A PROBLEM (OR QUESTION) ABOUT NASA’S LATEST ANNOUNCEMENT: ...
One of the many article-contributors over the years on this website has been A.F., and today we're starting off the week's blogs with an article he spotted and shared, along with what I think is a worthwhile question. The question is one of those "obvious" questions that you tend not to notice until someone points it out to you. In this case, I've tended to write off Confident NASA Announcements as another case of the agency living up to its nicknames: Not A Space Agency, or Never A Straight Answer. As Confident NASA Announcements go, we've all seen our fair share ever since the agency came into existence in the twilight days of the Eisenhower Administration. It began manufacturing Confident NASA Announcements in the early 1960s under the Kennedy Administration which made what was then the grandest Confident NASA Announcement of them all - that the USA land a man on and return him from the Moon.
That was a tough act to follow, but NASA confidently made announcement after announcement, often accompanied by artists' renditions to give them more punch: we'd land on the Moon, then establish Moon bases and space stations, and before the century was out, we'd land someone on Mars and perhaps even have a permanent hut or two there as well. More recently we've been treated to Confident NASA Asteroid Announcements: such and such an asteroid is worth quadrillions of dollars in precious or rare earth metals, and we can go out and mine them with big interplanetary scooper-uppers that look like dixie cups with solar panels (see accompanying artist's rendition), haul the cupped asteroid back to the Moon, where we'd mine it (having established asteroid mining facilities on the Moon for the purpose, of course).
Uh huh... This looks more like something one would encounter in a Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge cartoon than it does a serious idea (q.v. Carl Barks' The Twenty-Four Carat Moon or Island in the Sky for some intriguing depictions of mining asteroids, or for that matter, parking lots of money in space where no one can get to it). We'll return to Barks and the subject of cartoons in a moment.
Meanwhile, as we were waiting for all this to happen, we were also treated to a steady stream of "We're Going to Mars at Last!" announcements, first from G.H.W. Bush, then later on his son, and so on.
During this steady stream of Confident NASA Announcements, we literally saw two space shuttles disintegrate before our eyes, became reliant upon Russian boosters and capsules to get us to and from the International Space Station, saw several NASA space shuttle videos (before the disasters) showing us what were quite evidently UFOs zipping around out there and getting shot at by "something", and a couple of snazzy videos of that misbegotten tether experiment snapping in two and a bunch of "somethings" coming to "investigate" it (they look like life forms of some type to me, but that's another speculative blog for another time). Since then we've managed to shoot ourselves in our own geopolitical foot by driving China and Russia back together (Sorry, Mr. Nixon, your trip was for naught), and the former head of Russia's ROSCOSMOS (its space agency) has pretty well told the USA it can ride broomsticks into outer space, but no more hitching rides on Russian rockets.
We still lob up the occasional satellite - using Atlas or Titan boosters for the most part, which are 1960s technologies folks, when we still had Nazi rocket scientists who could show us how to build and launch them.
But we're still waiting for the NASA-in-Reality to catch up with Confident NASA Announcements. Mining asteroids? Ask the Japanese: so far, they're the only ones to land on one and scoop up a bunch of dirt and bring it back here for analysis.
So with that background in mind, here (finally) is the article shared by A.F.:
In this case of course it's the UK Space Agency's idea, which is another way of saying it's NASA's idea. There are two kickers here. The first is the Confident Announcement at the beginning of the article:
The UK Space Agency has awarded Rolls-Royce a £2.9-million (US$3.5-million) contract to develop a demonstrator modular nuclear reactor that could be installed on the Moon by 2029 to support permanent human outposts on the lunar surface.
2029, huh? Pardon me for asking the obvious question (which is really A.F.'s question by the way): how are you going to get it there? The only people with the openly acknowledged capacity to launch something like that and put it on the lunar surface right now are the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians, and perhaps the Indians. All others are wannabees and the USA's replacement for the old Saturn V Apollo booster is still somewhere between the drawing board and the countdown. Which leaves the question hanging out there: how are they going to get it there? Developing boosting and landing technologies and techniques is easier said than done, and takes several years of very careful planning and engineering. So either this is telling us that they have another technology up their sleeve, or this is just another Confident NASA Announcement through one of its surrogates and subsidiaries. While I do not doubt the existence of possible alternative technologies, I also doubt that NASA or its subsidiaries has been able to maintain control of them.
And speaking of Carl Barks cartoons, there's something else, however, in the artist's rendition accompanying this Confident Announcement that also disturbed me, and I'm quite certain you'll see what it is:
That, folks, is Rolls Royce's artist's depiction of its modular nuclear reactor. If you look (and you don't even have to look too closely or carefully), you can clearly see what looks very much like a bomb in the middle of the "reactor", and for those who really know their bomb engineering, beneath the "bomb", a short cylindrical thingie, which looks for all the world like Andrei Sakharov's "layer cake" design for a hydrogen bomb.
So perhaps we're not looking at another Confident NASA Announcement, but rather, at a message from someone to someone else. The question is, from whom, and to whom? And why associate the Moon with it?
See you on the flip side...
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