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Why not take the Shuttle to the moon?

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posted on Nov, 29 2007 @ 11:52 AM
I realize there is not enough fuel to boost the shuttle to the moon. Would it not be cheaper to build a fuel tank that can be launched ahead of the shuttle for it to dock with before proceeding to the moon? Lastly, they should be able to build a lunar lander that could fit in the Shuttle bay. They could design the lander to protect the crew through the transition through the Van Allen belt.

I know they are building a new ship for space exploration but wouldn't this put NASA years ahead of the other nations on the earth that are racing to the moon?

Seems like this could be done in 5 years or less if they really pushed it. I would think designing a dock able fuel source would not be to expensive comparatively.

posted on Nov, 29 2007 @ 12:36 PM
reply to post by Xeven

While it would save time and money to convert the shuttle, I doubt that it would really be feasible in the long run. The shuttles are pretty old technology, so retrofitting them to more modern specifications would be almost as big a job as starting over.

And I'm not sure how well these ships are holding up structurally either. I would expect that age is playing a role here as well, considering the stress on them with each mission. Especially reentry.

Still, the idea is worth looking into. We could go this route while we built exploration vehicles maybe.

posted on Nov, 29 2007 @ 01:03 PM
In the early 1990s a proposal was developed to use the space shuttles for lunar flight.The idea was to launch a fuel tank into orbit that the shuttle orbiter could rendezvous and dock with. A landing craft would be carried in the shuttle's payload bay. Using the new fuel tank the shuttle would boost itself to the moon and go into orbit. Some of the crew could then take the lander down to the surface and return. The shuttle could then return to earth. It was a neat idea and its too bad nobody ever did anything with it. We could have been back to the moon five or ten years ago.
I think the shuttle was built for earth's atmosphere and orbit only. I don't think after landing on the moon that the shuttle could get back out of the moon's gravity unless it had some booster rockets to blast off with. That's my take on it anyway. I do know that Lockheed Martin is supposedly the contractor for building a new shuttle for the moon and mars.
Lockheed Space Shuttle



posted on Nov, 29 2007 @ 02:41 PM
Much of the Space Shuttle Orbiter is designed such that it can function as a glider in the atmosphere (wings, tail, flaps, lading gear, etc). Going to the moon is extremely costly fuel-wise (and, hence, money-wise). It makes no sense to haul all the bits of the Space Shuttle that make it an aircraft all the way to the moon and back. It's just too costly to bring all that with you when it serves no purpose for the vast majority of the trip. It's just dead weight.

posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 08:43 AM
reply to post by nataylor

...all that, plus that plan does nothing to "advance" our space technology. Using a 30-year old shuttle to go to the moon will not help NASA in it's need to create a new and cost effective crew vehicle and heavy launch capabilities (such as the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and the Ares V Heavy Lift Vehicle, both being developed by NASA as we speak.)

Maybe we could go to the Moon in a modified shuttle (I really don't know), but it wouldn't help us to advance to the next step -- which is to go to Mars and beyond.

Using old existing technology like the shuttle to go to the Moon would again be like going to the Moon for the sake of going there -- just like we did with Apollo. With Apollo, getting there was the whole point...once we got to the Moon, we did practically nothing with it.

The shuttle's lifting capability is less than 25,000 kg to low Earth orbit. The Ares V can deliver 130,000 kg to LEO, and deliver 65,000 kg to lunar orbit. This extra lifting capability is crucial to the plans for building permanent bases on the Moon, and to build a Mars vehicle in Earth's orbit.

The shuttle -- even if it can be modified to take astronauts to the Moon -- does not have the heavy lift capability to take the pieces of a future Moon base there. The Ares V has much greater capacity.

Then there is Mars to consider. Current "early" plans are to launch a Mars vehicle in about 3 or 4 pieces, using 3 or 4 separate Ares V launches, and then construct the Mars ship in Earth's orbit. Using the shuttle may require 3 TIMES as many launches (10-12 launches).

Spending our time and resources in modifying a shuttle to go to the Moon may be possible (?), but that will get NASA no closer to their stated goals of permanent bases on the Moon in 15 years and a trip to Mars in less than 25 years. NASA is looking long-term.

NASA's Ares Rockets

[edit on 11/30/2007 by Soylent Green Is People]

posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 09:03 AM
reply to post by Solarskye

Lockheed has been awarded to contract to build the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), but it is not the "shuttle-like" vehicle that you showed in your link -- that design has been scrapped/heavily modified. The new Lockheed design for the CEV looks like a larger version of the Apollo capsule. This is the design that won the competition, and the design that has been going forward for a year and a half now.

NASA has named this new CEV "Orion". Orion will replace the shuttle in taking supplies and astronauts to the Space Station and low Earth orbit, and will be the vehicle that will take NASA to the Moon by 2018 or 2020.

NASA Article

Wikipedia article

Newspaper Article

posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 09:12 AM
reply to post by Soylent Green Is People

Your points are true, however getting us to the moon and using the Shuttle to figure out what changes and requirements we may need in the CEV is a good idea. We could establish a small moon base using the shuttle before the rest of the world gets off the launch pad. Doing this now could help in catching and changing the design of the CEV now while the press is still hot.

Also this would allow us to begin perfecting the new Lunar landing system before Orion is ready to go.

I also do not understand why our government does not work a LOT more closely with Europe on space exploration.

[edit on 30-11-2007 by Xeven]

posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 10:36 AM
It seems easy, but when it comes to launch vehicles, nothing is quite a quick fix. Remember that the shuttle was designed to be mated to its fuel tank on Earth, with copious personnel, cranes, tools, atmospheric pressure, etc. All that would have to be completely redesigned to allow it to dock in space. Also keep in mind that the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) are not re-startable, and would have to be redesigned in order to ignite in orbit. Besides, you would still have to make a new heavy-lift launch vehicle (such as the Ares V, or even heavier) in order to lift the necessary fuel. Lots of fuel would be needed, because the Space Shuttle, with its engines, wings, etc. is not light. If you're designing a heavy-lift launch vehicle anyway (by no means a small project) then why not build a smaller, more modern spacecraft to go along with it?

Besides, once all is said and done, you'd end up spending billions of dollars an orbiter or two that are growing long in the tooth and have myriad problems with them.

posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 10:48 AM
Now THIS is what I'm talking about. ATS rules!

I ended up giving nearly everyone a star.

Excellent discussion guys.

Many points were made in a minimium of verbiage.

I was unaware of several points, including that the Shuttle's engines were not designed to be restarted.

In addition, I would wonder if the kind of fuel needed to go from LEO to Moon orbit insertion would be different.

It would be interesting to see this early proposal to use the Space Shuttle on a lunar mission, though I agree that there was not much more to be learned by going to the Moon at the time. (doubt we knew about potential H3 back then, eh?)

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there is definately no reason to go back to the Moon, and the idea of launching the Mars mission from there is ridiculous for a variety of reasons, the greatest of which is cost. However if the Mars mission turns out not to be possible, then it may need a rethink.

(there are two spelling errors and one grammatical error in this post).

posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 11:32 AM
reply to post by Badge01

Badge --

You made an interesting point in your cooment about "no reason to go back to the Moon"...

Except for the mining potential (is there any that is cost-effective), and the He3 potential, there really is no other reason to have a permanent presence on the Moon.

But the point about living on the Moon isn't "living on the Moon". The point is that by living on the Moon, we will learn A LOT about living on Mars. I suspect that any habitat that will be taken to Mars would be first used on the Moon.

This is just like the Space Station arguement. What is the practical use of the Space Station? To be honest, there probably is no practical use. However AS A TESTBED for long-term goals of living in space and building structures in space, it is an invaluable tool. The CONSTRUCTION of the Space Station is one of the real benefits of the ISS, not so much the ISS itself. Secondary to that is the mundane day-to-day experiences living in space that we will need for the future.

This was just like Apollo. Getting to the Moon was important for political reasons, but once we got there, the moon became irrelevant. But in the ten years it took us to get to the Moon, this country underwent a technological revolution that by no small measure was helped along by the Apollo Program.

I think a program of building a base on the Moon will lead to a better mission to Mars in the hopes that once humans get to Mars, they will always have a presence there.

[edit on 11/30/2007 by Soylent Green Is People]

posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 06:48 PM

Originally posted by Badge01
In addition, I would wonder if the kind of fuel needed to go from LEO to Moon orbit insertion would be different.

Good question. I doubt it, because the liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen combination that the Shuttle already uses is extremely efficient. It's the same fuel/oxidizer that was used to get Apollo to the moon, and will be the same one used for the upcoming CEV. Besides, keep in mind that rocket engines are fine-tuned for their operating parameters. If a different fuel was used, then the Shuttle's engines couldn't be used with it.

posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 06:58 PM
Chris Vuille, Ph.D., wrote a very good article in 1990 that was published in Analog about what it would take to get the Shuttle to the moon. It essentially involved modifying the Shuttle for easier refueling in orbit (after launching enough fuel in earlier prep flights). The Shuttle's main engines apparently have enough power to break orbit, and the cargo bay has plenty of room for a lander and whatever else you'd need.

John Lear probably thinks it already makes trips to the moon as if it was a crosstown bus, though, as part of the Secret Space Force supplying the farside Lunar Base.


posted on Nov, 30 2007 @ 09:28 PM

Originally posted by Nohup
The Shuttle's main engines apparently have enough power to break orbit, and the cargo bay has plenty of room for a lander and whatever else you'd need.

It's a lot easier to go from LEO to the Moon, then it is from the ground to LEO. The Shuttles main engines have more than enough thrust, in fact, you'd only need just one. Which is another reason why the Shuttle would be a bad choice to go to the Moon with. Along with the wings, tail and landing gear which have been mentioned already, you don't need the three engines. There would just be too much useless mass to bring along and one would need to use more propellant to move that mass around.

There's also the problem of re-entry when coming back from the Moon. The Apollo capsules entered the atmosphere at much higher speeds then what the Shuttle does. I don't think the Shuttle could withstand re-entering at those same speeds, the wings would break off. One could get into LEO and slow down before re-entering, but you'd need to bring a lot more propellant to do this.

And trying to modify the Shuttle would more than likey cost too much and take too long (delays and cost overruns being fairly common in the industry). It's better to design something from the ground up in my opinion.

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