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What did I miss?
james_nicoll
What the US didn't do in space since the end of Apollo:

Put a human on the surface of another planet.

What the US did do in space since the end of Apollo:

Place a variety of advanced telescopes in space

Sent fly-by missions to every planet.

Put orbiters around Earth, the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Put landers in or on Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Titan.

Mapped numerous bodies in the Solar System.

Discovered what appear to be a number of oceans on other worlds.

[I was surprised to encounter an article from the 1970s that
made it clear the author wasn't sure if the Galilean moons were rocky
or icy]

Carried out a long term examination of the sun from space.

Sent fly-by missions to a number of asteroids and comets.

Destructively explored the interior of an asteroid.

Sent a high-speed mission to the first known dwarf planet, Pluto,
and points beyond.

Explored the borders of the heliopause.

That's just off the top of my head.

You left out space stations: first Skylab, then ISS. And shuttles.

You didn't mention the discovery of extra-solar planets, but maybe that isn't strictly a US activity, and so doesn't count (or maybe it's covered under "new telescopes").

- Ken

Neither was the lander on Titan (although strictly speaking I only credited the US for getting it there, not building it).

uh. I thought that the soviets landed things on the Veneran surface, not the US. The french did balloons, iirc. We dropped probes...but they were not soft landers as I recall.

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe not only dropped four probes into Venus' atmosphere but one of them managed to survive for over an hour on the surface despite not really being designed to do that and the significant disadvantage of not having been given a parachute.

http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/pvprobes.html

Heh. A probe after your own heart.


Not done yet:
systematic mapping of all potentially dangerous asteroids (I could be wrong here)
careful experimentation with asteroid orbit modification
long-term orbiters around all major bodies, with full instrument suites
relay network to support data traffic with the previous
using our own sun as a graviational lens
dropping a sub into Europa's ocean

The first item on your list isn't done, but the effort is well under way.

Uranus and Neptune orbiters are probably a long, long way off. The Europa-sub mission may not even be possible with any near-future technology, if the ice over the ocean is thick, as some think it is.

Terminal velocity at the surface of Venus is less than 10 m/s for many objects, including humans. Crazy but true -- it's inversely proportional to the square root of fluid density. If you went skydiving on Venus, parachutes would be optional.

Quite possibly the probe suffered nothing worse -- in accelerational terms -- than being dropped out of second story window.


Doug M.

Ah yes - as the cry went out through the facility "Get More Tapes!!!"

The VEGA 2 probe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vega_program). Desperately cool.

"Sent fly-by missions to every planet."

Relying on the recent redefinition of Pluto as not a planet. :p Lowering the bar...

"Sent a high-speed mission to the first known dwarf planet, Pluto, and points beyond."

Huh, I've missed that. Which mission, and did it get there yet?

"Huh, I've missed that. Which mission, and did it get there yet?"

Not yet. It's called New Horizons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Horizons


It was launched in 2006. It'll get there in 2015.

And when it was launched, Pluto was still classified as a planet.

"The probe that was launched to a planet and arrived at a dwarf", or something more euphonious.

13.94 AU out as of today.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/mission/whereis_nh.php

William Hyde

Interesting podcasts of public lectures:
http://www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/

New Horizons at Jupiter (and Some Saturn News)
http://www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/moore.mp3

The Planet Pluto: Maligned but Not Forgotten
http://www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/cruikshank.mp3

An interplanetary medium (and cometary coma) sample return mission.

A solar wind sample return mission that augured in but still got some results.

-- Steve really likes it when spacecraft return with their scientific plunder. You can fit so much more lab equipment into a lab than you can a probe...

Also not done:
1. Found anything interesting that'd justify people going into space
2. Found a way to get to somewhere where there is something interesting in any kind of feasible way

I mean, yeah, tons of Science was done, but all it did was turn intriguing possibility into boring certainty. Good for scientists, and it keeps people's imagination pointed at more interesting things here on Earth instead of in the boring ol' solar system, but bad for interest in space.

Admittedly, it's hard to blame NASA for reality being boring.

As for humans: Do you find privately-financed tourism at all compelling? Other people will certainly find it compelling if the price is right. People really enjoy inspiring views and will pay a lot for strange recreational experiences. (There are other economic arguments to be made, but as you know, they've been discussed here plenty.)

As for science (regardless of human presence): Do you find the ongoing search for life interesting? Also, I often find places on Earth interesting regardless of what life is present -- do you? If so, are you saying that for you, the rest of the solar system is somehow different?

"Do you find privately-financed tourism at all compelling?"

No. And I suspect when it comes down to brass tacks of actually paying for it rather than dreaming using play money it won't happen. The price won't be low enough and the supply of people with more stock options than they know what to do with will be rapidly depleted. And I'm willing to make a substantial wager (in beer) to that effect.

I suspect he means 'interesting' in the sense that humans might make a go of living there. If so he's quite correct because there is no place in the solar system that is as hospitable as the least pleasant spot on the surface of the earth. I don't know that many (any?) could beat out the deep sea either.

Space is a fantastic place to observe with telescopes and probes, but it is a appalling waste of money to send humans there.

Um, you do realize you're dismissing about 99.9999999999999999999999(keep going)% of the Universe there? :)

Even ignoring the fact that sooner or later something inconveniently Large is going to whack into the planet unless we're in a position to stop it (depending heavily on how soon we spot it, and what we have out there to intercept/divert/blow into atoms the offender, we have plenty of unfortunate evidence for what happens to the population that gets stuck for too long on one island. No, we don't want to move off the island and live on the reef shell... but we do want to fish there, and there's a lot more ocean on the other side.

"The Earth is entirely too fragile a basket for the human race to put all its eggs in." Robert A. Heinlein

If I lived in the 18th century I would have loudly dismissed attempts at flying machines as well. The technology is no here yet. Manned missions might make sense sometime in the future, but they don't make a lick of sense right now. And yes I am dismissing most of the universe. Given the size of it and physics even under the most optimistic scenario 99.999% of it will be forever out of reach. Even if we invented some sort of unobtainium powered hyperspace engine that could get us there at 100 times the speed of light.

We might be there in 50 or 60 years, but right now it is a colossal waste of money like a mad prince chaining swans to his throne to try and fly.

Edited at 2009-07-22 09:39 pm (UTC)

This does not limit anything that might happen to be out there affecting US - a nearby supernova is unlikely, thank goodness, but if it were, 30ly wouldn't mean much.

Your 18th century avatar woulda had a bit of an embarrassment in France in the 1780s, when the first hot air balloon went up. There are plenty of things we are not ready for, but getting ready would appear to be a good idea. Life is full of little surprises.

Boring certainty? Wouldn't that be created a lot more questions....

Er, I lost track of the definitions flying around; did the "Dwarf Planet" definition settled on once more manage to exclude Ceres, while putting Pluto into its little ghetto classification that makes it a LITTLE better than an asteroid but nowhere near as good as a REAL planet?

From wikipedia because I am lazy:

The IAU currently recognizes five dwarf planets—Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.

I feel obliged to point out that "SOHO is a joint operation of ESA and NASA" as I have to say in the acknowledgment section of all my papers. (SOHO is a big part of that "long-term examination of the Sun from space.")

I have no idea what the relative contributions are in monetary terms, though.




Thank you for reminding the planet what has been accomplished since Apollo ended.

MESSENGER (ie launched an orbiter to Mercury).

I'm sure there are Hubble discoveries you could list.

But having just spent a week sailing to a bunch of glaciers and back, I am in favor of humans going to interesting places. I know all of this science is great, I follow it avidly, and I love what we learned. But I'd trade it all in a second for a crewed Mars base.

Why? Because I'm not a robot. So even if she did have her own LJ, Opportunity doesn't mean as much to me as Armstrong. Sorry.

I, personally, would not forgo the cost of a single beer to put a man on mars much less the science that NASA produces. I am passionately and loudly against going to Mars and want to kill the Moon base, dead. Why? Because I'd trade any number of pointless photo opportunities for flyboys in for a really great observations that would tell us more about the origins of the solar system or universe. I want to learn something, not do a stunt.

And that's the biggest nuisance of all - the fact that trips to the Moon were done as a "stunt", and as soon as the "stunt" value wore off, they quit. Just, as was pointed out by some of the astronauts, as they were finally doing some actual, useful selenology. There IS an advantage to boots on the ground, and that is that people are so danged multipurpose. They'll spot stuff you didn't think you were going to want to look for until there it is. Landing on the Moon was a stunt. Building a Moon base is not - that is how you find stuff out. I don't think we know enough about long term environmental maintenance to do it just yet... but eventually we should.

Sheesh - you think sometimes people think that the entire universe outside Earth was about the size of, say, Schenectady but less interesting... We haven't even scratched the surface, so to speak.

Nonsense. Humans in suits are, at this point of technology, less effective than an equally well funded robotics program. Get over your emotional response and look at the real science.

Wrong analogy about universe. I view it like we're on an island in the middle of a deep ocean abyssal plain. There is some interesting stuff down there to investigate, but nothing anywhere near as useful or attractive for habitation than even building a hut right next to the volcanic caldera. We're not getting off this rock anytime soon if ever and wishing there were other islands out there does not make it so nor is stripping huge number of our trees to make a raft that could support one or two of our numerous inhabitants.

Edited at 2009-07-22 09:47 pm (UTC)

Actually it depends on what you're looking for, and how much you KNOW about what you're looking for. Humans are multipurpose devices, even the best robot cannot match. And the further away you get the longer the turnaround between orders you send and responses from devices. Not really a problem with orbital satellites (remember 'Sputnik' was a "stunt"... but the stuff we have up there now sure isn't!), but even as close as the Moon is you get a bit over 3 seconds total turnaround time. If you're driving something, this gets dicey. And that's just the moon.

Anyway, just sending someone up to walk around and bringing them back IS not particularly useful... but building a base (where you can dig into the place far enough so you don't have to worry about what happens when the sun hiccups - NOT the case with current orbital stations) is another story. More like the station we have at Antarctica than Plymouth colony, but still useful.

Yeah, and if we actually built such a base for trillions of dollars (cost overruns, don'cha know) the space enthusiast community would get busy telling us that the real use would be if we just would build a bigger base more like Plymouth Colony than McMurdo Station. Bull. It's always jam tomorrow with humans in space. Apollo, the shuttle, the international space station, and building a moon base will be no different. No real science will be done, it will all be make work stuff that could have been done less expensively with robotic packages.

Give the robotic and space probe scientists the same amount of money as the man in the can bunch and they'll produce more and better science. We'll actually learn useful things about space and the universe instead of make work junk. Humans in space are not particularly multipurpose when it comes to space and we've no business being out there yet.

Nope, something like McMurdo would be far more useful - rather like the space stations we keep building but much, much, sturdier. Scaling up may be useful eventually, but at first, I don't see any reason.

That's nice - why are you talking to me, then?

Just because you're wrong does not meant that I should not respond to you. What kind of world would it be if only people who agreed with each other would communicate with each other?

But if you're certain I don't mean what I say, there's no real point in my talking to you. So I guess I'll stop. Bye!

I am not saying that you don't mean it, just that you're honestly wrong.

Didn't we also launch Gene Roddenberry's ashes into space?