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Just Because It's Crazy Doesn't Mean It Won't Work
February 2, 2010 5:10 AM   Subscribe

The OpenLuna Foundation seeks to return mankind to the lunar surface, first through robotic missions, followed by manned exploration, culminating in an eight person permanent outpost, and to do all of this in a way that it is accessible to everyone. Our research and technology will be open-source, we are privately funded, and one of our specific goals is to reach out to the community and educational systems to spread interest, enthusiasm, and involvement.
posted by DU (42 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
You mean return to the same sound stage? 'Cause the sound stage they faked the moon landings on is currently being used for Doctor Phil.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 5:55 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's open source! We'll just nice ourselves up to the moon one FOR loop at a time!

Posted on Slashdot yesterday. No less a pile of lunatic bullshit today.
posted by clarknova at 6:10 AM on February 2, 2010


because we don't need those $$$'s or resources to solve problems right here on our little speck of dirt....
posted by HuronBob at 6:13 AM on February 2, 2010


Yeah, I saw it in a Slashdot feed over someone's shoulder yesterday. The post wasn't really "about" that (actually, it probably was) or I would have used a via.

because we don't need those $$$'s or resources to solve problems right here on our little speck of dirt....

You could make this same argument about anything that didn't fall into the set you personally define as "problems".
posted by DU at 6:16 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


clarknova, nice use of the word lunatic.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 6:21 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Apollo cost in the neighborhood of $130 billion.

So far they've gathered $230.

Just sayin'.
posted by CaseyB at 6:22 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a lovely thought, but fundamentally, the problem is simple.

The Earth is big, and it pulls everything down at 9.8m/s2. So, here's your Δv budget for the moon.

Earth to LEO: 10km/sec
LEO to LLO: 4km/sec
LLO to Moon: 1.87km/sec

Getting back is easier, you only need to get Moon to LLO, the LLO to LEO, then a slight bit more ΔV so that you get a vote on exactly where and when you reenter, the Earth's atmosphere will take care of the last 10km/sec or so. Showoffs* don't bother with LEO on the return, they just go from LLO to Earth -- cheaper on fuel (Δv needed is about 1.4km/sec) but you end up with a much higher reentry velocity.

Look at the velocity changes needed. A kilometer per second would take you from LA to Chicago in, oh, 46 minutes. 10km/sec? 4 minutes. If you applied the total Δv needed for an Earth-Moon-Earth trip to an object in LA, with the sole goal of getting it to Chicago as fast as possible**, you would get that object from LA to Chicago in just over two minutes.

The current problem with man in space is simple. Right now, it's about $1000/kg to LEO. That's just LEO. You need to take everything you need on the moon that far, and *everything you need to get back home* that far -- never mind the rest of the trip.

$1000/kg.

Unless and until you can get that number down to a reasonable one -- say, $10/kg -- you're not going to be able to do this.

The *hard* part is the first part. Just getting to LEO is the killer. I don't care how much labor or willingness you have. Until you solve the Δv to orbit cost problem, you're going nowhere.

Really, the rest of a manned moon base is *easy* if you solve that.


* Like NASA.

** And assuming that it's indestructible and you really don't care what happens to anything along the way.
posted by eriko at 6:30 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Until you solve the Δv to orbit cost problem, you're going nowhere.

These guys are crazy, but not because they don't know physics. I'm pretty sure they know how much it costs to get to LEO and I'm also pretty sure they won't switch units from km/s to $ halfway through the problem.

The laughable part here is how big they are thinking (8 man moonbase!) without even having done a single actual thing other than make a wiki.

The laughable thing is NOT "omg amateurs want to get to space". Amateurs are people and they are not (necessarily) any less well intellectually or financially equipped to accomplish things. Professional just means you've done it before. NASA was an amateur operation until they got to space.
posted by DU at 6:37 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


...without even having done a single actual thing other than make a wiki.

They didn't even have a wiki the first time we went to the moon, so it looks like we're already ahead of the curve. Let's light this candle!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:40 AM on February 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


You know, you don't need to think about escape velocity if you use antigravity engines.

All they need to do is turn up the crazy, and it'll work.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:44 AM on February 2, 2010


All they need to do is turn up the crazy, and it'll work.

Here, I'll get them started: Ahem...

THE PYRAMID IS GOD'S MOST PERFECT SHAPE. FOUR SIDES = FOUR CARDINAL DIRECTIONS, ALL POINTING *UPWARDS!* PUT A PYRAMID ON TOP OF A SARCOPHAGUS AND IT STAYS PRESERVED FOR CENTURIES-- SAME WITH FOOD! PUT A PYRAMID ON TOP OF YOUR REFRIGERATOR AND SAY GOODBYE TO SPOILAGE. FREE REFRIGERATION = FREE ENGERGY! THE PHARAOHS USED OUT-OF-WORK FARMERS TO BUILD THEIR PYRAMIDS. USE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN UNEMPLOYMENT TO BUILD FREE-ENERGY NO-SPOILAGE SKY PYRAMIDS AT CAPE CANAVRAL AND HOUSTON. LAUNCH HUNDREDS OF PYRAMID-POWER SKYROCKETS AT NO COST TO US TAXPAYERS. PRIVATELY FUNDED FLAT-TAX FRANKENSTEIN EARPHONE RADIO GOVERNMENT THUGS CAN'T EVEN COMPETE!!!
posted by The White Hat at 6:55 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Bush family should be a major contributor since mean old Obama cut W's legacy project to get back to the moon by 2020.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2010


The White hat Sir, I am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Yours,
King Tutenkamen.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 6:57 AM on February 2, 2010


After reading a bit of their wiki I would hazard a guess that this organization is going to show a particular interest in visiting the dark side of the moon.
posted by vapidave at 7:02 AM on February 2, 2010


Yeah, the Slashdot posting was someone from Open Luna asking for advice on what open source CAD software to use. There's so much wrong with that. What kind of competent professional doesn't know what tool to use? They plan to do the CAD work for a manned moon landing using a tool they've (presumably) never used before? They're asking Slashdot for advice? They're limiting something as vital as CAD to open source offerings?

Truly, the mind boggles.

Open source is good at some things and bad at others. Taking an 'open source or nothing' approach is a stupid fundamentalist ideology. Their goal is to do something that puts several people's lives on the line, and they want to base their software (and maybe even hardware) usage not on choosing the best tool for the job but rather the development methodology? Insane.
posted by jedicus at 7:07 AM on February 2, 2010


All they need to do is turn up the crazy, and it'll work.

If all it took was crazy, we'd have colonized the Andromeda Galaxy.
posted by eriko at 7:08 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


This settlement will be open for anyone's use (private individuals to government agencies), provided they respect our ethical conduct and heritage policies.

I'm really glad they included 'moon-base rental' as part of their long term plan.

Really, this sounds like what my friend and I would do in grade school - develop huge, complex plans that cost millions of dollars and probably break quite a few international laws at the same time. These Open Luna people are soon going to realize that the fun part is the planning stage, the rest is just tedious.
posted by Think_Long at 7:23 AM on February 2, 2010


You know . . . I like to make fun, but I've got to appreciate the enthusiasm here. I've got nothing to add - something tells me to put my money into the Xprize winner than some wiki editors - but still, it's really fun to see this type of thing in such an early stage.
posted by Think_Long at 7:27 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


So is antigravity possible (like fusion power) or impossible (like going faster than light)? Just so I can inform my daydreams...
posted by alasdair at 7:39 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


After reading a bit of their wiki I would hazard a guess that this organization is going to show a particular interest in visiting the dark side of the moon.

And they'll do it while watching The Wizard of Oz with the sound turned down.
posted by bondcliff at 7:53 AM on February 2, 2010


YELLOW BRICK ROAD = MONEY, GET IT?
posted by Think_Long at 8:10 AM on February 2, 2010


Their goal is to do something that puts several people's lives on the line, and they want to base their software (and maybe even hardware) usage not on choosing the best tool for the job but rather the development methodology? Insane.

I don't think they are using "open source" as a label for a development methodology. Think of it as a "fair trade" label. They are doing something good for humanity and only want to use the products of other people working for the good of humanity.

To use an extremer example: Would it be OK with you if NASA used rockets assembled by shackled orphans? It's just a manufacturing methodology...
posted by DU at 8:21 AM on February 2, 2010


Well, I'm not sure how they'll do it without Kubrick.
posted by nickgb at 8:32 AM on February 2, 2010


If all it took was crazy, we'd have colonized the Andromeda Galaxy.

And how do you know we haven't?
posted by LordSludge at 8:53 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think they are using "open source" as a label for a development methodology.

Are you sure? It seems like the development is entirely "open source" - anyone can join their meetings and contribute.

I can't quite get a sense of their plans for funding - maybe because I haven't looked at their powerpoint yet (also in .odp format, so I guess that counts as "open source" too?). From what I can tell, they have "partnerships" with a couple X-prize teams, and will utilize the proceeds from that to fund their mission? Do they have any actual hardware yet?
posted by Think_Long at 8:59 AM on February 2, 2010


Do they have any actual hardware yet?

They apparently have a cameraoptical sensor array.

It seems like the development is entirely "open source" - anyone can join their meetings and contribute.

I mean they aren't using it ONLY to label the development methodology.
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on February 2, 2010


Well, these guys might be bugfuck, but I hope somebody can figure something out, because if somebody can't figure out how to exploit off-world mineral resources sometime soon, our civilization is basically fucked.
posted by Caduceus at 9:49 AM on February 2, 2010


I don't think they are using "open source" as a label for a development methodology. Think of it as a "fair trade" label. They are doing something good for humanity and only want to use the products of other people working for the good of humanity.

I didn't realize that the CAD folks at Autodesk, Siemens, etc were conspiring against the good of humanity. Someone should let them know.

And I mean, shoot, why not go ahead and require that all of their materials actually be fair trade, too? And vegan while we're at it. At some point you have to decide whether you're more interested in actually accomplishing the overarching goal (getting to the moon and back) or 'doing it right.'

I would wager any sum of money that, if it maintains the pure open source approach and absent an eccentric billionaire giving them a NASA-level budget, this project will not succeed within the timeframe of the Apollo program (~8 years).

If this group wants to open source their own stuff, that's fine. NASA did, after all. They could even prefer open source products to proprietary ones, all else being equal. But risking people's lives just to support a software development methodology is absolutely insane. It's the equivalent of starving to death rather than eat pork.

To use an extremer example: Would it be OK with you if NASA used rockets assembled by shackled orphans? It's just a manufacturing methodology...

The analogy is inapposite. In the case of open source vs proprietary software, the people involved are (presumably) consenting adults.
posted by jedicus at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2010


I didn't realize that the CAD folks at Autodesk, Siemens, etc were conspiring against the good of humanity. Someone should let them know.

They've been told.

At some point you have to decide whether you're more interested in actually accomplishing the overarching goal (getting to the moon and back) or 'doing it right.'

It's not a binary thing. You can do things more or less "right". Putting a little more "right" might extend your timeline.

I would wager any sum of money that, if it maintains the pure open source approach and absent an eccentric billionaire giving them a NASA-level budget, this project will not succeed within the timeframe of the Apollo program (~8 years).

Are you implying that if they decide to drop their principles and use AutoCAD, they CAN land on the moon in under 8 years? Because I doubt it. I don't think an insistence on open source software is keeping them down beyond their other disadvantages.

The analogy is inapposite. In the case of open source vs proprietary software, the people involved are (presumably) consenting adults.

The objection is inapposite. I was not talking about the actual issues involved with child labor, only that even a non-"fundamentalist" might have in-principle objections to a manufacturing process.
posted by DU at 11:57 AM on February 2, 2010


Write a business plan, figure out where the profit ($$$) will come from, and organizations all over the world will throw money at you. Asking for donations is the best way to make sure you'll never get anywhere because you don't have an "end-game".

That's how I got to the moon.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:26 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aw, that's just embarrassing.

Also, I find it crazy weird that most of the debate here is of the "open source is the wrong development approach" variety. I'm sure you can make an open-source moon landing. It may or may not be harder than the usual approach, depending on how open you make the participation. Firefox is open-source. It works pretty well. That's not the crazy part. The crazy part is that they have this whole detailed mission plan and all this silly nonsense and their budget is...... $230. With a target of $7500!

Considering that the project as specced so far looks like at least a $200 billion endeavor (way more than even the wealthiest nonprofit endowments), the idea of focusing on design before any kind of funding is in place seems irredeemably asinine. It might be a little different if they were a startup looking for an investor... but a non-profit waiting for donations? This is absurd.

And this is me saying this. The guy who was running out of breath defending moon colonization and bold ideas in the other thread.
posted by Xezlec at 8:16 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The high cost to the human races colonisation of space is caused by the complexity and danger of reaching escape velocity within the atmosphere.

The Space Shuttle turned out to be an expensive dangerous white elephant, the reason the Shuttle was so expensive is, because of its complexity with millions of different manufactured parts.

There is another route, we can reach the edge of space no problem Burt Rutan proved this with Space Ship One when he won the X prize by reaching over 100 km twice in one week.

Yes the Shuttle was 'reusable' but in name only. They could not have turned that around in a week.

One idea could be to create rocket fuel on the moon, there is lots of oxygen and aluminium in moon rocks, aluminium burns in the presence of oxygen,.

Use the rocket fuel on the moon to fuel a space tug, use the space tug to accelerate Space Ship one to escape velocity.

The main reason why space flight is incredibly expensive and dangerous is the fuel must be lifted from the surface of the earth, and escape velocity is attained and lost within the earth's atmosphere.

By using a moon fueled space tug, means Space Ship One can be safely accelerated and decelerated within the vacuum of space, this does away with the ridiculous notion that you need to cover your rocket ship with the equivalent of bathroom tiles.

NASA has spent billions of dollars sending and controlling robots on mars, they should have spent that time and money creating robots on the moon to process the rocket fuel that is there.

The moon is the door to the solar system.
posted by dollyknot at 3:49 AM on February 3, 2010


There is another route, we can reach the edge of space no problem Burt Rutan proved this with Space Ship One when he won the X prize by reaching over 100 km twice in one week.

And fell right out of the sky. Getting to 100km is *easy* -- we could build airliners to do it, there's just no reason to. SS1 did nothing that the X-15 didn't do 40 years ago except carry two passengers.

It also, quite simply, cannot enter orbit. To do so, you need to get above the atmosphere and get to orbital velocity.

The first part is the easy part. The second part involves getting your tangental velocity up to around 7km/sec -- and requires about 35MJ per kilogram of energy. SS1 reached .96km/sec, and the only reason it hit 100km is it started at 15km.

SS1 did *nothing* to reduce cost to orbit. SS1 was built to win a prize, and that's it -- and it has no additional capability beyond what was needed to win the prize. As I said before, the moment Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites entered the X Prize competition, I knew two things -- one, they would win, and two, the prize had failed -- we would get no closer to cheap access to space because of it.

SS1 was a groovy hack, but everything that SS1 could do, NASA/USAF could have done in the 1960s with just a little more thrust. They chose, however, to stop working on 1km/sec 100km flights and start working on the much harder problem of getting to orbit.

Access to Space means staying there until you want to come back. Suborbital doesn't count.
posted by eriko at 3:41 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think you have understood my idea, Space Ship One gets into the near vacuum of space, the space tug fueled by oxygen and aluminium harvested from the moon, swoops down having left the moon with full tanks earlier and rendezvous with Space Ship One, hooks up then accelerates Space Ship One to escape velocity, with fuel harvested on the moon.
posted by dollyknot at 9:52 AM on February 4, 2010


I don't think you have understood my idea, Space Ship One gets into the near vacuum of space, the space tug fueled by oxygen and aluminium harvested from the moon...

As far as I know, The moon doesn't have aluminum, the metal. It has aluminum oxide, but what are you going to react that with that will earn you energy? It's already oxidized.

Can you give more detail?
posted by Xezlec at 5:56 PM on February 4, 2010


I think people are missing the point, some estimates I have read say that lunar rock is about 40% oxygen, oxygen is highly reactive not just with aluminium, but with many other elements, maybe we can find some hydrogen on the moon :) After all hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe.

There is lots of solar energy on the moon, perhaps the aluminium could de-oxidized.

The point being is, find rocket fuel already up there in space and getting into orbit becomes far cheaper and safer.
posted by dollyknot at 3:40 AM on February 5, 2010


I doubt there is much, if any, free oxygen on the Moon. Again, I think you're talking about oxide compounds, not oxygen, the gas. Same with hydrogen. Free hydrogen is plentiful in stars, and yeah, there's plenty of energy in the sun, but the easiest way to get that is with some solar panels.

I don't know if splitting up aluminum oxide is the best way we can store solar power, but sure, I guess I can see how the general idea of using solar power collected in space and stored using stuff found in space avoids the necessity of pulling an entire trip's energy supply and/or propulsion material all the way out of Earth's gravity well.
posted by Xezlec at 7:44 PM on February 5, 2010


Both Challenger and Columbia astronauts died, because of the necessity of getting from escape velocity and to escape velocity whilst within the earth's atmosphere.

The acceleration and deceleration from and to escape velocity, must be carried out in the vacuum of space for the door to the universe to be truly open.

The raw materials for rocket fuel exist on the moon, why we haven't got little robots trundling around on the moon developing this technology baffles me.
posted by dollyknot at 2:40 AM on February 6, 2010


I still think that's an overstatement. While it might be possible to store energy and propel a craft using solar power and materials from the moon, it would be very difficult, would involve methods that, as far as I know, have never been used to propel anything before, and would probably have issues getting much acceleration. It would also require going to and from the moon, which almost certainly requires more energy than you save, at least right now (please bear in mind that the moon is more than a third of a million kilometers away). I can buy that decades of development might eventually lead to a better form of space travel this way, but to speak as though the mere physical possibility of something is equivalent to it being immediately and easily doable is naïve.

Also, there is no "necessity" of getting to escape velocity in the Earth's atmosphere, and I'm pretty sure that's not what the shuttle does. Most of the horizontal acceleration occurs high up where the atmosphere is thin or nonexistent. Challenger did not break up because it was reaching escape velocity (actually it was at Mach 1.5 at the time, a speed reached by many other aircraft). Challenger broke up because an O-ring failed, leading to a fire.

The shuttle does use the atmosphere to decelerate from escape velocity, and that is responsible for the Columbia disaster, but if you're proposing using thrusters to decelerate instead of aerobraking, then your plan definitely makes space travel more difficult, not easier. That would double the fuel requirement and make reentry more complex. It may or may not be safer, but it would certainly be harder and more expensive.

I'm not saying these aren't ideas worth researching, just that this whole "it's a crime that we aren't doing this already" attitude strikes me as ill-informed.
posted by Xezlec at 8:37 AM on February 6, 2010


If they can send robots to Mars and control them from Earth, I'm sure as hell that they can do the same sort of thing on the moon.

Hydrogen is in the solar wind, it would surprise me if it was not present in regolith.

The shuttle's main engines are fueled with hydrogen and oxygen, there is evidence for water on the moon, the aluminium is a fall back argument, because we are sure aluminium is present in regolith.

But perhaps the crazy rumors are true and America did not really go to the moon, and the reason little mining robots are not happily trundling around on the surface of the moon driven by operators sitting at their PCs on the earth harvesting rocket fuel, is it might be discovered that there is no evidence that we were actually ever there.
posted by dollyknot at 11:02 AM on February 6, 2010


OK, I'm done arguing about it. All I'll say is you're being very flip about things that are gargantuan engineering challenges.
posted by Xezlec at 12:49 PM on February 6, 2010


Yeah but the fact remains, that there are not little robots trundling around on the surface of the moon whilst they are doing so on Mars, is evidence that in terms of space, America does not really know what it is doing.
posted by dollyknot at 1:37 PM on February 6, 2010


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