power is there.)

    I think Dr. Tyson makes some good points about inspiration, but NASA isn’t the sole font of inspiration. From pre-history to the late 1800 China clippers, sailing ships have been inspirational. From around 1830 to the present (but not recently in the US) trains have been inspirations, from Stephenson’s Rocket to maglevs. In the late 1800s, the HMS Dreadnought launched and the major powers contested, through WWI and the Washington Naval Treaty, to create the greatest superdreadnoughts. After WWI in the twenties, that technology led to an arms race in passenger ocean liners. In the thirties, it was aircraft, in which NASA’s predecessor NACA was a player. Kids had toys of all these. And similar races occurred in electric power and radio; at one time vacuum tube radios were inspirational (see Anything Goes 1934). And some of us remember Japanese transistor radios. All this is pretty passé now but my point is that people can be inspired by many things not just space.

    Maybe I’m blasé about space because I’ve been exposed to it all my life. I was very inspired by Japan’s transit system when I encountered it, but I expect Japanese take it for granted. I would be inspired by a revolution in air transport, not faster, but still inexpensive and designed to accommodate actual people and return air transit to being pleasant instead of a simulation of an inner ring of hell.

    Maybe the fundamental problem is that we as a society have become convinced the Economics is a zero-sum game (it isn’t) and cheapness is the only virtue.

    • Xheralt

      The only thing that needs the power of a top-of-the-line PC are the advertising video clips and analytic scripts that are inflicted on the end user. I’m an introvert with my computer as much as I am in real life, I don’t like it when outsiders waltz in and steal my cpu cycles.

    • Walt, I never meant to say that NASA was the sole font of inspiration, but recall the late 1950s, when it was not about going to the moon, but about defense from space-based attacks from satellites, missiles, etc. Sputnik scared the hell out of the DoD.
      Kennedy’s pledge to put a man on the moon and safely return wasn’t just technologically driven, it was also defense, psychology, and one-upmanship. While NASA wasn’t necessarily the innovator, the contributors to the space-race were innovators. They weren’t all in the U.S., either, so I’m not being geopolitically egocentric about it.
      As for “needing” a top-of-the-line PC, what does “need” have to do with it? If it’s available, people are going to want it. Just like a 500HP Ferrari, you don’t “need” it, but there’s a market for them and people do buy them. We don’t “need” fatburgers from places like McD’s, but there’s again a market for them. I believe people are going to always want the latest innovations, whether it for the status, the actual use of those items, or whatever reason, and there’s no reason why innovation should stop just because someone arbitrarily determines we no longer “need” a particular item. I kind of like to make my OWN decisions about what I need, not let someone else make those decisions for me.

  • CJ

    I think as our commerce has gotten global (to the consternation of the tariff laws) our vision has gotten far too local…we’ve lost that Earthrise vision. It’s become an ‘of course’ to today’s children, and such things happen. But there’s still goodness in people—still ambition and drive. They just need to have it waked up. And if it takes a Jade Rabbit, and a sense of competition about it, that’s all right with me.

  • chondrite

    Culturally, the Chinese are more inclined to take the long view, to work on projects with results that may need a generation or two to see results. Western cultures have fallen out of that mindset; we’ve gone from WPA projects to benefit coming generations to instant gratification and “I’ve got mine, to hell with the rest of you!” Space exploration is no exception. I would have liked to see the US take the lead again, but if the moon base or first Martian colony is built by the Chinese, at least we have humans off this one small rock.

  • CJ

    I believe jade is the stone of immortality. The Long View.

  • CJ

    And don’t get me started: we in the US always define ourselves by others’ pressure. George Washington and the militias had a set-to, called the Whiskey Rebellion. We concluded the feds would ‘come and get us.’ We had the Civil War, which spawned a bunch of phobias and some really ridiculous notions. We had the ‘Communist Menace’, so now we run scared from anything that in anybody’s mind remotely resembles sharing. Trouble is–that can be redefined as almost anything requiring cooperative financial effort. We got scared of ‘terrorists’, and now we confiscate toy guns from monkey plushy toys. Tomorrow another ‘great menace’ will be in fashion, but we retain some sort of ‘genetic memory’ of past ‘great menaces’ so that we go into the future lugging old baggage the origin of which we have no idea. I’m waiting for the US to come of age and form its ideas logically, but that may only happen when we’re invaded by gibbering idiots. Maybe N. Korea will do.

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