Comment on Moon Landing Hoax by jfb.
Why haven’t we sent anyone back to the Moon?
1. It’s expensive. Really, really expensive. The total Apollo program cost is estimated in the range of $170 billion in 2005 dollars (yes, not much compared to what the government spends in total, but it’s still a hefty price tag for any single program). Any modern manned lunar program would cost *at least* that much, and probably a good deal more (hence why Constellation was nixed). That’s because…
2. It’s *hard*. The physics are pretty straightforward, but the engineering is not. Building and launching spacecraft capable of keeping people alive in the vaccuum of space for days or weeks at a time is still a formidable challenge, even with the advances made in the last 40 years. More than half the battle is simply getting off the ground (delta-v from the surface to LEO is between 9.3 and 10 m/s; delta-v from there to the lunar surface is like 6.4 m/s). The more massive the spacecraft, the bigger the booster required to get it there. Think about how big the Saturn V was relative to the size of the spacecraft (CM and LM). The first two stages were spent just getting the lunar stack (S-IVB booster, CSM, and LM) into Earth orbit. We’ve squeezed about as much performance out of liquid-fueled rockets as we’re going to get; now it’s all about managing costs.
3. There’s no point. We’re not going to be doing much beyond basic exploration for the next several decades at least, and unmanned probes provide much more bang for the buck as far as that’s concerned. Look at the phenomenal success of the Mars exploration program (Pathfinder, Global Surveyor, MERs, etc.). We’ve learned far more about Mars from those programs than we did about the Moon from Apollo. For the cost of a single manned mission, would could pepper the surface of the Moon with rovers and sample return vehicles and get a far more comprehensive view of the Moon for far less effort. Unmanned systems are lower mass (no need to carry along air, food, or water) and so don’t require such huge boosters, they can be built to withstand the harsh environment, and they don’t have to come home. They can stay on site until their power gives out. The only real reason to send *people* anywhere is to establish a permanent settlement. That’s not going to happen anytime soon, if ever.