Reflections on Countdown to the Moon a year ago – 1826 – Sue

It is New Year’s Eve. Sue had come over to check on us. She does gardening and I have been trying to do gardening. Sometime she will come over to share some of the things that she grows. And sometimes when I have something that has grown, I will give her some too. (I always have rosemary, oregano, basil, and cilantro).

Sue is a long time friend of ours. Her son, Chris, and our son, Chris are in the same grade. And they had hung out a lot for the math competitions. But Sue’s Chris had gone to Klein Oak to be in the IB program and our Chris went to Klein Cain which was a new school but would be the school that all the non-IB kids would go to from our neighborhood.

Did you know that NASA was sending people to the moon in 2024?
“Don’t know, just hear it from you.”

Do you know the last time that we sent people to the moon?
“1972…my gosh… why did we stop?”
It cost a lot. People felt like we achieved the goal of beating the Russians and showing of our power. And there really were not any other reasons that the American people were convinced to go.

China’s space program. I told Sue about China’s mission that was planned for 2020 to go to the moon, collect some lunar samples, and return that to the earth. This mission has happened and was completely successful.
New York Times: China Brings Moon Rocks to Earth, and a New Era of Competition to Space
Washington Post: China moon mission returns to Earth, vaulting nation into ranks of space powers
National Geographic: China’s new moon mission returns the first lunar samples since 1976 China’s Chang’e 5 moon samples are headed to the lab

Also, in 2019, China had more launches than any other country. China (34) had the most launches, and with the inclusion of RocketLabs (6), the US (21 + 6) came in second, followed by Russia (25).

China launched a rover to Mars in 2020.
China launches ambitious Tianwen-1 Mars rover mission
China chooses landing site for its Tianwen-1 Mars rover

BBC: China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth
Nature: China’s successful launch of Mars mission seals global era in deep-space exploration
Spaceflight Now: China’s Mars-bound probe returns self-portrait from deep space

“Did NASA’s funding get cut?”
NASA’s funding has had a slight increase, basically just keeping up with inflation:

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Breakdown of NASA’s budget and how it was distributed from 2010 to 2020

But it not just “how much money we spend on NASA” but “HOW” we spend that money.

NASA gets more value out of the Commercial Re-Supply (CRS) which pays companies to deliver so many kilograms of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) which pays to deliver astronauts to the ISS, and the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programs than it does from its historic cost plus contractors which pays contractors for their work. And when you pay companies for services and results, you tend to get services and results. When you pay companies for work and effort without holding them accountable to delivering results, well, expect to be paying a lot for work and effort. And don’t plan on seeing the results. (There are a lot of good engineers that work at these government contracting companies that want to make something happen, but the business people that run them are laser focused on quarterly profits and risk reduction. And that means dragging things out. Adding layer of layer of overhead.)

What do you think about the first woman going to the moon?
“Woman can do everything that man does.”

“What is the final purpose. Since we spend huge money on the research we must have some significant result.”
The why question is important. It is right to expect to get something out of it. And what we want to get out of it is laying the foundation for expanding humanity and the economy to be beyond earth. Space mining needs to become a thing. Space power generation needs to become a thing. Space tourism should happen. And space colonization and habitation should be the future of humanity. But we get so tied up in our world down here, we forget that we don’t only live on a speck in the universe, but we live on a speck compared to a speck. The idea of humanity expanding into space needs to be something that becomes a part of our psyche.

Humans were meant to travel and use all the resources in the universe for the advancement of knowledge. We can and should go forth into the solar system.

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