From the X-Files Dept: Could NASA or China Launch a Secret Moon Mission?

Apollo-18-movie

Could a reallife scenario mimic the new film Apollo 18, shot as found footage shot by NASA astronauts during a secret mission to the moon in 1973? In the story, the astronauts encounter unfriendly lunar aliens, chaos ensues and NASA forever hushes the whole thing up. Could NASA or China's Space Agency, actually launched a secret human spaceflight, without anyone noticing ? According to the experts at the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Reconnaissance Center (NRC), and elsewhere, definitely not.


"Developing the entire manned program involved 400,000 people, so to cover up the whole thing you'd have to keep them all quiet," Craig Nelson told Fox News, a space historian and author of Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon. "Just to send astronauts up in the air required a crew of 300 people. Not only did you have all of them working as part of NASA, but a huge percentage worked for other contractors, so you'd have to have hundreds of people keeping a secret forever."

According to archival records, the number of NASA employees had, in fact, dropped to around 200,000 by 1973, the year Apollo 18 was originally scheduled to take off. That's half the peak employment of 1965, but still a huge number of people to keep a secret that huge under wraps, had NASA carried out a lunar mission in secret.

Nelson also told Fox News that the space agency would have somehow had to quiet the millions of people who saw each liftoff of the Saturn 5 rocket (which delivered Apollo's lunar capsules into space) as it left the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"There's no way [NASA] could cover up a launch. They could claim that the Air Force was doing it, but even then they would have to completely disguise an Apollo mission as an Air Force satellite mission, and that would be extremely difficult," Nelson told Life's Little Mysteries.

But could China be a different story?

China's Chang’e-1 lunar mission was designed to analyze the abundance of up to 14 chemical elements and their distribution across the lunar surface.  Chang’e-1, named after the Chinese goddess of the Moon, represents the first phase in the Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme (CLEP).

China has announced plans to map "every inch" of the surface of the Moon and exploit the vast quantities of Helium-3 thought to lie buried in lunar rocks as part of its ambitious space-exploration program.

Ouyang Ziyuan, head of the first phase of lunar exploration, was quoted on government-sanctioned news site ChinaNews.com describing plans to collect three dimensional images of the Moon for future mining of Helium 3: "There are altogether 15 tons of helium-3 on Earth, while on the Moon, the total amount of Helium-3 can reach one to five million tons."

"Helium-3 is considered as a long-term, stable, safe, clean and cheap material for human beings to get nuclear energy through controllable nuclear fusion experiments," Ziyuan added. "If we human beings can finally use such energy material to generate electricity, then China might need 10 tons of helium-3 every year and in the world, about 100 tons of helium-3 will be needed every year."

Helium 3 fusion energy – classic Buck Rogers propulsion system- may be the key to future space exploration and settlement, requiring less radioactive shielding, lightening the load. Scientists estimate there are about one million tons of helium 3 on the moon, enough to power the world for thousands of years. The equivalent of a single space shuttle load or roughly 25 tons could supply the entire United State's energy needs for a year.

Thermonuclear reactors capable of processing Helium-3 would have to be built, along with major transport system to get various equipment to the Moon to process huge amounts of lunar soil and get the minerals back to Earth.

A new Moon-focused Space Race seems locked in place. But the odds of a secret launch escaping the spy satellites if the U.S. Department of Defense or the NSA Echelon Program are beyond high. China made its first steps in space just a few years ago, and is in the process of establishing a lunar base by 2024. NASA is currently working on a new space vehicle, Orion, which is destined to fly the U.S. astronauts to the moon in 13 years, to deploy a permanent base.

The "Apollo 18" trailer includes a snippet in which the astronauts are communicating with the Department of Defense (DoD),  playing off of the fact that the DoD's space program is much more secretive than NASA's, making the premise slightly more conceivable.

"The space budget at the Pentagon is much bigger than NASA's budget," Nelson said. "They launch missions all the time and they don't reveal hardly any of it. They have their own launch pad next to NASA's in Florida, and another launch pad in California."
Nelson says there's no way of knowing whether the Pentagon has launched a manned mission, to the moon or otherwise. However, when reached for comment, DoD spokeswoman April Cunningham wrote in an email: "The Department of Defense has not launched a manned mission to space."

The Daily Galaxy via foxnews and Life's Little Mysteries

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