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Race To Space: Exploration, Commercial or Tourist Driven?


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Posted on Oct 2, 2009 1:39:56 PM PDT
To anyone still following this discussion, today's (10/2/09) nextbigfuture.com has an article titled "Space Elevator Games One Kilometer Tether Finally Ready". (In NASA's $2 million prize purse competition, a one-thousand meter, helicopter-supported tether is finally ready, and awaiting space elevator teams. Recent end-to-end tests with battery-operated climbers had only one success --- USST (University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team). Next up is the Power Beaming challenge.)

Posted on Oct 3, 2009 6:50:03 AM PDT
The Thinker says:
The race to space will probably be a combination of efforts between the military and the civilian sector. The civilian sector will be for commercial purposes. Can you imagine space apartments? Or how about space villas? Space stations will get larger and larger, just like homes. They started with small cabins, then grew steadily until we have these huge mansions, etc.
I believe space stations will be more profitable and will also enable space miners to mine asteroids and there won't be the big gravity to push against to take off from the asteroids, meteors, etc. Also, Mars may have life forms under the surface that may be deadly and we don't want to bring these back to Earth, do we?

Posted on Oct 3, 2009 8:39:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 4, 2009 8:15:52 AM PDT
To anyone still following this discussion, today's (10/3/09) nextbigfuture.com has an article titled "Megawatt Class VISIMR Plasma Rocket Cluster by 2013."

Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz says that their VF-200 prototype is currently in the testing phase. But they have an agreement with NASA to mount a VF-200 on the ISS by 2012/2013. They project having a robotic, reusable "space tug" that can re-fuel or re-position satellites, or even fly packages inexpensively to the moon.

Later testing of the rocket on the moon, will hopefully validate that the craft can be used on human missions to Mars, and elsewhere in our solar system.

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 8:14:29 AM PDT
To anyone still following this discussion, you may want to check out this Reuters "Science" article (10/19/09):

http://www.reuters.com/rticle/scienceNews/idUSN1919425320091019

The article is titled SCIENTISTS FIND TRAWL OF 32 NEW PLANETS ("...32 new planets orbiting stars outside our solar system, and said on Monday they believe their find means that 40% or more of Sun-like stars have such planets."

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2009 5:15:25 PM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
That's nice, Marilyn, but it will be a LONG time before those new planets are explored or have any influence on the "race to space" through either commercial or tourist exploitation.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2009 6:29:52 PM PDT
Mr. Vulcan says:
This is a good start or another good start.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2009 7:39:20 AM PDT
Thank you, Mr. Vulcan!

I would think we would want to know as much as possible about what's "out there", before we actually do Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2009 8:37:29 AM PDT
Ronald Craig says:
Actually, the PC ST:TNG version read "where no one has gone before."

(And unless your little ET friends give us a lift, again, it will be a LONG time before we go anywhere near those planets.)

Posted on Nov 4, 2009 7:52:38 AM PST
To anyone still following this discussion, below is a link I've already posted on the "NASA...Life Support?" thread:

http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE58G6LS20090918

(MORE SPACE BUSINESS BECKONS FOR PRIVATE TRANSPORTERS)

Posted on Nov 10, 2009 7:03:56 AM PST
To anyone still following this discussion, below is a link to an article in today's (11/10/09) New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/science/space/10solar.html?th&emc=th

SETTING SAIL INTO SPACE, PROPELLED BY SUNSHINE ("a solar sail ... can act as an anti-gravity machine, using solar pressure to balance the sun's gravity and thus hover anyplace in space.")

Posted on Dec 8, 2009 8:26:27 AM PST
Well, it's official. Branson's Space Bus was unveiled yesterday at a Press Party in California. Here's a link to the Los Angeles Times article:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-sci-virgin8-2009dec08,0,5479695.story
(RUTAN AND BRANSON MAKE A GIANT LEAP FOR SPACE)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2009 11:29:06 AM PST
Mr. Vulcan says:
Hot damn! That's heroic!

Posted on Jan 10, 2010 9:52:26 AM PST
http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/air_science/4341617.html
PRIVATE SPACE ON PACE TO RUN NASA'S SPACE SUPPLY (alternate title is SPACE X ROCKET ENGINE TEST A SUCCESS)

Both Space X and Orbital Sciences have successfully tested their space-bound rocket engines.

Posted on Jan 10, 2010 10:26:45 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 25, 2011 6:51:39 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 11, 2010 12:17:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 11, 2010 12:23:23 PM PST
http://www.fas.org/irp/mystery/pde.htm

This is a "Federation of American Scientists" 2003 article on EXOTIC PROPULSION AIRCRAFT. They speculate on everything from aircraft that appears to be riding its own shockwave, and can operate at Mach 10 or higher. To an external combustion pulse detonation engine craft. They also suggest that unusual sounds and strange contrails could be tied to these kinds of mystery craft.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2010 7:48:52 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
Marilyn Martin scores another one:
"http://www.fas.org/irp/mystery/pde.htm

This is a 'Federation of American Scientists' 2003 article on EXOTIC PROPULSION AIRCRAFT. ..."

Not it's not:

http://www.fas.org/irp/mystery/pde.htm
Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Updated Tuesday, May 14, 1996 - 8:47:12 PM

There IS a photo (c) 2006 that has obviously been added since 1996 and a link to a January 2007 blog and Google adsense code (c) 2008 (both visible in page source), but nowhere in the text does it say the article is from 2003. (The most recent of the references is from 1992.)

Most important, how is that page in any way related to the topic here? (Did you intend this for the Aliens community, and misposted it?)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2010 10:00:33 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
"This is a "Federation of American Scientists" 2003 article on EXOTIC PROPULSION AIRCRAFT. They speculate on everything from aircraft that appears to be riding its own shockwave, and can operate at Mach 10 or higher. To an external combustion pulse detonation engine craft. They also suggest that unusual sounds and strange contrails could be tied to these kinds of mystery craft."

No they don't. It concludes:

"While various assumptions might be brought forward to reconcile these observations with theory, the evidence is not obviously consistent with the presence of a pulse detonation engine.

"And the unusually loud, rumbling sonic booms reported along the California coast actually have a precedent in a deep black program well prior to the 1970s era THAP. According to an historical Lockheed document, during test flights at high altitude, the Lockheed A-12 "Oxcart" (an SR-71 predecessor) would make an "ominous rumble on the ground. Thus, while the reports of unusual auditory signatures may be indicative of the existence of some type of advanced air vehicle, they do not appear to constitute conclusive evidence of the existence of an Exotic Propulsion Aircraft."

http://www.fas.org/irp/mystery/pde.htm

I can only imagine that this post is related to this thread because of the propulsion method... The only real project intended to use PDE was the Darkswift project, cancelled in 2008.

More relevant would be scramjet research, offering a possibility of a development path towards a spaceplane that takes off and lands conventionally. One research project is the Boeing X-51.

http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2007/q2/070601a_nr.html

Posted on Jan 18, 2010 8:59:02 AM PST
http://microsite.smithsonianmag.com/airspacemag/spaceport/

The above link is to an interesting map of the U.S., with real or proposed Commercial and Federal "Spaceports".

Posted on Jan 18, 2010 4:39:56 PM PST
Exploration only.
Commercial? Maybe.
Tourism? For the very rich maybe.
Along time in the future.
22nd, 23rd century maybe.
Not now and not in the near future.

Posted on Jan 18, 2010 9:08:07 PM PST
The Wright Brothers made their famous first flight in 1903. What was aviation like in 2003?

Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth in 1961. I expect quite a bit of space travel for business and pleasure by 2061.

We're getting commercial space tourism forty-nine years later.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2010 10:22:22 PM PST
Sailor Barsoom:
Yes we've had some very wealthy people pay to go into space with the Russians.
Fine. But to make this a commercially viable business the launch costs would have to be lowered to a level to make the cost to the consumers within their reach. The average American does not make enough money to be able to pay for a trip into space. I do not see this as a possibility even within the next 100 years.
All of the national space programs, NASA, ESA, Japan, China, Russia, India are constrained by their economies and their government spending. The costs are even more prohibitive for any corporation which would attempt such a program. Like they said in "The Right Stuff": "Funding is what matters. The programs that get the bucks wins. No bucks, no Buck Rogers" (or something like that). People are beginning to shy away from these manned space exploration ventures because they realize the money is better spent on Earthbound needs. Solve the problems here first then go into space. The problems we face on Earth are much more important than space travel.
The population of the planet is constantly growing and the problems we face are constantly growing too. The United States needs a complete overhaul of our infrastructure. Do we spend billions on a space project or spend it on repairing roads and bridges and sewage and water and transportation systems and the electrical grid and power generation systems and ... etc. I submit to you our needs don't include space exploration. Space observation via telescopes sure. To warn us when we're all going to die because there's a huge asteroid coming to collide with the Earth. At least we'll have enough warning so we can at least get with our loved ones before the collision.
All the space programs in the past were essentially driven by the military wants and needs. Science has benefitted by some of the programs and Hubble did take some outstanding photographs but did we need them? It's always neat for some of us to see these space trips with the shuttle and see the space station but for the majority of people they can live without it. In 1969 we landed on the Moon (stayed up to watch the first step) and stopped going there in 1972. That's three years! Why? Because the public just wasn't interested anymore. Been there, done that! I just don't see the enthusiasm for the kind of thing you're proposing. Plus the fact that our country's population is dumming down rapidly leads me to the conclusion that the United States will be a second rate power by 2100 unless drastic changes are made to correct the situation. Have you spoken to teenagers recently? These kids are lost in the perverbial sauce! or proverbial sauce!
Either way the money is much better spent on education and infrastructure.

Posted on Jan 19, 2010 12:07:39 PM PST
The sort of thing that I'm proposing is *commercial* space travel, which makes all questions about what the American people are willing to spend tax dollars on, or what the best use of those dollars might be, utterly irrelevant. The US taxpayer isn't interested in buying me cable TV, a trip to Hawaii, or a dollar bill to tuck into a dancer's G-string. But if I do that on my own dime, then this doesn't really matter.

This very year, the first commercial suborbital flights are scheduled to begin. The price is low enough that the merely rich can go, instead of just the super-rich. I look forward to this. Hopefully this will spawn the innovations needed to get launch costs down. One thing that helps, of course, is that a private company doesn't have to do things in the way that provides the most jobs for a congressman's district, but instead they have a strong incentive to do the job with as few people as possible.

At this precise moment, the government would do better to spend a bit less on manned spaceflight and a bit more on fixing bridges so they don't drop into the various rivers and lakes they currently span. There are other infrastructure things which must be done, because this has been neglected. After that is done, they should concentrate on getting those launch costs down.

I notice you listed power generation. Look up "satellite solar power stations." The future of Earth's energy is in orbit. There really isn't anything else (except breeder reactors or, if anybody can get it to work, fusion) which can provide enough energy for everybody. It isn't a matter of "solve the problems of Earth before we go into Space." We CAN'T solve the problems of Earth UNLESS we go into Space.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2010 4:42:56 PM PST
Sailor:
Granted you're talking "commercial" space flight.
First you have to define your terms.
1) Commercial flight has a destination. You go from point A to Point B.
Suborbital flight has no destination. It's up and down and that's an amusement ride!
Disney in space? Come on man!
2) Since a destination is needed there are only two possible locations: The ISS or the Moon. And we ain't gonna get people, not astronauts, to the Moon any time soon. Like not until after 2100 maybe.
3) If you are referring to the NASA and other's idea of superfast spaceplanes going from NYC to Tokyo with a very brief time in the upper atmosphere then I understand.
4) I admit I don't follow the "X Prize" and other developments that closely but I for one would think anyone thinking of going into space for a "joyride" better check out ALL the the information, people, systems etc involved prior to takeoff. Companies trying to make a profit are notoriously cheap and cheap breaks down. You're welcome to go my friend but as for me - NO THANKS!
5) I understand the technology of Orbiting Solar Power Stations. The infrastructure to produce these stations is a long long long way off. There is promise in the technology but the problems that exist on Earth can be solved without going into space.
6) The NASA budget is not that huge but we could cut a couple of billion out and refurbish or replace alot of bridges with that money and never miss whatever NASA could do with it. I have been supporter of NASA since it began. I could have worked in NASA had I wanted to but I declined. Worked in construction instead. Now disabled I no longer work in construction but I try to keep up with the industry through periodicals and the internet. The collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis was a very deadly warning regarding the state of our infrastructure.
7) Private companies don't have to do things like the government and satisfy some congressman and his constuients. Wherever that company is located is going to have to deal with the government. Both federal, state and local. Plus they have to have financing and the investors are going to demand a return on that investment. This concept has a future of long timeframes till they will get that return. I fear that may be the death of the project.

I wish you well Sailor but you're dreaming of the future here. A long long long way off.

Posted on Jan 20, 2010 6:12:21 AM PST
1) Suborbital is like taking an offshore cruise. The experience of cruising is the destination. The suborbital trip is a very short cruise.

1a) Suborbital is just the beginning, like taking a short hop from Boston to New York City on a biplane was the beginning back in the Thirties. It took a while to get to jumbo jets.

1b) If Disney can make money in Space, do you really doubt that the Mouse will stay Earthbound?

2) Again, an orbital spacecraft could take you up, stay for twelve hours, and bring you back down. No other destination required. But again, that's a beginning. Bigalow Aerospace and other companies are moving forward on providing non-ISS destinations in orbit. In fact, Bigalow already has a prototype in orbit.

2a) If we could go from "well, the Russians put a man in orbit and it didn't kill him, and we sent a man on a suborbital trip and it didn't kill him" to "Tranquility Base here; the Eagle has landed" in eight years, I don't see why it would take ninety years to do it again.

3) An almost-orbital craft would indeed make for truly rapid point-to-point transportation. I expect the two industries (space travel and high-speed air travel) to feed off of each other.

4) Yes, companies wanting to make a profit try to save money. But they'd really rather not kill their customers. This is bad for business in several ways: you don't get as many repeat customers and, if you do it too often, you don't get any customers at all. I maybe wouldn't want to be the FIRST to go up on SpaceShipTwo, but after a few hundred people have done it (including the owner of the company, his son, and Steven Hawking), and they don't die, I'd be happy to go. I mean, you take commercial air flights, don't you?

5) I'm sorry, but they cannot. There are two ways for the First World to maintain its wealth: hope to God the rest of the world remains in grinding poverty forever, or expand the resource base. And in the case of energy in particular, there just isn't enough on Earth to go around without using either

fast breeder reactors, with all of their problems of radioactive waste and weapons applications, or

thermonuclear fusion, which nobody has gotten to work on even a small scale, despite decades of time and billions of dollars, or

satellite solar power stations, for which every needed technology exists and has been demonstrated, though so far only on a small scale. Powersats produce no greenhouse or other gasses, no radioactive waste, and even produce less waste heat than other methods.

6) If you could convince me that money taken from NASA would actually be used to fix bridges, then I'd say, "OK, let's take a whopping third of NASA's budget (this would be $6 billion) for five years in a row and use that to fix stuff while NASA reconfigures itself to use that money (in Year Six) for solving the one problem which MUST be solved before any of the grand dreams, schemes, and projects can be realized: getting launch costs down." Of course, since there is no way such an assurance can be made, I say "just fix stuff with the hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus money already out there."

7) Yes, any space company will have to deal with regulations, taxes, anti-trust, etc. But they don't have to provide as many jobs as possible to justify their budget. They don't have to manufacture THIS part in Kansas, because they needed THIS Congressman's vote, and built THAT part in Nebraska because they needed THAT Congressman's vote. Instead, a private company can manufacture or buy parts from wherever provides the best product at the best price. As for return on investment, well if what you're investing in is a full-up powersat manufacturing corporation, yeah that's pretty long-term. But if what you're investing in is Virgin Galactic, not so much.

Any time anybody, you, me, the guy next door, makes a prediction about the future, that person is engaging in at least a bit of dreamweaving. My particular dreams depend on a single breakthrough: the lowering of launch costs. Without that, no, we aren't going to do a lot in Space.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2010 8:19:21 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Europe's biggest space company is seeking partners to fly a demonstration solar power mission in orbit.

EADS Astrium says the satellite system would collect the Sun's energy and transmit it to Earth via an infrared laser, to provide electricity.

Space solar power has been talked about for more than 30 years. However, there have always been question marks over its cost, efficiency and safety.

But Astrium believes the technology is close to proving its maturity.

"Today we are not at an operational stage; it's just a test," said chief executive officer Francois Auque. "In order to implement a solution, of course, we would need to find partnerships and to invest, to develop operational systems," he told BBC News.

Full story:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8467472.stm
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