Would there be a big advantage putting a SETI listening post on the far side of the moon?

I assume the moon would act as a large shield to diminish the radio “noise” from Earth. Obviously there would be an issue getting any information back home for the same reason.

Definitely. I once spoke to an astronomer about this. It would be a huge advantage for us to have that. The problem is building it. Just imagine. The moon is a long way away and it’s a vacuum. All that heavy equipment would have to be transported in hundreds of trips and dropped off, then assembled by … whom? Robots? People? It would be great to have it but unlikely to be built.

What are the most depressing things about space exploration?

It is far easier to create a living quarter on the floor of the Pacific, maybe even in a deep trench, than to live on the surface of Mars.

by Richard Muller
Richard Muller is Prof. Physics UC Berkeley and author of “Physics for Future Presidents”

Most of the universe out there is pretty bleak. The planets and their moons look like exotic but very severe places to visit. They wouldn’t be much fun to explore, except remotely. Unlike the exploration of the New World in the 1500s and 1600s, will be completely dependent on the resources of a major country or company just to survive. It will be a totally artificial survival.

It is far easier to create a living quarter on the floor of the Pacific, maybe even in a deep trench, than to live on the surface of Mars. We are not running out of space on Earth. Even Antarctica is far more benign than any planetary surface other than that of the Earth.

I once invited Wally Shirra to speak at a meeting on the exploration of the planets. I had no idea what he was going to say, but as someone who had “been there” I knew it would be interesting. When he spoke, he said that he knew what it was like in space, and that it was awful. Yes, you get some nice views, but space is constantly trying to kill you. He said he had no interest in going back; been there, done that, and it was exciting but exceedingly difficult. He suggested that the best way to explore the universe was with robots, like Voyager, not with people.

I agree. We can do a much finer exploration of Mars and the other planets/moons if we spend the money on advanced robotics, and not on the unnecessary human.

Wayne Boyd
Professor Muller, thank you for your refreshing take. I have a blog and express my opinions here on Quora reiterating your views of space and Mars. People call me crazy and send me hate mail. Truth hurts sometimes.

Is it possible to build an outpost between Earth and Mars?

By looking at the illustration below, you would think so! Earth and Mars are so close, why not build an outpost between to make it easier to go there!solarsystem

Unfortunately, this image only shows us the relative distances the planets have from the sun. Actually, Earth orbits the sun faster than Mars because Earth is closer to the sun. The closer to the sun, the faster the orbit. The further from the sun, the slower the orbit.

This means that sometimes the two planets are close together and other times they’re on opposite sides of the Sun.

If you could somehow position an outpost so it stayed midway between the two planets then as the planets move to opposite the sun from each other where would the outpost go? Into the sun!

You couldn’t have that! The best you could do is put an outpost in orbit around the sun, between Earth and Mars, but then the outpost would have the same problem for both Earth and Mars. Sometimes the outpost would be near one planet or the other and sometimes it would be on the opposite side of the sun. It would be very rare to find all three of them lined up in a row like stepping stones.

Now another idea might be to have an outpost orbiting Earth, way out in space halfway the distance to Mars. It could work, but it would take a long time to orbit Earth at that distance. It wouldn’t remain stationary. It would be in orbit, albeit a fairly slow one. Sometimes it will be on the opposite side of the Earth from Mars, being of no use. Such an orbit would be influenced by the orbit of Earth’s moon, and by Mars itself, throwing it off orbit, and would be inherently unstable.

So if somebody thinks we might one day build such an outpost to make going to the planet Mars easier, that idea wouldn’t work too well.