Fifty years ago, a boy in India heard radio when Apollo returned to Earth, and was thrilled. (Source: NASA)
by Ajay Kothari
Monday, July 29, 2019
I still remember – though the details are a bit blurry now the core of it is still as clear as a bell ̵
|NASA was incredible and symbolized the United States for many people around the world.|
We made a great effort to follow the live broadcast of a NASA capsule that landed in the sea, a journey around the moon. We were amazed and astonished that NASA and the United States were able to send a ship hundreds of thousands of miles long and still come back and land in a predetermined area of five kilometers – safely.
Our respect for what the US could do, which was already quite high, increased immensely. NASA was incredible and symbolized the United States for many around the world.
What a country, this America! What incredible people! It was hard to control the desire to come here, study aerospace, get a doctoral degree, become a rocket scientist and work in this field.
The Soviet Union also made a space flight, but announced their ventures retrospectively, so as not to belittle what they achieved. Not the USA. I thought, "Here's the next evolutionary stage of man" – an intellectual evolution. It was very exciting. It was very satisfying. It was transparent. And it was not just NASA. America was also full of creative issues at the time, with anti-war movements, the counter-cultural revolution, and people's free right to pursue the sometimes unlikely answers.
The then Americans, and even more so the present generation, do not realize the tremendous amount of goodwill that has been created around the world with great intangible benefits for the years to come. When the Apollo 11 team visited India in 1969, it received the largest audience ever in Azad Maidan. Through the American transparency, the whole world has felt like us, all humanity.
What happened to this excitement, this spark for the expansion of humanity into space? It went away, but it could just come back. Exactly 50 years later we have the chance to build a virtual train to Moon, Mars and beyond.
The construction of a railway line connecting the United States from coast to coast was advocated in 1832 when Dr. Ing. Hartwell Carver published an article in New York Courier & Enquirer which advocated the construction of a transcontinental railroad from Lake Michigan to Oregon. In 1847, he submitted to the US Congress a "Proposal for a Charter to build a railroad from Lake Michigan to the Pacific" to receive a Congressional charter to support his idea. The first transcontinental railroad was soon built from 1863 to 1869 in three sections – just south of Carver's proposal. It mainly employed Asian-American and Irish-American workers with numerous deaths and, regrettably, little credit.
Exactly one hundred years later, and almost at the same time, we made our way to the moon with Apollo. Now, fifty years later, it is time to build this railroad for the Moon, Mars, and other solar system destinations, in which Americans of all sexes, races, faiths, and religions participate, and receive recognition at maturity, a sentiment that the Wrong of 150 years ago. It can be done. It can be executed. It's an exciting time in many ways.
|Now, 50 years later, it's time to build this railroad for the Moon, Mars and other solar system targets.|
Combining the Inspirational and Technological Aspects of Our Past with Recent discoveries makes it all the more evident that we need to go there this time to do certain things. This includes learning life in light gravity and without atmosphere, but also extracting one of the most important components of life, water, whose existence has been confirmed in large quantities only recently. This water ice, which may possibly be decomposed into rocket propellants using solar energy, becomes the most important aspect of getting from the moon directly to another location in the solar system, as its smaller gravitational well needs much less fuel to escape. Together with the experiences made there, Mars, Europ and asteroids full of precious metals could be visited more easily. It will certainly take decades, but we have to start somewhere. In this sense, water ice will prove to be more valuable to humanity than if gold were discovered on the moon.
We still have the availability of reusable first stages from Falcon Heavy and soon from New Glenn with the potential to reduce costs by a factor of five to eight by docking multiple upper levels in orbit with these cheaper reusable rocket flights ( See "Sixpack for Mars: A Railway to the Moon and Mars," The Space Review, September 17, 2018.) With this paradigm shift, hundreds of people can even live there, even if they work a few months at a time on-in-situ Resource Usage (ISRU).
Last week, India's Chandrayaan-2 launched its journey to the South Pole of the Moon, where water ice is most abundant. China's Chang & e-4 landed on the Moon Coast in January. Israel, Russia and Japan are to follow. Let's have a friendly competition with other countries that land on the moon and work towards ISRU.
We need to get there as soon as possible to access this lunar water resource, and this administration has noticed this, which is a very good thing: very predictive and cheap. It is the first time in a long time that a government is keen to do what our rocket scientists and engineers want. Yes, that's a challenge. Let us attack with enthusiasm, as we did fifty years ago, not with pessimism.
And we went to the moon in the 1960s with less computer power than in the palm of our smartphone today. Can not we do that in less than five years, especially if all Americans help as equals? When will we again have this synergy of so many favorable factors at the same time? Let us help NASA by providing public support.
This time we go there to stay and work. It is not a repetition of what we have already done. Was there? Yes. Did that? No!
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