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Race To Space: Exploration, Commercial or Tourist Driven?


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Posted on Feb 17, 2010 5:14:33 PM PST
So again, it gets down to launch costs.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2010 7:12:45 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
And lack of FTL capacity.

(Oh, those stingy ETs! When are they going to share their tech with us?!)

Posted on Feb 17, 2010 9:01:49 PM PST
If Sailor is referring to the mining of this cluster of galaxies some 250 million light years away it isn't launch costs that would keep us from mining those galaxies it's the distance. We could get there in 250 million light years at the speed of light and when we get there they may not be there!
It makes no sense to even consider that kind of place to look for minerals or anything else!
There are enough moons and planets we could choose from right here in our own solar sysytem.
Our own moon is probably a treasure trove of minerals as is Mars and it's moons not to mention the Jovian moons and Saturn's moons as well. Even here on Earth we haven't explored every place there is. Plus the oceans cover a lot of ground. We've barely touched on the oceans' floor for minerals. I think it would be less expensive and dangerous to explore the oceans' floor than to explore space. We've done some drilling for oil and gas but not much else.
It seems to me to make a whole lot more sense to look here rather than there!
And on top of all this talk is the fact that NASA is just about out of the business of manned space flight! With the cancelling of the plans to return to the moon the attention for NASA will go to robotic exploration or our solar system. I get the impression that NASA and the future of space flight is in serious doubt. It seems the government is going to focus on people and what they need rather than exploring for the sake of exploring.
For the immediate future that focus is going to be on resurrecting the economy and creating new jobs. Those people and companies involved with NASA could and probably will redirect their efforts to saving the environment through technologies to clean water, air and developing clean power sources.
If our children and their children can convince countries like China and India to develop their economies with clean energy sources and to cut their emisions and stop fighting with the West over who did what first.
But my own opinion is we'll never get an agreement to do anything that will accomplish anything.
People can't see it so it isn't important. And in this country we have idiots like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck screaming that all the scientific information is hogwash and a very large portion of America believes them because that very large portion of America is illiterate and open to fear which is what Beck and Limbaugh want to create. When you have a populace that is in fear that they are going to lose their jobs and you have an illiterate populace you have people who are not interested in doing anything to help to correct a situation they don't believe exists.
These people are not really interested in space flight except those UFOs and the little green men that very large illiterate portion of Americans who believe in them because their cousin saw one in his chicken coup last August and shot at it with his shotgun and that little bug-eyed MF shot back
and then disappeared in that UFO flyin' saucer thing. Oh yes my friends these people believe in UFOs and extraterrestrials but not in climate change. Oh yes my friends the end is near!
This isn't going to be the American century! This is going to be the century of anarchy!
I don't really care. I'll be dead in a very short time now but my kids and grandkids are going to suffer and yours are too. As the world's population continues to grow things are going to get worse. The 21st century is not going to be nice. It's going to be more violent than the last century! If you think World War II was bad with 55 million dead you ain't seen nothing yet!
It's not gonna happen in 2012! I don't know when it's going to happen but it's going to happen.
When the population hits 12 billion in 2050 and goes on growing the world is going to become a much more dangerous place as populations begin looking for food and water and start spreading out into other countries.
Space flight isn't going to help that situation.

Posted on Feb 18, 2010 8:06:23 AM PST
OK, first off, I wasn't suggesting lower launch costs so that we could mine far-off galactic clusters. I was suggesting lower launch costs so we can mine the Moon, the asteroids, the comets, even the other moons of our Solar System. But mostly, our own moon and asteroids (with maybe the odd comet thrown in). However, I didn't make this clear, and that's my fault.

In order for everybody on Earth to have a high standard of living, there will have to be a huge amount of energy made available. There are four ways to this:

MOAR FOSSIL!
Drill baby drill, import that oil from wherever, dig up ALL the coal and put that natural gas to use! This isn't really enough for the whole world, but the current industrialized world could continue for quite some time this way, as long as we keep the rest of the world in grinding poverty. The environmental price will be hideous, but there you go.

DUKE NUKEM
Build a lot of nuclear power plants, especially fast-breeder reactors. We'll find some place to put all that waste, and we'll just have to deal with nuclear proliferation. Hopefully, a rising standard of living will de-radicalize populations around the world, mitigating terrorism, and the nations will be so tangled in trade that they don't dare nuke each other. Wonder if we can survive the transition?

FUSION
Eventually, somebody will make this work. Eventually. We could pour thirty billion a year into this, and probably get it working within the next thirty years. Of course, they've been saying that for over thirty years. As of right now, the technology simply does not exist.

LET THE SUN SHINE IN
I'm not talking ground-based solar here. Ground-based solar has the problems of cloudy days, the sunlight being weaker in the morning and afternoon than at noon, and of course a little phenomenon commonly known as night. That is to say: IT'S DARK HALF THE TIME!!
No, I'm talking powersats here. Unlike fossil, there's no greenhouse gasses or other pollutants. Unlike nuclear, there's no waste, and no bomb-making materials. Unlike fusion, every single technology needed to do it not only has been invented, but demonstrated, though not at the scale needed. Finally, there is enough energy available for the entire world. However, the start-up cost is high, and too high unless we get those launch costs down.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 19, 2010 2:56:09 AM PST
Sailor:
If we could find a way to commit massive genocide without nuclear weapons and eliminate the populations of China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Manchuria, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, the Phillipines, Australia and the South Pacific islands, all of the "stans" (Afghanistan etc.), Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, the other Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, the entire continent of Africa, Mexico and Central America, Cuba, and all of South America. That leaves the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean Islands, Europe and Russia and selected South Pacific islands like Tahiti. Our power needs would dwindle to very manageable levels. We would eliminate a huge amount of polution and greenhouse gases.

Posted on Feb 19, 2010 7:38:35 AM PST
Yeah, that would do it. Of course, if you got rid Canada, Russia, and the US, you could keep Japan and South America.

Oh, and what about Australia?

I really think that making new resources available is a better way to go. The Solar System could cheerfully develop an affluent, high-tech population into the hundreds of billions.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 19, 2010 8:40:47 AM PST
Sailor:
You can make new resources too but the less population you have to feed and
deal with is the real selling point!
I already said Australia would have to go along with Japan and South America.
I'd vote for Russia too to go but with all their nuclear weapons it might be rather difficult. Since I'm an American I want the U.S. and Canada to survive and prosper. Leaving the U.S., Canada and Europe to be the lone countries or entities would be a positive thing. That's approx. one (1) billion people vs 6.5 billion people! We could provide resources for approx. one (1) billion people quite easily I think. The U.S. and Canada have a strong and long ancestry with the Europeans so it makes sense to have those population groups be continued.
There is no logical reason to continue to expand the population of the planet. It's counterproductive.
There is no reason to keep Japan or South America. Neither provides anything to the equation. Japan provides more people and South America provides more people but nothing else. The Amazon basin and the surrounding rain forest would not be subject to anymore destruction. What raw materials that South America has in it's geography can be got at and exploited for our use. The same goes for Africa and the other countries. But they don't have to be depleted at the rate they are now. We can get all the oil and gas and other materials out of the Middle Eastern countries then without having to deal with these religious fanatics that populate that area now. I'm saving Israel of course because of it's importance to both Judaism and Christianity. Those Palestinians and Muslims in Israel would have to go too. That would leave only two (2) religious groups left: Jews and Christians.
Those two (2) groups get along for the most part, Mel Gibson not withstanding.
I believe it would be a much more peaceful world.

Posted on Feb 19, 2010 11:32:58 AM PST
I think that when the global standard of living goes up, the growth of population will slow dramatically. That's what's happened in the US, Canada, Japan, and Europe. As long as there is sufficient material resources and energy (without wrecking the environment), population seems to take care of itself.

The asteroid Ceres alone has the resources to build O'Neill habitats for a trillion or more people, and there is enough other stuff out there that they can all be multimillionaires by today's standards.

Increased automation will bring down prices of almost everything, except things which are valuable *because* they are hand made.

Christians and Jews get along fairly well NOW, but that's a recent and perhaps fleeting situation. Fortunately, wars are over resources (such as land, water, oil, timber) instead of faith or political ideology. Faith and ideology are useful justifications for war, but not the causes. But when everybody is rich and there's more land and other resources than can be used, there's nothing to fight over.

Our future is one in which everything is cheap and everybody is rich. If we don't kill ourselves first.

Posted on Feb 19, 2010 12:26:45 PM PST
I guess you could file this article under "It was inevitable" ...

http://www.asylum.com/2010/02/18/travel-agents-space-vacations-beverly-rother-virgin-galactic/

Travel agents are now "booking" for Virgin Galactic's $200,000 ... vacation? (Apparently the price includes a few days of "training". Or, more likely, screening out anyone who could possibly Meet-Their-Cosmic-Maker during the flight.)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 19, 2010 2:01:49 PM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "I guess you could file this article under "It was inevitable" ..."

What was "inevitable" was that the article was written by a 20- or 30-something slacker smart-a** who cares not an inkling about space enterprise or anything else outside the entertainment industry.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 19, 2010 6:17:32 PM PST
Walter: Space Elevator. I'm for it. Many hurdles to overcome, not least of which is the psychological one to the unnatural-seeming shape of it. And also overcoming the rocket mindset wil take some doing. The recent elevator failure in Dubai is a setback for the space elevator.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 19, 2010 9:44:37 PM PST
I have to agree. To think I interrupted an article about giving LSD to psychotic children just to read... that.

But Marilyn does link to a lot of groovy stuff, so I can forgive her this one easy enough. Good luck for the next one.

Posted on Feb 20, 2010 7:37:51 AM PST
Walter and Sailor -

Didn't mean to get everyone upset. I find a "related" article to a topic, I'll post it. Cameron's upcoming prequel-book to "Avatar" was one example. And the above post on travel agents now recruiting for Virgin Galactic was another. I guess "on topic" means different things to different people. Sorry!

Posted on Feb 20, 2010 8:47:54 AM PST
Your link was on topic. The guy who wrote it is a pretentious "see? I'm snarky about everything and that makes me kewl!" jerk, but that doesn't mean your link wasn't on topic. I don't expect you to be on eternal Jerk Patrol.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2010 12:51:56 PM PST
To Bill S:
The "psychological" hurdle is the least of the difficulties. Human beings in general are extremely adaptable creatures. When the space elevator finally becomes a reality, the vast majority of people will have no problem adjusting to a new frame of reference. Of course, there will be a few who will never adjust, just as there are a small minority of people who are afraid of flying and will never fly!

I don't think that elevator malfunction in Dubai will effect the space elevator at all. The actual erection and operation of the space elevator is, at the minimum, several decades away. There will be no reason for people to remember an elevator malfunction that was several decades in their past.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2010 12:59:10 PM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "I guess "on topic" means different things to different people. Sorry!"

There's nothing for you to be sorry about. I am in total agreement with what Sailor Barsoom said on the subject.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2010 1:38:29 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Walter,

"Human beings in general are extremely adaptable creatures. When the space elevator finally becomes a reality, the vast majority of people will have no problem adjusting to a new frame of reference."

And as a concept, they predate manned-flight - the 'Tsiolkovsky' tower concept dates from the late Nineteenth Century.

"Of course, there will be a few who will never adjust, just as there are a small minority of people who are afraid of flying and will never fly!"

The biggest issue, after actual construction, will be the radiation as the cars or capsules relatively slowly transit up through the Van Allen belts -- unless they stop off at a passenger terminus at about the same altitude as the International Space Station. Anyone on the ISS is exposed to about 1 millisievert of radiation per day, equivalent to a year's exposure back on Earth, as even in its low orbit it skims the Inner Belt.

Posted on Feb 20, 2010 2:43:49 PM PST
It wouldn't be practical on a rocket, but a SE cabin could have electromagnetic shielding. All the necessary power could be sent up (or down!) the ribbon itself, or beamed via laser. The SE cabin wouldn't have to carry a lot of heavy generators or batteries.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2010 2:47:06 PM PST
To M. Helsdon:
RE: "And as a concept, they predate manned-flight - the 'Tsiolkovsky' tower concept dates from the late Nineteenth Century."

True. Thanks for the reminder.

RE: "The biggest issue, after actual construction, will be the radiation..."

How about these: (a) running the cars through the Van Allen belts as fast as possible [power consumption]; (b) lining the cars with lead [creats mass problems]; (c) placing electromagnetic fields around the cars [power consumption plus possible biological effects]; development of a material that has the shielding properties of lead but is not so massive [another form of unobtainium?]. Just some things off the top of my head.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2010 2:49:28 PM PST
To Sailor Barsoom:
Great minds think alike! Check out my post, right after yours!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2010 3:17:27 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Sailor,

"It wouldn't be practical on a rocket, but a SE cabin could have electromagnetic shielding. All the necessary power could be sent up (or down!) the ribbon itself, or beamed via laser. The SE cabin wouldn't have to carry a lot of heavy generators or batteries."

Passing through the Van Allen you encounter particles at various energy levels and fluences; mainly high-energy protons, so an electromagnetic shield designed to exclude positive charged particles in one direction will *attract* those with a negative charge (electrons are found in both the inner and outer belts), and of course the protecting electromagnetic shield wouldn't fully protect the cabin. I suppose you could have concentric spheres of opposing charge, but then there's the danger imposed by powerful magnetic fields themselves.

It might be simpler to apply and maintain an electrostatic charge to the cabin to repel positive charged particles and a magnetic shield to repel electrons -- as electrons are *much* lighter than protons the power necessary for the shield is reduced.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2010 3:32:06 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Walter,

"(a) running the cars through the Van Allen belts as fast as possible [power consumption];"

It really depends where the passenger terminus is because the cable has to extend at least extend up to geostationary orbit, at an altitude of 35,786 km -- far above the orbit of the ISS at 278/460 km. If the cabins have to ascend the full distance then to reduce the radiation dose they are going to have to climb fast once they get above 100 km or so...

If we are heading anywhere interesting, to get the maximum benefit you really want to ride the cable all the way to the top.

Of course, we could avoid the radiation by shifting the elevator well to the north or south of the equator, but that puts a severe strain on the cable...

Posted on Feb 20, 2010 5:38:38 PM PST
For a physical shield, is there any advantage to having two shields, with a space between them? Sort of the radiation version of the Whipple Meteor Shield?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 21, 2010 2:08:28 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Sailor,

"For a physical shield, is there any advantage to having two shields, with a space between them? Sort of the radiation version of the Whipple Meteor Shield?"

Not really: a vacuum would have no effect, and you'd need a very large gap filled with air or some other gas to provide any shielding. Having layers of material, such as aluminium and various types of plastic can significantly reduce beta particles such as electrons, and various forms of hydrogen-rich plastics can help against protons (this is a factor for 'inflatable hotels' where foam and layers of other material provide some protection).

Once you get higher, cosmic rays and solar flares become a real health threat (the Apollo capsule moved far more quickly than a cabin going up or down the long cable would, so the astronauts received a relatively low radiation dose). Aluminium shielding can actually increase the danger as secondary charged particles can be generated by cosmic ray impacts behind the shield - a tank of liquid hydrogen around the living space would be more help because hydrogen wouldn't 'fragment' on impact.

Probably a mixture of shields would be required: electrostatic, magnetic and material.

Posted on Feb 21, 2010 7:32:11 AM PST
OK. My thought was that the first shield would stop primaries but spew out secondaries, which the second shield would stop. But it doesn't work that way, so I'm happy to use layers of metal and plastic, even water or liquid hydrogen. Whatever works.

"Electrostatic, magnetic, and material."
Works for me. We're going to need a way to protect people for long periods of time anyway.
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