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Customer Discussions > Science Fiction forum

Race To Space: Exploration, Commercial or Tourist Driven?


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Showing 51-75 of 1000 posts in this discussion
Posted on Aug 31, 2009 12:25:24 PM PDT
Of course space travel, exploration, won't really take off until it can be made profitable. Someone has to pay for it, and as long as that someone is a notoriously fickle taxpaying electorate, it's going to be, at best, an on again - off again proposition. Once space travel can pay for itself through exploitation of off-earth resources it'll will boom.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 31, 2009 12:40:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 31, 2009 12:41:22 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Mark,

"Once space travel can pay for itself through exploitation of off-earth resources it'll will boom."

The problem is the sheer cost of setting up and maintaining an infrastructure to reach off-earth resources. Travelling to the Moon or to Near Earth Orbit asteroids is expensive. Solar power might be feasible, but the means of transmitting the power back to Earth is tricky (beamed microwave radiation?)

Doing anything worthwhile needs massive long-term financial backing, and private enterprise simply won't/can't foot the bill: the building of massive megastructures on Earth such as under-sea tunnels can cripple and break a private company; space travel is much more expensive.

Posted on Sep 1, 2009 9:39:00 AM PDT
Hi Zack!

No, I've never read any sci fi featuring "space elevators". I find the concept difficult to comprehend, let alone get the money to pay for it. (Why don't they put the bucks into discovering anti-gravity? Would eliminate the whole problem of lift-off and getting beyond Earth's atmosphere and gravity field.)

Hi Mark!

Thanks for posting. Yes, you are right on the mark about making space "profitable". You may want to read all the posts in this discussion, for the sub-topic of current inventors and companies who are aiming to "mine" asteroids and comets.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2009 11:03:13 AM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
"Why don't they put the bucks into discovering anti-gravity?"

Because there's no basis in physics as yet for anti-gravity, and space elevators are based on potentially practical materials and engineering?

Posted on Sep 1, 2009 11:16:18 AM PDT
Mr. Vulcan says:
The tourist thing is good to keep the rockets flying, but some major commercial venture, and some government push for exploration is needed to really get somewhere. Maybe China's got a willing government. Brittan and the US have commercial aspirations.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2009 11:21:14 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
"No, I've never read any sci fi featuring "space elevators". I find the concept difficult to comprehend, let alone get the money to pay for it. (Why don't they put the bucks into discovering anti-gravity? Would eliminate the whole problem of lift-off and getting beyond Earth's atmosphere and gravity field.)"

They appear in a LOT of good science fiction. Read The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke. It explains the concept and the construction.

Sheesh.

Marilyn "Charlene Manson" Martin, slaughtering reason wherever she can!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2009 12:09:07 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Ronald,

"Marilyn "Charlene Manson" Martin, slaughtering reason wherever she can!"

Our Project Dumbo agent provocateur has been entirely eclipsed on the "Do aliens really exist?" thread...

There are a surprsing number of organizations looking seriously at space elevators and 'simpler', 'cheaper' constructs such as a space fountain or hypersonic orbital skyhook.

Posted on Sep 1, 2009 12:09:24 PM PDT
Zack G.C. says:
I just mentioned that in my last post, Ronald.

Marilyn, if you like Clarke, I recommend it, if you don't... well, it's nothing different.
I'm not a big Clarke fan. A bit dry and sparse on characterization for me. Except Childhood's End, which was pretty good.

Posted on Sep 1, 2009 4:31:28 PM PDT
The reason not to put the bucks towards anti-gravity instead of space elevators is because the laws of nature allow space elevators to exist, but they do not allow anti-gravity.

Also, even if AG were somehow possible, what makes you so sure it would be any cheaper than other methods of resiting gravity? The cheapest way today to overcome gravity is to haul something up on a rope. This is basically what a space elevator does.

Go to YouTube and type in "space elevator" (with the quotation marks) and you will understand the concept in less than ten minutes.

Posted on Sep 2, 2009 10:24:01 AM PDT
Hi Sailor!

OK, I researched the Space Elevator. It's an intriguing idea, and scientifically plausible. But the most necessary component is not currently available.

The main sticking point is the "tether". spaceward.org/elevator2010 has started a contest, with a million dollar prize, for whoever can come up with a "tether" with sufficient "strength-to-weight ratio" to operate as a Space Elevator. (Everyone's hoping carbon nanotubes may be part of the solution.)

Hi Zack!

Thanks for the book recommendation. Elsewhere in this forum, it was discussed how sci fi authors chasing the latest invention on the horizon, can sometimes get burned. By the time their new book highlighting the "latest invention" comes out, the idea/invention has been shot down or proved invalid.

Although most sci fi authors use anti-gravity or artificial-gravity as a "given". From spacecraft with artificial-gravity so everyone can walk around, to easy landings/take-offs from distant worlds using anti-gravity.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2009 11:27:33 AM PDT
Mr. Vulcan says:
Word up homey. Actually I still like some sort of rocket for getting up there. As for breaking orbit and really going somewhere, An Orion booster would totally solve proliferation and interplanetary propulsion problems in the short term. And spur the development of more permanent solutions.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2009 3:40:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 2, 2009 3:48:14 PM PDT
Since NASA can hardly ever get approval to launch a rocket with a little bit of Plutonium for power, I don't think anyone will ever build an Orion Rocket (using H-bomb explosions for power). Even if they were REALLY clean bombs. How will they get all those bombs up there in the first place?

Personally, I think that hypersonic engines have the best shot in the near term, since they can theoretically get up to Mach 20.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2009 3:46:31 PM PDT
Hi Marilyn,

Since you like magnetics as a way to opposing gravity, you should look up a "space fountain" in Wikipedia. It uses magnetism and momentum to hold up a giant structure (many many miles high) that would normally collapse under its own weight.

The nice thing about a space elevator is that all you need is one teeny-tiny long thread to start. From that, you send up a small elevator to haul up another thread and stitch it to the first one. You keep doing this until you have a nice thick ribbon. The most interesting part of Arthur C. Clark's 3001 novel was the appendix where he states that he became convinced that the technologies he posits are much closer to becoming reality in the near term instead of in 1,000 years.

Posted on Sep 2, 2009 3:53:25 PM PDT
Another advantage of a space fountain is that it doesn't need superstrong materials.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2009 8:09:27 AM PDT
Hi Bob and Sailor!

I looked up "space fountain" in wikipedia. Interesting idea. I just wonder if we currently have the engineering skills to build a tower that high.

In the same vein, nextbigfuture.com reports more testing of a "Sanswire Stratellite". Or an unmanned airship sent up for days or weeks into the stratosphere, eventually achieving 65,000 feet above Earth. It would carry mainly communications payloads, and is called a MALE (Mid-Altitude Long Endurance) UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

So the ideas for innovative and now-achievable launch vehicles is moving along nicely. And I applaud every step!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2009 12:03:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 3, 2009 12:05:13 PM PDT
Hi Sailor Barsoom, (PS...love the name!!)

Yup - you don't need super strong materials for the space fountain. Thanks for clarifying.

Hi Marilyn,
Lockheed has the (less sexist named) HAA. See-> http://www.lockheedmartin.com/products/HighAltitudeAirship/index.html

Still, 65,000 feet is less than 13 miles. Space starts up at around 62 miles. So technically these are not going to get us into space. There are some ideas for floating platforms that you could launch FROM, since launching from a few miles up would take a lot less energy. However, I'm not sure that any of the companies involved is ship design have that as a viable option. Maybe others on this post know.

Posted on Sep 3, 2009 2:09:59 PM PDT
Hi Bob!

No, the MALE (love the name!) UAV isn't really a launch-into-space concept. But it does open up the stratosphere as a sort of pre-space arena for certain satellites and studies.

Maybe someday we'll have a series of platforms or stations between Earth and the moon, making travel amid our two little orbs cheaper, with shorter range spacecraft.

And now, since many in this forum have happily been decoding Newmoney's "I'm bored" encryption, I'm working on something for FEMALE. How about "Fascinatingly Endless Monograms About Ladies' Entertainment"? Or maybe "Finding Elusive Molecules Amid Land Energies"? Or perhaps "Forever Entails Males And Ladies Entanglements"? (Alas, I must be bored too ...)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2009 2:27:28 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 3, 2009 2:28:10 PM PDT
Hey Marilyn, don't forget that we've already had high altitude balloons that go up over 65,000 feet already. So I'm not sure these new items will open things up that much more. Here's an example of a sun observation telescope being sent up to 23 miles high by balloon-> http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/090527-balloon-telescope.html

PS... for FEMALE : Fancy Environmentalist Makes A Lame Educator

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2009 2:36:52 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Bob,

"So I'm not sure these new items will open things up that much more."

The main difference is that some of these UAVs are intended to stay 'on station' for months at a time, meaning that they can act as cheap 'satellites' for television transmission or for surveillance. They tend to move pretty slowly, and some of the prototypes are rumored to have already been mistaken by 'flying saucer' fans as alien spaceships. Because of their height and size they may only become visible at dawn and dusk and carry lights to prevent collisions. There was an article in Janes a year or two back.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2009 2:51:22 PM PDT
Thanks, Martin!

OK, here is a different subject. What really irks me is that, after having spent all this money to build the International Space Station, NASA is basically looking for someone else to take it over once they 'finish' it. (At least that what I've heard).

Couldn't they turn the ISS into a Lunar Cycler? Wouldn't that be a much more comfortable way for astronauts to get to the Moon and back? I would bet there would also be many more people interested in being space tourists if they could have a trip around the moon.

I've never seen any discussion of this as a possible function for the ISS. Has anyone else?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2009 3:01:47 PM PDT
Hi Bob!

From what I read in nextbigfuture.com, these "Sanswire Stratellites" are being designed to stay aloft for days or weeks, and carry (as of now) communications payloads.

And, like I offered in my last post, maybe it's just the first "stepping stone" to a more permanent stratospheric platform or outpost.

LOVED your environmentalist acronym! How about a new feed store in the Serengeti, named "Favorably Enriching Monsterous Animals Like Elephants"?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 3, 2009 11:21:18 PM PDT
M. Helsdon says:
Bob,

The ISS is roughly 220 miles up; to turn it into a lunar cycler, or to push it to a higher orbit would require significant thrust (either quickly, or slowly with, say an ion thruster, and a suitable engine unit does not yet exist) and it isn't built for that sort of stress. Even though a lunar cycler relies on gravity assist, it would be necessary to push the ISS into such a trajectory, and the rate at which it would then return to Earth would pose a problem for launch windows to meet it where the shuttle and Soyuz can reach it, and major safety issues for its crew in the event of an emergency away from Earth. At perigee, all practical lunar cyclers would be in a higher orbit than the shuttle or Soyuz can reach, so you would need either another space station near Earth with a 'tug' to reach the cycler or an improved means of reaching orbit (a better shuttle, a Soyuz with another stage). There would be other technicalities, such as a need for additional radiation shielding (cosmic rays, Van Allen belt radiation etc.)

It could be done but would be very expensive.

Posted on Sep 4, 2009 1:43:25 AM PDT
Does anyone think that, for the forseeable future, space exploration will be mostly done by governments and the VERY wealthy, but in the distant future may become common (i.e. affordable to Joe Everyman)? I like to think so. The science fictionist in me says "yes" but the hard scientist in me says "dream on".

I sometimes worry we are truly condemned to this world for the remainder of human history.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 4, 2009 7:39:40 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 4, 2009 7:43:48 AM PDT
Hi Nate/Fake!

If you'll read earlier postings in this discussion, you'll see how Joe Everymen have start-up companies even now, mainly to mine gold and water from asteroids and comets. And the first Spaceport has broken ground in New Mexico, aligned with Virgin, to offer tourists mainly an up-to-the-edge-of-space and down-again experience.

"Any country that doesn't explore, is going to ultimately recede." Scott Parazynski (former Apollo 11 astronaut)

Posted on Sep 4, 2009 8:29:28 AM PDT
I expect that Space EXPLORATION will remain the job of government for some time. But Joe Everyman might get to be a tourist in less than ten years, if he's Joe Richman. Or if he can wrangle the right sort of job, he might get to work in Space. A lot of people who work on cruise ships can't afford to take cruises, at least not very often.

As standards of living rise and the cost of Space access goes down, more people will be able to go, because it won't cost as much, and the people themselves will be richer.
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  93
Total posts:  2795
Initial post:  Jun 2, 2009
Latest post:  Aug 31, 2013

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