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  1.  (2145.121)
    Neil Smith has written a seres of novels titled after various asteroids.

    They're basically tools to expound his libertarian beliefs so I don't think he put much more thought into the choice of Pallas as a title than that it was next on the list of major asteroids he was working through.
  2.  (2145.122)
    Neil Smith has written a seres of novels titled after various asteroids.

    Aha. That explains that, thanks.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeJun 5th 2008
    Local water is real big.

    Not just for life support and fuel (yeah, yeah, reaction mass). Coming up with ways to run industrial processes without water would be a bitch.

    I really hope the moon has lots at the poles. Then the whole harvesting He3 fusion fuel deal becomes a lot more practical. If there's whole crapload, you could trade off sustainability for expansion. That is, use some of it for spaceship fuel and trust that other ships will bring back more water, and with nitrogen other volatiles the moon might not have any of.

    I read that there's a contest for schools where they design lunar water harvesters. Fingers crossed.
  3.  (2145.124)
    (First post!)

    So there's no a whole lot left to say on the subject of space travel that hasn't been said. Some of the posts here have made me rack my brain harder than any of the lectures given by my physics professors last semester. Which could be good. Or it could be bad. Very bad.

    But I do think there is something to be added.

    Most of what has been discussed is based on classical physics. Which is expected since today's spacecraft still function on an Einsteinian conception of the universe. All those rocket scientists we hear so much about are all assuming a continuum of space and time that morphs and distorts in the presence of matter. The universe though, on the smallest of scales, does not operate according to Einstein's equations of motion. In fact, the microscopic world is rather lawless. Like a Mel Gibson movie from the eighties.

    String theory is an interesting attempt to unify the microscopic with general relativity. And if you know anything about String Theory, you're probably expecting me to appeal to the possibility of higher dimensions for faster space travel. But, I'm not. if String Theory does happen to be right (or, to be more precise, a more refined model of the universe, just as Einstein refined Newton's model), I think there is a more plausible and less out-of-this-world way for us to get to the stars.

    First, let me introduce Michael Faraday. Michael Faraday deduced the relationship between magnetic flux and the electromotive force in circuits, Faraday's Law. While doing this, Faraday proposed this thing called a 'Faraday Cage' (real modest guy, huh?). A Faraday Cage is a box built out of conducting material in such a way that it blocks out all external electric fields and, in a manner of speaking, rearranges the charges on the conductor so all the fields inside the box cancel.

    Back to String Theory. String Theory predicts a particle called the graviton. Analogous to the photon or bosons, they are the messenger particles of the gravitational field. Sort of like how atoms that exchange electrons feel an electric force, objects that exchange gravitons feel a gravitational force.

    Now imagine a Faraday Cage that cancels out gravitational fields instead of electric fields. Although there are some obvious flaws with this idea, most notably the fact there is no observed gravitational phenomena that is analogous to current or voltage, so this idea is probably a little far fetched.

    But that's not really my point. My point is, if the graviton does happen to exist, than that would open whole new windows we never even knew were possibly. Just think. Space travel in the next century could have an entirely different face. Instead of brute forcing our way into space, we could trick nature into thinking our spacecrafts weigh less than they actually do and fling them through space with much greater velocities than they would normally achieve. Kind of like Mass Effect's Mass Relays.

    And I mean, it's about String Theory gave us something useful, right?
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2008
    i'm not a scientist. never will be.

    but i wanna see space. i want to be part of the generation that took the step and said "fuck it, lets see how far we can go" i don't know of a kid who doesn't think astronauts are the coolest motherfuckers ever. buzz aldrin can have my girlfreind and my mum if he wants.

    i can spend hours lookng at hubble pictures of the pillars of creation. how can people see these things and think "naaaahhhh. i'll just build a better way to kill someone." or "naaaahh i'd rather we spent our time and money seeing how many celebraties we can get naked"

    god the human race annoys me
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2008
    oh one more thing. why can't we go faster than light? sureley its just a matter of it being a bit dark. why would we catch ourselves? how would it bend time? why can't something just go very vry very very fast?

    i konw its ignorant but dammit i want to see what we can do
  4.  (2145.127)
    My point is, if the graviton does happen to exist

    The thing is, it's about as real as cavorite right now, and likely to stay that way.

    That said, have you read up on the old Breakthrough Propulsion team at NASA?
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2008 edited
    So I'm finally saying something on this.

    I don't think the biggest issue here is the physics behind it. As humans, we've always excelled at making the impossible possible. Hell, the idea of the radio or television still makes my mind bend (you mean you can send information... through the air?) If we can send a crew into orbit on the back of 30-year-old technology, we can certainly figure out a way to ship people light-years away at some point. It's just a matter of putting your mind to it, y'know?

    And that's the real hurdle, is getting everyone to agree that going to space is The Thing to Do. Sure, there's technical issues, but if we all say "Wait a minute. What if we just stop fighting and try to do something together?" I don't want to sound like a Socialist hippie here, but if we let the private sector take us to space we have a strong possibility of living in Philip K. Dick novels for all eternity.

    In order to get the financing, resources, and know-how together for a project like this, we need a global communication net and universal goals. And honestly, that in itself is enough to make me want to go to space. Diverting from the political bullshit, the constant warfare, the hunger and squabbling long enough to get everyone OUT is enough for me. Deep space exploration is just the end result, I think. Sure, explorers in the Renaissance were trying to find trade routes or whatever, but I think a fair amount of "well, there's got to be SOMETHING out there we can do or use" went into it, too. Do we have a specific reason for going to space right now? I think it's for the purpose of finding out if we can go any further with the idea. Can we go to Mars? Can we go to Jupiter? Can we get to the Centari system? Is there water out there? Is there life out there? The whole idea of going to space is to see if it's worth going to space, and it always will be that way. If we get to Centari, then what do we say? Can we get to Andromeda one day (before it runs into us, of course)?

    Do we need "The Government" to take us there? Not necessarily. But we need a sufficiently large amount of people willing and able to pull together with enough financing as is realistic to get there. And once we're there, there is the issue of ownership, and I think that's the second big hurdle. People naturally want to own things (at least in our current society). So, then, who owns the Moon? Who decides how it gets divided up? Who gets a particular portion of space? It requires even more teamwork and communication of goals and desires. Getting past humanity's own divisiveness is what the biggest accomplishment will be. And THEN it's a physics/engineering issue.

    But it should be worth noting that inventing machines that can think for themselves in pursuit of the phsyical "how" problem is a Very Bad Idea.
  5.  (2145.129)

    Most modern physicists are pretty convinced the graviton exists. Of course, most modern physicist 1,000 years ago thought angels pushed the planets around in their orbits.

    But regardless, one of the first of the next generation of particle accelerators is in the final stages of productions buried somewhere underneath Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider. Some think it will be enough to show the existence of the graviton, although most agree it probably won't. The main reason many theoretical physicist are so anxious, though, is because when it's finally done, they'll be able to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson particle, which the Standard Model of particle physics hinges on. The Higgs field is sort of like the molasses other particles accelerate through to gain their mass. I think the application of the Higgs boson in space travel should be pretty obvious. Again, I'm imagining a scenario where we trick nature into accelerating a heavy object at the same rate it would accelerate a much lighter object. Of course it would take some clever engineering, but goddamnit, if we can have Coors beer labels that turn blue when they're cold, we can have manageable space travel!

    Edit: I just looked up NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Program. I had no idea something like that ever existed. The only drive I read about, though, that seemed to have any merit to it was the Alcubierre drive. Still pretty interesting stuff. It's shame it's no longer funded.
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2008 edited
    Most modern physicists are pretty convinced the graviton exists.
    C'mon. Everyone knows that the real trick is to anchor our ships to Dark Matter with thin, nearly transparent transfer cables and let the equal-but-opposite orbit pull the vehicles through space at doublespeed. It's in all the old television sci-fi serials, even.
    • CommentAuthorSRT
    • CommentTimeJun 6th 2008
    I like to compare human space travel to human water travel.

    And, so far, everything we've done is the equivalent of diving into a lake, floating around on a log a bit, and then gone back to our tribal home.

    We've got a long way to go before we'll be able to build sailing ships and cross continents.
  6.  (2145.132)
    I never got my answers. I, Lazarus Thread, demand an answer to this:

    - Where the hell did this Ad Astra Rocket Company come from?
    - Is their VASMIR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket) a smaller compact version of a Bussard Ramjet using different fuel? [I hope so, otherwise what's with the magnetic field?]

    And finally...

    "39 days, darling...hmm...Whose up for a summer holiday to Mars, kids?"
  7.  (2145.133)



    More shitty space radiation for us to get through or better fuel for our now magnetic-field using acceptable engines to grab?

    ETA: Looks great though, doens't it?
  8.  (2145.134)
    ap Minos: doesn't matter. They don't fly a test article until 2013, and that test article is a 200kw drive. The theoretical Mars trip would require an engine or engines in the 20 MEGAwatt range. Four years, at best, to space-rate the toy version -- imagine how long it's going to take to crew-rate an interplanetary version that requires fifty times more power.
  9.  (2145.135)

    Yup. I know you're right. I just want me a Mars holiday...

    A MARS HOLIDAY! Nasa needs funding - Mars chocolate bars need better advertising [and a better taste in my opinion but what the hey.] It's a match made in heaven. A MILKY WAY heaven, ah? Ah?
  10.  (2145.136)
    *sorry, couldn't resist. Once you get started on those jokes, it's almost impossible to stop.
  11.  (2145.137)
    The Dynamite Thor thread got me thinking about Project Orion. In the Wikipedia article, there's a throw-away claim that according to Jerry Pournelle a single Orion launch would put enough stuff into orbit to build a permanent lunar base.

    That's an awfully tepting idea - I'm not a fan of atmospheric nuclear detonations but a couple of dozen of them as a one-off Then we harvest construction material on the moon, extract hydrogen and water and build Vasimir-dirve ships to zip around the solar system.

    With a decent budget all this could be done in 20 years - maybe even 10. But as things are now, we'll be lucky if we see it in our lifetimes.
  12.  (2145.138)
    That's an awfully tepting idea - I'm not a fan of atmospheric nuclear detonations but a couple of dozen of them as a one-off

    800 detonations, in fact, to get one Orion vessel into orbit.
  13.  (2145.139)
    We're not going.

    Whatever species of human we create to go for us will. We humans are adapted for living on the Earth and our meat will will fail in space. We have to make spacemen to go for us.

    But even assuming we can create ships that can carry this new human wherever we send it without them dying of micro meteors, radiation, and time, there's no way we can design them well enough to integrate with whatever planetary they find themselves at. And finding a habitable planet and making it a HUMAN habitat requires terraforming. Which is another technological burden for our future space men.

    Then there's the whole problem with distance, and relativistic speeds: Space is a one way trip, no matter how you cut it. And financing, and having the material resources, and a good source of power...

    We ain't going anywhere.
  14.  (2145.140)
    I’m a little confused about this nuclear propulsion concept. Are the nukes actually supposed to be shot out the arse-end of the vessel and detonated behind it? So if something goes wrong we end up with massive explosion setting off all of the conventional explosives in the undetonated nukes, which at the very least spreads a not insignificant amount of radioactive dust into the atmosphere where it blows around and drifts down on everybody?