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Preparation For The Next Lunar Landing Leaps Across The Generation Gap

Even upon deep reflection across decades of time the Apollo experience was worth every penny spent!
by Staff Writers
Tempe AZ (SPX) Mar 03, 2008
It was July 20, 1969 when the first human walked upon the surface of the moon. The world has changed drastically since that memorable day, but even back then the Apollo era scientists, engineers and astronauts had the right stuff. They had what it took to get to the moon. And now, nearly 40 years later, we call on them again to share their wisdom, experience and opinion as we prepare to return to the moon.

Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) in partnership with University of Arizona is organizing the conference "Go for Lunar Landing: From Touchdown to Terminal Descent" to be held on March 4th and 5th, 2008 at the Fiesta Inn Resort in Tempe, Arizona.

The aim of the conference is to leverage the experiences and lessons learned from the six Apollo lunar landings and to provide a forum for direct communication between the Apollo teams and today's engineers and scientists while also opening the door to compare past and current technologies. Designed to facilitate discussion, the conference is broken up into six different panels, with the first day's panel featuring Apollo astronauts Harrison Schmidt and Dick Gordon.

According to conference organizer Mark Robinson, a professor at SESE, "This meeting brings together those who helped design and fly the original lunar module (LM) and representatives from the new lunar lander (Altair) design team. It represents the best opportunity to make sure lessons learned are passed along."

Time takes it toll on everyone, astronauts and engineers included, and as the clock ticks health, memory and the ability to travel all fade.

"The bottom line is it's difficult to obtain the information from the few remaining folks who walked on the moon and it will only be more difficult in the future," says Honeywell Business Development Manager and retired NASA astronaut William Gregory.

NASA astronaut and conference panelist Andrew Thomas says, "Landing on the moon is the most critical task of an entire lunar mission, and it has to be done right. We need to understand the problem, what on board landing aids are needed, what role the human crew should have, and a plethora of other issues. Plus we need to build on the experience of the Apollo community while we still can."

Although technology has changed considerably since the Apollo era, the physics of getting to the moon have remained constant.

Gregory, also a conference panelist, adds, "Technology doesn't change physics. The physics of getting there and back hasn't changed but the technology will allow us to do it safer. Today's engineers have looked at tens, possibly hundreds, of different approaches and they still keep going back to what is similar to Apollo. Even though the Apollo era did it with much less technology they're still the only people who have done it."

"The new Altair Lunar Lander, possibly to land in 2019, will face the same set of physical conditions as Apollo's LM," says Wayne Ottinger, one of the conference organizers.

"The surface is much the same, the piloting challenges are the same, so there is much to be learned from Apollo in regards to training and the flying of a spacecraft in the strange environment of the moon." Ottinger worked for NASA as a Lunar Landing Research Vehicle project engineer and was also a technical director at Bell Aerosystems.

Robinson adds, "There is no desire to recreate the Apollo hardware, we can do much better today, but rather we want to use the experiences of the Apollo era to guide and focus attention to solving basic problems with new technologies. What worked and what didn't, what would the Apollo crew do differently, and how have our goals for lunar exploration changed."

NASA doesn't plan on landing on the moon until at least 2019 but a project of this magnitude doesn't happen over night; it requires years of preparation. Already NASA has begun soliciting ideas from industry. The Go for Lunar Landing conference, which will be attended largely by NASA employees and aerospace industry representatives, serves as another means of preparation by putting the right people together.

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Go for Lunar Landing: From Terminal Decent to Touchdown
School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University
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NASA shows off a moon robot
Denver (UPI) Feb 27, 2008
The U.S. space agency is exhibiting a lunar robot rover equipped with a drill, designed to find water and oxygen-rich soil on the moon.







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