Ad Astra
Volume 14, Number 2 March/April 2002

Launch Pad

Back to the Moon? Of Course!
By Kirby Ikin

This issue of Ad Astra highlights one of the more crucial goals of our human space program: the need to send astronauts once again beyond earth orbit. It is still unbelievable to think that we have not continued lunar exploration since the 1972 Apollo 17 flight, and in fact have allowed our heavy lift and space vehicle development programs to atrophy. Today, flights to the Moon — or beyond — for astronauts can only be seen in the movie theater or on cable TV.

This says a lot — but not about the astronauts. It says a lot about us.

All of us in the so-called pro-space community spend too much time arguing amongst ourselves and too little time explaining the real benefits of advanced space flight to the public. People today see little reason to urge their political leaders to build permanent structures on the lunar surface. Structures like colonies and research facilities. While the politicians point their emphasis elsewhere, we must redouble our efforts at explaining why such space flights will benefit our economy and our security. While we make greater efforts at advocacy, let’s also continue to lay down plans and develop engineering and management pathways to future colonies and science stations on the Moon. This issue of Ad Astra will be a keepsake until the day when all of our joint efforts result in another visionary national — or international — effort at truly exploring space. By returning to the Moon. And returning to stay.

Build a Better Booster and we can go anywhere we want!
Frank Sietzen

If we truly want to send astronauts beyond earth orbit in the not-so-distant future, we had better be working on a new generation of launch vehicle to get them there. And our existing fleet of boosters and upper stages need a new tech edge, too. In this issue, we address the complex subject of better boosters in a package of articles that run the full range. And even bigger dreams, like Mars missions, can be accessed by such new ideas at space propulsion as the radical new rocket under design at Johnson Space Center. New engines, tanks, fuels, and methods of sending payloads — cargoes and peoples — are the subject of part 1 of this special issue. Part 2 gives the plans for lunar colonies, lunar exploration entrepreneurs like LunaCorp., and even ways to make moon concrete from soils. I agree with Kirby — let’s get back to where we belong: exploring the Solar System, starting with Luna! Ad Astra!

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