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John McCarthy
Computer Science Department
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305

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The Shackleton Project (named after the South Polar explorer) is aimed at human expansion into space. It has the following characteristics.

  1. It is to be financed by people who value the goal of human expansion in space. It does not promise financial return on investment.
  2. Support is to be solicited from people (mainly rich people) all over the world.
  3. It involves minimal cost missions and accepts that they will be dangerous. Its reaction to any disasters will be to learn and keep trying.
  4. A possible first mission is a one way journey to explore the moon by two people--or maybe only one. Resupply is promised but not return. The voyagers' careers are to be the exploration of the moon. A preliminary inquiry gave assurance that there are plenty of qualified people who would take part in such missions, accepting the dangers.
  5. An asteroid or Phobos or Deimos are also possible.

Here are some premises:

Preliminary work:

Calculations were made in the early 1980s concerning a one way mission to the moon with resupply but not return. Rod Hyde of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories did most of them. The conclusion was that a single Shuttle launch could carry a vehicle powered by the RL-10 engine and could land 7.5 metric tons on the moon with 6.5 tons being payload.

The cost would have been a few hundred million dollars if the Shuttle launch could have been begged from Congress. Without being able to launch a hydrogen fuelled rocket from the Shuttle, the mission becomes more complicated.

An unmanned resupply launch would be required in two or three years assuming two people as the initial voyagers.

Today there are other alternatives.

One is to launch the unfuelled vehicle in the Shuttle and fuel it from Russian expendable launchers or from the Shuttle tank in low earth orbit.

Someone has to raise the money. The amount for the one-way moon mission is within the capability of many single individuals. Good contacts and good publicity are requirements.

The name comes from the following.

Classified advertisement appearing in London papers in 1900:

"MEN WANTED FOR HAZARDOUS Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. - Ernest Shackleton"

Shackleton commented later, "It seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany me, the response was so overwhelming."

next up previous
Next: References

John McCarthy
Sat Sep 4 18:31:27 PDT 1999