Saturday, August 29, 2009

Assessment of Technology's Promise - The Moon and Beyond

This blog entry analyzes a forecast made in Technology’s Promise regarding space travel, specifically travel to the moon and Mars [1]. In Technology’s Promise, it is predicted that a new space vehicle will be readied to land humans on the moon to build an inhabitable base by 2014. This prediction, published in 2008, was based on the apparent strength at the time of a United States president-endorsed program to reach Mars by 2020.

The forecast must not have taken into account the budgetary constraints of NASA at the time and made a presumption that the enormously costly program would be assured of financial support. The current estimation is that the program would be $US 50 billion short of developing the rockets to lift the payload, that is not including the funding of the moon base, the payload the rocket is supposed to carry [2], [3]. The current funding level at NASA would not support a moon base until well beyond 2028.

The forecast must also not have taken into account the technologies necessary to lift such a heavy payload to the moon for a moon base nor the prerequisite science that must be undertaken to establish a moon base. Rockets powerful enough to lift the payload, the Ares 1, are still in development and behind schedule, although scheduled for test flight in August, 2009 [3]. It is generally accepted, as the prediction points out, that there is water trapped as ice at the poles of the moon. The ice has not been sampled or tested however; before humans may consider habitation near this water source for its use, it will have to first be determined through robotic excursions if the water is potable.

Beyond the wide miss of the nearer term forecast, it is suggested a moon base is necessary to accommodate the future flow of those leaving earth for points beyond the moon. Considering it takes one year to make a round trip to Mars at current velocity capabilities, it seems very unlikely there will be a large number of ‘pioneers’ striking out into the abyss of space beyond the mooon. We already know from our excursions that Mars is not hospitable and contains no raw materials of need for human life; it is certainly not a paradise in space to be longed for. Only the ruining of the planet or the discovery of a paradise within the solar system could induce a flow of pioneers to the moon.

In this author’s opinion, there is no reason to consider space travel any further when we have famine, overpopulation, pollution, economic turmoil, and disease as issues facing humanity.

[1] Halal, William. (2008). Technology’s promise. Expert knowledge on the transformation of business and society. Palgrave Macmillan. New York.

[2] Achenbach, Joel. (2009). NASA’s moon plan too ambitious, Obama panel says. Retrieved from Posted August 15, 2009.

[3] Kluger, Jeffrey. (2008). Does Obama want to ground NASA's next moon mission. Time. Retrieved from,8599,1866045,00.html. Posted December 11, 2008.


  1. Halal's entire set of predictions regarding space travel is absurd. The idea that a few billionaires spending $20 million apiece to go into space will translate into the average person taking extraterrestrial vacations is ludicrous. Halal appears to believe that private efforts such as Spaceship 1 have demonstrated the ability to inexpensively launch significant payloads into orbit. This is absolutely not so. Such efforts are suborbital and only qualify as reaching outer space by loose interpretation of the term. Space launch remains extremely difficult and expensive with no realistic change in the near future.

    The point about fiscal constraints is excellent. NASA is even pursuing the possibility of outsourcing support for the International Space Station in order to relieve their budget woes. Add to this the evidence that the U.S. technical and industrial bases are atrophying and it seems unlikely that there will be a successful U.S. moon landing let alone a moon base or manned Mars mission.

  2. It would take a significant series of events to motivate a shift in our perception of need and financial commitment to space travel, privately or government funded.

    In addition to the problems associated with space travel, building a self-sustaining Moon base by 2014 seems unlikely.

    As a counterpoint, The Houston Chronicle's SciGuy blog offers this discussion on The Commercial Perspective on Human Spaceflight.

  3. I feel that your perspective is deep and everything is pretty good given the perceptions and opinions logic together. friv 4