THE SHACKLETON PROJECT
Computer Science Department
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.
- It is to be financed by people who value the goal of human
expansion in space. It does not promise financial return on
- Support is to be solicited from people (mainly rich people) all
over the world.
- It involves minimal cost missions and accepts that they will be
dangerous. Its reaction to any disasters will be to learn and keep
- 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
- An asteroid or Phobos or Deimos are also possible.
Here are some premises:
- Human expansion into the universe is an attractive idea to a
substantial fraction of people.
- There is another substantial fraction who regard it as
undesirable or who are so focussed on other matters as to regard
negatively any resources spent on it. A substantial fraction of
scientists are in this group. The great majority of scientific
study of the space and planetary environment do not seem to them to
require manned space, and many space scientists begrudge money spent
on it. This is the main justification given for opposition, but it
probably doesn't account for all the psychological effects.
Anything that has been depicted in science fiction makes some people
- The combination of these two phenomena leads to a substantial
spending on man-in-space but not as much as could usefully be spent
without seriously impacting society's ability to deal with other
- The nature of man-in-space activity has often been diverted into
- The cold war pre-empted space activity for government, both by
imposing secrecy on some technology and by sheer size of the
- Unfortunately, the proposals for profit making manned space
activities did not attract the investor support required to make a
project. Not all the proponents have given up, and maybe some of
them will succeed in getting manned projects going.
- NASA has acquired some bad habits which lead to excessive
expenditure and to much less progress than might otherwise be
- NASA, the press and many politicians believe that the ``public''
believes that manned space activities must be entirely safe to
warrant public support.
- This view misreads the public. If manned space work is
recognized as dangerous, the public will accept the same risks to
its participants as it accepted for exploration in the 18th and 19th
century and accepts for mountain climbing today.
- This NASA attitude led to many inhibitions, e.g. abandoning the
attempt to qualify the RL-10 rocket engine which uses liquid
hydrogen and liquid oxygen for transport in the Shuttle cargo bay.
This gives planetary much less capability than they should have.
- There are a large number of relatively young rich people in the
U.S. today who might be attracted.
- Enough money is being accumulated outside of the U.S. and even
outside the traditional West, so that major support can be hoped
for. Some of these people will value participation in efforts that
so far have involved mainly the U.S. and Soviet (now Russsian)
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
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
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
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
Sat Sep 4 18:31:27 PDT 1999