Space Exploration

returning to Earth's moon and on to Mars

Articles by Donald F. Robertson

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The executive summary.  I was asked to analyze NASA Administrator Dr.Michael Griffin's entire plan for returning to Earth's moon and going on to Mars in just five-hundred words.  This is the result.

A scientific justification for human lunar exploration.  "Everyone knows" that robots are cheaper, and possibly even better, than sending human geologists to Earth's moon.  But, is it true?

A reality check -- what will it really take to explore the inner Solar System?  Hint: it will cost a lot more (in every sense) and take a lot longer than we want to believe.

The United States' new plan to return to Earth's moon and push on to Mars represents a painful accommodation with two conflicting political constraints.  The United States is unlikely to fully retreat from human spaceflight -- especially with geopolitical adversaries like China entering the fold.  Congress will not let NASA move beyond the Space Shuttle and Space Station if it costs much more than the country already spends.  Critics called the plan “Apollo Redux.”  Supporters called it a “go-as-you-can-pay,” politically-realistic strategy to keep the United States a spacefaring power. Who is correct?  

Do we really need giant giant rockets to return to Earth's moon? (Acrobat file.)

Where is the commerce in NASA's plans to return to Earth's moon? (Acrobat file.)

So, we're off to the moon. What do we do once we're there?

Let's waste not on the way back to Earth's moon.

Can we really explore Mars with robots alone?

Before it even gets underway, human Mars exploration is headed for a political trainwreck.  The likelihood of trouble is so great that advocates for human exploration of the Solar System probably should look elsewhere -- toward a return to Earth's moon or asteroid mining expeditions.

Here is small article I wrote following a several-week visit to Shetland, a group of about one-hundred islands north of Scotland. What do Shetland and Mars have in common? Read on! The article appeared as an Op Ed piece in Space News.

Apollo Twenty-Five Years Later: will we return to the Moon? The answer is a resounding "Maybe," but if so it will take a long time. This article appeared in Astronomy in 1994; they edited it very heavily and this is the original as I wrote it. A number of the ideas in this article later evolved into my more definitive analysis in Reach Out and Touch the Stars, however, note that I am far more positive in the later article. Things really are going better for commercial endeavors in space. (The "dramatic" section titles resulted from the many operas I was attending at the time.)

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