Michio Kaku on the Moon

August 30th, 2010
Thanks to Stephen Michael Kellat for this question on going to the moon. Hear what Dr. Michio Kaku had to say about it to Dr. Kiki in this quick segment from a 2008 interview. Distributed by Tubemogul.

2 Responses to “Michio Kaku on the Moon”

  1. alloycowboy on September 10, 2010 10:16 pm

    A very funny and well done interview Kirsten!

  2. Michael Wallis on September 28, 2010 4:21 pm

    Hmmm … I have a few bones to pick with this interviewee.

    1) What would it take to get a settlement on the moon?

    It would take development of fully reusable single stage to orbit (SSTO) vehicles to get the cost down by 2 orders of magnitude (or more). Currently we build a whole new vehicle, throw away parts on the way up, and just get a small part to orbit and back. An SSTO would mean the same vehicle could be used over, and over, and over, and over again, with just minor maintenance and refilling the fuel tanks each flight – just like jets do today. (Imagine if you had to build or buy a new car every time you took a trip to Grandma’s??)

    Once you’re in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), you’re half way to anywhere in the solar system – energy wise. So finding an affordable way of getting that first 250 miles up is the key to anything we do in space. This is what the President saw.

    Having an orbital refuel depot would help if we wanted to go beyond LEO. Take propellent up to the depot in automated SSTO flights, then put crew and supplies on an SSTO, go to the orbital depot and refuel it, then go on to the Moon.

    Such a system would allow regular (weekly or bi-weekly) flights that could supply a settlement what it decides it needs instead of having to guess everything up front.

    How to settle the moon? Send some engineers and a month’s worth of supplies and have them tell you what to send on the next supply run. If the best thing for getting lunar dust off your space suit is Static Guard(tm) – send them 10 cases of it.

    2) Sending robots instead of people

    Your guest mentioned that getting humans to another planet is essential to our survival. And then he says sending robots is better!! I think he’s working on the mistaken assumption that “no one can be allowed to die in space”. Yes, space is dangerous. Yes it’s currently expensive (see #1 above). But we’ve seen time and again that robots can only do what they’ve been programmed and built to do. People are required for flexibility, adaptability, innovation and, ultimately, success. Back in the days when they used the shuttle to repair satellites, they usually ended up having the astronauts grab it with their gloved hands because the carefully designed, expensive robotic arms didn’t work.

    I wouldn’t send anyone who didn’t want to go (because space IS dangerous), but I wouldn’t stop anyone from going who’s willing to learn how. Some people will die in the effort. This has been true of every human effort. We all die. Let’s accept that, know the risks and ask for, and train, those willing to accept the risks.

    3) Using a space elevator

    Don’t get me wrong, Arthur C Clarke was a great scientist and writer, and the idea of a elevator to space is “magical”. BUT … the failure modes for this thing are all VERY BAD for everyone. A stretched filament hundreds to thousands of miles long, under tension, with an asteroidal mass at the far end to keep it tight? I guarantee it will break, some day. And when it does … well … do the math. There are no “good” failure modes, just varying degrees of bad.

    4) Interview Ideas

    How about interviewing someone doing something about lowering the cost of getting that first 250 miles, such as Dave Masten from Masten Space Systems, John Carmack of Armadillo Aerospace or Elon Musk of SpaceX.

    Michael Wallis
    Sunnyvale, CA

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