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      CommentAuthorm1k3y
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.21)
    space elevators seem good, but wasn't it shown that they won't be people friendly due to the high radiation once you get beyond a certain point.
    would surely work for goods and robots though.

    Bruce Sterling said a while ago to watch China and India kick the space-race back into gear as their economies ramp up.
    Maybe post-Olympics this will happen?

    and yes, I'm of the Gaian persuasion and think that as the brains of the planet it's our job to take life off Earth and spread it as far as we can.

    plus the whole redundancy thing is a strong argument if you put your Long Now hat on.
    • CommentAuthorhobofood
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.22)
    @Zombinoid
    Is there water on the moon? A clean gasoline alternative? No. There are rocks. Lots of useless rocks.


    Yes, there is water on the moon, not that we need it. There is also a clean gasoline alternative, it's called Helium 3 and it's pretty much the king of all fuels. It produces no pollutants, it's really energy rich and there is about a million tons of it on the moon.

    Now, 1 million tons may not sound much until you are told that 25 tons can fuel the United States for a year. Now, that's just the moon and it's probable that Helium 3 is available on a whole load of the rocks in the Kuiper belt - that's the ring of rocks just out past neptune. Some of the rocks in the Kupier belt are also diamonds or other precious (and useful) metals. There is more in the way of natural resources in the Kuiper belt alone than anywhere else, and I haven't even started thinking about Titan, which is little more than a single oil field in a handy moon-sized package.

    So the plan is to build up the ISS, use that as a launch pad to the moon, then use our moon base as a launchpad to Mars and the Kuiper belt.
    • CommentAuthorhobofood
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.23)
    @mik3y
    space elevators seem good, but wasn't it shown that they won't be people friendly due to the high radiation once you get beyond a certain point.
    would surely work for goods and robots though.


    Yep, loads of Ionising radiation that will fry pretty much any organic matter that we send up. Unless of course we go really fast or we build some kind of shielding. The biggest problem with the space elevator is actually the counterweight. We will need something really massive out in space, orbiting, for the other end of the elevator to latch onto. Somebody once suggested pulling a suitably large meteor into geosynchronous orbit and using that, with the added benefit that it would then be easier to mine the meteor.
  1.  (2145.24)
    I have a lot to say on this topic but I don't currently have time to say it.

    For the moment, I'll confine myself to this: it'd be helpful if both sides of thsi debate admitted that their motives are largely emotional.

    People (like me) who think that space travel is desirable and/or necessary can cite figures about the economic return but really let's face it, we'd be advocating for space travel even if the economic returns to date were crap. For us, its about the long-term survival of the species and about the fundamental human need to expand and explore.

    People (like Zombinoid) who think that space travel is undesirable or unnecessary object in principle to spending money on space exploration (or that's how it seems to me anyway, I welcome correction). The argument, as I understand it, is that given the immediate pressing needs here on Earth, spending money on space is simply unjustified. You can argue that NASA's budget is less than 1% of US Federal government expenditure but that's largely irrelevant. If the expenditure were 0.0001%, it'd still be unjustified.

    I could (and when I have more time probably will) go through and argue that space travel has produced enormous practical benefits here on Earth but I doubt that I'll change anyone's mind.
  2.  (2145.25)
    Space travel is one of the most ridiculous expenditures in the United states budget. Billions of dollars a year. For what? To blow up five to ten people in a tin can? The only good thing to go up there for is to build and maintain satellites.

    "Why do you want to sail all the way to the west. Millions of Pesetas for what? So a few Milanese can go drown themselves in a rickety boat. The only thing the sea is good for is trade and fishing"

    Fuck. That. Noise.

    I'll give you that NASA as it sits now is a dinosaur. The Space Shuttle is an outmoded vehicle, that we should be focused on better orbit vehicles, that the ISS is, at best, a nerd terrarium. Baby steps, not bold steps.

    I say triple that budget, make space exploration a number one priority. Get us off this rock, get us to Mars, mining the asteroid belt, get us to Io and Europa. Explore the outer solar system in proper detail. I want human in orbit around Neptune. Show me the storms of Jupiter. Save this pale blue dot with technologies gleened from exploring all those other colorful dots in the sky.

    Frankly, we got scared. I was a kid when Challenger exploded. A whole generation looked as space flight as a good way to get detonated at high altitude. NASA has been so fucking worried about heat tiles and public perception of the "dangers" of space flight they've lost their guts.

    Look, people are going to die. Brave, smart men and women are going to lose their lives in terrible, awful ways. But they're doing it to take us from the cradle to the stars. Pioneers, explorers, adventurers, it's a big fucking risk. It's going to cost money. But here on earth we're blowing 1/2 a TRILLION dollars fighting a war so that we can create the perfect breeding ground for a civil war in a country that now hates us. How much did the pyramid at Giza cost? Did the hanging gardens of babylon go over-budget? I'll chip in a fiver to reach the stars.

    Strapping yourself to a missile pointed at the sky and going "Take me up" is fucking BALLS. It's the most daring, brilliant and human thing that we do.

    You want to reduce it to maintaining your cellphone service and making sure your google maps are good...Christ, what is wrong with you?

    Sorry, I can't be polite or rational in the face of that kind of thinking.
    • CommentAuthorjayverni
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.26)
    Strapping yourself to a missile pointed at the sky and going "Take me up" is fucking BALLS. It's the most daring, brilliant and human thing that we do.


    AMEN
  3.  (2145.27)
    I was going to write something about how I feel the 'it's not helping me right now' thinking is a detriment to humanity and it's future. Orwellseyes, however, pretty much summed it up. Basically we'd already be a dead species, or at least a useless one, if we didn't have the forward thinkers who where trying crazy ass shit. We should be funding this sort of thing at far greater levels. We should be making it easier for kids to move into these fields. We should be better funding education as a whole so more kids have the knowledge and ability to forward think.
    • CommentAuthorpurvision
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.28)
    Space travel might well be desirable for a number of reasons. But often what people mean is inter-stellar travel, travelling to other stars. With our current technological limitaions, this isn't yet feasible. Popping through folds in space and 'warping' to places is at best theoretical and at worst fanticiful. The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would take 4.2 years to reach, travellingat the speed of light, which is just so way beyond our capabilities at this point. Cryogentics is also not yet an option for longer travels.

    What might really yield vast amounts of information about the universe would be the construction of a telescopic interferometer, preferably on the dark side of the Moon. It would make the Hubble info look like a secondgrade speller's cribsheet. Imagine being able to look at distant stars and see planets of earth size, in search of the next pale blue dot.
    •  
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008 edited
     (2145.29)
    However, our own solar system is already a wealth of unexplored and untapped potential - who knows, maybe we can find something out there, a new resource or a new technique or technology born from the environment of interplanetary exploration, that will allow us to travel to the stars. Even if it's not warp drive or wormholes or whatever, there's no reason to discount the possibility. As for more concrete benefits, if you think that amount of H3 on the moon is huge, imagine how much of that stuff could be floating around in the atmosphere of, oh, Jupiter? If the proportion of global mass to the amount of H3 on Jupiter compared to the moon was just 1%, there could still be enough H3 to fuel the entire planet for millions of years - no exaggeration, actual math.

    Aside from exploration and mining, colonization is another huge, huge reason to go back to space. I'm not talking about Martian geodomes or floating cities on Europa, as these are, at the moment, fantasies, but orbital colonies based on O'Neill Cylinders and Bernal Spheres are not only feasible with today's technology (they were feasible with the technology of the 1970s, really), they're much, much, much cheaper than terraforming efforts and trying to maintain an outpost on a hostile or dead planet.

    Also, consider the number of high-tech, diploma-requiring jobs an active space program would create. You're worried about the economy going down the tubes? Space programs create the same industrial boot-to-the-ass as major wars do - look what WWII did for the American economy, all tragedy aside. And with a space program, there's none of that pesky shooting and killing and bad PR.
  4.  (2145.30)
    Having watched the space program collapse to its current state because of the bureaucracy it faces is just sad. The Space Race was one of the few products of the Cold war that had any continuing optimism to it. Sure, a few people wanted to get to the moon just to beat the Soviets, but I think it was the passion of those who believed in exploring the last great frontier that got us to the moon. Now NASA is full of a lot of bureaucrats itself, pandering to their own kind on Capitol Hill. It's no wonder we haven't gotten anywhere.

    I personally don't have much 'passion' about the space program as it has always seemed a completely obvious step for mankind to make; Advance or die off.
  5.  (2145.31)
    Sun's exploding pretty soon. Only 5 billion years, give or take a billion.

    But in only one billion years time our star will become unstable. It will swell up, and we will not be able to live on this planet any longer. So sooner or later we need to emigrate.

    We need to GO, and since it's going to be a difficult journey, we have to start planning ASAP.
    • CommentAuthorWinther
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.32)
    You know when I knew Orbiter was going to be one of my favorite GN's, before even reading the first panel?

    This is a book about returning to space in the face of fear and adversity. It's a book about glory. About going back to space, because it's waiting for us, and it's where we're meant to be. We can't allow human space exploration to become our history.


    A-Fucking-Men.

    I can't really say it any better than that. I'm not claiming to be logical about this. The potential for clean fuels and a solution to overpopulation and all the rest is great, but really, I just believe, with an almost religious fervor, that we need to do this. We just have to. It's that simple.
    •  
      CommentAuthorRabbit
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.33)
    @ orwellseyes : Your post made me pretty happy. It was inspiring on a space-related level, but also in general. Humanity probably SHOULD take more risks in a lot more areas. Even personally.


    We waste a lot of time ho-ing and hum-ing over subjects and never getting anywhere.
    •  
      CommentAuthorEgon
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.34)
    Doesn't the constant absence of gravity (specifically, Earth's) have some kind of effect on the body in the long run? Some kind of space version of Alzheimer's where the brain starts sending and receiving information incorrectly? That could lead to stuff like heart malfunctions and...

    SPACE MADNESS!!!

    That would mean you need to create some kind of artificial gravity. At least that way we could continue traveling away from the ever expanding Sun. Of course my knowledge of space mostly comes from Star Trek and BSG, so take that for what it's worth.
  6.  (2145.35)
    That would mean you need to create some kind of artificial gravity. At least that way we could continue traveling away from the ever expanding Sun.

    Or genetic engineering to grow a person more suited for long-term space travel. Living in space isn't the goal though, it's minimizing the impact of time spent there.

    Mars is about a year away. The longest single stay in space has been about 14 months. The guy, a russian, had some bone loss and other health issues, but nothing too awful.

    You get people on Mars and you're looking at a real step out into the wider solar system. The dream would be building things in Orbit, training and crewing up and Mars (or the moon) and heading into the deep.

    The things we don't know about the solar system past the Mars/Jupiter belt is just sad when you think about it.

    The world needs more people like Yuri Gagarin. First Human in space, died testing rocket planes.



    I look at this portrait of that Russian Man-God and think "Not enough medals"
    •  
      CommentAuthorEgon
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.36)
    But how much can you realistically cut down a spaceflight? Every time people start talking about going the speed of light or using worm holes, it's met with "Yeah, that'd be nice, but..." So do we need to just keep hoping planets? At some point we're going to have to travel more than just 14 months to get to the next sling shot.

    Other than funding and a Star Trek mindset, what are some other fundamental hurdles we need to get around? Do we send automated robots ahead of us to get started on building mini-stations for when we show up? How plausible is that with where we are now with technology?
  7.  (2145.37)
    @Egon;

    good point. When traveling to other star systems (assuming there will not be any warp technology or wormholes) you need to take into account that it will probably take hundreds of years to reach your destination. Basically people will be born, live their life and die aboard your starship without ever setting foot on solid ground. Over such a long period of time every small problem will eventually grow into a huge problem. So the biggest challenge I think will not be the propulsion but building a starship which can keep the passengers safe and healthy life for such a long time.
  8.  (2145.38)
    At some point we're going to have to travel more than just 14 months to get to the next sling shot.

    By that point the bleeding edge technology of today will look like the 12th century. We're not going to Alpha Proximi any time soon, no. Planet hopping, as you call it, lets you build up tech and resources.

    Look at the Kardashev scale. It's a ladder to climb. Getting from what we are now (a type zero civilization) to...Star Trek...is a hell of a thing to do.

    Now you could see jumps on that climb up. Say if FTL technology is discovered, zero-point energy or perhaps faerie dust that gives astronauts the power of love to fly...eh...sorry.

    Other than funding and a Star Trek mindset, what are some other fundamental hurdles we need to get around? Do we send automated robots ahead of us to get started on building mini-stations for when we show up? How plausible is that with where we are now with technology?

    All plausible, just need the money and the will. We've got rovers running on Mars. Autonomous robotics are coming more and more online as a viable technology.

    Here's a thought. Making NASA and JPL completely open source. Invite in the dreamers and makers, make the challenge of manned spaceflight the challenge of this generation.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.39)
    "There is also a clean gasoline alternative, it's called Helium 3 and it's pretty much the king of all fuels. It produces no pollutants, it's really energy rich and there is about a million tons of it on the moon."

    Wow, you're leaving out all sorts of information and making all sorts of assumptions. You make it sound like you can shovel the stuff into your fireplace and enjoy the warm toasty glow.

    He3 isn't a "gasoline alternative." It's a proposed fuel for fusion reactors. We don't have practical, energy-producing fusion reactors yet, and might not for decades. While they may not produce "pollutants," fusion reactions churn out neutrons which leave the works radioactive, and not in a safe enough to stick-down- the-front-of-your-pants way. So you'd occasionally have to recondition the guts of your plant.

    * * *

    Here is why space travel is expensive:

    (Mf+M0)/M0 = e^(Vd/Vex)

    Mf = Reaction mass required
    M0 = Mass of everything except reaction mass, but including reaction mass for your return trip.
    e = Natural log number, 2.178 or so
    Vd = Change in velocity required
    Vex = Exhaust velocity of your rocket
    •  
      CommentAuthormuse hick
    • CommentTimeMay 8th 2008
     (2145.40)
    Is reaction the only way to achieve propulsion? We keep talking in terms of rockets -- I mean, I know that's what we have at the moment, but isn't it possible there will be some other way to achieve the movement? at some point theoretical physics has to become of some practical use other than fuelling thousands of episodes of pseudo-scientific tv shows, doesn't it?

    I think it is going to depend on something that comes out of left field, from somewhere we're not expecting -- something of Copernican scale that reframes how we think about the physical laws that govern the universe. Even as I'm writing this I feel like I'm talking pie in the sky where everyone else has been talking science. But still wanted to throw something out there.