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[P]
To infinity and beyond!

By BigZaphod in Op-Ed
Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 08:40:58 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Has humanity lost the will to explore? Sometimes it sure feels like it. When was the last time you looked up at the moon and honestly believed that someday you'd be able to see the lights of a vast lunar colony? When was the last time you've seriously imagined a daytime sky with several small orbiting space stations visible to the naked eye?


If you're like most people, it has been awhile. When I was younger I used to imagine things like that all the time. I truly believed that by the time I was in college a lunar station would be under construction. After all, I was sitting in history classes at school hearing talk of great explorers sailing the world in small ships. Oh, the wonderful adventures they had! The future would only get better--so I was told. I'm now in my last year of college, and I have yet to see any serious indication of putting a structure on the moon. No honest attempts. Not even any half-hearted ones, really. A bunch of talk but no action. And whatever happened to the idea of flying cars? I wanted flying cars!

Instead we got things like the Internet. Now, I'm all for it, but this honestly isn't what I had in mind. If I were looking in at the earth from the outside, I'd expect something like the Internet to form eventually. Mass communication is one of the building blocks of society. But it shouldn't be the only thing society focuses on! It was a breakthrough, yes. An adventure? No.

So why aren't there more crazy people building spaceships? Why aren't there more rich adventurers willing to put up their money for a good time in outer space? It's human tradition for people to accidentally go off and do something like discover a new world. There's at least 8 others waiting around in our solar system. Or is it good enough that we already know they're there?

I see no reason for our lack of a lunar base. The moon is pretty close, doesn't have a pesky atmosphere, and it already orbits the earth. No need to reinvent the wheel by building a complete vessel. Just plant a couple domes on the surface and start hauling some supplies in. Grab a couple random explorer-types off the street and toss 'em up there. They'll have a ball. Mix in a few astronomers and a nice big telescope and you'd have one heck of a party!

Imagine the potential for commercial travel companies. Imagine the possible mining situations. There might even be ways of refining raw materials we simply can't do in earth's gravity but could be easier to perform on the moon, or in orbit. Once a base is built up on the moon it wouldn't be so hard to get into space, either. The moon has very low gravity and thus a lot less for rocket engines to fight. Besides, if you took off while aimed at the earth, you'd be getting a nice boost from our planet's own pull! Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Oh sure, there's problems with supply, energy, materials, etc. But why must they all be totaly solved before anyone even starts trying? Imagine all the ships that never came back while searching for the edge of the world. That didn't stop them! The explorers of the past didn't know what was out there but they went anyway. Have we become so used to comfort and safety that the idea of going before we know everything has us all in terror?

I want to know when we're going to go and I don't care how much money it takes. I admit that I'm not sure I'd want to be the first to try, but I know I'd get pretty pumped if I saw a little action out there. Some sign of serious efforts at commercial space travel. I desire to visit a lunar colony before I die. Ideally, I think I'd like to move to one for a while. My only wish is that when I get there, I can take a ride in a flying car.

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Poll
I want to...
o visit the moon. 19%
o visit a space station. 9%
o go to mars. 47%
o stay at home. 11%
o take a ride in a flying car. 12%

Votes: 88
Results | Other Polls

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o great explorers
o I wanted flying cars
o crazy people building spaceships
o rich adventurers
o accidental ly go off and do something like discover a new world
o 8 others
o complete vessel
o astronomer s
o telescope
o commercial travel
o mining situations
o anyone
o Also by BigZaphod


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To infinity and beyond! | 90 comments (90 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Dome on the moon? (4.33 / 9) (#1)
by dof on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:12:17 AM EST

It's currently parked in London ... with a large forsale sign on it :

Might need a bit of reinforcing for use on the moon. One careful owner :) 1 ono.


Nice article :)

dof.

http://www.codepoets.co.uk
*ROTFLMAO* (2.50 / 2) (#5)
by Builder on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 07:05:07 AM EST

Damn, that comment was funny! Sorry, having watched the dome debacle for a while now, maybe you _do_ have the solution.
--
Be nice to your daemons
[ Parent ]
I'm not a philosopher (3.85 / 7) (#2)
by loaf on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:53:27 AM EST

so maybe someone else can give a name to the branch of thought that says that this is it. We are what we see, feel and hear. There is nothing more to it than what we're currently experiencing and that there is a finite existence for us all.

There is no meaning to the universe, there is a limit to what we can find out.

That means that as a species we have only one objective - to explore. We've done as much on this rock as we possibly can. We know an enormous amount about our world. We can do little more.

What we need to be doing is going on - upwards, outwards and onwards. There's nothing else to do but sit on our butts, playing on PlayStations, arguing about capitalism and exhausting this world's resources - if we don't get off before we deplete this planet as a species we'll have wasted the opportunity and will need to loiter for another few million years to replenish the stocks ....

What you're thinking of... (4.00 / 3) (#20)
by A Dapper M on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:11:19 PM EST

is probably what is called Materialism.

Materialism is a branch of metaphysics that beleives that the only real things are those that we experience or can experience either directly or indirectly.

I.e. matter, energy, and just about anything that that can eventually be described by science. Everything else, God, spirits, transcendent realms of existence, for example, are fictions.

Materialism was first championed by early Greek philosophers, but did not acheive great success until Thomas Hobbes espoused a version that was buttressed by the science of his day.

"I sought only myself." - Heraclitus


[ Parent ]
Complete, utter rubish (3.40 / 5) (#23)
by darthaggie on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:24:32 PM EST

We've done as much on this rock as we possibly can. We know an enormous amount about our world. We can do little more.

This is such complete, and utter rubbish I don't know where to begin.

To be perfectly candid, we don't know jack about ourselves, we don't know jack about the rest of the creatures on this "rock", we don't know jack about this rock, even.

How did that immortal Bard you Brits keep yammering about put it? ah, yes Of Mother Nature's Book of Secrets, a little I can read.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Short Sighted... (4.12 / 8) (#3)
by DeadBaby on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:35:35 AM EST

I think you're being short sighted here. In the last 200 years we have:



1) Invented the electric lightbulb.
2) Invented the airplane
3) Sent men to the moon and sent many robots out to other planets.
4) Invented TV, the internet, recorded music, rock & roll, jazz, the art of film making, CD players, DVD players, HDTV, etc, etc, etc.
5) We've mapped the entire human genome, we've performed successful organ transplants, we've created artificial organs, we've cloned sheep, we're on the verge of cloning humans.


You know, I think the human race is doing ok. If we can't explore space, we might as well explore stuff on Earth.


"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
200 years? (4.33 / 3) (#9)
by wiredog on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 09:39:11 AM EST

Except for item 1 we've done all those in the last 100 years.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
This is Progress?!?!?! (2.00 / 2) (#68)
by lb008d on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 06:49:15 PM EST

A retort...

In the last 200 years we HAVEN'T :

Eliminated hunger
Put a roof over everyone's head

If those two items ever are solved, AND people don't have to work the hours they do now to achieve them, then I'll say we've made progress as a species.

Everything else is fluff.

[ Parent ]
It is all about ROI (3.75 / 8) (#4)
by msmikkol on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:47:38 AM EST

Today it is all about return of investment. Explorers of the past usually had a sponsor or a patron with money to burn. Providing a ship and fitting it out for an explorer was quite cheap compared to the possible wealth the sponsor might reap. Think, for example, of Europeans raiding the Southern America. That's some royal return of investment.

In the past, getting to an another continent might have been a feat, comparable to getting to the moon now, but it was profitable. Why should anyone who expects some return for his money, want to go to the moon? It it just a big bare rock. Getting a decent set of mining equipment to the moon might be so expensive that the minerals would be worth their weight in platinum.

Setting up a colony on the moon would have enormous scientific and symbolic value, but making a killing by mining or travel industy, I don't think so.

--
msm

and Ownership (4.00 / 4) (#7)
by codemonkey_uk on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 09:13:23 AM EST

Another big issue overlooked by starry eyed optimists is the one of ownership.

IIRC, despite the flag waving posturing of the lunar landing, the moon, and all the other extra terrestrial bodies are jointly owned by the governments of the world, so if you want to set up a moon base, not only would you have to get everybody to agree to the idea, but you'd probably have to pay them rent as well.

As I'm sure you aware, no project requiring that quantity of politics ever gets off the ground.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Simple (3.00 / 3) (#12)
by davidmb on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 10:19:26 AM EST

I imagine that this problem would be solved by the relevant country simply "seizing" land on the moon, or declaring the moon to be part of their country. If they're the only people there, who else will have a claim?

After all, the US will be quite skilled in tearing up treaties by then.
־‮־
[ Parent ]
US Treaties (4.00 / 3) (#14)
by snap on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 10:42:46 AM EST

Oh, we've been skilled at tearing up treaties for quite a while now. Just ask any Native American.

[ Parent ]
Damn man, (2.00 / 1) (#46)
by ZanThrax on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:59:00 PM EST

have you never read any sf? Just make the base, and once the world governments get around to deciding what to do about it and start bitching, just declare it an independant nation.


Intolerant people should be shot.


[ Parent ]
A timeline of the future... (4.45 / 20) (#6)
by jd on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 08:48:44 AM EST

Any inaccuracies in this timeline are entirely due to bugs in Closed Source code. Honest!
  • 2005
    • NASA finishes code for converting feet to meters.
    • Commercial organizations try billboards in space. Several major species go extinct.
    • Amateur rocket scientists get a rocket into orbit.
  • 2010
    • NASA successfully launches a probe to the Moon, to look for water at the polar caps. It lands OK, but melts so much ice that the water shorts the computer out.
    • Commercial organizations get the first hotel / brothel in space. Initial bookings are great, but the high mortality rate, largely due to customer stupidity, shuts the enterprise down.
    • Amateur rocket scientists construct a simple space station in polar orbit. The FSF moves its main server there, due to a new International law forbidding free software.
  • 2020
    • NASA is remodelled and "streamlined". It outsources all software development to Microsoft, and all hardware development to Gateway. All remaining NASA engineers are dismissed, leaving only upper and middle management.
    • Commercial organizations, due to the high cost of failures, declare space to be "of no value to the private sector". Mobile phone companies switch to helium balloons, cutting costs and increasing coverage.
    • Amateur rocket scientists construct the first permanent settlement on Mars. A slow, but steady trickle of free & open source coders migrate there, to escape Terran politics.
  • 2050
    • MS-NASA renames the moons of Mars as "Gates" and "Balimar". Plans are made to launch huge rockets to put the moons into stable orbits.
    • Commercial organizations book the three largest out-door stadia in the US, and sell tickets to the "best fireworks show in town". An estimated five million people watch as the commercial sector deliberately crash their entire fleet of (still-functioning) satellites into the atmosphere.
    • Amateur rocket scientists set up a mining colony in the Alpha Centauri system, after successfully building and testing the Bussard Ramjet.
  • 2100
    • MS-NASA launches the giant engines to lift the Martian moons into stable orbit. On reaching Mars, one of the rockets is "ping"ed by the Martian computer systems and locks up. It collides with Balimar, obliterating it. The debris destroys the other rocket. MS-NASA sues the Martian Government for the "hostile act". President Stallman issued the formal response of "thpppppppt!"
    • Commercial companies alter educational texts to omit any mention of space, space-travel, space history, rockets, the planets, etc. People are "encouraged" to be satisfied with what the corporations can give them.
    • Amateur quantum cosmologists, combined with amateur nuclear fusion scientists, develop a prototype drive system which permits interstellar travel in realistic time-frames. The blueprints and source code are released under the GDL and GPL, respectively. MS-NASA releases a statement that the new drive system will harm competition, and won't work under Windows 2100 anyway.
  • 3000
    • Microsoft finishes taking control of the Earth. It -is- the only legal industry or Government, anywhere on the planet. The DOJ vs Microsoft case is finally dropped. Writing or using non-Microsoft software is declared a capital offence. Descendents of AOL's executives go into hiding.
    • There is no commercial sector, by this time.
    • The Gnu Galactic Order convenes for the first time, in a heavily-shieded space-station orbiting Vega, in memory of Carl Sagan. The Galactic Census indicates that the population of the Free Galaxy is in excess of 200 million, distributed over 1,000 star systems. To handle the increasing problem of network traffic, IPv14 is finally adopted as the galactic standard.


Not Bussard... (4.50 / 4) (#11)
by johnjtrammell on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 10:10:28 AM EST

I think you mean the GNU/Bussard ramjet.

[ Parent ]
Polar orbit? (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by fluffy grue on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:26:33 PM EST

Think about it. There's no such thing as a polar orbit.

There might be an orbit which passes over both poles, but you can't have one which stays there. :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Good one! :) (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by jd on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:57:37 PM EST

"Polar orbit" is generally taken to mean an orbit which crosses both poles. An equatorial orbit is an orbit which remains over the equator. A NASA orbit is anything which involves passing through the center of the Earth. :)

I'd never thought of reading "polar orbit" as "an orbit which remains at the pole". :) Hey, it might work, if the pole is long enough! Isn't that how the space escalators are planned to operate?

[ Parent ]

NASA orbits (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by physicsgod on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:54:33 PM EST

Don't have to go through the center, they just have to have a sub-surface perigee. ;)

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Ah, okay (3.50 / 2) (#67)
by fluffy grue on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 06:17:17 PM EST

For some reason I was thinking of "geosynchronous polar orbits," which have been mentioned on Star Trek on occasion. :) (I'd mention some episodes by name but I don't have to prove my utter geekiness.)

(Okay, fine. The TNG episode "Power Play," for one. God I'm pathetic.)

IIRC, space escalators are supposed to use geosynchronous equatorial orbits (I don't care what Arthur Clarke says; as far as I can tell, he hasn't been all there ever since sometime before Rama II). Nothing else could even possibly work, and even then a geosynchronous equatorial orbit would have a lot of trouble with things like the weather at the planet's surface and such.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Space elevator (none / 0) (#83)
by wiredog on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 09:47:25 AM EST

Uses a geosynchronous equatorial orbit. The only SF I know of that covers that id "The Fountains of Paradise" by Clarke. Which predates Rama II, btw. He points out that weather at the surface would only have an effect during the initial construction, when you're dropping down the first cable. Once it's tied down, there's no problem.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
Later stuff (none / 0) (#84)
by fluffy grue on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 12:17:18 PM EST

A lot of Clarke's later stuff (3001 for example) reference space escalators, and for some reason he uses the notion of attaching them to the earth's poles. Then again, 3001 was full of a lot of bad science and writing. ("Ooh, everyone in the world knows everything about everything!" "Well, how does $foo work?" "That's not my specialty; ask someone else.")

Sounds like for the scope of "The Fountains of Paradise" (which I haven't read) he was actually paying attention to his own stuff, at least.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Other SF and space elevators (none / 0) (#88)
by hardburn on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 11:35:00 AM EST

The Star Wars book "Shadows of the Empire" also mentioned several buildings (I don't remeber how the book called them) on Courscant which reached from the surface and into orbit.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
followed eventually... (none / 0) (#65)
by scbomber on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:45:51 PM EST

...(although somewhat tardily) by the sequence from Rush's "2112 Overture" where the meek have inherited the earth but eventually the real humans come back (and appropriate all their base).

[ Parent ]
What's the motivation? (4.25 / 4) (#8)
by jabber on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 09:28:55 AM EST

Seriously.. Indominable Human spirit, the lust for adventure, a legacy of exploration - all good and fine, but who is going to pay for it? And why should they?

Going into space cost incredible amounts of money. The little we're doing (yeah, the ISS is very cool, but at least 10 years behind schedule, and they (NASA et al) practically have to scour the streets of Florida for soda cans to get funding) keeps things moving ahead slowly, because of the few visionaries in positions of authority.

For the most part, if there is no profit to be made, it doesn't get done. Profit will only come from finding exploitable resources or government contracts.

Resources would have to be sedan-sized diamonds to be profitable - maybe the ISS will find something out about the creation of new alloys, pharmaceuticals, etc... But it's nothing that can not be modelled on a computer - sending up stuff only after it is shown as viable..

Government contracts will only come from two sources, the DoD and National Pride. Exploiting space for military purposes is bad karma - besides, without an 'alien threat' all the DoD cares about is ballistic trajectories anyway, they have that already. Anything smart and strong enough to come to get us (if you're crazy enough to believe in aliens) is unlikely to be bothered by us in the first place, so why even mention outward-pointing guns?

Which leaves National Pride. The greatest strides in the exploration of space were made when we were competing with the Soviets. Yes, the Apollo program is a work of brilliance and incredible complexity, but due to the pressure to 'get there first' it was held together with duct tape by comparison to the anal compulsion that binds the ISS together. It was exciting because of the break-neck schedule laid down by Kennedy, because there wasn't time to consider everything, because it wasn't about getting paid (sometimes at all) or accounting for assets or getting all necessary approvals. Guerilla exploration, just like guerilla programming, creates great things, but is unsustainable.

In an era of cooperation, there can be little healthy competition. No competition, no motivation. No arms race, but also no space race.

So we're left with the indominable human spirit, the lust for adventure, a legacy of exploration, and the costs of realizing those lofty dreams. The only ones with the money to do this are the governments - who are doing it, albeit slowly, because geeks occupy a few leather chairs somewhere - and corporations - whose primary responsibility is to the shareholders. Shareholders may like great strides, but only if these drive up the stock price and pay dividends. And going someplace big and empty just does not hold a promise of profit.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

OT: Alien belief (3.66 / 3) (#21)
by fluffy grue on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:13:24 PM EST

(if you're crazy enough to believe in aliens)
I believe that extraterrestrial life exists. I don't, however, believe that alien life forms are visiting Earth. Does that make me crazy? :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Faith in the unknown.. (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by Francois on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:52:27 PM EST

Well, then it's a blind faith like religion and not a belief in any proof. I believe both stances are wrong, and so I am that great sitter of the fence variety; the agnostic in regards to aliens :)

To believe is to fall victim to a part of pop culture, and to not believe is to be galacticly arrogant...now if you'll excuse me, it's getting dark and I've got some crop-circles to make!

[ Parent ]
Let me clarify (3.66 / 3) (#33)
by fluffy grue on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:22:22 PM EST

I believe it would be stupid to believe that there is no life on other planets. Given the evidence of life on this planet, it is extremely likely that there is life on other planets.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Yes.. (none / 0) (#86)
by ajduk on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 05:09:52 AM EST

It's the complexity that is in doubt.

Earth has some unusual features that may be very rare, even for planets of this size in orbits around similar stars:

1) We have a moon. This is amazingly important; it stabilises the spin of the planet, so that the poles don't process to face the sun. Moons like ours are going to be relatively rare, and it is difficult to get multicellular life without one.

2) Our star is very stable, not having very major flares or sunspots. Again - microbes can handle extreme changes in climate and radiation levels, complex organisms generally can't.

3) Our star has never had a close approach with another in 5 billion years.

4) We have a Gas Giant (Jupiter) to sweep up comets and asteroids that could otherwise hit us.

Remember that it took 4 billion years to get from the first flickers of life to intellegence.

I strongly suspect that microbal life is common on any planet that has liquid water, but that complex life (defined as sea cucumbers and jellyfish upwards) may be much rarer, as the conditions required are more stringent.

Here's a thought:

The galaxy is around 100,000 light years across.

Assume that a space faring species spreads at 1% of the speed of light.

That means that an intelligent species should cover the galaxy in 10 million years. Once a few 10's of planets are reached, extinction becomes very unlikely.

So we could easily be the only intellegent species in the galaxy (as we have not been visited). Given that Andromeda is an eleptic galaxy unlikely to sustain life, it's quite possable that the nearest intelligence to earth is over 10 million light years away (i.e. a 1 billion year journey without a stopping off point).







[ Parent ]
Context (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by jabber on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:55:59 PM EST

I said that with the implication of the belief being stated within the Pentagon, during a budgetting discussion. Surely anyone who would even consider suggesting that the Earth needs to be protected from alien invasion, would be quickly escorted out of the building.

Whether an alien invasion is a possibility is an argument than is completely separate from space exploration. At least, if we try to stay 'reasonable' in our discussion of the latter.

I agree with you in the belief in extra-terrestrial life. But I've read many of your posts, and have serious doubts about the sanity of either one of us. ;)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Well, yeah (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by fluffy grue on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:25:02 PM EST

I was just being pedantic. :)

And I never made any claims as to my sanity, just that my belief that there's most likely extraterrestrial life doesn't specifically make me crazy! :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

One Word... (4.00 / 3) (#42)
by DangerGrrl on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:54:28 PM EST

<humor>Meteors.
That's right... huge honking Armagedon take a cyinide pill before it hits or die from fiery impact or resulting tidal wave meteors.
We need colonies on the moon, each equiped with long projecting sensors and masive laser weapons to destory the inevitable meteor that's going to have the Human race go the way of the Dinosaur. And while we are waiting for that cataclysmic event, we'll get Disney to set up a them park up there and make all the money back. Anything has got to make more money than Euro-disney.</humor>

Of course, I am one of those people who grew up with a facination of spaceflight and moon voyages. Any excuse that would allow someone like me to be able to see the stars at such a brilliance that is almost impossible from the atmosphere interfearance of this planet is welcome.

<tangent>How can anyone look at all of that and NOT believe that there is other life out there? Can our terrian egos be that huge? Only one planet out of billions upon billions can spawn life? I don't think so.</tangent>

However, even I will get pissed beyong all recognition when government officials spend more on space exploration then they do on education. So yes there are money constraints, and citizens to answer to - but do not discount colonies on the moon because the only feasible motivation to do so is 'human spirit'. For where would we be without that intangible wonder of humankind?

[ Parent ]
Meteors are a Liberal myth. (3.66 / 3) (#47)
by jabber on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:04:08 PM EST

I agree with the spirit of your post, but I'm too jaded to believe that things can be made any different until there is an immediate and tangible benefit to going back into space.

Another poster has already expressed the hope that China would prompt another space race.. I certainly hope so, since due to their population (and India's) the alternative is expansion into Siberia - and we know how that would end up..

Now, before you brain me with something fowl, know that sending a mission to Mars isn't going to solve the world's population problems.. I'm not suggesting blasting the Chinese into space.. Interplanetary migration is centuries away.. But the technologies that would be developed for a long term, long range space mission would have immediate payoff on Earth. Recycling technologies, materials, resource management.. The strides in hydroponics alone, for example, would be applicable to world hunger Real Soon Now. The big problem is cost, but if we can become assured of our ability to provide adequate food and water for a few people very far away, maybe we could do the same for many people nearby.

Most people are not aware of the many everyday things that have come out of the space program already. One wonderful example I can think of is microwave ovens. Thinsulate, I believe, is an offshoot of research into space suits. IIRC, Velcro is a fringe benefit of needing to keep things from floating around in orbit..

But, no one is willing to sign the check without a business plan. It is much easier to get development money than research money. Companies need to conceive of a product they can sell before they ever look at the start-up costs.. And the government needs to sell the idea to the taxpayer.

Would you want to see your taxes go up to see space exploration improve? By how much? What would you fund first? What if you had the standard 2.5 kids, and 0.7 dog, and a white picket fence in need of painting?

Space is a fantasy to most people, a childhood dream that didn't pan out. Most people are not willing to give their hard-earned, and spoken for, money to keep exploring space. Their priorities are simply much closer to the ground. I don't completely agree, but I can see how this might have happen..

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

I got it! (3.66 / 3) (#51)
by dennis on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:19:27 PM EST

But, no one is willing to sign the check without a business plan.

Hey, let's go to talk to all those venture capitalists who funded the dot-com bubble!

[ Parent ]

www.GoToSpace.com ?? (eom) (3.33 / 3) (#57)
by jabber on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:25:06 PM EST

All it takes is a catchy name and a hopeful IPO after all, right?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Education (3.66 / 3) (#48)
by dennis on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:06:34 PM EST

even I will get pissed beyong all recognition when government officials spend more on space exploration then they do on education

Do they? Add up all federal, state, and local government education budgets, and compare that to NASA's....

[ Parent ]

Easy pickings... (3.75 / 4) (#62)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:28:21 PM EST

...
Anything smart and strong enough to come to get us (if you're crazy enough to believe in aliens) is unlikely to be bothered by us in the first place, so why even mention outward-pointing guns?
Yeah, that is what most psudo-intelligent species think. They make good slave labor.

My point is, if you are putting guns up there anyway, why not make them so they can at least turn around. Otherwise, even your human enemies have a weakness they can exploit.



[ Parent ]

Sad Asimov Reference (3.00 / 4) (#10)
by Herring on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 09:57:46 AM EST

Having been doing a bit of re-reading of the Foundation series, I do wonder if the world is in a decline similar to that preceding the fall of the galactic empire in the books.

For example, 30 years ago, we (I mean mankind, but yes I'm a Brit) developed a supersonic airliner. Any other plane at 60,000 feet you wear a spacesuit - Concorde, you wear a business suit. What has happened since? Have you flown transatlantic recently? It may be cheap, but it's uncomfortable and long.

We haven't been back to the moon. The US would rather spend the cash on the NMD (which will never work) than on going to Mars (which might). The only "cutting edge" research that gets done is by big money corporations looking for big profits (hence to cure for malaria - only poor people get that while rich people get cancer).

Public money got us to the moon, got us Concorde, nuclear power etc. Private money would never have been interested. Maybe we are in a state of decline.

Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
Nationality... (3.25 / 4) (#18)
by ucblockhead on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 11:53:06 AM EST

...we (I mean mankind, but yes I'm a Brit)... The US would rather spend the cash on the NMD (which will never work) than on going to Mars (which might).

Yeah, but what about your country? As a US taxpayer, I'm not particularly enamored with the whole "the US should do it for the world" thing. There's lots of countries out there. Hell, Europe has a GDP that matches that of the US. You've got the money.

Personally, I figure that if the US pays to go to Mars, the US gets the right to plant the damn American flag there. Personally, I think that's a waste of money, and Mars ought to belong to the world as a whole, but given that, I think that the whole world should contribute to the task of getting there.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

What does ISS stand for again? (none / 0) (#85)
by Herring on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 03:46:13 AM EST

(No, I don't mean IIS.)


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
Public monies (2.25 / 4) (#22)
by darthaggie on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:16:11 PM EST

Public money got us to the moon, got us Concorde, nuclear power etc.

Q: Going to the moon got us what?
A: A bunch of spinoff technology that we use every day.

Q: The Concorde got us what?
A: Subsidized fast trans-Atlantic travel.

Q: Nuclear power got us what?
A: Piles of radioactive trash that will glow longer than your children's children's children's children lifetime, and that we have no clue what to do with other than bury it and hope it goes away.

Of that, the first would have likely come about even if we'd just ignored the moon. Contemplate NASA's Mission to Planet Earth for a moment. As for SST's, they're smallish, noisy -- I am adequately old enough to remember sonic booms from aircraft before such noise emissions where controlled by law -- and expensive. Nuclear fission power was never a really good idea. Sure, lots of power, relatively cheaply. But they suffer from radioactive trash that has to be dealt with eventually, and suffer greatly from the NIMBY syndrom - Not In My Back Yard.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

correction on nuclear power (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by typhatix on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:42:08 PM EST

I don't have the link at the moment, but I remember reading a while back that techniques have been developed to recycle nuclear waste to be reused so that there is no leftover byproduct in a nuclear power station. The big problem with nuclear power remaining is that people have this misconception that it is inherently unsafe. Underfunded mismanaged ones are unsafe, but you can say the same about planes, cars, employees, etc.

Correct me if I am wrong though.



[ Parent ]
No, you're right.. (4.00 / 3) (#29)
by BrentN on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:56:54 PM EST

And as well, there are a new class of pebble-bed reactors where the fuel is already processed into inert pellets *before* going into the reactor core. One design in by MIT, and the Canadian nuclear research agency has one. The Canadian design is pretty sweet. I had an engineer from there in a short course I was teaching, and she was explaining it to me. Cool stuff.

[ Parent ]
IIRC (3.50 / 2) (#32)
by Xeriar on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:10:21 PM EST

I don't have the link at the moment, but I remember reading a while back that techniques have been developed to recycle nuclear waste to be reused so that there is no leftover byproduct in a nuclear power station. The big problem with nuclear power remaining is that people have this misconception that it is inherently unsafe. Underfunded mismanaged ones are unsafe, but you can say the same about planes, cars, employees, etc.

This process resulted in creating about 160,000 times the original amount of waste (though far, far less toxic). Not so much a matter of it being a bad idea, just - we either need to refine the waste, or get a better recycling system.

----
When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.
[ Parent ]

Fission products cannot be reused (3.50 / 2) (#71)
by localroger on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 07:48:21 PM EST

Even though nuclear waste is highly radioactive, it cannot be processed into nuclear fuel.

Think about how fission works. You have one big, wobbly atom of Uranium or Plutonium which can be induced to fission. You whack it with a neutron and it splits, releasing several MeV of energy (not a lot, but a lot to get from a single atom), several neutrons (to induce more fissioning in other atoms), and two great big halves.

The two great big halves are no longer fissionable isotopes of Uranium or Plutonium. They are mid-periodic-table elements, and they can be some very strange isotopes depending on how the U or Pu shatters. Some of these isotopes have unpleasant toxic effects, some have unpleasant radiological effects, and some have both. Once formed, there is nothing you can do about this crap except wait for its radioactivity to decay. That takes a long, long, long, long time. During that time it will quickly kill anyone who comes near it.

Basically all you can do about this waste is hide it away where nobody will ever find it (tricky) or dilute it so much and embed it in material so stable that the danger is minimized. Neither option is entirely reliable or very cheap. And that is why nuclear power is far more expensive than its proponents claim. It's not paid for until you take care of the waste. And going to the Moon was a hell of a lot easier than taking care of even the waste we've already created.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

More than fission going on -- free energy (4.00 / 2) (#73)
by rthomp1 on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 08:24:39 PM EST

Ever here of reprocessing? Killing that was one of President Carter's smaller mistakes...

There's a lot more going on in a nuclear reactor than fission. Of the uranium fuel loaded in the reactor, only about 3-4% by weight is the uranium-235 isotope which fissions to make power.

The rest of the uranium, uranium-238, has the curious property of absorbing a neutron and transmuting to a fissionable isotope of plutonium. In a well-designed and efficiently operated reactor core, as much of a third of the energy can come from fissioning plutonium. Which you get for free, from nature.

Nuclear fuel reprocessing extracts the unused plutonium spent nuclear fuel for reuse. Although the process is a chemical nightmare, reprocessing (and some slight changes in nuclear fuel design) could enable a nearly 100% renewable energy resource.

And the bit about the fuel glowing for thousands of years? It quits glowing after about a year. After ten years it safe to store outside in air-cooled canisters, with some major concrete shielding. After a hundred, only minimal shielding is required. After a thousand, the waste is barely more radioactive than natural uranium ore. After ten thousand, it's less radioactive than natural radioactive ore.

--Another environmentalist for nuclear energy

[ Parent ]
Breeder reactors = free nukes for terrorists (none / 0) (#78)
by localroger on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 12:27:35 PM EST

The rest of the uranium, uranium-238, has the curious property of absorbing a neutron and transmuting to a fissionable isotope of plutonium.

Actually, the fissionable isotopes created in a nuclear reactor tend to get fissioned -- that's what the reactor does. Unless you design the reactor to preserve them. In which case, you have the problem of transporting the weapons-grade spent carts to facilities where they can be turned into second generation civilian fuel. Those carts cannot fuel breeder reactors. And in between the first reactor and the second, there are lots of opportunities for things to go awry.

Your comments about the fate of radioactive waste are just plain pro-nuclear PR lies. It's been a lot more than a year since TMI nearly melted down and last time I checked, the stuff they were chipping out of Unit 2 was still glowing.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Just plain anit-nuclear lies (none / 0) (#80)
by rthomp1 on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 05:10:18 PM EST

I guarrantee you the TMI core is not still glowing. I know, I look at this stuff every day.

A little math, if that doesn't scare you off...to get radiation, you have to have radioactive decay. Which is an exponential process, except in this case it is dropping exponentially.

Yes, spent nuclear fuel does literally glow in the dark when you remove it from the reactor. But the glow (and the unbelievably staggeringly high radiation levels involved) subsides after about a year of decay (so you're down to just staggeringly high :). Let the fuel sit there 10 years or so. Radiation levels that previously required something like 8 feet of water as shielding have been dropping exponentially, so that now I can put a quarter of a nuclear core on a concrete pad, outdoors, inside a 1 foot thick concrete shield and have a picnic next door...with less radiation exposure than I would get if I had my picnic in a park in Denver, or on an airliner at 40,000 feet.

And BTW, the last of the TMI core was shipped to Idaho a few years ago. Be careful whose propaganda you use as reference material...

And the irrational proliferation fears about reprocessing... Every year literally hundreds of tons of enriched uranium is shipped around the country. Uranium, plutonium, it doesn't matter, Hiroshima and Nagasaki both proved you can make terrifying weapons out of either one, and just as easily. Why have no terrrorists diverted a shipment of commercial nuclear fuel, either finished product or raw fissile material? Because you need incredibly large and expensive industrial processes to convert it into a form usable in constructing a weapon. The plutonium streams in fuel reprocessing are handled in the same way.

I'm a lot more scared by the thousands of individual 2.2 kg masses of plutonium sitting around dozens military bases in the former USSR than I am by the tons of mixed uranium/plutonium fuel produced in reprocessing facilities.

As far as nuclear fuel cycles, I pointed out it would be a nearly 100% renewable source. There are actually fuel cycles that run at > 100% return--the French Super Phoenix and US Clinch River breeder reactors are examples of the technology. It turned out to be a lot more trouble than it was worth, at least at this time, in this energy economy, and with the reserves of uranium availble. But even existing US and European commercial reactors, with they're proven technology, can be modified to operate at conversion rates of 50% or so. It's just not cost-effective in today's economy.

--Another environmentalist for nuclear energy

[ Parent ]
Just plain bullshit (none / 0) (#81)
by localroger on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 09:49:56 PM EST

A little math, if that doesn't scare you off...

Note for future reference: Including the word exponential in a screed does not make it math. Math makes it math. Yeah, the high-level radioactivity goes down, but the most dangerous products aren't high-level. They are mid- and low-level isotopes of elements concentrated in very poorly chosen areas of your body by biological processes.

I'm a lot more scared by the thousands of individual 2.2 kg masses of plutonium sitting around dozens military bases in the former USSR

Oh, I'm scared of those too. I don't want to get blown up or poisoned.

As far as nuclear fuel cycles, I pointed out it would be a nearly 100% renewable source.

And it isn't. Yeah you can breed U238 into Pu239, and use it for fuel if you're willing to field the reprocessing and transportation risks. But then, guess what? It's still finite. There's nothing "renewable" about it. The Earth only contains so much Uranium of either isotope, and in the process of using it 100% of that uranium is turned into (at best) toxic chemicals. (The Periodic Table being arranged the way it is, when you break element 93 or 94 in half, a lot of what you get is toxic heavy metals and rare earths.) And that's not even counting its radioactivity.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Wrap-up (none / 0) (#82)
by rthomp1 on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 05:34:00 PM EST

Sorry about the math troll...

"The most dangerous" isotopes that now concern you are only a problem if released to the environment. Fortunately, the chemical properties that give these elements their biological affinity can be addressed by vitrification or the other technolgies being evaluated for truly permanent waste disposal.

What makes the breeder fuel cycles go is that not all uranium and plutonium is fissioned in the reactor. Many of the U and Pu isotopes don't fission, but undergo neutron absorption reactions to transmute into fissile isotopes. Or they fission at different neutron energies. The breeder reactor designs capitalized on these properties, by operating at different neutron energy levels to generate power and convert source material into fissile material usable in other reactor designs.

Yes the supply of these materials is finite. But I consider a technology that gives me power and more fuel out than I put in a renewable resource, at least on a millenial time scale. By then the fusion guys should have their act together...or the tree-huggers will have us living in caves again.

[ Parent ]
hehe (2.25 / 4) (#13)
by dnos on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 10:23:41 AM EST

maybe you should've been paying attention in class instead of daydreaming. :P it hasn't even been 50 years since we first went to the moon! i think that's called 'exploring'. :)

Space exploration is in its infancy (3.75 / 4) (#15)
by yosemite on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 10:52:36 AM EST

OK, reality check time: going into space is hard. If your spaceship breaks down, you can't just get out and walk home. You can't just pull out your cell phone and call AAA for a tow. If your run out of food, or air, or water, or any other essential resource, you can't just pull into the nearest convenience store and get more. If you have a critical problem, you either fix it yourself, with what you have on hand, or you die.

Space travel is orders of magnatude harder than anything humans have done (or tried) before. As much as I enjoyed _2001_, it's not a big surprise that we don't yet have space stations, well-established colonies on the moon, and exploratory trips to Jupiter. It's not quite 44 years since we first put a satellite in orbit (Sputnik I was launched 1957/10/4). The fact that we've come as far as we have in less than half a century is really quite remarkable.

Sure, we went from Sputnik I to the moon landings in less than 12 years, but you have to understand that that effort was extraordinarly expensive, and driven in no small part by an abiding national need to show up Communist Russia. And once that goal was achieved, it's only natural that our efforts scaled down to a more reasonable rate and cost.

I absolutely agree that going to space is a critical goal and returning to the moon should be part of that. But if we're going back to the moon, we should go with the goal of establishing a permanent self-sustaining manned base (dare I say colony?) there. And if we're going to have a colony on the moon, a well equiped space station in Earth Orbit will be an incredibly strategic element of making that happen.

Space exploration is happening. But we need to take it in reasonable steps. Before we go to Mars, we need to have a base on the moon. And before we have a base on the moon, we need a space station. And we're working on a space station.

--
[Signature redacted]

Hmm... (4.50 / 2) (#37)
by Elendale on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:27:16 PM EST

OK, reality check time: going into space is hard. If your spaceship breaks down, you can't just get out and walk home. You can't just pull out your cell phone and call AAA for a tow. If your run out of food, or air, or water, or any other essential resource, you can't just pull into the nearest convenience store and get more. If you have a critical problem, you either fix it yourself, with what you have on hand, or you die.

How observant. This was his point. No one has the desire to explore, we just want to sit on our asses. I know you were trying to be sarcastic, but could Columbus just say "well guys, looks like nothing's out here... too bad, lets go home"? Exploration is taking a chance. That's why i don't think we'll EVER leave this damn rock. You can't explore if everything is already done. Think about it: thirty years ago people were walking on the moon, but then we sort of said "eh, its a sort of small rock type thing... lets just stick around here". It isn't that we CAN'T, but that we WON'T.

-Elendale
---

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.


[ Parent ]
same, but different (3.50 / 2) (#49)
by roju on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:08:05 PM EST

Look at the difference in frontiers though.

If I explored the far East by horse, and ran out of food, I killed some more. If I ran out of water, I just found a stream.

If I go into space though, there is no food, no water, not even air. Basically, there is no fallback whatsoever.


Granted, I do agree with the article, it's something I've thought about myself. It's just these days you can't ship someone off if there's a chance they'll die, or the courts/people/gov will beat you silly. I'd love to see a resurgance in exploration tho... Maybe a grassroots space program? :)

[ Parent ]
When on the moon... (3.00 / 2) (#59)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:13:03 PM EST

...and running out of water, you can look for the blocks of ice in shadows at the poles. As for food, that is why the first thing you build is a few independantly operating greenhouses.

If you are on mars, there are a few places to look for water there too.



[ Parent ]

Assumption (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by dennis on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:29:48 PM EST

You can't just pull out your cell phone and call AAA for a tow. If your run out of food, or air, or water, or any other essential resource, you can't just pull into the nearest convenience store and get more. If you have a critical problem, you either fix it yourself, with what you have on hand, or you die.

This assumes that you're the only one out there. If there are a bunch of people in space just going about their business, you can call someone up for help. Heck, AAA will probably have tow rockets. It's only especially dangerous when you're just getting started.

[ Parent ]

Re: assumption (3.00 / 2) (#56)
by yosemite on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:01:00 PM EST

It's only especially dangerous when you're just getting started.
Unfortunately, that's where we are now. Assuming that we do explore space, there will almost certainly be some sort of rescue/assistance service. But that's a long ways off...

Of course, establishing a space rescue service is another good argument for building a space station -- a rescue ship that's already in orbit has a much better chance of getting to a ship in distress while there's still someone alive to rescue...

--
[Signature redacted]

[ Parent ]

Lunar Base: listen to what you are saying (4.00 / 5) (#16)
by JetJaguar on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 11:07:41 AM EST

Oh sure, there's problems with supply, energy, materials, etc. But why must they all be totaly solved before anyone even starts trying?

Think about the above statement for a second. Are you saying that you would be willing to go live in a "dome" on the moon without a good oxygen recycling system? The reason these problems have to be very close to totally solved is that people will die if they are not. Now, you can point out that early explorers knew that there were risks involved in their adventures, but certain death if one obscure component of their ship goes awry generally wasn't one of them, there was always a chance of survival. This isn't necessarily the case on the moon.... well I could go on here about various problems, but that's the basic point.

As for your more general point about the lack of interest in exploration. I would more or less agree with you. I also think that our education system (or lack thereof) is largely to be blamed for that. In most cases, we've made learning as absolutely boring as we possibly can. In our schools we've obliterated the joy of discovery, so our kids never learn it, and therefore only a very few of them are ever motivated enough to over-come the ridicule of their peers and really make the serious effort to explore something new. I'm not saying that our schools are completely to blame in this, many of our current "explorers," our scientists probing into the unknown, those people that teach our teachers, are such boring teachers themselves, that the joy of discovery is never imparted to our teachers, so the link is broken at the very top.

On a more positive note, I will say that there are projects going on in universities today to try and bring back the fun back into the learning experience, and they have had some measure of success, however there is still a very large population of entrenched, incredibly boring faculty that want nothing to do with it.

no time soon. (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by Ward57 on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 11:46:42 AM EST

Too heavy by far. How much do you thing a lunar mining operation would weigh? Not the stuff you can make there, but just the stuff you have to lift from earth. Add to that that if you want to build your own tools, you have to send up an entire refinery, plus the tools (probably machine tools) to build whatever tools you wanted building and replacements for all these types. Any idea? The sad thing is I don't either. Still, ten thousand tons would be a conservative estimate. The shuttle can lift 30 tons, the current cost is about $10,000 per kilogram on the best proton/arianne rockets. And finally, you have to lift a (maglev) rail launcher. (Or pay for rocket fuel and rockets to ship it back to earth). Asteroid mining is much more likely to be economically viable in the future.

You almost got it... (4.50 / 2) (#31)
by BrentN on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:04:53 PM EST

Considering the moon is primarily silicates, and very little in the way of useful metals, it would make sense to build the asteroid metal operations first so as not to have to ship tools and equipment and stuff up the well to the Moon. Once you have fabrication facilities in high orbits, then shipping finished goods to the Moon is very cheap in terms of energy.

Then you can set up big ol' chip fabs on the moon, since you can likely grow 2 meter Czochralski Si crystals (i.e 2 m diameter wafers) and having to have the wafers vertical to use X-ray lithography won't give you the engineering difficulties with the stepper motors that it does here at the bottom of the well.

And shipping the stuff back to Earth is pretty cheap too. You're working with the well, not completely against it.

[ Parent ]

Getting down not easy (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by paulT on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:32:55 PM EST

While gravity is on your side there is the little niggling detail of the atmosphere. Tons of material are constantly falling to Earth and very little of it actually survives re-entry. Shipping huge amounts of mined material from orbit to the ground could be very expensive as it would have to be protected from burning up.

Furthermore, once you get past that point there is the problem of slowing down to land. We would need far larger vehicles than the shuttle to bring mass produced goods of any economic significance down to Earth from orbit. Big enough that the fuel costs could be significant.

Disclaimer: This is all speculation on my part and I'm all for any real analysis that proves the above wrong.



--
"Outside of a dog, a book is probably man's best friend; inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx
[ Parent ]
Atmosphere helps (3.50 / 4) (#39)
by BlckKnght on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:45:08 PM EST

Actually, the atmosphere is the most helpfull thing in landing a payload from the moon. Without it, it would take a lot of energy to land, but with it, you can use it to slow from orbit, and parachute (or glide) the rest of the way to the ground.

Now, you have to hit a fairly narrow angle of entry to avoid skipping off into space, or burning up, but that just requires some care, not a lot of effort. If your moon launch mechanism (whatever it is) can put you pretty close to the trajectory, a (relatively) small maneuvering thruster can guide you in.

Getting back from the moon is easy. It's getting there in the first place that is hard.

-- 
Error: .signature: No such file or directory


[ Parent ]
Space colonies? Why? (4.00 / 3) (#19)
by Hizonner on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 11:56:02 AM EST

The explorers of the past didn't know what was out there but they went anyway.
Whereas we do know exactly what's out there, at least as far out as we're likely to go any time soon... and we have automated probes that can tell us anything we don't know yet, faster and more cheaply than going in person. So going to space in person would not be exploration, but tourism, or maybe colonization.

A lunar colony built with today's technology would be a really unpleasant place to live... cramped, probably smelly, thoroughly isolated, and, after the week or so it would take to get over the "wow, I'm on the Moon" feeling, probably godawful boring. Sure, you'd get different scenery than you have on Earth, but it's awfully monotonous scenery, and you can't really go outside anyway. Nor can you exactly run back into town on a whim.

Why spend a lot of money and endure a lot of danger to go to an uncomfortable place, probably have a reduced quality of life, and not learn anything you don't already know?

The European explorers and colonists you're talking about went mostly from economic or political motivations, admittedly with a smattering of curiosity thrown in. What are the economic or political motivations for spending a lot of money to live in space? Clearly there are some, but the people with those motivations don't have that much money.

Wait 50 years for technology in general to improve, and maybe visiting space will be cheap enough to be worth it... especially if the situation on Earth has deteriorated enough to make space look good by comparison. But do you really want that sort of deterioration?

That hasn't stopped anyone before (2.50 / 2) (#69)
by adamhaun on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 07:27:45 PM EST

>A lunar colony built with today's technology would be a really unpleasant place
>to live... cramped, probably
> smelly, thoroughly isolated, and, after the week or so it would take to get
>over the "wow, I'm on the
> Moon" feeling, probably godawful boring. Sure, you'd get different scenery
>than you have on Earth, but it's
> awfully monotonous scenery, and you can't really go outside anyway. Nor can
>you exactly run back into
> town on a whim.

The same could have been said about the early American colonists. From what I understand, Virginia wasn't all that nice of a place to live, and you couldn't exactly swing over to London to do some shopping :).

People will go to the moon for the same reasons they have always left home -- freedom, opportunity, and a sense of adventure.

-- Adam Haun No, you can't have my email
[ Parent ]
Like I said, wait a while... (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by Hizonner on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 08:11:54 PM EST

The same could have been said about the early American colonists. From what I understand, Virginia wasn't all that nice of a place to live, and you couldn't exactly swing over to London to do some shopping :).
... which is why nobody moved unless they were in a desperate situation. I haven't researched this, and am inclined to be suspicious of elementary-school history lessons, but I was taught that the people who originally moved to the American colonies did so because they were as likely as not to be killed, or at least persecuted, for their religion, which was fairly important to them. That's a political motivation. Who nowadays has that kind of political motivation, and at the same time lives in a place rich enough to even consider sending anybody anywhere?

Shipping political dissidents to distant places using government money isn't as popular an idea now as it was in the seventeenth century.

Even so, nobody got the chance to move to the American colonies until those colonies could reasonably be expected to be self supporting. You could, for example, grow tobacco in Virginia, which you couldn't in England, and the price of tobacco was high enough to pay for its transport back across the Atlantic, and to cover seed money for a self-supporting colony, with the then-existing technology (and it didn't take much to set up such a colony). There is no product uniquely manufacturable in open space, and still less so on the Moon, whose price on earth pays for the costs of building a self-supporting colony there, given today's technology.

People will go to the moon for the same reasons they have always left home -- freedom, opportunity, and a sense of adventure.
Sure, eventually. However, at the present prices, and given the present worldwide political situation, you can't afford to go to space for freedom. Even if you could, you probably wouldn't actually get any freedom. The governments of Earth have pretty much got a lock on human activity in space. There are lots of ways that could change, but it will take time, and it may very well have to wait until economic migration and technological advances make space colonies, singly or as a group cohesive enough to act in a unified way, self-sufficient enough to survive a blockade from Earth.

With today's technology, you're not going to find a lot of economic opportunity, either, although that will probably come before the political opportunity. It costs so damned much to do anything in space that anything you manufactured there would be at too much of a cost disadvantage to be competitive. People talk about asteroid mining, and maybe that's viable; I haven't looked at the economics of it. I don't see why you need a permanent colony, as opposed to a simple space station, to do it, though. Anyway, there doesn't seem to be much to mine on the Moon.

And adventure (whatever that means to you) is available cheaper on Earth. Sure, a certain number of "space junkies" will go just to go... but the whole point of the article we're responding to is that that sense of adventure is not enough to drive the huge efforts that would be required to make standing colonies possible. There aren't enough such people, and they aren't rich enough, to pay for the infrastructure and advance the technology by themselves, and nobody else wants to make the investment

I still guess that large-scale human space exploration, and/or permanent colonization, will have to wait for technological advances that make it a lot cheaper. As technology in general improves, some of the space-specific applications will start to look more reasonable, and then we may see something interesting. It probably won't get really interesting until space travel is as cheap, and as technologically free from centralized control, as sea travel was in the seventeenth century.

[ Parent ]

Some Rebuts (none / 0) (#75)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 01:04:41 AM EST

There is no product uniquely manufacturable in open space, and still less so on the Moon, whose price on earth pays for the costs of building a self-supporting colony there, given today's technology.
Well, there is space sex. And I hear that one can grow monster crystals for chips. The military might go for some biological weapons r&d far away from other people. And I know they like the idea of dropping rocks.

People talk about asteroid mining, and maybe that's viable; I haven't looked at the economics of it.
Goes like this: Monster big upfront investment and good odds to lose a few people, even larger payoff, by many orders of magnitude. If some of the metals predictions are right, you would own the market for several of the better ones around. Do a search some time for the companies that have this as a buisness plan they are perpertually looking into.

I don't see why you need a permanent colony, as opposed to a simple space station, to do it, though.
With the time spans involved, nothing but a very self-sufficent biosphere is even an option. Unless you just ferry up some giant construction robots or something. Humans will need rooms with lots of green friends.

Anyway, there doesn't seem to be much to mine on the Moon.
Which is why when people talk about mining they talk about asteroids and such. The talk about the moon for a big close place that has a chance of having water. You know some heavy stuff we will need a good bit of for a good many reasons. Asteroids probably don't have much in the way of water, but the Moon and Mars stand a good chance. You have to keep these distinctions straight to consider the economics of space.



[ Parent ]

I like the moon the way it is. (4.00 / 4) (#25)
by dfprovine on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:44:26 PM EST

When was the last time you looked up at the moon and honestly believed that someday you'd be able to see the lights of a vast lunar colony?

Never, and I hope never. I have enough trouble with light pollution here on Earth; making a mess of the moon isn't my idea of an improvement.

I think one reason people don't think of space as interesting is that it's not much to look at anymore. I know people who won't look at the sky for two seconds but come back from the Rockies and talk about how amazing it was to see the Milky Way and how they never knew there were so many stars.

But once they get back home, they stop looking again. There's nothing to see.

A Lunar colony would not serve much of a purpose that I can think of, and it's not about to be paid for by a government trillions of dollars in debt. If you want to advance space exploration, remember that you need to build it on a foundation of competent scientists and researchers. So maybe we should spend more on teacher salaries and school equipment, boost tax credits for college tuition, and then in 25 years reap the benefits of a more educated populace.

Except, of course, that the prevailing culture in the USA doesn't really care about having an educated populace, and so we aren't going to get one.

``Hey, look! He's learnin' on his own! Get him!'' (from `The Simpsons'.)

I'm not following what you're saying (3.00 / 2) (#41)
by SIGFPE on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:52:50 PM EST

Never, and I hope never. I have enough trouble with light pollution here on Earth; making a mess of the moon isn't my idea of an improvement.
I don't get what you're arguing here. We shouldn't populate the moon because we'll cause light pollution? Where? Are you worried about making the moon harder to see? Well it'll be easy for people on the moon to see. Are you talking about looking further out into space? Well without an atmosphere light pollution isn't a problem on the Moon. Either way it seems to me that living on the moon is a good option for you and people like you who worry about light pollution.

I'm inclined to agree with you, however, when you say that light pollution may be a cause of the loss of interest in space. The younger generation in much of the world are probably almost completely unaware of the treasures to be seen in the sky. The Milky Way used to dominate the sky and we modern people almost live within a different universe. What a pity.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Nice article ... (4.25 / 4) (#26)
by joegee on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:45:07 PM EST

But why must they all be totaly solved before anyone even starts trying?
I began this reply with a very cynical answer, which I have removed. It was too cynical even for me. :)

A less cynical answer would be that the media have cast such an intense spotlight on adventure endeavors that the mishaps that take place are filmed from multiple angles, analyzed by dozens of paid "experts", labeled, categorized, and rerun. I do not believe that most "modern", voting Westerners have the stomach for pioneering. Government budgets tend to reflect public attitudes.

To answer your first question: every time I look at the sky I hope to catch the gleam of something in orbit. You are not the only person who was hoping for a moon base by now. :)

The "experts" are saying we'll have a human presence on Mars within twenty years. I see it as being more like 50 years. My biggest fear is that if we do not go to Mars planning to stay there we'll pull another Apollo, visit a few times and then leave our toys on Mars to be buried in dust until someone finally decides to move in permanently, 50 years later.

I wish it would go faster simply because in terms of my remaining lifespan, being thirty five, chances are good I will not get to see a lot of the gee-whiz stuff that I was hoping to see. I think the time table of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 was a century too early. That's really a shame.

I suspect that the only thing that will get humanity back to the moon in a timely fashion will be taikonauts standing at the rim of the Tycho crater next to a red flag. That might even wake up the rest of us. I strongly support the Peoples' Republic in its effort to send people into space, if for no other reason than it may encourage another space race. :)

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
2001: (4.00 / 3) (#35)
by AzTex on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:25:21 PM EST

joegee said:

I wish it would go faster simply because in terms of my remaining lifespan, being thirty five, chances are good I will not get to see a lot of the gee-whiz stuff that I was hoping to see. I think the time table of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 was a century too early. That's really a shame.
Yes, it is a shame and I'm in the same boat as you at 36.  It makes me want to have been born a century later.  Well, at least I get to remember watching guys walk around on the moon on live TV.

I believe that Clarke picked 2001 as the year for Space Odyssey for dramatic reasons.  It was to be the first year of the new millenium.


** AzTex **
--
Knowledge is Power.  -- Frances Bacon


[ Parent ]
That is my understanding of the "2001" (3.50 / 2) (#55)
by joegee on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:55:32 PM EST

time frame too.

I remember looking up at the moon in the night sky and knowing "there are people there." I remember when I was a child an uncle brought me back actual 8 x 10 photo prints of the Apollo moon landing photos -- from the actual negatives. They were lost in a move. :(

I remember playing with all the lunar lander toys, the Saturn 5 water rockets, going to the Neil Armstrong Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and watching the return vehicle splash down in the ocean.

Those were such heady times. Perhaps we were over-confident? Perhaps we thought that momentum alone would be enough to carry manned exploration of space into the following decades? Perhaps we emphasized too strongly on one GOAL, as opposed to incorporating it as one step on a long-term plan?

Oh well ... We'll get back there some day, if for no other reason than to unfurl huge Pizza Hut/Microsoft signs. Thee and me will probably have to be content with Star Trek and Babylon 5. These "young whippersnappers", on the other hand, may get lucky. ;)

Peace,

-Joe G.

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
Some of us.... (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by warpeightbot on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:59:26 PM EST

.... haven't forgotten.

Buzz is particularly miffed that we've basically sat on our asses for the last thirty years... particularly since he was intimately involved in getting off this rock in the first place... so miffed, in fact, that he wrote a book about it ("The Return", which was a pretty damn good read)... a lot harder than your average email to your congresscritter. Of course, he also started his own rocket company... which was probably easier in some ways than writing the book.

When you think about it, though, the really big ideas other  than going to the moon have always been about trying to make a buck. Wilbur and Orville got their big break selling Flyers to the army. Chris Columbus was at least advertising his little adventure as money-making. The Internet didn't get big until CIX was started. (For better or for worse...) No offense to the GNU folks, but I don't think the Phoenix is going to run GNU/Warp; I think Berman got it right, that whoever steps up and becomes the real Zephram Cochrane is going to be trying to make a buck. And hey, if it gets some brash young pointy-eared Star-Trekking alien's attention.... well, won't that be a Magic Carpet Ride.

--
History will remember the inhabitants of this century as the people who went from Kitty Hawk to the moon in 66 years, only to languish for the next 30 in low Earth orbit. At the core of the risk-free society is a self-indulgent failure of nerve."
    -- Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut

Yeah! (3.00 / 2) (#40)
by dennis on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:50:45 PM EST

Unlike all the visionless naysayers around here, I'm with you, Zaphod. It's 2001, dammit, I want my lunar vacation and flying car!

Economic arguments may or may not be compelling short-term but long-term they're astounding. The solar system has the resources to support a population of trillions, with no strain at all. We could turn the Earth into a freakin' wilderness preserve.

Personally I think we need a frontier, to keep from going insane as a species. We need someplace where people can go make their own rules, where not everything is already owned. Or sooner or later someone's going to snap and unleash the gray goo.

Cheap access is the key. Somebody recently proved that if you can make carbon nanotubes at least 4 millimeters long, you can make a practical beanstalk.

Also, a physicist named Paul Koloc, who introduced the Spheromak reactor in the '70's, had the bright idea that what you need in fusion is a stable plasma, and that's exactly what ball lightning is. He's managed to produce it with a relatively simple, compact device in his garage, and claims that with funding he can achieve fusion breakeven in five years. Since the plasma is stable, it can be compressed by mechanical pressure, simplifying things dramatically, and allowing much greater energy density. But this paper about fusion propulsion is especially interesting...He's talking about using boron fuel that produces no neutrons, so you can use it for heavy lift vehicles as well as fast deep-space....

An interesting long-term plan is detailed in The Millennial Project: Conquering the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps by Marshall Savage, a plan which the Living Universe Foundation is attempting to promote. And the Mars Direct plan looks like a feasible way to go to Mars, relatively cheap, and stay a while, no need for space station or moonbase.

Your right, its happened before, see the Chinese (4.60 / 5) (#43)
by bored on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:03:34 PM EST

I think much the same way, the only reason we went to the moon was to make a political statement. Not to explore. In the past big jumps in technology were made in someone's garage or financed by people interested in big returns. Exploration almost always fit into the second category. Kings and rich merchants were always looking for a big return on their investment. Since we have a government designed to be deadlocked when everyone cannot agree, all the truly wild ideas cannot be implemented. Instead of trying to accumulate wealth for themselves (and to a certain extent their country) our government spends all its time figuring out how to say in power and it does that by trying to make itself look good, whether it be in the form of tax rebates, or education subsidies. The rich elite are really conservative right now, they tend to go pretty far down the risk/return curve since the fruit is hanging so low. The past few years it appeared that 10x returns over one or two years was nicely assured. This is because int he current enviroment its possible to have so many garage based ideas. When the number of garage ideas slows down (if that ever happens now that we are so connected) then the rich will have to look elsewhere. Eventually some people Will get incredibly rich selling land on mars to colonists, mining rare minerals from asteroids, selling exiting adventure vacations or manufacturing some product that can only be produced in 0 g. For that to happen though there needs to be a demand that far exceeds the quantity available enough to jump start space based industry.

Going to space isn't easy or free. Its not as hard as some people make it out to be though. Its just a problem with two parts, first you have to provide for survival and secondly you have to expend a decent amount of energy. The amount of energy required for a 100% efficient vehicle isn't much at all. The problem is that current technology is massively inefficient and requires a concentrated energy source. Energy in high enough concentrations isn't cheap for the quantities required. It could be if people got over their reservations about nuclear power though. The survival problem becomes a lot easier when you don't have to design everything for 100% reliability. If there were a half dozen space stations orbiting the earth with the ability to send out small rescue vehicles then you could design a space vehicle with an eject button or a life boat function. Something goes wrong just put on a space suit with 2 hours of air and a emergency beacon and jump out the airlock. Pray that the rescue party gets there in 2 hours. The ISS has a 'life boat' but it is 100x as complicated as it needs to be because it needs to be capable of reentry instead of just providing a life boat like function. Real life boats don't have motors and fuel tanks large enough to get them across the ocean, they just float and provide for a day or two worth of survival.

If the government were to build a military base (and open the supply system for bidding) on the moon you can be assured that the space industry would be instantly jump started. There would be companies searching the asteroids for water (for shielding, drinking, O2 production, etc) to ship to the moon (because it would be cheaper than flying it from earth and provide a nice return). You would have industries scrambling to supply nuclear power for the base (cause you can't use fossil fuels without O2 to burn and solar sucks for providing lots of power) using trick after trick to minimize their costs. You would have companies fighting to provide a food supply that would be consuming power and water. All this would move more people into space, which would increase the demand. The increased demand would drive the price down. If the government decided to shut the moon base down, it would be bad for a while but the asteroid mining companies would then have the infrastructure in place to mine precious minerals etc, which would keep people in space to fix and repair broken machinery. Standardized tincan/habitat manufacture done in pressurized environments should allow living space expansion with minimal costs.

This is about the only way I can think of for the government to truly jump start a space industry. Building space stations and ships for trips to the moon and mars won't work. We need a permanent self sustaining economy up there. The government will probably never start a colony in the current political landscape. Its far more important to turn inwards and "solve the problems at home" than to "waste money on research which has never had a return". The Chinese did the same thing a long time ago. For thousands of years they were ahead of everyone, then it became more important to perfect their food supply so no one went hungry than it was to attempt conquest of their neighbors. This resulted in their current state. The western world which lived a much worse life for a few hundred years challenged itself through wars and exploration, now has a huge jump on technology and standard of living. Technology solved the food issue for us without dedicating 3/4 of our population to farming. The Chinese meanwhile have spent at least the last century trying to catch up.



China analogy (4.00 / 3) (#50)
by dennis on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:12:10 PM EST

The China is analogy is even more apt than that. Instead of colonizing the world, China sent out one impressive fleet, touring the world to boost their prestige. Then they quit. Sorta like Apollo...

[ Parent ]
manufacturing not there yet. (4.00 / 3) (#44)
by rebelcool on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:10:07 PM EST

reliable space travel still escapes because our manufacturing and material technology isnt there yet. Manufacturing and materials used in space hasnt improved much since the 1960s. Thats where the real limiter lies.

Take a look at this page. Look at the photos of the space shuttle internal parts. An incredibly complicated machine it is, but it just looks like it would fall apart.

And it probably WOULD fall apart if not for the extreme amount of maintenance it undergoes.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Fiddling with designs (4.00 / 3) (#70)
by localroger on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 07:36:18 PM EST

US spacecraft aren't manufactured; they are essntially hand-crafted one at a time, which is why they are so expensive. There are constant design adjustments which involve massive interlocking systems and which must be checked and accommodated manually.

The Soviets, by contrast, settled on one major Soyuz booster design and set up a production line. Even though the design wasn't as efficient or perfect as it might have been, they learned how to build the damn thing very efficiently and reliably, which is why they managed to stay in the space game as well as they did despite their many economic disadvantages.

We wasted two whole decades nursing a design so complex we could only afford to build four of them (one of which we blew up) chasing the fantasy of a reusable do-everything "space truck." If we had paid similar attention to Big Dumb Boosters there's no telling what we could have in the sky now.

But alas, designs that simply work reliably aren't exciting and sexy. The Saturn V was a fantastic booster for heavy space lifting, but as soon as we got most of the kinks worked out of it we stopped making them. Remember, Skylab was essentially a gutted SVIII and it was lifted into orbit in one launch. Imagine the space station we could have built by linking a few dozen Skylab-class modules together -- it would make the ISS look like a kid's erector set and we could have built it in a year or two.

We have even thrown away the expensive infrastructure developed when we had Kennedy's vision to drive funding, necessary to build and launch SV's. All that work is now lost and if we don't make the Shuttle work, we essentially don't have a space program. The idiots who pulled the plug on Apollo and shunted NASA in this direction in the mid-70's have a lot to answer for IMO. When you have a design that works, you don't throw it away and start over from scratch. We have never leveraged our own experience in space; every project (except for Mars Pathfinder) starts off from scratch as if none of the rest had ever happened. It's a wonder we get anything to fly at all.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Dennis Tito: Armstrong of Our Time? (3.66 / 3) (#53)
by Anatta on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:32:53 PM EST

To me, the Dennis Tito flight was big. He was the first commercial space tourist, and certainly not the last.

The fact is that a lot of people will be willing to pay a lot of money to go up into space. I believe his was $20 million, but my guess is in 10 years it will cost significantly less than that. New industries will be created for shuttles, all the parts, all the necessary equipment, etc., and new ideas on how to handle things like oxygen and waste will be flowing.

The potential for people to make money flying others into space seems to be creating an industry... and once people get into space, the next obvious location is the moon. I would assume the military will settle it first, but my gut feeling is that again, not tooooo far down the line, enterprise will start working on it, too.

The US government has a budget of about $1.5 trillion or so... the national GDP is about $9 trillion... there's a lot more money in private enterprise than in government. If we want to get to space, the best way to do it will be in the private sector. Just watch out for the next stock market bubble, the space bubble.

Dennis Tito paved the way for non-scientists to go up to space... From what I hear, another tourist is headed up, too. Strangely, the "capitalist" US doens't seem to like it, but the Russians see $20 million/person value in such tourism, and its ability to fund the space program.
My Music

Stuck on the moon when the bubble pops (2.33 / 3) (#63)
by hardburn on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:31:40 PM EST

Just watch out for the next stock market bubble, the space bubble.

And when the "space bubble" pops, just as the ".com bubble" poped, would you like to be stuck on the moon? The worst that happend when the .com sector went down was that a lot of people lost their jobs. The worst that can happen when the space industry goes down is that a lot of people may get stuck in an envrionment where there is a 300-degree diffrence between shade and light, there's no air, and the low gravity makes their bones rot. Fun!


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
Toss Up (4.00 / 2) (#66)
by Anatta on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 06:09:38 PM EST

hmmmmm.....

Out of work Perl programmer... horrible death in the cold, lonely numbness of space... out of work Perl programmer... horrible death in the cold, lonely numbness of space... decisions, decisions!

Dunno, it's a toss up!
My Music
[ Parent ]

Launching into space from the moon? (1.33 / 3) (#58)
by gblues on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:44:40 PM EST

There's just one teensy problem with launching from the moon. Launching a rocket basically involves exerting enough force away from the launch area to get out of gravitational pull. So, if rockets are pushing against the moon to launch, wouldn't we be risking pushing the moon out of orbit?

Nathan
... although in retrospect, having sex to the news was probably doomed to fail from the get-go. --squinky
I wouldn't worry about it (3.00 / 2) (#60)
by hardburn on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:26:12 PM EST

If I understand my physics correctly, all objects in an orbit holds its orbit because it goes around at a certain speed and has a certain ammount of mass and the object it orbits has a certain ammount of mass. While a rocket may push the moon a little ways, as long as the moon's speed stays the same, it will just go back to where it was. (Actualy, the moon is moving away from the earth at about an inch every year).

If you're really worried about it, all you have to do is set up two launch pads, and launch the same sized rockets with the same ammount of force. That should offset the effect.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
No chance (3.00 / 2) (#61)
by bored on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:26:34 PM EST

That would take one really big rocket. The mass of the moon is roughtly 7.35e22kg. See Newton's equal and opposite reaction stuff... lol

[ Parent ]
moon is big + rockets work by expelling mass (4.33 / 3) (#64)
by scbomber on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:41:12 PM EST

A: Moon is big.
The moon masses 73500000000000000000000 kg
The space shuttle plus the entire fully-built-out international space station (for comparison) will mass about 1025000000 kg. So to accelerate the moon by one nanometer (one millionth of a millimeter) per second, that entire mass (far larger than the biggest mass ever launched at one time to date!) would have to be accelerated to about 72000 meters per second (comfortably more than the surface escape velocity of Jupiter!)

B: rockets work by expelling mass, not like a projectile.
Launching a projectile to escape velocity would require an equal and opposite force to be applied to the planet where you're launching from. However, for a rocket, only at the beginning of the burn would all of the force push against the moon. As a craft ascends, more and more of its expelled rocket propellant will miss the moon and continue on its merry way. So even the facts above in (A) are overstating the effect on the moon's motion.

C: Thousands of meteors collide with the moon all the time.
Some of them are pretty big.

[ Parent ]

I want to ride in a flying car.... (3.00 / 1) (#74)
by timbong on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 10:57:10 PM EST

Flying cars DO exist The Moller M400 Skycar with a crusing speed of 350mph and uses normal gas (15 mpg) and has VTOL. If your wondering how much it costs well a lot, but they say it will get cheaper.

Perhaps flying cars are a bad idea (none / 0) (#87)
by hardburn on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 10:56:09 AM EST

Yeah, I'd like to drive a flying car, too. However, right now just about anything human-made that flys in the US is regulated by the FAA, which puts strict rules on being allowed to operate a flying machine and how those people can fly it. I myself have attempted to get the private pilots license in the US, and I can tell you from experiance that it is quite a bit harder then a standard US drivers test. All these rules add up to flying being one of the safest ways to travel.

If flying cars become commonplace, the FAA or [insert equivelent to FAA in your country] would have to relax the rules down to around where just about everyone who can pass a current drivers test can pass a flight test. Considering the mess of people who managed to get their drivers license, I can only imagine the resulting insanity when you add a third dimention.

Next time you see someone run a red light while talking on a cell phone AND trying to keep the kids in the back seat quite AND eating a Big Mac, ask yourself if you'd like that same person to be in the same airspace with a 500-passenger jumbo jet.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
Tasmin Archer - Sleeping Satellite (none / 0) (#76)
by bugmaster on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 08:02:56 AM EST

These lyrics sum it up a bit...
Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Did we squander the chance?
In the rush of the race
in the reason we chase is lost in romance
and still we try
to justify the waste
for a taste of mans greatest adventure.

Have we got what it takes to advance?
Did we peak too soon?
If the world is so green
then why does it scream under a blue moon?
We wonder why
the earth's sacrificed
for the price of its greatest treasure
It looks like we did indeed "squander the chance", perhaps forever. NASA is falling apart due to the lack of funding, the International Space Station doesn't get much press anymore, and most research is focused on purely practical matters, such as "how to make a more efficient communications satellite". There are no serious plans, however remote, to build a moonbase, or send a manned mission to Mars...
>|<*:=
Firestar (none / 0) (#77)
by bugmaster on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 08:56:36 AM EST

The excellent (though somewhat optimistic) book "Firestar", by Michael Flynn, describes how space exploration COULD be achieved, in a commercially effective way.
>|<*:=
religion != shopping (1.25 / 4) (#79)
by wtfai on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 03:21:08 PM EST

Theres a passage in one of Terry Pratchett's novels that goes something like (to paraphrase, and remove most of the humour):- A famous philospher once argued thus "If god exists and you believe in him then you go to heaven, if he does not exist then its makes no differance if you believe in him or not, so you should believe in him". When he died he was met be god holding a big stick, with a nail in it saying "I'll show you what I think of mister clever dick".

The point being that you cannot make a rational choice to believe in something that is essentially irrational. It is an obvious wrong to be muslim to have friday off then jewish to have saturday off and then christian to have sunday off.I think in matters of faith you either believe or you don't, and no amount of argument will change that.

If you want to help out... (none / 0) (#89)
by freakazoid on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 10:11:05 PM EST

There are several organizations out there that are working directly on providing the sort of future you speak of. Building it: John Carmack (of id software) at Armadillo Aerospace, JP Aerospace, XCOR Aerospace, The Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society (excuse us, our website is abysmally out of date, but we meet regularly and we've made more progress in the last few months than in the last seven years), Arocket, The Space Access Society. These are just the organizations I've had direct involvement with. There are several others, including the Space Frontier Foundation, Lunar Development conference, etc., etc. So quit complaining and come help out! I don't know where you are, but JP is in Sacramento, California, XCOR is in Mohave, California, Space Access meets in Scottsdale, Arizona, ERPS is in the Silicon Valley, and Armadillo is in Dallas, Texas (duh). ERPS, XCOR, Armadillo, and JP are actually *building* vehicles to test various concepts, and JP has actually had several launch attempts and currently holds the altitude record for an amateur rocket launch. ERPS has successfully tested a H2O2 monopropellant engine at 99+% concentration, which I believe is a first, Armadillo has demonstrated VTVL rocket flight on an amateur level, another first, and XCOR builds rocket engines to order.

Let everyone see the stars again (none / 0) (#90)
by frabcus on Sun Sep 02, 2001 at 11:16:18 AM EST

As said elsewhere in the thread, a big reason for the lack of enthusiasm about space is that people can't see the Milky Way every day.

The number of stars is amazing and awe inspiring.

This can be solved by using the correct sort of street lamps, that shine down and not up. Help organisations like the Campaign for Dark Skies fix it.

To infinity and beyond! | 90 comments (90 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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