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  1.  (5884.1)
    @Artemis
    I know they've switched horses, I just hope that the Ares V proves to be technologically advanced enough to make a dent in the monetary black hole that is space travel. But I seriously doubt that.

    @looneynerd
    "And because the commies are doing it too."
    -Unknown

    Some say some exploring had been previously done before the "media event" that was the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. But that's somewhat beside the point. Unless some weird, super duper mineral is found, I doubt space exploration can be profitable with current technologies, even if we found gold and diamonds on Mars. So that puts space travel somewhere in the art department. "Food for the soul, but not very useful for anything else"

    I still say developing technologies that make space travel immensely cheaper and safer is the only way for us to properly colonize the stars. THEN mass produce ships with said technology, make the price drop even more and head for the stars. Invest on the theoretical first, then put it to use.
    •  
      CommentAuthorNumberIV
    • CommentTimeJul 20th 2009
     (5884.2)
    I still say developing technologies that make space travel immensely cheaper and safer is the only way for us to properly colonize the stars. THEN mass produce ships with said technology, make the price drop even more and head for the stars. Invest on the theoretical first, then put it to use.


    With that logic, America wouldn't have been colonized until we had luxury cruise liners and 747's
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      CommentAuthorstsparky
    • CommentTimeJul 20th 2009
     (5884.3)
    People's expectations are off.

    I hope the next 'hot' tech toy isn't another scooter like the Segway - while I want people to be invested in the performance of our explorer robots. And I want to see shared control of millions of tiny nanobots giving a tele-presence to any schoolkid with a computer.

    I want to see mass drivers for cargo by next year. And I want to see space planes by 2010.
    • CommentAuthorZJVavrek
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.4)
    I... I am not really sure if that's meant to be silly or not.

    Next year is 2010.

    re: In Spaaaaace,

    I think exploration and so on is a good idea for this idea expressed in Kennedy's speech: "because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills". It's not because it's going to be profitable, ever, god no. It's because it is an amazing goal upon which to focus our incredible capacity for development and research, because in doing so we will all reap the benefit of the R&D which simply went in to doing what was never done before.

    In short, it gives us something to do. I mean, the fuck else were we doing?*

    *That, of course, is the perfect launching point for many excellent arguments against space exploration.
    • CommentAuthor/
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.5)
    @ stsparky - I'd like to get a more specific idea of what you mean by this; <blockquote>I want to see shared control of millions of tiny nanobots giving a tele-presence to any schoolkid with a computer.</blockquote> Do you have anything particular in mind?
    Not to be overly sentimental, but seeing the words "nanobots" and "schoolkids" in the same sentence makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
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      CommentAuthorstsparky
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.6)
    I know Draper Labs had a robotic Condor planned. Now imagine millions of inexpensive micro-rovers dropped over the most interesting bits of Mars, and giving the steering wheel to school kids. I like the idea of adult supervision coordinating this - but this could do real science cheaply.
    • CommentAuthor/
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.7)
    Oh! You mean letting kids drive real world vehicles in what seems to them like a virtual environment (read: video game), right?
    That could be extremely productive. Kids think of all kinds of things that adults don't.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.8)
    "I know Draper Labs had a robotic Condor planned. Now imagine millions of inexpensive micro-rovers dropped over the most interesting bits of Mars, and giving the steering wheel to school kids. I like the idea of adult supervision coordinating this - but this could do real science cheaply."

    "Hey dude look what happens when I crash the robot straight into the side of this cliff."
    • CommentAuthor/
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009 edited
     (5884.9)
    @ Kosmopolit - I don't think Sparky meant physical vehicles.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.10)
    A few thoughts:

    - The early exploration of North America and Australia killed far more people than have died in space and both continents were basket cases for decades surviving on government subsidies and investment from overly optimist sponsors who ended up losing their shirts for the most part.

    - Read books by astronauts like The Other Side of the Moon. Again and again, the technology developed on Earth didn't operate as planned in space and it was the astronauts on the spot who saved the missions. you can theorise the "ideal" solution to a problem but nothing matches hitting the start button and standing back. you might also want to compare the Russian Luna moon sample return mission and the Apollo 14 mission. The Luna probe brought back 300 grams of soil from the random point at which it landed. The Apollo 14 mission brought back around 100 KILOgrams of samples - and they were chosen by the astronauts in consultation with geologists back on Earth.

    - Pretty much every stage of space exploration has paid for itself many times over - communication satellites; weather satellites' Earth-observation satellites; the geological data from the moon rock samples transformed theories about the evolution of the Earth - and geologists use those theories every day in looking for mineral samples. The high efficiency solar cells being used here on Earth come from space applications ditto for fuel cells.
    • CommentAuthor/
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009 edited
     (5884.11)
    @ Kosmopolit - Ok, you win. I'll keep my ideas to myself from now on. At least until I can afford to learn to read on a socially approvable level and what not.

    Also, space is ART. Whether or not what we do with it is useful or otherwise. Surely we can all agree on that, right?
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.12)
    There are not stupid questions.

    Well not in this thread anyway.
    •  
      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.13)
    Under that logic we'd all be flying in B-52's because they use "tried and true technology".


    The B-52 is still a cornerstone of the US bomber force. Not bad for a plane that was designed in the 1950s.

    As was mentioned upthread, the shuttle fleet is old, expensive, and definitely not functioning on a level it was intended to be. I'm hoping the whole "40th Anniversary" thing will help people remember how fucking awesome space is, but I don't really see that happening now that July 20th has come and gone. Unfortunately.

    And Kosmopolit, you forgot Tang. And that wacky memory foam stuff that supposedly came from NASA. Surely these are scientific wonders from space? (tongue-in-cheek, of course)
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.14)
    I'll settle for stuff like the IC circuit boards developed for Apollo which were the direct ancestors of the boards used in the first PCs.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.15)
    And also, it taught us how to be really efficient at killing space monkeys... what? Too soon?
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.16)
    Sorry, but I've got to say this - the moon landings were rubbish.

    They were a terrific technological achievement, sure, but just doing it a few times seems a bit pointless now. I'd far rather have seen a space infrastructure put in place earlier, so that exploration could have been done from orbit, rather than just lobbing up really big rockets. That's sort of the plan now, as I understand it, but it's like they blew their load far too early and then couldn't keep it up after that.

    Also - maybe a weird question, but is there any reason why the shuttles couldn't be left up in space once once they reached their end of life dates? Surely it would be easier to lob up fuel and astronauts in smaller vehicles, so that the shuttles could be used as runabouts, of sorts, rather than lifting the whole lot up and down again?
    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.17)
    > That's sort of the plan now, as I understand it, but it's like they blew their load far too early and then couldn't keep it up after that.

    Bit of a worry.

    How will life be, on Earth, in two to five hundred years from now? Will it still sustain some culture that's able to venture into space, or will everyone be too poor in some (natural resource) way? If there are some trillions of dollars that could be spent, mightn't it perhaps be better to invest it in improving the infrastructure on earth, to make that more sustainable?

    And I think that is in fact what the plan is now.
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      CommentAuthorbjacques
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009 edited
     (5884.18)
    @Oddcult:

    Wernher von Braun was also of the opinion that we should build the big double-donut-shaped space station as a staging area for further exploration. Hence the 1950s-era magazine articles (and the lovely Chesley Bonestell illustrations) along those lines. Even the Air Force was interested in a Manned Orbiting Lab (MOL) that could be serviced by the Gemini program. But when the space race actually got going, all that stuff fell by the wayside. By all (later incorrect) accounts, the USSR had a moon rocket too, so it became a big stunt.

    Had the US kepts its strong 1950s-1960s economy and stayed out of Vietnam, maybe we would have folded the Apollo program into something more sustainable. One idea was to lift an empty Saturn first stage all the way to moon to use as a shell for a base, though that was really a project looking for a new mission.

    Re parking decommissioned Shuttles up in orbit:

    There were similar proposals for the big orange fuel tank that gets dropped not too long after main engine cutoff (about 9 minutes after launch). Problem is you couldn't park it in a high enough orbit to prevent the fringes of earth's atmosphere from dragging it back down back to earth eventually. You also had the additional danger of the remnants of hydrogen and oxygen blowing up and creating a cloud of space junk in the shipping lanes, as it were.

    A decommissioned Space Shuttle would need fuel for the Reaction Control System (RCS) engines to keep it from tumbling, or fuel for the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) to lift it out of a decaying orbit, or LO2 and LH2 in the fuel cells to power anything, all tough to replenish in space. It would become a derelict that would eventually come tumbling and flaming back to earth. As we saw with Columbia, large bits survived reentry, scattered across mostly empty Texas farmland.
    • CommentAuthorMechanist
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.19)
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    Well from what I have heard from some old folks I hang about with too much NASA was not meant to be a spaceship operator in the manner they are now. The original intent behind them was for them to constantly push to each new limit, develop the tech for it all then hand it over to private enterprise and say "Crack on chaps"

    For some reason this didn't happen like it was supposed to and they ended up stagnating for it.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeJul 21st 2009
     (5884.20)
    There are now Reports confirming and and denying that the ISS will be purposely allowed to de-orbit as early as 2016, meaning that it'd only have a fully-completed operational life of 6 years.