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On-The-Horizon Technology


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Posted on Jan 4, 2011 6:42:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 4, 2011 9:45:47 AM PST
I agree, Sailor, that we need to get "people into space" in a meaningful way. Private companies are already working on it, from tourism to mining, which are the most notable enterprises with enough "profit motivation" to make them feasible. (And if we don't solve our "dearth of rare earth minerals" dilemma soon, maybe space-mining will be the way to go.)

And there are problems with "space-bots", from perception to technology. Sending a 'bot to Mars has the expectation that they will resemble Man in order to accomplish all of Man's tasks. But the technology isn't there, and the intermediate step - of observing moon bot-miners and operating them thru Wii "same movement" technology - wouldn't work on Mars, since we couldn't observe/direct them in real-time.

Sending multiple "special task" robots to Mars, would only add to the craft weight and fuel consumption. And trying to "run" multiple different 'bots on another planet, would be a gigantic headache for ground control, whether JPL or private.

Posted on Jan 4, 2011 9:22:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 4, 2011 9:24:50 AM PST
When it comes to mining or construction, I suspect that robots will "force multipliers," as it were. The 'bots would operate autonomously much of the time, and when needed, they could be operated through "Wii "same movement" technology" (it would be a good deal more sophisticated than that, but good analogy). I could imagine, say, a Lunar mining base with fifteen human beings and one hundred fifty robots of various kinds. Each person would oversee thirty robots (they would work in shifts, and the robots aren't being directly controlled most of the time). The ten people not on "roboduty" would be sleeping, enjoying time off, or doing those few things that it's still easier and cheaper to have human beings do (at least it is if you happen to have a few around anyway).

I could easily imagine such a base being more productive than a base of a hundred sixty-five human beings without robots, because the 'bots could be built specialized to their tasks, don't need all the life-support, don't need time off for sleep or fun, and for that matter don't even need time in their shifts to trudge back to base.

This would work for Mars, too. Or the asteroids, Jovian moons, etc.

Of course, if your 'bots are advanced enough you could just send the hundred fifty of them to the Moon,(*) save the costs and risks of sending human beings, and go about your Earthly business until the 'bots call back to say, "Your base will be ready in a week. Did you want one swimming pool, or two?" But not only are we not there yet, but we aren't even at the point I described above. And we will get there before we get to the "wait for them to phone home" stage.

I don't think we should assume that the thing to do is to wait for the "phone home" stage. I think we should go as soon as we can. When we get such wonderbots (and we will, eventually), great, but we shouldn't put human Space travel on hold until then.

.

(*) If they are advanced enough, you could just send two. They would do just enough mining and refining to build a robot factory, and you would then have your hundred fifty, or your hundred fifty thousand, if you needed that many. You need to send two, though, in case one gets squashed by a rock before it can build another.

Posted on Jan 4, 2011 9:58:03 AM PST
Another reason to send people with robots to distant orbs, Sailor, is the ability of a thinking human to troubleshoot and change priorities, missions or direction on the spot. (Right now it takes weeks (or longer) to get an in-space satellite to change missions, directions, etc.)

So humans accompanying 'bots would be the best possible combination, given our current conundrums of the effectiveness of AI, and the non-real-time delays of communication with 'bots far away in our solar system.

This could take the form of a one-person and robots Mission to Mars, where the human could stay in the ship in orbit, directing the robots on the surface as they explore, research or build.

And all this talk of "let just the 'bots go into space" is ignoring a major human curiosity factor: the general public, as well as astronauts all over the planet, are extremely anxious to go into space!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 4, 2011 10:23:22 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 4, 2011 10:26:01 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
"Right now it takes weeks (or longer) to get an in-space satellite to change missions, directions, etc."

The instruction set will only take minutes or hours, depending on how far away the probe is, subject to the speed of light. Any additional delay is due to the time and fuel required to change trajectory, which is the case irrespective of a nearby human operator, or, in the case of a planetary probe, to drive to a new location.

A satellite, in orbit, can be directed quite quickly to perform actions, depending on its purpose; changing its orbit of course is subject to the same delays in altering its velocity.

"and the non-real-time delays of communication with 'bots far away in our solar system."

Mars is only three to ten minutes away (assuming one-way comms), depending on the relative orbital positions of Earth and Mars. Even Voyager 1, at the edge of the Solar System is only about sixteen hours away, and it is unlikely anyone would be heading out there for any commercial comet prospecting in the near to medium future.

"This could take the form of a one-person and robots Mission to Mars, where the human could stay in the ship in orbit, directing the robots on the surface as they explore, research or build."

Not a good idea for psychological and health reasons. A single person, in such isolation, even with a communication lag of a few minutes is not a good idea. Providing long-term life support and radiation for one person would not be an economic use of the resources required - you would want at least a number of specialists, with over-lapping training just to ensure that a single emergency doesn't terminate the entire mission.

Posted on Jan 4, 2011 3:16:53 PM PST
I never thought NASA was evil or inept, just extremely underfunded. There's also a general apathy among people regarding space travel, particularly conservatives who think NASA is wasting our nation's money when it should be spent on more tangible things here on earth. Politicians are always happy to play into this lie, manipulating people by fear and greed, and people eat it up, making NASA the villain that's taking food off their tables and making their taxes rise, when in fact, NASA's budget is just a tiny tiny fraction of what's spent on the defense budget every year. This is why I have no faith in NASA or the US government to get us colonizing space, but fully expect it to happen once someone can make it profitable. That billionaire who runs Virgin Galactic is using his own money to jump past the start-up costs hurdle, because he can.

Posted on Jan 4, 2011 9:07:48 PM PST
Joseph,
If I ascribed to you a position that you do not hold, I apologize. I've heard a lot of "NASA spends billions of MY money to keep ME out of Space AAAHHHH!!!!!" nonsense over the last few years, and maybe I'm starting to "see communists in my soup," as a friend of Indiana Jones put it.

You know, BOTH of the big political parties in the US seem to think that NASA is the other party's darling: Republicans because it's Big Government, JFK gets too much credit, those science type with their global warming GGRRR!! and etc., Democrats because the money could be put to social programs, the aerospace contractors are also defense contractors so it's just Republicans paying off their rich buddies, etc.

Posted on Jan 5, 2011 7:52:46 AM PST
http://www.technewsdaily.com/skylifter-flying-saucer-replacing-blimps-helicopters-1381/

SKYLIFTER ("A new airship that is part flying saucer and part blimp could soon carry an entire building, and offer airgoers a fresh way to travel and explore.")

Airgoers? Guess that's the public version of astronauts.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 5, 2011 9:48:30 AM PST
Ronald Craig says:
"Another reason to send people with robots to distant orbs..."

I motion that we make the following revision (addition) to the rules of M&M Bingo: any use of "orb" to indicate any celestial body is worth one point.

Posted on Jan 5, 2011 7:11:16 PM PST
Airgoers would be those who go in the air. Astronauts would be spacegoers.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 5, 2011 8:20:12 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
I've gone in the air almost every time I've been on a plane. ;)

Posted on Jan 5, 2011 11:40:40 PM PST
Modern blimps and airships are cool, but it would be so much better if we could learn to manipulate gravity like we do magnetism. My personal, entirely made-up theory is that, like electricity and magnetism, it's been here in nature all along waiting to be discovered. If they could study large storms (which, incidentally, often emit great bolts of electricity for some mysterious reason), they might find at the heart of that storm, brewing with all that enormous energy potential, naturally occurring gravity anomalies able to hold small bits of hail aloft until they grow into softball sized hailstones, which we hear stories about all the time when they rain down to earth. Maybe it's wind currents holding them up, or maybe it's anti-gravity. Someone get some gravity sensors into the heart of a hurricane a mile up from the ground and please let me know how that turns out.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 5, 2011 11:42:11 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
No, it's wind. A lot of wind. A lot of hot air in motion.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 4:54:19 AM PST
Sailor -

Good point. I was trying to make the distinction, tho', that for the general public who could never pass the rigorous training to be an astronaut, that being an "airgoer" may be the best way to travel off-planet.

JDM -

Tesla was working with lightning when he died.

And, if you are interested, I started a long thread on "Anti-Gravity From Magnetics" that is farther back in the pages. Lots of spirited debate. As well as disingenuous misdirection, put-downs and trivialization by the resident pests, whom you've already encountered.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2011 6:57:44 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2011 6:59:39 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
"Airgoers? Guess that's the public version of astronauts."

The SkyLifter is the latest in the line of aerostats; it has a maximum altitude ceiling of about ten thousand feet because there is no cabin pressurization. To take it higher would reduce the payload capability. The design relies on helium (or hydrogen) for lift, so this is purely an atomspheric craft, with, I imagine a maximum ceiling of thirty thousand feet if pressurization were added, which would further reduce the cargo payload.

"I was trying to make the distinction, tho', that for the general public who could never pass the rigorous training to be an astronaut, that being an "airgoer" may be the best way to travel off-planet."

Skylifter isn't a spacecraft: it's an airship.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 11:23:33 AM PST
Joseph D.M.

The only hope, I think, is for magnetic monopoles to exist. If that was the case, you could make a nifty flying saucer, as explained by Physicist Dr. Michio Kaku in his TV series. I have a link somewhere to the video on one of these threads. Search for Michio.

See recent article on monopoles -> http://news.discovery.com/space/on-the-trail-of-magnetic-monopoles.html

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 11:25:32 AM PST
Hey Ron and M.H.,

I discovered this site while looking for monopoles. A physicist keeps a blog about the theories behind some of the concepts mentioned in the TV show "Big Bang Theory".

Blog-> http://thebigblogtheory.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/welcome-to-the-big-blog-theory/
Monopoles episode where Sheldon goes to the Arctic to search for them -> http://thebigblogtheory.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/s02e03-the-monopolar-expedition/

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2011 11:53:12 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Bob,

Some bad news for your monopole hunt: 'Predicted by theory but never glimpsed, magnetic monopoles may be so rare that hunting them is futile: the upper limit on the number of these lone magnetic poles that can exist in our patch of the universe has been slashed.'

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19265-magnetic-monopole-deficit-hints-that-hunt-is-futile.html

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 11:55:08 AM PST
With all the advances in materials technology, we *must* be getting close to vacuum airships. I realize we're not there, but we've got to be getting close.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2011 12:10:53 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Sailor,

"With all the advances in materials technology, we *must* be getting close to vacuum airships. I realize we're not there, but we've got to be getting close."

Not yet: the material has to be sufficiently rigid to prevent external air pressure causing the balloon to collapse but lighter than the lifting force of the vacuum. To get any meaningful effect your balloon must be *big* because the air pressure is proportional to the surface area and the density is inversely proportional to volume.

So to make it work, you have to use a material that still resides in the realms of science fiction.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 12:20:42 PM PST
I love the new stuff they're doing with modern airships. Vacuum airships? I've never heard of that before, but it sounds like a great idea. What's lighter than nothing? Oh yeah, something that generates it's own anti-gravity field, converting electricity to gravity the same way we convert electricity to magnetism. I know Tesla was studying this, and Albert Einstein was also obsessed with linking those three forces. Sometimes I wonder if solving this problem might be a test, somewhat like 'The Monolith' in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A space Odyssey. The clues were there in nature since before the dawn of civilization, just waiting for us to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2011 1:12:51 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2011 1:15:54 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
"Vacuum airships? I've never heard of that before, but it sounds like a great idea."

Written about by Francesco Lana de Terzi in 1670...

"I know Tesla was studying this"

Tesla worked with electromagnetism; he was not working on antigravity but on a simple magnetic levitation device: mag lev devices are now fairly common. Unfortunately 'antigravity', 'free energy' and Tesla are examples of modern myths.

"Albert Einstein was also obsessed with linking those three forces."

Einstein's general relativity doesn't consider gravity to be a force but a curvature of spacetime. You may be confusing the four fundamental interactions: electromagnetism, strong interaction (strong nuclear force), weak interaction (weak nuclear force) and gravitation.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 7:09:00 PM PST
My favorite was when MythBusters actually made a lead balloon fly using helium (and very very thin lead foil).

I wonder how much structural support is needed to resist 14.7 lbs/sq. inch. Here is a cool rendering of such an *impossible* ship.
http://www.rusring.net/~levin/levin3d/dz.htm

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 7:10:36 PM PST
Thanks for the link, MH. Goodbye, monopols. We hardly knew ya.

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 8:29:07 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
Hey, Bob, thanks! It's great to see links THAT WORK and actually lead to something interesting! :P

Ah, Russian! Vakuumnyi Dirizhibl'? Vacuum Dirigible! :D

Love that artwork. Nice!

Posted on Jan 6, 2011 10:11:00 PM PST
That illustration is gorgeous. An aerodynamic nightmare, but hey.

This is probably how it would be done, though: bags held open (we probably have materials that can do this already... kevlar?) by as little rigid structure as possible (the part we don't have yet).

Geodesic globes? We must be getting close.
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  44
Total posts:  1015
Initial post:  Jul 29, 2010
Latest post:  Aug 31, 2013

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