What’s next?

This month, 50 years ago, humans boarded the moon, one of the most amazing moments in history, not only because human beings visited another world for the first time, but also because it is the world’s greatest scientific achievement. The culmination of a grand competition between the two superpowers, but these two points are also true. The New York Times published a poem by Archibald McLeish on the front page, and Walter Cronkite, the news anchor known as “the most trusted person in the United States”, said that the next 500 years Humans will regard landing on the moon as “the most significant achievement ever.” However, the ultimate meaning of landing on the moon is not that the space race has ended, or that a milestone that was unimaginable in the past has been reached. This achievement is actually just the beginning. This is the beginning of a new era in which humans begin to imagine all possibilities, all possible to explore or even where they may live. We used to be species that traveled on land. After we started sea travel, our footprints spread throughout the earth. Then we had the power to fly and fly in the air, so we conquered the atmosphere above the earth, and now it is more destined to become A pilgrim in the vast territory of Xinjiang. We are space travelers – and this extraordinary victory has helped us overcome the “planet chauvinism” that the famous scientist and writer Isaac Asimov called, and we will soon become alien species. The word “Earth Man” is no longer sufficient to describe our essence. All of this was the general expectation of ecstasy and surprise after the landing of the “Apollo 11” on July 20, 1969, when the eagle landed on the surface of the moon. The greatest journey begins with a single step, and a small step for one person is a big step for all mankind. At the time, the head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Thomas O. Pein quickly locked in Mars. He not only regarded it as a possible goal in the future, but a plan with a specific schedule, which was disclosed by National Geographic magazine. Departure: On October 3, 1983, 12 astronauts boarded two 75-meter spacecraft carried by nuclear power rockets. Entering the Martian Orbit: June 9, 1984, and an 80-day exploration on the surface of Mars. Return to Earth orbit: May 25, 1985. The feat of landing on the moon has somehow escalated the competition of all mankind, and we are confident that we can really go deeper into space. “No matter where we go, everyone is not saying ‘Oh, you Americans did it, but ‘we did it!'” “Apollo 11” command cabin driver Michael Collins recalls, “It is us humans, we This species, we all did it.”? A few hours before the sunrise, the bus drove alone for several kilometers on the remote prairie in southern Kazakhstan. The lights occasionally swept over the faded murals or missing corners. Mosaic brick wall. These non-realistic artworks, which show the traces of the scorching winter, are decorated outside the huge, rusted abandoned buildings and sing a space program with decades of glorious history. This plan belongs to a country that no longer exists. :Soviet Union.

The weather in Mars is changing dramatically. When astronauts go out, they need to wear spacesuits that can withstand temperatures from -60 ° C to 20 ° C. Funded by NASA, a laboratory at North Dakota University is developing a spacesuit test consisting of 350 parts.

Finally, after driving for several kilometers in the ruins of the Cold War period, the bus suddenly turned into a small road with a checkpoint, and then came to a huge broken building that was not abandoned. Fully armed Russian and Kazakh security guards in camouflage uniforms seem to be surrounded by a floodlit area where there is a new rocket-propelled aircraft.

The reason why I came to the Baikonur space launch site on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing is because it is the only place on earth that allows me to watch humans take the rocket to space. Then, the only place these people are in the universe is the International Space Station, which is located about 400 kilometers above the Earth, less than a thousandth of the Earth’s distance from the Moon.

Since NASA retired the space shuttle, the only way for US astronauts to travel to the International Space Station in the past eight years has been to take the equivalent of the Russian Federal Space Agency of NASA, Russia, which costs about $82 million.

After 50 years of landing on the moon, our progress in space is like this, if the so-called “we” refers to all humanity. Indeed, it sounds like there is basically no progress, at least as far as the standards foreseen in 1969. Twelve people—all Americans and men—had set foot on the moon, but not after 1972. Except for the space station that runs around the ground, no humans have ever been to other parts of the universe.

Of course, if we look at it another way, some of the things we do in space can be described as extraordinary. We launched unmanned detectors to explore all the other planets in the solar system, and got amazing photos and precious data. The two Voyager spacecraft crossed the solar system and entered the interstellar space, the first time artificial objects did it. The two spaceships are far beyond 17 billion kilometers, but they still keep in touch with us.

Since the Voyager can sail permanently in space, and the sun and the earth have the end of life (don’t worry, it’s far away), it’s conceivable that the eternal travelers of these car sizes in space will be The only evidence that humans once existed. It is also conceivable that the species after humans will already have interstellar travels, and hope that they will give us some recognition for the achievements of the two spacecraft.

If this is the case, then they may refer to this period in history—from the late 1910s to the early 1920s—as the “turning period”, which is the physicist Jim Kravala’s current commercial space. A description of the development of industry frenzy, he has overseen the process of launching satellites with Russian, European and American rockets.

Kravala said that we are in the initial stage of “the real beginning of space migration and the era of human extraterrestriality.” (Kravara currently operates a company called OffWorld, which plans to send millions of robots into space, turning the inner solar system into a “better place for life and civilization, more livable and more environmentally friendly.” .)

The fascinating prophecy proposed by Kravala has a lot of room for discussion, in part because the industry is a cliché–“space travel is difficult,” and frustration and delays are basically problems that have always been encountered when moving toward progress.

However, it is undeniable that something is brewing in space. The two US companies, SpaceX and Boeing, are about to be certified for their spaceship prototypes, NASA Director Jim Bridstone, saying that NASA will soon be able to use American rockets to transport American astronauts from US land. Sent to space.” These spacecraft may perform manned missions by the end of this year or early next year.

At the same time, the spacecraft created by the two private companies, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, has made significant progress, leaving us a step closer to the new era of space tourism. In the beginning, these spaceships will first send the rich customers to the height of about 90 kilometers to 100 kilometers, which is the edge of outer space. Customers will experience gravity-free weightlessness and see the dark universe and the earth. Blue arc. It costs just about $200,000 to experience it all – but both companies say that as they get more rocket-propelled spacecraft into operation, prices will soon drop and options will be more.

The blue origin also stimulated the race for humans to return to the moon. It announced in May that it was building a lunar lander called the Blue Moon. The lander can carry 6.5 metric tons of cargo and may allow astronauts to land on the moon’s surface in 2024.

Activities in space are by no means limited to US companies or Russian programs. In January, China proudly announced that it had “opened a new chapter” in the lunar exploration, allowing an unmanned spacecraft to land softly on the back of the moon, becoming the first aircraft to land there. The spacecraft released a detector on the moon carrying a “micro-biosphere” designed to test whether fruit flies and several plants and seeds can create a self-sufficient food chain in the lunar environment. China announced in April that it plans to establish a research station in the Antarctic region of the Moon within 10 years, but the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of China did not make a statement on how long it would take to send the astronauts to the surface of the moon.

Israel has seen itself as a courageous “entrepreneurial country”, but in April it tasted the sorrow of the first joy and the sorrow. At the time, a non-profit alliance called SpaceIL set a record and became the first private company to successfully fly around the moon with an aircraft. The company tried to make Israel the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon, but it ended with a hard fall: SpaceIL’s small spacecraft called Beresheet (Hebrew “Genesis” or “initial”) Crashed on the surface of the moon.

In New Zealand, a company called the Rocket Lab sent satellites into low-Earth orbit from low-cost, innovative rockets from a launch site on a large ranch.

At the edge of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Emirates Airlines has built a large global aviation center in the desert, and is building a larger new airport, claiming to be the world’s first “cosmic metropolis”. According to the official, the airport can meet the needs of rocket-propelled spacecraft, hypersonic aircraft, supersonic aircraft and traditional jet passenger aircraft.

A technician is installing parts for the CST-100 Starliner. The Boeing-built manned spacecraft can carry up to five passengers to the International Space Station. The Starliner can land on land instead of on water, equipped with parachutes for slowing down when descending and airbags that slow down the impact. Each spacecraft can be used up to ten times. Boeing plans to test manned launches later this year.

The Japanese aerospace agency, the Aerospace Research and Development Agency (JAXA), announced in March that it will work with Toyota Motor Corporation to develop a manned lunar rover that allows astronauts to travel over 10,000 kilometers above the surface of the moon. .

Many of today’s rocket sciences are driven by fierce competition among a few super-rich people whose ambitions (and conceit) seem to transcend the world. The purpose of their spacecraft development is not entirely for scientific exploration. These spaceships are used to make money by relying on the luxury desires of those who dream of being astronauts, extracting valuable resources from asteroids, or moving quickly between any two locations on Earth, as well as carats. What Vala proposed is based on the species that ultimately makes humans cross the planet.

Many of these space industry giants have clear goals, but on the whole, we have hardly begun to discuss the moral or intellectual issues involved in this. If Jeff Bezos, who continues to advocate space and business, insists that the solar system can easily support “1 trillion people”, including “1000 Einstein and 1000 Mozart”, then we are Should you follow the appeal of the founder of Amazon, and be brave and prosperous?

At the same time, the lofty slogans, prospects, and descriptions of missions in the private space company’s promotional materials have a very intriguing place: many companies argue that entering space is actually…in order to save the planet—and make the planet better.

“We are developing space to make the world a better place” (Virgin Galaxy, founded by billionaire Richard Branson). “In order to preserve the earth… we must enter space and develop endless resources and energy in space” (blue origin, Bezos’ company). “We are opening the way to space to improve life on Earth” (Rocket Lab). “Imagine that most of the voyages are less than 30 minutes, and you can reach anywhere in the world in just one hour or less” (SpaceX, the wisdom of billionaire Elon Musk, says space travel This will make such point-to-point travel on the planet feasible.)

Why are we going to space? It is very simple to answer this question 50 years ago. In order to reach the moon! Of course, roughly speaking, it is to explore the discovery, specifically for the national prestige, but also to issue a grand declaration of friendship: “We represent all human beings with peace.” Everyone knows that the focus is on the moon. Return safely and then boast of results.

However, if you ask the same question today, you may hear more than a dozen answers. These answers are worth checking out, because if we don’t know what we are doing in space or what we plan to do, we cannot explore whether we should enter space.

Outside the hangar in Kazakhstan, I walked off the bus with other members of the team. This is a huge group of journalists, most of whom are Russians and a few are Canadians. We stood for a while, squatting, because the day in early December was still very cold, with -14 ° C, the whistling cold wind added a lot of chill.

We stood by the security fence – here we were holding the camera and the notebook, and on the other side were the security guards holding the guns. The rocket-propelled spacecraft lie on a flat-panel railcar with four conical propellers at the bottom of the white cylinder and a colorful Russian flag on the top. The train made a low-pitched sound and then set off slowly to the launch site a few kilometers away.

There are some stories about this launch. The last time it was launched in October, due to sensor failure, the task of climbing 93 kilometers was forced to stop, and the manned space capsule was separated from the rocket and propeller assembly. NASA’s astronaut Nick Hague and Russian astronaut Alexei Ovchinin survived a thrilling emergency landing.

“Astronauts are very fortunate,” said Alexander McLean, a helicopter pilot who was involved in the Iraq war, at a NASA TV channel press conference. “But every astronaut who can enter the orbit is lucky.” Space flight is not an easy task.” McLean should be very clear: As a NASA astronaut, she is one of the astronauts who will be on the space launch site to see the space mission.

Now, the Russian Federal Space Agency claims that the problem has been solved, and this launch of the “Syd of Alliance” carrier rocket will not be a problem. In fact, McLean and two other astronauts told us in English, Russian and French across the glass wall of the special isolation zone that they also had confidence. They all gave a thumbs up. A Russian Orthodox priest blessed astronauts and spaceships with holy water in two brief but solemn ceremonies. This is a recent practice. He even blessed the reporters gathered at the scene.

Many of today’s rocket sciences are driven by fierce competition among a few super-rich people whose ambitions are not limited to purely scientific exploration: they intend to make money with spaceships.

In Baikonur, the reporter witnessed the launch from 1.5 km away, and the viewing distance was much closer than in Cape Canaveral, where reporters were separated by about 5 kilometers. It was a fascinating and far-reaching sight: the huge orange flame erupted from the bottom of the rocket when it fired, and then the engine rumbling and swaying the earth. What makes me feel awe is because I know that there are three human compatriots on the top of the spaceship. They are convinced that everything will be fine in the process of rushing to the sky.

The number of human beings living in space is about to double – from three to six. The original three astronauts in the space station will return to Earth in less than three weeks, at the time, outside the Earth’s atmosphere, on the moon, other planets in the solar system, all other satellites and asteroids, and humans built over the past 60 years. In or on many objects that are sent into orbit, the number of humans will fall back to three.

However, in the case of astronauts sent to space, the United States will soon have more than one, but two American-made options, NASA has finally ended its sole dependence on the Russian “Alliance” rocket. These new spaceships are the first step toward a longer-distance mission: the future will sail to the moon, asteroids, and even Mars.

So, after a few months of watching the “Alliance” taking off, which made me particularly moved, even some mysterious experience, I came to a place about 50 meters high in Florida, and the Atlantic was less than 10,000. Outside the rice.

I was on the space launch platform No. 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. The history dates back to 1965, when the Hercules rocket was launched for the space program, and then the Apollo program was launched. One day, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner manned spacecraft will also be launched from here, carrying up to five passengers to the International Space Station.

When I got out of the elevator, I first noticed the four parallel strops that lead to the ground at the edge of the launching platform.

“If you are an astronaut, you really don’t want to use a zip line.” Tony Tarry Ansic, director of launch missions and general manager of United Launch Alliance, said the alliance is Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The company’s joint venture. The tall Talian Sicchi explained that these 400-meter-long ziplines are a vital part of the escape system, and the abandonment order issued in order to perform an explosion, fire or other emergency at the last minute.

These ziplines are reminiscent of the fire in the cabin of the “Apollo 1” spacecraft in January 1967, which instantly took away the lives of three astronauts. The location was on the launch platform No. 34, which is very close to here. It is now used to commemorate those who “made the greatest sacrifice, so that others can touch the stars.”

These ziplines are also very warning: although NASA has been pursuing safer space flights and has made significant progress in this area, space flight is still a dangerous industry. When our astronauts stepped into the spaceship, they basically stepped on a bomb.

Of the 135 space shuttle missions, two ended in a disaster, killing seven people each. If we can’t do without the US civil airliner’s accident rate, then we have to bear more than 500 crashes per day.

Most of Tarian Anci’s career has been related to the Air Force’s space launch mission. He showed me where the Starliner’s astronaut cabin will be placed, and also showed me a passage that connects to a closed compartment to ensure When the astronauts entered, the cabin was still as good as new.

About an hour ago, I saw a Starliner at a nearby assembly plant. More specifically, I saw the conical space capsule without the upper and lower half of the insulated casing. I saw a spaceship. There are many pipes, lines and cables that are interwoven with pasta, which is astounding. Its cabin is equipped with improved seats, larger portholes, and internal LED “scenario lighting”, clearly a 21st century upgrade to the Apollo capsule. This kind of lighting sounds a bit whimsical, but it’s not the case. One day, advanced lighting may help regulate astronauts’ circadian rhythms, sleep cycles and moods. This is one of the first major challenges NASA or any other space agency must overcome before it can be sent to people for a period of time. Moon’s trip to Mars.

Just, when will the trip to Mars take place?

NASA has no clear timetable for exploring people on the red planet. It now focuses on sending astronauts back to the moon to test the capabilities of humans and spacecraft.

“The moon is the test site, and Mars is the long-term goal.” NASA’s Bridenstin said at a briefing on the draft NASA budget at Cape Canaveral in March.

In order to establish a stronghold on the moon, astronauts must find ways to obtain water, oxygen and helium as a source of power for humans and machines. (It is believed that there is a large amount of 氦-3 on the moon for future nuclear fusion propulsion rockets.) The moon may eventually serve as a base for other areas of space, because the gravity on the moon is only one-sixth of the Earth’s. The energy required for the spacecraft to get rid of the lunar gravity is much less than that of the Earth.

Space exploration proponents are dissatisfied with NASA’s budget and believe that it will take too long to travel to Mars. Bridsenstein made a rebuttal, saying that this would motivate private companies to accelerate the development of manned landing capabilities. The manned dragonship launched by Starliner or SpaceX, or both, is likely to be the future of human space exploration.

Still, let’s pull the focus back to Earth and talk about our current progress.

We obviously haven’t reached the place where many people think they can arrive 50 years after landing on the moon. Of course, they haven’t come to NASA’s Pein to say that we can reach: not only Mars, but also Jupiter’s moon and where God knows. We have not even returned to the moon, and Pein, who died in 1992, believed that thousands of people would go on holiday on the moon during his lifetime.

In 1969, the then NASA director Pein believed that humans should now be on the satellites of Mars and Jupiter – but in fact it may be time to “Apollo 11” to the 100th anniversary of the moon.

“We will be able to reduce the cost of the trip to the moon to the same cost as the current aviation.” Payne once said to Time magazine shortly before the “Apollo 11” moon landing.

The great predictions of 1969 are indeed possible, but the time will be closer to the 100th anniversary of the moon, and the 50th anniversary of this year is the beginning of the 2.0 version of the Space Age.

Musk once said that one day he intends to move to Mars, and his timetable for landing on Mars is also the most daring. He set 2024 as the time point for the manned SpaceX spacecraft to board Mars. Many people sneered at this prediction and felt that optimism was hopeless or too rude. In April, an independent analysis report requested by the US government made the conclusion that NASA will send people to Mars by 2034. “According to all current budget settings, technology development and testing progress, This is not feasible.” Supporters of other Mars programs say they are more likely to do it in the early 1940s.

Land on Mars and explore: do it. But to make it clear, many experts believe that the bold prediction of life outside the world is simply a dream of fishing, please forgive my pun.

At a space seminar in Washington, DC, last year, I met Bill Nair, the host of the well-known TV show Bill Teaching Science and the CEO of the Planetary Society. After listening to the idea that Mars will eventually “earth” and become suitable for human habitation, he rolled his eyes.

“It’s not cold enough, there is almost no water, no food, by the way, there is no air to breathe,” Nai said. “And the smell in your spacesuit – how much laundry freshener can bring Well, because you will be super eager for this kind of thing on Mars.” (Nai supports human beings to perform tasks on Mars, just don’t want to live there forever.)

In order to dig, transport and dump the sand and rock layers found on the surface of the moon, NASA designed a mobile robot platform called RASSOR, which is shown here at the Kennedy Space Center. In order to operate in a low-gravity environment, this machine has rollers that rotate in opposite directions and does not need to rely on friction or weight.

Another point to reiterate is that robots can do better with humans (in space), with one exception, that robots cannot depict the magnificence of outer space like artists or poets. We have done a great job in space without sending people, and this is not limited to the launch of many satellites into Earth orbit, let us make rapid progress in all aspects, including how we communicate, navigate, and predict on Earth. (at least in terms of weather) and doing countless other jobs.

The space probe continues to send back images, and we will soon launch a telescope into space, powerful enough to give us a glimpse of the distant stars from billions of years ago. This may help us answer questions about the early universe, and perhaps discover other places in the universe where life exists.

The two great Voyager space probes entered space in 1977, powered by tiny nuclear power generators, and still carry back data from their surroundings, relying on power consumption roughly equivalent to a standard. Light bulb radio transmitter. The signals they send are extremely weak, but we can “hear” the information they want to convey on Earth because we have developed sensitive antennas that can receive those signals.

I think the word “amazing” is far from enough to describe our two most distant Earth messengers, but we can really describe them as “diplomatic officers” because they each carry a legendary “golden record”. With the voices of the earth, the music of the world, and the greetings of Jimmy Carter (the US president at the time of launch), if you really encounter a perceptive alien, you can provide them with information and entertainment.

The Voyager is still flying at high speed in space, which illustrates a very serious matter.

Human beings can’t do such a trip. We have all sorts of annoying needs, need air, food and water, as well as protection against cosmic radiation or solar flares, not to mention some stimuli, lest we go crazy without knowing where the destination is. It is worth asking at this time: Why are you going? Why go, especially when all humans can do things that robot detectors can do more efficiently, faster, cheaper and safer? Let’s face this truth: no matter whether it’s mining rare materials on asteroids or taking pictures of other planets, unmanned detectors are more competent.

But this also raises another question: Is exploration important to us? Any trip made by an unmanned machine, even if the journey is billions of kilometers, it is impossible to leave the first footprint on the moon like the man, or one woman will leave the first one on Mars When you print your footprints, it triggers the same excitement, doubt, or awe. (Bridenstin said that the next American to set foot on the moon may be a woman.) If some people want to climb Mount Everest or travel long distances to the polar regions, don’t we have an impulse to drive us to Mars and More distant places?

“The basic truth about human nature is that human beings are going to explore,” said 1971, “Apollo 15” commander David R. Scott from the moon near Hadley Moon Creek with no wires. When sending a message to the Houston Ground Control Center in the United States, “This is the ultimate in adventure.”

In addition, the exploration also involves the “buy insurance” for the survival of human beings in certain futurists, which is what other people call alternative plans, in case the earth becomes uninhabitable one day. Possible causes include force majeure, such as the asteroids that may have caused the extinction of dinosaurs or the stupidity of human beings themselves, such as nuclear wars or severe disturbances in the climate.

We have been worried about the preferred plan, that is a good thing, because that is definitely our best plan at the moment, and probably the only plan. As environmentalist and author Bill McGee said, the most uninhabitable place on earth is far more suitable than any other place that humans can reach.

The biggest irony of the first space age was that the most classic pictures of the time were not the moon or other planets, but our planet. The most famous picture was “Grounding Out”. We seem to be quiet and serene. The blue planet is hidden in the lingering clouds, hanging above the moon’s horizon. These photos ignited the environmental movement and led to the introduction of a new law to clean water and air. Many people also raised a simple question: “Don’t we have to spend that big sum of money to solve our own problems first? Question?”

Part of the so-called “big money” refers to the space program, which accounts for 4.5% of the federal budget in some years. (At present, NASA’s budget is 0.5% of the federal budget.) In the past, the cost of sending people to Mars could easily exceed this figure.