1456: On the Moon

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 17:14, 5 December 2014 by (talk) (Explanation: We don't know what the aide specifically said.)
Jump to: navigation, search
On the Moon
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on Venus and returning him safely to--" [an aide frantically whispers in the president's ear for a moment] "... of landing a man on Venus."
Title text: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on Venus and returning him safely to--" [an aide frantically whispers in the president's ear for a moment] "... of landing a man on Venus."


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Check for completeness.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

The phrase "If we can land a man on the Moon, why can't we <blank>" is commonly used to question a perceived shortcoming of some company, government or humanity in general. The premise is that "we" (where we is usually a generalized blanket identification of humanity, or the United States) have been able to achieve the extraordinary feat of landing men on the Moon and bringing them back to Earth safely; thus our inability to achieve some lesser goal is questionable.

The Moon landings are rightly seen as one of the pinnacles of humanity's achievements, and as such have become an accomplishment against which all other great feats are measured. That technology available in 1969 was so minimal in comparison to modern technology serves only to increase the status of the Moon landings.

Here, Megan is cutting Cueball's argument's short by reminding him that humanity has not put another man on the Moon since the end of the Apollo program in December 1972, and that new manned programs to return to the Moon, such as the US Constellation Program, have been repeatedly cancelled.

This comic may well be a response to NASA's postponed attempt to launch a test of the Orion spacecraft on Thursday 4th December 2014. The unmanned test flight which aims to orbit Earth twice, travelling 5800 km into space, had to be delayed due to valve issues. As the planned flight is "simply" orbiting the Earth, has nobody on board, and our technology is far advanced from the early Moon landings, the cliche question "If we can land a man on the Moon, why can't we perform a simple test flight?" is rolled out again.

The title text is a retelling of the famous inspirational Kennedy address to the US Congress in May 1961, which set into motion the Apollo program, except that this time, the speaker is talking about putting a man on planet Venus. The aide presumably explains to the president that it is unlikely that anybody could land on Venus longer than a few seconds and come back alive. (The atmosphere of Venus is extremely hostile with high pressure, high temperature, strong winds, sulfuric acid rains and lakes, etc.) As such, the president backtracks before setting the goal of bringing the astronauts home again. Unmanned hardened pre-cooled robotic probes either got crushed or fried before landing, or survived only a couple of hours at most[citation needed].


Cueball: If we could land a man on the Moon, why can't we -
Megan: -land a man on the Moon?
Cueball: ...ok, fair. But we're working on it, OK?

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!



I don't see why the transcript is incomplete, it looks pretty complete and all there to me... Official.xian (talk) 14:45, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

Agreed, removed incomplete tag. --Pudder (talk) 14:49, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

I wondered if the cartoon is about sex discrimination. After all, when people went to the moon, nobody even considered (as far as I know) letting a woman go on an Apollo flight. Megan might be saying "Land a man on the moon?" Or she might be tired of Cueball saying this and be obliquely suggesting NASA send him there on a one-way trip! Gade (talk) 15:25, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

No, that only means that you are blinded by the alienation caused by the noxious media sites you visit. This strip is clearly about doing a 'real' manned moonlanding instead of that fake hollywood footage from 1969 that doesn't look anything like the photos taken last year from the chinese lander. --Loon (talk) 18:49, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

Appropriate handle, considering that half-baked claims that the moon landings were faked have been debunked so many times over the past forty years.  In fact, XKCD #1441 (Turnabout) only works *because* we landed on the moon. 00:31, 6 December 2014 (UTC)
That was my initial interpretation. As for the debunking, the day you can explain away the photographs which are obvious fakes, i'll start to consider believing the rest of what they had to say. If you lie about one thing, why should anything else you say on the subject be believed? We've still been there now, and anyway, it had nothing to do with this, and all to do with the description above about the ironic statement. Badwolf (talk) 12:49, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

Is there a reference for the claim "Unmanned hardened pre-cooled robotic probes either got crushed or fried before landing, or survived only a couple of hours at most."? Djbrasier (talk) 16:07, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

Yes. The Venera probes. Citation provided. --Equinox 17:18, 5 December 2014 (UTC)
(Well, you got me an edit conflict, after checking, editing and reviewing,but here's what I wrote.)
That's not the way I would phrase that claim, but it sounds like it's Venera 9 and its similar successors being talked about, with the "pre-cooling".
A brief check of a book I have (no, I've never heard of The Internet) suggests that the complete list of landers that actually got to Venus are as follows:
Venera 3 (descent probe, probably crashed, communications failed before approach)
Venera 4 (descent probe, ran out of power before destroyed in the atmosphere)
Venera 5 (descent probe, may have crushed at late stage of descent while still powered)
Venera 6 (descent probe, as V5)
Venera 7 (23 minutes of faint recordings from surface, probably landed on side after rough landing)
Venera 8 (50 minutes on surface before going silent)
Venera 9 (53 minutes, before radio contact with orbiter lost and not regained)
Venera 10 (can't find timing details)
Venera 11 (95 minutes, before contact with orbiter lost)
Venera 12 (110 minutes)
Venera 13 (a confirmed 127 minutes)
Venera 14 (57 minutes, ditto; managed to "measure its own lens-cap" in the intended soil-compressibility experiment!)
Vega 1 (no time information for Venus Lander component
Vega 2 (56 minutes for on surface for Venus Lander component)
Pioneer (an hour, for one of three landers on the mission)
Knowing the surface environment (temperature and pressure) and the design specs it can be assumed that Venera 13's confirmed 127 minutes of operation is near the top-end of functionality and that those that merely went out of range would have had not much more survival time. Although by the time of the final Veneras the expected survival time was only 30 minutes, and yet they may have lasted at least twice as long, so who knows... (Also note the possible usage of "a couple of hours" in relation to 1070.) 17:48, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

That looks like an XKCD comic in and of itself. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Man, for a minute I thought the second 'MAN' refers to a truck from the car company MAN. They are rather heavy. 5 December 2014 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I thought "land" was a euphemism. Read it again and tell me what you think. 03:26, 6 December 2014 (UTC)OctopodesC

Seems like "still lack a coherent vision" is a bit too editorial, especially given the launch and return of the Orion capsule. "Coherent vision" or its lack might be in the eye of the beholder... Taibhse (talk) 11:46, 6 December 2014 (UTC)

Aide explanation

The "no return" part instantly reminded me of Mars One, a project to land people on Mars and never return them back on Earth. The most prominent reason for the impossibility of return are (1) the amount of fuel that has to be carried to Mars to be able make it back is insane (Tsiolkovsky's equation). -- Shnatsel (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"we" vs "we"

When I read the comic, I thought the joke here was that 'we' (humanity) can place a man on the moon, but we (Cueball et al.) can't; to which Cueball responds that they're working on it. 22:06, 6 December 2014 (UTC)

The explanation gives an 8:12 ratio for moonwalkers, however, weren't there other astronauts that didn't land on the moon, but also didn't die? I thought the overall rate of deaths was around 5% (just looked it up, top link has 7.5% http://www.penmachine.com/2003/02/is-being-astronaut-most-dangerous-job.html), so 8:12 is cherry-picking, right? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Going into low-earth orbit and going to the moon are to very different ball games. I think the distinction is fair. 02:37, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

I assumed Megan was preemting Cueball from making a logical fallacy (a bad analogy a.k.a. [Appeal to the moon]), by suggesting the only thing that logically follows: that it's possible to land a man on the moon. --Strindhaug (talk) 10:29, 7 December 2014 (UTC)

T-38 and F-104 crashes are immaterial. "8
12" ratio is invalid.

There's a major apples vs. oranges comparison being made here.

You're really lumping the risk of pointy-nosed-airplane flying in with the risk of flying on moon-landing missions (while you're missing info on the number pointy-nosed-airplane flights, the number of people who flew them, etc.).

Flying an airplane is an ordinary activity, especially for those selected as astronauts. Those in the pool of people who are candidates for astronaut, would, if not selected, otherwise still be flying pointy-nosed-airplanes, likely in war (Vietnam), and likely with a greater chance of crashing (being shot down).

Oh! There's so much wrong with that "8:12" comparison. I'd like to go into it more, but there's not enough time. I think you-all get the idea though.

See the #1453 for commentary on bad methodologies. This "8:12" malarkey is a perfect example. 17:51, 5 March 2015 (UTC)