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The Need for a New Frontier

By icer in Technology
Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:36:47 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Mankind has basically run out of new frontiers to conquer and explore on Earth. Without something new to discover, to tame, and to colonize the human spirit will suffer.

We need something to rally behind. Without a true frontier, that is reachable by more than handful of people, we stagnate.

The new frontier so often looked to is space. We are a space-faring people. But just barely. When only a handful of people have access to something, it's elitist. It's not a true frontier.

The colonization of space is mankind's only hope to avert our eventual demise, here on Earth. Mars (not the ISS) is the first logical step.


Throughout history, man has looked for new frontiers. The Romans expanded west to the island of Britain. The Europeans moved west to America. The early Americans expanded west to the Pacific. There are countless examples of different cultures, and peoples venturing out in the hope of discovery. History has proven that man is resilient, and adaptable. But for all of our accomplishments, what can was say we did during the past twenty years, to expand humanities frontiers?

Unfortunatly, we've accomplished very little. Sure, information technology has created a diversion for people. There's a "safe" online world, devoid of physical risk, for which people can explore and venture into. The online world is indeed a great scientific, and cultural achievement. And while we long to view it as a new frontier, it's merely a second-rate substitution or "the new world". Don't get me wrong, technology (especially IT) is great. But it should just be a tool to help us get to, and survive the new frontier. As such, it's part of the journey, not the destination.

We first set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Over thirty years later, at the dawn of a new millennium, we've gone no further. Sure, we have the International Space Station (ISS), and a re-usable orbiter. We've also sent a number of probes to Mars. And these are all nice tools to have at our disposal, but space is hardly a frontier. A frontier is something that the average person chooses not to seek out. At the same time, a frontier is something that can be reached by the courageous, and those willing to go somewhere new knowing the risks.

If the moon were truly a frontier, private organizations would have begun manned missions. If nothing else, NASA would have dedicated a significant amount of resources to it's further exploration, and colonization. But it's not; the moon is an item on a list of accomplishments.

"Sure, yea, we got there." "Oh, did we do anything besides send a handful of people there? Nahh, not worth the effort."

Is the Moon landing the "greatest accomplishment of the twentieth century"? Quite possibly. But it's also the greatest disappointment of the twentieth century. Think about this for a second. There were/are people alive who saw the first car, and the first moon landing. There are also people alive (probably the majority of the reader base here) that haven't ever seen a moon landing!

But why should we want to go to the moon?

I'm not saying the moon is the best place for our resources. The moon is probably a near-term dead end. It is by NO MEANS a stop on the way to Mars.

The long-term return on the ISS is minimal. How much can we learn from circling the Earth another dozen or so years? What is it we hope to accomplish anyway? Compare the long-term potential of the ISS, with the long-term return on investment that Mars presents. The possibilities are indeed unlimited.

The bottom line is that we have the technology today, to send people to Mars (and return them to Earth). I'm not going to re-invent the wheel with this essay. I'm sure most of you reading this are relatively familiar with Robert Zubrin's "The Case for Mars". If you aren't, it's defiantly worth reading. It's basically an outline of what's needed to get people to Mars economically.

Mars represents the next logical step. It can be our new frontier, and it's not as far off as many would lead you to believe.

Without a new frontier to explore, the human spirit fades. Without new challenges, we case to adapt and evolve. Without evolution, we become extinct.

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Poll
Should we develop a manned Mars program?
o Yes. Right away. We should have a permanent presence on Mars by 2007. 37%
o Yes. We should begin sending manned missions by the end of the decade. 29%
o Yes, but we should not infuse any additional resources into such a project. 5%
o Yes, but I'm in no hurry. 17%
o No, it's a waste of time, and resources. There are enough problems here. 6%
o No, just plain old no. 3%

Votes: 156
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Moon
o Internatio nal Space Station (ISS)
o orbiter
o Mars
o NASA
o Robert Zubrin's "The Case for Mars"
o Also by icer


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The Need for a New Frontier | 165 comments (162 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Nanotech.. (2.00 / 9) (#3)
by Marcin on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:20:57 AM EST

I think with the development of Nanotech we can find new frontiers too. For example with a tiny submarine with a camera and transmitter we could explore the human body like never before, like those old movie except without people inside the little submarine trying to get sneezed out or whatever.

Damn I'm bored.
M.

Nanotech (2.66 / 9) (#4)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:24:28 AM EST

I personally think that nanotech is the most compelling new frontier. It could either lead to a perfect utopia for all, or be the death of everyone, but either way, it's the frontier of playing with the elements themselves...
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Re: Nanotech (3.00 / 4) (#5)
by Marcin on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:28:55 AM EST

Glad to see I wasn't the only one thinking of nano when I read this :)

Chances are that for something like nanotech to develop for commercial applications it'll be used for military applications first, if history is anything to go by. Hopefully though at that point we don't all get killed off by some nanoarmy before we can get to the cool commercial applications bit.
M.
[ Parent ]

Re: Nanotech (3.25 / 4) (#7)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:06:41 AM EST

Why would we need commercial applications when the very notion of nanotech would probably tear down any need for an economy? ;)

Seriously, though, I reasonably see two outcomes with nanotech: utopia (labor of all sorts becomes unnecessary, everything's free in a true sense, etc.etc.) or death (either a grey-goo scenario, or the big corporations finally get their way and control everyone with no way to stop them, which would eventually lead to certain death anyway).

Personally, I'm rooting for the former.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Nanotech (3.00 / 4) (#21)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 06:59:59 AM EST

nano isn't magic.

the first implementations (which, in point of fact, we are beginning to see today), will be nanomechanical catalysts for industrial processes, like selectively permeable gas filters, or self-assembling transistor arrays.

While those technologies will advance the "state-of-the-art", they will not bring about a magic ending of economic scarcity, alas.

There are several orders of magnitude of complexity before we have universal assemblers (and, more importantly, dissassemblers).

Of course, I can't wait til then. :)



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Any technology sufficiently advanced... (1.00 / 1) (#46)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:21:27 AM EST

I was thinking more long-term. :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Term (1.00 / 1) (#62)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:37:14 PM EST

Exactly.

And the point I was trying to make was that, if we're talking about a new "frontier" right now, then nanotech doesn't fit the bill. Give it a century or two.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Re: Nanotech (3.60 / 5) (#13)
by swr on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:48:40 AM EST

It could either lead to a perfect utopia for all, or be the death of everyone

I'm increasingly less convinced (decreasingly convinced?) of the "judgement day" scenarios with regards to nanotech.

In theory, once we have programmable, self-reproducing nanoassemblers we will have all of the capabilities we need to manipulate matter in any way we please. In theory.

Similar claims were made about computers. Once you can create an efficient implementation of a Turing machine you should be able to create machines that think, redesign themselves to be bigger/faster/cheaper/better, control robotic appendages to reproduce themselves (von Neumann machines), discover a cure for cancer, solve world hunger, etc, etc, etc.

So where are those self-designed artificially superintelligent robotic servants who ought to be out solving the world's problems by now? Theoretically, computers should make these things possible.

The problem is not that our existing hardware doesn't have the capabilities. You can't really say that computers aren't fast enough- even if we "need" computers a million times faster than they are now, we should be able to create an AI now that would simply take 11.5 days to accomplish the equivalent of one second of thought. But we can't even do that.

No, the hardware is not the problem. The basic Turing-machine capability exists, but half a century later we are still figuring out how to use it. Every day programmers create new purposes for the general-purpose computer. The software we create gets more and more complex, but the theoretical ultimate of a better-than-human AI still appears to be too complex for our current crop of geeks to produce.

The promises of nanotech are similar. We are talking about creating some incredibly complex machines, which will need to interact with trillions of others in incredibly complex ways, to produce incredibly complex output.

Drexler's visions are possible, in theory. But the road (gap?) from theory to implementation is a very long one.



[ Parent ]
Wha? (1.00 / 1) (#121)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:12:37 PM EST

Nanites don't need to be intelligent to perform programmed tasks. It's not like the assembly-line worker robots which manufacture cars have intelligence. Nor is it likely that something as small as a nanite could ever get intelligence aside from a hivemind. I don't see why this is even a requirement for a grey goo scenario - all that a grey goo scenario requires is that some assemblers/disassemblers/reproducers/whatever go haywire (due to a bug or malicious program, not due to intelligence) and start assimilating/whatever all the matter they can get their... um... whatever they'd have as an equivalent to 'hands' on.

I really don't see what your argument has anything to do with the impossibility of grey goo scenarios.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Wha? (2.50 / 2) (#133)
by swr on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 01:06:32 AM EST

Nanites don't need to be intelligent to perform programmed tasks. It's not like the assembly-line worker robots which manufacture cars have intelligence. Nor is it likely that something as small as a nanite could ever get intelligence aside from a hivemind. I don't see why this is even a requirement for a grey goo scenario [...]

I think you missed my point. I am not saying that we need strong AI to produce nanotech. I am simply suggesting that nanotech won't be a be-all/end-all technology any more than computers are.

As for grey goo, nanotech won't be the first technology with the capacity to destroy us all. Stopping a grey goo outbreak would probably be much easier than stopping, say, a thermonuclear war. In fact you could probably stop a grey goo outbreak with a thermonuclear explosion... Please, no comments about "giving them exactly what they need- energy" (Andromeda Strain reference). :)



[ Parent ]
Very cheap shot... (1.00 / 1) (#135)
by Quark on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 08:50:32 AM EST

Stopping a grey goo outbreak would probably be much easier than stopping, say, a thermonuclear war.

We'll threaten the Nanites we're going to install NT on the "motherbrain". That should make them shiver in fear. Bow down to the great Assembler.

So much bandwidth, so little time...
[ Parent ]
Drfting, but Interesting (1.00 / 1) (#125)
by Syn.Terra on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:58:30 PM EST

Okay, seriously drifting from the original topic, but I've got a few opionions (yep, just brainstuffs) on certain things you brought up...

Firstly, I believe that it's impossible for any thing to build something better than itself. Man can build a bomb, but a bomb isn't "better", it just blows up. It can't think, it can't act. Robots are close, but still require people to operate them. If you're hoping a bunch of geeks will make something smarter than themselves, don't hold your breath; it's like some intellectual asymtote.

I do believe, however, that if you build something with the capability to grow it can/might be able to evolve into something better than it started with.

Also, all "judgement day" scenarious are false. Humanity is inherently incapable of destroying itself. We've been tested before, with everything from fire to vaccines to nuclear weapons. Humanity absolutely cannot be the end of humanity.

And if I'm wrong, and humanity does in fact destory itself... well... you figure it out.

-----------------------------------------------
Music: Good, Free, Legal. Pick two.
Comment posted under the FAIC Public Licence
[ Parent ]

Frontiers... (3.07 / 14) (#6)
by dice on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:01:34 AM EST

So here i am. Around high school age, but it bugged me so i got out early.
And there's nothing to do. Ever. No challenges, no hardship.
I'm bored out of my mind.
This talk of new frontiers got me thinking about what there is to test ourselves against, especially my current generation. I mean what is there? A lifeteam of writing meaningless software, maybe designing a little hardware. *But that presents no challenge.*
I want something where i can test myself, push beyond the borders, and I can't find it.
The paths before me have been done. I can't see anything new. I don't want to spend my life as a human assembly line.
Give me a new frontier.
Please.

Re: Frontiers... (3.20 / 5) (#22)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:02:43 AM EST

find some friends, join some military organization, muster out after a term of peacekeeper duty, and execute a coup d'etat in some small third world country. VOILA! you will never be bored again, because the mantle of the king is quite heavy.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Go back to school (3.00 / 3) (#32)
by speek on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:14:24 AM EST

Go back to school. There's nothing to see out here. In school, you can find all the intellectual challenges you could possibly want. Make nanotechnology a reality. Make human beings immortal. Conquer gravity. Make fusion work. Politics won't solve our problems, but damn - little food replicators just might! Do I need to go on?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Re: Go back to school (1.00 / 1) (#70)
by dice on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:05:00 PM EST

> Do I need to go on?

Unfortunately, i suppose, yes.
I'm in college. It's just as bad. Admittedly right now I'm a freshman, and it may get better, but I honestly don't see that happening. All this is still taught to the lowest level, and it's not about how to find new things, it's all about what's already been done.
The entire thing is enshrined in this mysticism.. I have to do this to learn anything, but it's a damn poor mechanism.

> In school, you can find all the intellectual challenges you
> could possibly want.

I beg to differ.

[ Parent ]
taking what? (1.50 / 2) (#80)
by speek on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:29:52 PM EST

You didn't say what you're taking. You're a Freshman. When I went to High School, I breezed through without trying. Ditto Freshman year of college when I took Calc 2 & 3, Physics I & II, and some electives. Sophomore year as a physics major was a very different story. I don't know what you are taking, so I might make suggestions in that area.

Also, how are you going to get anywhere interesting if you don't learn what's already been done? Sure, it might be challenging to re-invent set theory on your own, but that's not very efficient. If you claim you already know everything then either a)you're being arrogant and are wrong, or b)just take higher level classes. What, they won't let you? And you, looking for a challenge, can't meet that one? ;-)

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

If you're bored in college... (3.00 / 1) (#154)
by Vulture on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 12:59:30 PM EST

Then you picked the wrong major, or you went to a lousy school. One thing to remember is not to assume the 'soft' classes are for weenies. Lit, poetry, history, and the like are the best (probably only) way to actually learn critical thought and analysis. Sorry for the cliche, but you get out of it exactly what you put into it. I just wish it hadn't taken me 6 years of college to finally realize that and start enjoying it.
-- Stick a crayon up your nose!
[ Parent ]
Human need... (3.80 / 15) (#8)
by Miniluv on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:49:47 AM EST

This is something I've been giving a lot of thought to, as I've lately been trying to decide what my value and belief system is exactly...especially on philosophical issues. I've also been reading a lot of Heinlein...which is really shaping me.

Anyhow...to steal an argument of his:As a species we will soon need breathing room. With population rapidly rising, and overcrowding becoming incessant, conflict is sure to follow. Belief systems in neighboring countries are already violently incompatible, and as the populations increase across the board this is going to become more common, and more severe. Dare we imagine a Middle East with a severe overcrowding problem a la India or Mexico City?

Space travel is the only quasi-permanent solution to this problem. Colonizing the sea will help some, but even that is going to quickly reach diminishing returns as population growth continues to scale up.

The other really interesting opportunity posed by space travel is for people to finally have the opportunity to experience lifestyles exactly as they choose. I'm thinking most likely in terms of Socialism and Communism. Systems which theoretically have entirely different merit than their Earth based implementations, but how might this be different if groups of entirely like minded people set off together to colonize under rules mutually agreed to?

I'm not going to get into the negative aspects of colonization that Heinlein has envisioned, because I tend to give them less credence. I think with effective, efficient space travel humanity has the opportunity for a new rennaisance, alongside relieving population problems. Imagine the scientific opportunities of being able to travel to these places we've only observed with telescopes and the like. Testing theories about the deaths and births of stars by finding the real thing happening at a reasonable distance.

The last thing that occurs to me is how interesting the technology revolution this would bring about would be. If you look at the NASA programs thus far, all sorts of interesting technologies have spun out of unexpected circumstances, as well as been dreamed up to deal with expected phenomena.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'

overpopulation not solved by space (3.33 / 3) (#31)
by speek on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:05:53 AM EST

Pardon the pun :-), but colonizing space doesn't help over-population one bit. The rate that you could move people to space would never match the rate at which new people are born. We need other solutions for that particular problem.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Hard to judge... (none / 0) (#118)
by Miniluv on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:16:53 PM EST

I hate to tell you, but the technology ain't been invented yet, so we dunno HOW fast we can or cannot move people out/off planet. I tend to agree that it will not cause significant impact upon existing population numbers. I'm talking more in the sense of generations down the road once ship after ship full of migrants depart. If you consider the "average" family as being 2 parents and 2 children for purely statistical purposes a married couple with no children removes 4 people 1 generation in. Those two children will have two each, so we're at 8 2 generations in and so on and so forth. Over population is a short AND long term problem...migration will help the long term aspect far more than the short.

For the other side? Suicide, homicide, fratricide, regicide, patricide, but no goddamn genocide.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

SeaQuest! (2.66 / 12) (#9)
by dyoo on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:12:40 AM EST

Personally, I think it would be nice if more research were focus on sea exploration. Because we've evolved out of oceans onto land, there's a certain poetry about returning to the oceans.

(Gotta admit I liked the original episodes of SeaQuest... *grin*)

Also, since "inner space" shares certain environmental features (high pressure) with outer space, any advances toward maintaining a deep-sea habitat should help advance both frontiers.



Re: SeaQuest! (1.60 / 5) (#18)
by rongen on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 06:16:42 AM EST

!

You beat me to it. I also think we have quite a lot to do on Earth... Like how to utilize resources here efficiently and non-destructively. If we live so inefficiently on a bread basket like Earth just imagine how much energy we will need to expend to survive on Mars! *SHEESH* We need to figure out some simple stuff before we start visiting the "stars". (and, yes, I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica, etc). :)
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

Down AND Out (1.00 / 1) (#43)
by jabber on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:47:41 AM EST

Heh... I think we need (NEED) to go in both directions at once.
I'm one of those terribly geeky people that just doesn't see the Business side of it at all, and considers Politics to be the single worst thing ever to happen to humanity. "Why can't we all just get along"? Anyhoo...

The oceans, having been there since the beginning of life, hold a greater bio-diversity than land does. The wealth of biological substances down there is staggering - the field of pharmaceuticals and bio-mechanics alone could be filled to the gills (pardon the expression) by what is to be discovered in the seas. The world is large enough to support many more people than it already houses, and I think that tapping the potential of the oceans is a huge part of serving the needs of humanity in an intelligent and eco-friendly manner.

Space on the other hand is our insurance policy. Even if the oceans serve us well, we'll still have all our eggs in one basket. Space will take us much longer to colonize and aclimate to than the oceans, but we MUST go there. We must, because eventually, despite our best efforts, a big rock is going to bonk us in the head; and we'd better have our bags packed when that happens. And then there's all those mineral deposits just floating around out there, and all that zero-G stuff we could be doing...

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

Kick start? (2.25 / 8) (#10)
by muddyfunster on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:57:10 AM EST

There's no shortage of eager capitalists who want to make money - so I presume if potential profits were to be made many people would be going for it - and I haven't noticed any commercially funded successes...not even a glorius failure....(Yes a few satilites have been launched....not exactly space colinization...). The first moon landing was over 30 years ago, what possible event could really kick start space colinization?

Re: Kick start? (2.33 / 3) (#23)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:04:25 AM EST

there are too many bureaucratic nightmares intervening, or hobbyists would already be in space, just like the Wright Brothers.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Another frontier? (2.50 / 10) (#11)
by bjornfr on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:28:36 AM EST

I suggest a different frontier, a much more controversial one. Trying to eradicate the hunger and suffering in this world. It's not going be achieved any time soon, it's going to take much more hard work, and it certainly isn't merely a technological challenge, but a social one. Isn't Man supposed to be better than animals for his thinking? Isn't a social conscience one of the major distinguishing factors?

Saving animals and colonising space is all very well, but shouldn't saving humanity be a greater goal? As I've said, it certainly isn't easy. But it should be our greatest challenge

Oh, and I'm not advocating stopping space research. Just that it shouldn't have the greatest priority.



Re: Another frontier? (3.25 / 4) (#17)
by excession on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 06:03:16 AM EST

See my post for my full thoughts, but this just seems criminally short sighted. What happens once hunger, suffering and poverty are solved?
It's very simple. The principle explaining the problem are nearly two hundred years old. Thomas Malthus explained the consequences of humanity's tendency to expand up to, and beyond, the carrying capacity of the resources available to us. Once this occurs, the only possible way for population reduction to occur - since, with the end of poverty and hunger, the main reasons why "overshoot" hasn't already occured will be gone - will be the resulting planetary conflict as nations try to provide for the needs of their massively growing - and increasingly longer lived - population.
-Thom

[ Parent ]
Population growth decreases with increased wealth (2.50 / 2) (#28)
by bjornfr on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 08:32:43 AM EST

For a different view, please look at population growth in rich countries vs poor countries. Increased wealth makes for a dramatic reduction in population growth, since having children is no longer a drastic necessity for security in old age, cheap workforce etc etc. If only this can be spread to the more populous countries, population growth will take care of itself.

As for Malthus, well not many people worry about his point. Increases in food production technologies have more than compensated for population growth. Not to mention the fact that if we all went veggie (perish the thought) there is even greater scope for feeding the teeming masses.

Moving people to other planets will never be an economical solution to population growth, nor is it a solution to the conflicts going on all over the world, even as we sp^h^htype

"Once hunger, suffering and poverty is solved" then we will presumably not have to worry about population growth, or human conflicts. In fact, it'll be pretty much like the universe of Star Trek, without the interstellar travel :-)

p.s. Never mind the improbably "Physics of Star Trek", I'd like to see a professional treatise on the even more improbably Economics of Star trek



[ Parent ]
That's as maybe (1.00 / 1) (#54)
by excession on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:23:10 PM EST

But, we'll still run out of resources - ie metals, oil, gas etc, and at an even more increased rate if we're relying on artificial food production...
Sure, some experts are saying that Malthus is becoming less relevant - but a lot are now changing their minds and admitting that perhaps he was pretty damn accurate...
But whatever the arguments with regard to the economic benefits (or lack of) - what's most going to appeal is breathing space. To paraphrase Monty Python for a second - "She's got huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge tracts of land" :-) - and while it's not economical to ship everyone off to Mars so that the Earth's population is reduced to it's carrying capactity, that is gonna appeal to a hell of a lot of people!

[ Parent ]
Re: Another frontier? (1.66 / 3) (#24)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:06:38 AM EST

how about this idea: the people who want to save people can stay and save people, and the people who want to go to space can go to space?

ps - my new address will be 101 Freedom Way, Lunar City, Mare Tranquilitas, THE MOON.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Conscience and such. (1.00 / 1) (#136)
by Quark on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 09:44:51 AM EST

Isn't Man supposed to be better than animals for his thinking?

Supposed is exactly the word you are looking for. Man is supposed to have conscience, and should also be able to make decisions based on his conscience. Unfortunately man also has instinct, and this is still a very dominant factor in determining his behaviour. People can be as civilized, politically correct or humane as they can be, the moment they get horny, hungry, angry, sleepy or whatever, instinct takes over. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, but the problem is that we might want to spend a little more thought on things as hunger and suffering while we're still thinking clearly.

So much bandwidth, so little time...
[ Parent ]
The new frontier lies within (2.30 / 10) (#12)
by Akiramoeba on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:31:43 AM EST

Great, so we peered down to the sub-atomic level and scanned the edges of the universe, but a common understanding of how to build a 'successful' society a isn't even remotely in sight. Maintaining respect for human rights proves to be problematic. Business practices demonstrate embrace and extend, as if some war is waged on an economic level. Peoples efforts and dreams are reduced to the rise and fall of a stock ticker (I don't care what you do, as long as the stock I have invested in you rises). I think new frontiers are to be found within. Not on the religious or spritual level, but on a common sense level. Maybe somewhere somehow someone will figure out that 'common ground' is the only thing you can really build on. In life, in business. Maybe we have to grow those pear-shaped heads first, which these 'intelligent' characters usually have in those cute sci-fi flics.

Re: The new frontier lies within (1.50 / 2) (#73)
by dice on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:10:05 PM EST


If you look into history, every society that has stopped expanding, has stagnated.
Very soon follows corruption.

Somewhere deepwired inside of us is the need to push, to expand.
If we don't, we get cranky.

[ Parent ]
Mars, Schmars (3.25 / 12) (#14)
by eleitl on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 05:23:46 AM EST

Huh? They're going to get us into space by burning hundreds of gigabucks (raised from which source?) to send canned monkeys off to Mars, not even sustainably? And how they will bitch and moan about immortal space heroes, when said monkeys succumb to a simple technical defect, while being lightminutes distant? At least Shuttle Inc.'s fireworks can be conducted in front an appreciative audience, no such luck with Mars. There is a damn good reason missions are being cancelled, because post-cold-war countries don't have loose $$$s to burn, Shuttle tech sucks, and 99% of humanity doesn't care a fig about space, probably because they have trouble keeping their rice bowl full. You have to work with whatever private venture capital is there, which is not much yet. If it ain't enough, well, tough luck, buster. No better luck next time, because, well, there will be no next time. Clamp down the autoclave lid, and up the ante. Please vent before draining liquified fat. If I had any money to spend, I would spend it on lunar surface space simulators on earth surface the size of a tennis court, flooded with monster xenon lights to simulate full ~1.3 kW/m^2 insolation. I would use this to develop fully autonomous and (with artifical relativistic delay) teleoperated fabbing technologies for the Moon, plus onion rubber skin space suits (in electroheated loose kevlar coveralls) you can actually work in. Once the stuff has been debugged, optimized and debugged ten times over, I would send the compacted result to the Moon in few 10 t increments, and (tele)operate it 24 h/day to autoamplify the bridgehead as fast as possible, inventing new fabbing tricks along the way. Did you know that as of this month you can now make solid titanium (V,Cr and alloys) regulus directly by electrolysis from pure oxide cathode dipped in liquid calcium chloride electrolyte? Don't you think that melting regolith to glass in situ with a parabolic foil mirror and sputtering doped semiconductors on top of it will make nice cheap solar cells? How to keep the mirror surface clean? How about polymerizable inflatable structures you can bury under rubble? And how to generate rubble, electromagnetic hammers? Wouldn't it be interesting to know how to efficiently get out the tighly bound hydrate water out of polar regolith? How to make efficient cryotraps by shading off reservoirs? Where to find volatiles, and carbon? Whether solar ovens can do quantitative fractional destillation of lunar soil? How to do preparative mass spectroscopy? Or do we just apply juice to a molten soil puddle? Using electrodes made from what? How to insulate high-voltage capacitors for lunar mass drivers in a vacuum? How do you do ebeam material processing? Won't the local vacuum become too dirty in no time? How to make semiconductor-grade silicon in a simplified process? How to make open power vacuum tube electronics? Phased array microwave power radiation facilities? Gossamer solar sails? Carbon truss cloth which can survive linear mass driver launch? How to bake out 3-He and implanted solar wind hydrogen from regolith? How to make sustainable underground ecologies? <insert 10^9 tricks and technologies I omitted>. We have to reinvent our entire processing technologies, refitting them for space and tele/autooperation. It will be a gigantic challenge, provide unimaginable spinoffs and yield unprecedented wealth. This will also initially cost us hundreds of gigabucks before producing break-even revenue stream, but this will bring us sustainably nigh-zero-casualty into space, without exposing idiotic canned monkeys planting purely symbolic insignia on a remote, cold ball of dirt shrouded in thin carbon dioxide/argon atmosphere which we don't have to mine yet. Mars will be ours in its due time. Don't spread too thin resources we don't have. Don't all these fscking space visionaries have a shred of common sense? Pfaugh. And, yeah, blame kuro5hin for lack of formatting.

Re: Mars, Schmars (2.50 / 2) (#25)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:11:48 AM EST

i'm with you 100%, except the gigabucks part. i think that, with sufficiently dedicated and unconventional folks, you could get the initial beachhead established for merely a few hundred megabucks. :) and the truly wacko could do it with just a few megabucks.



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A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Nice exposition (1.00 / 1) (#95)
by Alhazred on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:01:38 PM EST

The formatting is fsck'd but oh well... ;o)

The one thing you didn't mention were launch costs. GOT to come down. All the economic models seem to say that somewhere between $100 and $1000 per pound you can economically exploit space. We might do it even at higher costs for "other" reasons. I'm all for that, but lets GET LAUNCH COSTS DOWN!

The estimates I've seen for the tonnage needed at the moon to begin processing materials there and deliver them to orbit is on the order of 2,000,000 pounds. At 1k $ a pound, that means launch costs upwards of 2 billion $, a pretty steep figure, out of range of most VC, and that doesn't count the costs of a facility to USE the materials once you have them, another vast expense.

Lets suppose a facility to take lunar material and turn it into solar power satellites costs the same as the ISS, thats still 100 billion $! Realistically we're talking about a multi-trillion $ investment, not even governments have that sort of money available.

Lets get ourselves a nice $100/pnd to orbit launch system, THEN we can talk about what to do next.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Agreed (1.00 / 1) (#142)
by Paul_F on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 04:51:18 PM EST

Niel wasn't kidding when he said it was a giant step, and I think that we're still making it. Hey, I saw him do it live, on TV. We have the tech today to kind of have a space program. And that's just what we have. The beginnings of something. I'm sure that humanity will get better at space travel someday. I'm just not so sure that humanity will ever really be suited for space travel though. It's a pretty different environment than we've been adapted to live in. I am more for unmanned missions now, and in the future. Space is for the machines.

Manned missions often just appears to be glory missions. The real work still mainly seems to me to be being done by machines already. I have no doubt that machines will continue to evolve rapidly, and be better suited to all manner of tasks in space than humans ever will be. There's just something about hard vacuum, 0 gee, radiation, and temperature extremes that I don't think humans will ever overcome.

Unmanned missions always seem to cost a lot less than manned missions. The tech will catch up. Who knows? Maybe in the future we'll each have our own waldo out there and we'll all explore through those? I harbor no romantic illusions of manned space travel for me. I know I'm never going, and even if I had the opportunity I would not. I know it would not suit me at all. There's just not enough payload for all the barfbags I'd need.

[ Parent ]

Mars? Yeah sure, but... (4.00 / 12) (#15)
by spiralx on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 05:45:04 AM EST

... space is never going to be an escape for the problems here on Earth due to the unfortunate reality of our gravity well. Whatever happens in orbit, we're still going to have to look at solving our problems here as well. And whilst the prospect of space will undoubtedly give hope and purpose to many, in some it will have the opposite effect as they see others escaping a sinking ship for new worlds.

But I agree that we as a race seem to be at our best in times of expansion and fresh challenges. Given a stable situation, we seem to lose our drive and curiosity and stagnate, much as we're seeing today in many First World cultures. We need new challenges to inspire people, and space is the obvious one. But it's also one that's currently too expensive for governments to want to fund it.

My personal opinion is that we'll end up going to Mars sometime within the next fifty years, and we'll end starting various ventures in space within this time as well. It's just a matter of getting to the point where the benefits outweight the costs, an unfortunate side-effect of living in capitalist socities :)

As for new technologies, both genetic engineering and nanotech could truly offer new frontiers, and in their own ways solutions to the problem of the cost of space travel as well. Of course, large-scale gengineering is problematic due to public disapproval, but if nanotech ever succeeds then it could potentially revolutionise, well, almost everything. The challenges of adapting to a world of nanotech would certainly make a new frontier for a while - as with all radical new technologies, even the wildest predictions of sci-fi authors pale before the things that people invent.


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey

All this 'internal frontiers' stuff... (2.71 / 7) (#16)
by excession on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 05:53:31 AM EST

...is all very well, but it does not address the fundamental problem that we are beginning to aproach a "full world" scenario.
Yes, we do need to address poverty and suffering, BUT once these are tackled, we are going to have a massively growing population to with no room to expand - and if the wars and violence in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, etc are bad now, what they'll be like when there is physically no alternative but for countries to expand as fast as possible to contain a population which is not being reduced by hunger, lack of medical care, and all the other things that people are talking about curing, will be worse than we can currently possibly imagine.
We have to move away from the Earth and "towards the stars" (hey, doesn't that sound grand!) if humanity is to stand a decent chance of surviving without the sort of bloodshed that would mean all previous wars would pale into insignificance...
Mars is certainly our best bet in the long term, but we cannot reach that without the infrastucture in orbit and on the moon to be able to produce a spaceship capable of reaching Mars effectively, and more importantly, to support the space effort once it has departed.
Unfortunately, this is, of course, not only a massively expensive operation, but requires the sort of long term planning, and the ability for politicians to look forward, that is not at all prevalent in current thinking, either (especially?) in the US, or in Europe. The only way that we can achieve this sort of long term effort is if the national space agencies - the ESA, NASA, the Russian Space Administration, and the Japanese one - are able to work together considerably more efficiently than they are currently doing on the "International" Space Station...
-Thom

Re: All this 'internal frontiers' stuff... (1.50 / 2) (#26)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:13:25 AM EST

HA HA HA.

only the people who don't plan on leaving the planet have to worry about Earth's problems. :)



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[ Parent ]
(3.28 / 7) (#19)
by B'Trey on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 06:25:50 AM EST

I'm all for the space program, and I'm not even certain I'd oppose setting a goal of a manned Mars mission. However, I have problems with much of your argument as presented here.

Without something new to discover, to tame, and to colonize the human spirit will suffer.

First, what the heck is the "human spirit?" It sounds lofty and noble and soul-stirring, but it doesn't really mean anything. It's an abstraction, a convenient fiction to describe a conglomeration of a great many things; exactly which things varies with each use. There's certainly no evidence that I'm aware of that this "human spirit" will stagnate if we don't have a new frontier. Leave the flowery speeches to the politicians. If you want to convince me that we should send a manned mission to Mars, give me some facts.

We are a space-faring people. But just barely. When only a handful of people have access to something, it's elitist. It's not a true frontier.

The frontiers have almost always been restricted to a few people. Hunter/gatherer societies usually had a set area through which they move. This area might be rather extensive in some cases but it was fairly well known and explored by the tribes. Agricultural societies were tied to a specific site. Until quite recently, the vast majority of humanity lived and died on the same lands where they were born, sometimes never traveling more than a few miles away. And contrary to popular myth, most of the exploration of the frontier has been spurred by greed, conquest or population pressure, NOT the "unquenchable curiosity of the human spirit." The Roman Empire expended west upon the heels of their invading legions. Columbus was financed by Queen Isabel because he claimed that he could find a shorter trading route and make her money. There appears to be very little opportunity for conquest in space, at least in our solar system. There may very well be money making opportunities there, but it's likely to be a long while before space mining or manufacturing reaches the break even point. Space might also eventually provide an outlet to excess population, but again, that's a long way in the future.

This isn't to say that idealism and curiosity haven't been important in the human conquest of the planet. They certainly have. But, like Queen Isabel's financing of Columbus, it was other, more practical considerations that allowed those individuals to act on their desires.

Re: (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:24:29 AM EST

Greed IS the "unquenchable curiosity of the human spirit." Some people are greedy for information, some for fame, some for shiny chunks of rock.

greed and sloth are the two best human virtues. without them, cavemen would never heave tried to figure out easier ways to do things -- and we would all still be cavemen.



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Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Greed, sloth and the two systems (none / 0) (#52)
by evvk on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:19:59 PM EST

Capitalism - driven by greed and that's why it sucks. Stupid people that have gained lot of money run it. Things like space research (or research in general) are not appreciated and are underfunded because they don't produce lot of fscking allmighty $$$ in the short term.
Communism - while ideologically better, it doesn't work because most people are lazy. Ex-USSR used to have a high level of science, but if normal working men are lazy and don't do things well, what can you do. Hmm.. why am I thinking of badly written software..

We really need something better between these two systems...


[ Parent ]
RE: Greed, sloth and the two systems (2.00 / 1) (#59)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:32:51 PM EST

Actually, in capitalistic systems, it generally takes a very clever person (even if dishonest) to make lots of money. The stupid ones with money generally have their money because they inherited it.

Communism is definitely NOT ideologically better.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
bad speller. bad! (none / 0) (#53)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:22:00 PM EST

*beats self over head with rock*

don't mispell words...

don't mispell words...

don't mispell words...

:g/heave/s//have/g



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A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Expanding on the human spirit (none / 0) (#45)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:01:36 AM EST

With the human spirit, I'm talking about what makes us human. I'm not trying to sound lofty. Listen...

When we sit at home, make our money, and accumulate more stuff, were happy and idle. We've got information at our fingertips. This is the reason that we see such an interest in extreme sports (base jumping, bungee jumping, etc). It's because there's nothing left to give us that same thrill. That same experience and rush. The fact that more and more people live only to work is another example that were stagnating. As far as technology is concerned, were still on a rush, because that’s something to excite people. But it's only temporary, and it doesn’t open up literal new worlds. Maybe you don't see what I'm getting at.

It's true that the frontiers have always been limited the few. But the few of the "old west" was infinitely more than the few of space. The few of the "old west" weren’t totally controlled by the governments that sent them there. The few of the old west, weren’t sent by governments.

Space technology has obviously not reached the point where space is very accessible. But the pace that were moving is too slow to get anything useful accomplished anytime soon.

[ Parent ]

RE Expanding on the human spirit (none / 0) (#137)
by B'Trey on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 11:00:06 AM EST

With the human spirit, I'm talking about what makes us human.

The human spirit makes us human? As opposed to what?

Certainly, you can talk about the spirit of a person, an individual. I'm not sure that it really means anything to talk about the spirit of a species, which you seem to be doing.

The fact that more and more people live only to work is another example that were stagnating.

First, I'm not sure that your premise (i.e., that increasingly more people live only to work) is true. I believe Katz just posted an article similar to that on /., but I've seen very little facts to back it up. If true, it seems to be limited to a small fraction of the Earth's population, primarily in the US and other highly developed nations. Second, I don't buy that your conclusion (that we are stagnating) follows from the premise.

Most of humanity has lived and died preoccupied with the necessity of obtaining food and shelter. Work, of one type or another, WAS their life. I was touring an 1850's plantation home this weekend. The guide pointed out that the ladies (the elite of that society) were never idle. Even when sitting in the parlor talking, they were working on knitting, repairing clothes, etc. Why? Because there was too much work to be done for anyone to sit around idle - the servants were employed in more menial tasks, leaving sewing to the ladies to accomplish. It's only in the last few years that we've had enough leisure time to even worry about what to do with it. If your point is that having boucoups of free time is problematic for a lot of people, I agree, but I certainly don't see how that ties into the lack of a "frontier."

[ Parent ]

To boldly go (1.80 / 5) (#29)
by Beorn on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 08:46:25 AM EST

I love this. The fact that people are actually asking these questions ("what can we do *next*") is a sign of optimism and wellbeing.

The next frontier is of course the human mind. I'm not talking about psychology, which more often than not is just philosophy and ideology masquerading as science, or perspectiveless theories masquerading as philosophy. I'm talking of a broader exploration of ourselves. I'm talking about art and spirituality.

The internet is vital part in this, because for the first time, every single part of the human mind has been projected onto a place where everyone can see it. And for the first time, we have a tool that is capable of matching the mind in complexity and depth. I'm using visionary words here, but the effects are definitely real, measurable and obvious, so obvious they're often invisible.

There is nothing new in space, except more room. But the human mind may keep those of us who are interested occupied forever.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

Errm, what? (2.00 / 2) (#40)
by spiralx on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:25:48 AM EST

Sorry, but your post was fairly content-free from what I could see, what exactly did you mean by that? Are you talking about the nature of conscioussness and other questions in neuropsychology? And I think you're being unfair to psychology as a discipline, sure there's a lot of social psychology which is fairly unscientific, but there's also a lot of good work that does on with regards to how our brain works.


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Bottom-up vs top-down (1.00 / 1) (#115)
by Beorn on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:01:28 PM EST

Are you talking about the nature of conscioussness and other questions in neuropsychology?

No, I'm talking about understanding and exploring human nature, on a higher level. I admire neuropsychology, but I think science is facing an almost impossible task in trying to explain the brain from the bottom and up. And even if it could, would we comprehend the explanation?

From my point of view it hardly matters *what* my consciousness is, as long as it reaches its goals, (happiness, in some form). This becomes a question of the relationship between brain input and output, not on the neural level, but on the object-oriented conscious level.

It was in this perspective I mentioned art and spirituality in the original post. I'm not at all religious, but it's obvious that religion and mysticism has discovered input/output-relationships that involves something very basic at the core of the human mind. The same goes for art.

Computers are interesting here because they enable new forms of brain input (art, information, communication, whatever) that hasn't been seen before, and therefore should be explored. The internet is interesting because it hides nothing, it reflects *everything* humanity is, and it also extends the brain in very new and fascinating ways. The human mind is *out there*, in movies, literature, games, on the net.

What I'm saying is, if we could understand all these things, we would understand ourselves. We might also become happier life forms. Am I making sense here at all?

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

Hmm .. (1.33 / 3) (#77)
by Eloquence on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:19:21 PM EST

"There is nothing new in space, except more room"

Have you ever looked through a telescope?
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy · Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]

Hm? (1.00 / 1) (#117)
by Beorn on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:11:25 PM EST

Have you ever looked through a telescope?

Space is beautiful, but beauty is an earth invention, not a property of space. So we're back to the mind again.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

Frontier theory discredited (4.26 / 15) (#30)
by Rand Race on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:01:34 AM EST

Frederick Jackson Turner devised the Frontier Theory of American history in the last decade of the 19th century. It is generally considered an incomplete hypothesis that "...disqualifies itself as an adequate guide to American development"(George Wilson Pierson). An excellent critique can be found here. Your statement that "Without a true frontier, that is reachable by more than handful of people, we stagnate." is at the root of Turner's discredation. The fact is that only a handfull of people were ever frontiersmen and that compared with the urban growth due to immigration during the era the frontier had a minimal effect on American culture.

Rome is also not a paticularly apt comparison. Very few romans loaded up the family to resettle in Northumbria unless they had a millitary obligation. Rome expanded for strategic reasons and tended to extend citezenship into the conquered areas by retiring Legion auxiliaries (who served 20 years gaining citizenship upon retirement) into frontier towns who would then marry locals and produce citizen offspring.

That said, I support exploration of Mars wholeheartedly. More for a 'don't keep all your eggs in one basket' reason the any indelible human spirit reason. I disagree with your views on the spacestation though; Mars is just another gravity well to trap us while a spacestation (not necesarily the ISS) is a steping off point for Mars as well as space based industry, mining, and exploration. To paraphrase Heinlein: When you reach orbit you are halfway there.. halfway to where?... Anywhere.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson

Other flaws (3.50 / 6) (#33)
by eann on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:19:29 AM EST

I think we will eventually push towards Mars, but not for most of the reasons you've suggested.

I don't feel like actually looking it up, but there is a major UN treaty, signed by just about every country that can afford to buy a canister of Tang, that says we're not going to commercialize space and fsck it like we did Earth. As a rule, the moon, Mars, and everything else outside our own polluted atmosphere is off limits to everything but scientific research, and it will remain so until there is a major global shift of opinion.

The ISS is the first step. Much farther out of Earth's gravity well than, say, Cape Canaveral, it makes a good starting point for building on the lessons of Mir and learning how to deal with the realities of space. A lander assembled there only has to have enough fuel to get it going in the right direction and slow it down when it gets there.

So it's nice that you're thinking big. But by all rights, we really had no idea what we were doing when we went to the moon. Think how much different a moon mission would be today, now that we know more about space and the kinds of things we want to get out of it (all of which we learned by flying around in circles). It was a silly goal for the 60s, and we've learned since then that we really shouldn't do things just because we can.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Do it Now (none / 0) (#42)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:38:40 AM EST

The privitization of space is already occuring. I've heard about something to the effect of what you're talking about, but there are already companies preparing to make money off of space.

There are private plans to extract water from large asteroids, to use for refueling (hydrogen) in LEO. There are yet other plans to bring back an asteroid (yea, I would agree that this is far fetched). One of the proponents behind this, wants to use a mass ejector to do so (ie throw stuff out the back of the asteroid, decrease it's mass, and push it toward Earth). This is a terrible idea. No one want to see huge trails of asteroidal(?) debris floting around. That will significatnly hinder future exploration.

The point I'm trying to get at, is treaty, or no treaty, once space is accessable by more than just governments, space stuff WILL be bought, and sold.

Building stuff in space is a long, hard ordeal. I personally wouln't want to be a crew member on a lander that was built in orbit. Building a space station is one thing, building something that has to withstand re-entry, landing, etc. is entirley different.

Going in circles around the Earth has taught is allot over the past twenty years. And I'm sure that there is more to learn. But Mir has already taught us the big problems of extended exposure to zero-g (the psycological, as well as the physical). The shuttle has also taught us much. But devloping a space station is NOT crucial for a Mars mission.

The lunar program was not a silly goal for the sixties. It was a a great project that stretched the limits of then-current technology and science. It was the only way to get to the moon. Any commitment of greater length than a decade, is very, VERY hard to maintain support for, both politically, and economically. Even the ISS has been in danger of been canceled recently (within the past 8 months). Saying we'll get to Mars in like 20 years, is the same thing as saying, "yes it's a nice idea, but who cares". The manned-mission to Mars planned for the mid 70's would probably have been too much. But the only way to get something done, on a scale like this, it to make a firm commitment to it, and then go and do it. Do it fast, with the right resource commitment, and do it right. Having the technology is reason enough to go there. And we should do it now.

[ Parent ]

Space Treaty. Ha. (3.00 / 1) (#67)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:54:05 PM EST

Yeah, and during the 15th Century, there was a "treaty" that divided the entire "New World" evenly between Portugal and Spain, so that, -legally- those were the only folks allowed in the New World.

That, however, did absolutely nothing to actually discourage people from going and founding scores of new countries in the New World.

And an infinite parade of paper-laws won't do anything to prevent modern explorers, entrepreneurs, adventurers, and scoundrels from founding scores of new settlements in space, either.



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A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
poor excuses (3.00 / 7) (#34)
by madams on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:44:17 AM EST

Saying we shouldn't go to Mars because we have enough problems on Earth is just a poor excuse. In case you haven't noticed, we've always had poverty and we'll continue to have it. I don't see anyone eliminating poverty anytime in the near future. However, getting people to Mars is a reasonable goal and within sight.

I also agree that there are still plenty of frontiers left here on Earth: we're just starting to understand the physical basis for reality, the origins of the universe, and the biological processes of consciousness. There is still much we don't know about our own planet: weather, unknown flora and fauna, the depths of the oceans, etc.

So I saw, let's go to Mars!

(eagerly awaiting the Mars rover mission in 2004; see the Athena Project image gallery for some cool jpg's and some totally fantastic QuickTime animations of the next Mars mission.)


--
Mark Adams
"But pay no attention to anonymous charges, for they are a bad precedent and are not worthy of our age." - Trajan's reply to Pliny the Younger, 112 A.D.

there's hope (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by mikpos on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:28:49 AM EST

Actually, in the uncivilised (for lack of a better word) societies, there really wasn't any poverty. True, people didn't have refrigerators and automobiles and central heating, but they didn't have drug addictions and robberies and very rarely had serious malnutrition.

I think the biggest reason for this is because those societies were more socially-oriented instead of technologically-oriented. Not to say that we should be exactly like them -- personally I don't find their societies particularly attractive (they'd be fun to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there) -- as being too far on the spectrum on either end is a bad thing, but I think we could learn a lot from them.

What I'd like to see is that people change their priorities around a bit so that they're willing to sacrifice material satisfaction more readily. Maybe a 2-parent family only has 1 parent working 30-hour weeks, or both working part-time. Yes, maybe they'll only make $20000 a year. Maybe their two children will have to share a bedroom; maybe they won't be able to afford a computer (unless they're kur05hin readers of course, in which case the computer would take priority over the kitchen table), or a TV, or a microwave, or an air conditioner, or whatever. But they would be able to spend their time on more social aspects such as thinking about (or maybe even spending time with) their children or their community. Anyway, it does look a little bleak, but I'm hopeful that once all this mania about cure-everything-drugs and the Internet and translucent plastics and save-the-children and [mania-of-the-week] settle down, people will come to their senses.

To get back on topic, saying that "improving our society will never happen" (or whatever your exact words) is as silly as "making a faster computer will never happen": it's just that our priorities have been skewed for the last few decades. FWIW, there are societies that have worked well on a small scale. The Farm in Tennessee comes to mind; I'm not terribly fond of communism :), but it should at least show that a self-sustaining society can work and work well.

[ Parent ]

Ever heard of biting off more than we can chew? (2.87 / 8) (#35)
by Saint Hiatus on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:47:49 AM EST

I can understand the reasoning behind this post but, I've got to ask this question...don't we have enough to do here on earth? I mean, we have yet to control overpopulation, help the poor, disperse tech to everyone, raise up our fellow man; you know, the stuff that presidents campaign under. I think that before humanity can even think about exploration, we have to get our shit straight. As a world community we get along, but, we still have milosevic's trying to hold onto dying regimes; not to mention Israeli's continuing years of blood shed. Before you get idealistic about space, why not try looking into our current global situation. Your commentary sounds more like escapism, "Let's go to mars to escape the troubles of earth." Your idea sounds more like an opiate for the people. Ever seen bladerunner? I think the next frontier is the improvement of the human condition, the improvement of our reality not by escaping to a new planet...but by working on what should matter most, namely, what's close to home.
-Saint Hiatus "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existance is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." - Carl Gustav Jung
Bah. Humbug. (1.00 / 1) (#72)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:08:16 PM EST

How about you stay in the Old World, and those of us who want to go to the New World(s)?



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
wake up buddy. (1.00 / 1) (#98)
by Saint Hiatus on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:22:57 PM EST

Listen, you can go ahead and escape your problems here on earth, me - well, I'd much rather face the problems of our world before going off in the deep of space and screwing up some other world all in the name of science or exploration. We've problems enough to compund things with interplanetary colonization.
-Saint Hiatus "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existance is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." - Carl Gustav Jung
[ Parent ]
So how does this work? (4.00 / 1) (#151)
by bjrubble on Mon Oct 16, 2000 at 09:17:06 PM EST

How do we translate money and scientists into Middle East peace? Is there some economic or technology transfer that will get the Israelis and Palestinians to lay down their arms and hug each other? Keep in mind that most of the problems in the Middle East (like the mere existence of Israel) were *caused* by well-meaning first world countries.

[ Parent ]
We're going to take our problems with us (3.75 / 8) (#36)
by ghoti on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:49:11 AM EST

Okay, so Europeans went over the big pond to escape their problems, like poverty, suffering, wars. And we all know that that new world is a perfect paradise, right? No problems, plenty of ressources for everybody, no more suffering, no more wars. Right?

Exploring space is all good and well, but it is much more important to get rid of those inner problems than finding new places to pollute and dump Earth. We need to get to grips with our current world, our environment and --- last but not least! --- ourselves first, before we can take off to another world.

Because even on Mars or the Moon or whatever planet or space ship, we will still have the same problems, quarrels, wars, suffering. *That* is much more difficult, and can't be solved easily with shiny new space craft. We need much more than technical sciences for that, and we need to completely change the way we think. But that's difficult, and it involves all of us (as others have pointed out, space exploration would only really be a challenge to a few).

But as long as we haven't done that, it doesn't matter where we go. Because we will take our problems with us, and nothing is going to change.

°<><
not necessarily as an escape (none / 0) (#38)
by mikpos on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:11:20 AM EST

The move to a new place doesn't have to viewed as an escape of our problems. If nothing else, we could colonise Mars just because our planet is bored and we have nothing better to do (which I think is a very valid reason).

On the other hand, moving to Mars very well could mask our problems temporarily and hence extend them for a while longer. e.g. our problems with illness, crime, poverty, etc. will drop substantially for the first few decades, until Mars starts to fill up, and then they'll come back, worse than ever. In that respect, it would be nice to wait a bit (which is why I voted for "I'm not in any real hurry") so that we can sort ourselves out on Earth.

[ Parent ]

Naivete (4.00 / 2) (#47)
by mcelrath on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:23:37 AM EST

It is naive to think that we will ever get rid of poverty, suffering, wars, or pollution. Mars does not change this in any way. These problems are not solvable, they are treatable. That is, we can fix 'em when we find 'em, with some effort, but they will always pop back up. This has absolutely nothing to do with going to Mars, and this weak argument is getting old. No amount of money dumped into these problems will solve them forever, and no amount of money subtracted from a Mars program will do anything to affect it.

Going to Mars is about expanding the frontier of human knowledge. It's about frontiers, challanges, and purpose. It's about finding out if we're the only solitary beings in the universe. <a href="http://www.sciam.com/2000/0700issue/0700crawford.html">SETI has mapped most of our galaxy in the radio spectrum, and hasn't found a single signal consistent with extraterrestrial life. Don't you think that's just a bit weird? By almost any reasonable calculation, the universe should be teeming with life.

If you haven't read <a href="http://cmex.arc.nasa.gov/MarsNews/Zubrin.html">Zubrin's paper "A New Martian Frontier: Recapturing the Soul of America", read it. Also read the paper upon which it is based, <a href="http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst203/documents/turner.html">that of Frederick Jacson Turner. Turner's paper was about the American frontier, and the role it played in the development of this country. Frontiers are important. They give room for expansion. They give an escape for people who perceive their lives to be too hard, purposeless, or oppressed. Whether their oppression is real or perceived doesn't really matter.

The future of humanity does not lie on Earth. We must escape the cradle, and grow up. The universe is a lot bigger than our little self-centered ball of dirt.

--Bob
1^2=1; (-1)^2=1; 1^2=(-1)^2; 1=-1; 2=0; 1=0.
[ Parent ]

Re: Naivete (or, some anthrogeek observations) (none / 0) (#94)
by marcelm0use on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:57:15 PM EST

> SETI has mapped most of our galaxy in the radio > spectrum, and hasn't found a single signal consistent > with extraterrestrial life. Don't you think that's just > a bit weird? By almost any reasonable calculation, the > universe should be teeming with life. It's not wierd at all. Reasonable calculations are based on the prejudices of those doing the calculations, of course. It's not those calculations that make me fret; it seems pretty likely to me that the universe is in fact teeming with life. It strikes me as incredibly unlikely that said life would develop the hardware necessary to send EM signals that would be recognizable as the product of intelligent life. This is a corrolary of the assumption that I make w/r/t intelligent life in the cosmos; we probably won't be able to recognize it as such. Here, I will quote some sci-fi author whose name I have, of course, forgotten (attributions, please?): "The world is not only stranger than we imagine; it is stranger than we can imagine." I would be entirely unsurprised if we discovered intelligent life in crystalline structures growing in raw vacuum in the Oort cloud... only after we had started mining them. <anthrogeek> God is created in Man's image. That is, whatever happens to be deified in any given society is based on that society's popularly accepted image of itself. This is why Protestants tend to assume, without thinking about it, really, that He has a penis. This is also why many varieties of Paganism are flourishing among America's youthful white elites - what better deity for a self-indulgent, diffuse conglomerate of consumers with no real social structure than a deity that will take whatever form you personally want it to at the moment? For quite some time, Christianity has been the religion of choice for elites in the West. Said elites, some time ago, decided to privelige certain parts of that religion's holy text (I'm thinking "Go forth, and fill the earth" here) while de-emphasizing others (How many Protestants render unto Caesar what is Caesar's?). Westward expansion, Manifest Destiny, imperialism - none of these are actually in the Bible literally, but that text sure does lend itself to situational re-interpretation. So, the global, urban culture that most of us live in has been expanding at a terrifying rate for quite some time now (insert generic logarithmic graph here). This expansion has taken place in ways that are both obvious to the casual observer (the massive city where I was born was raw desert and a single Spanish mission not 250 years ago) and less visible to the naked eye (our reach expands down to atoms, up to the Hubble, etc.). The less obvious expansions, while obviously crucial, don't quite serve as a rallying point for general popular faith in the robustness of our culture. Americans tend to need physical expansion of territory, for some reason, to serve as a center of national fervor. [A truly badass anthrogeek would make some sort of analogy to the wafer-and-wine-at-Communion thing here. Y'know, physical representation of the Deity and all that. I'll spare you.] </anthrogeek> > Going to Mars is about expanding the frontier of human > knowledge. It's about frontiers, challanges, and > purpose. I would say rather that going to Mars is a physical embodiment of the expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge that is much easier for the layman to understand than the fact that some guys at IBM can push around individual atoms and spell out their company's logo. It's a rallying point, for a society whose rallying points have become increasingly difficult for non-specialists to understand. > The future of humanity does not lie on Earth. We must > escape the cradle, and grow up. The universe is a lot > bigger than our little self-centered ball of dirt. And it might be a good idea to get some genes off of said dirtball if we want to survive total ecological collapse....

[ Parent ]
SETI's just getting started (2.00 / 1) (#149)
by Potsy on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 07:16:21 PM EST

SETI has mapped most of our galaxy in the radio spectrum...

No, it hasn't. The area of the sky covered thus far may be large, but the volume of space is quite small.

Since we are hoping to eavesdrop as it were, on another civilization's day-to-day communications, we should start by assuming that we are looking for a planet emitting radio signals at about the same strength Earth is currently "leaking" into space. There is no reason to assume that another civilization would be using radio signals any stronger than that, because they would only need enough power to reach from one side of their planet to another. Also note that Earth's radio leakage is getting weaker all the time, because as the sensitivity of our communications recievers increases, the power of our transmitters decreases. A civilization with more advanced communications than us would presumably be leaking even weaker signals than we are.

Just how weak are the signals we're talking about? Well, if there were a civilization leaking radio signals at comparable levels to the Earth, and that planet was more than 20 light-years away, not even the Aricebo telescope could detect it.

So, the volume of space that has been searched so far is a sphere centered aroung the Earth that's only about 20 light-years in radius.

Of course, that whole argument precludes the idea that a civilization might be purposely transmitting a signal for all the universe to see. But again, if you go by our civilization as a guide, you'll notice that we are currently not doing that.

[ Parent ]

Wrong Issue (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:13:05 PM EST

People who want to explore, settle, exploit space probably have their own reasons for doing it -- they don't have to do it or not do it for your reasons.

Frankly, I want to go live on another planet to get away from people who want to tell me that I need to take care of their problems. I take care of mine, you take care of yours.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
However... (4.00 / 1) (#127)
by Steeltoe on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:22:22 PM EST

Fact is anyone doing it will be doing it on the expense of millions of other people (depending on the scale of colonization). So these "pioneers" don't really have anything to say do they?

Unless you start pulling guns and threats of violence of course, which is inevitable with such an attitude (BELIEVE me, people CAN pull the trigger back, just look at the middle-east for an in-depth study of action-reaction mechanics).

Seriously, I don't care if some hot space-jockey wanna go to mars NOW. Mars is just too expensive the way it is now, we need to develop new technologies before going that far. Hey, we don't even have a decent orbital space-station yet.

As far as your concern for OTHER people's behaviour, take a look on your own. You ain't that much better, or different. Given the circumstances I bet both of us would do the "bad action" they do in those damn foreign countries.

(Forgive me if I read too much between the lines..)

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
I agree and I don't. As usual ... (3.20 / 5) (#37)
by Bad Mojo on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:07:29 AM EST

Life as we know it (here on Earth) will die if we do not move out into the Universe. Each passing day leads us one small `tick' closer to the day Earth is unable to support more life, or life at all. All things pass, and the Earth is no different. So spreading out to other planets is something that should happen if we don't want to see humankind snuffed out in an eventual meteor strike or some other event. That eventuality may not occur tomorrow. It might take place thousands of years from now. But I don't think anyone is going to say man will sit on this rock forever.

That aside, I don't see how the ISS is a waste of time or effort. I don't think our trips to the moon were useless. We must learn to master our boating skills around our island before we decide to try for the new world. How many years did people take to perfect boating before someone could even circumnavigate the entire globe? It didn't happen overnight. The ISS is a good step in the right direction towards eventually making a colonization effort at Mars, much less utilizing Mars.

And, to be honest, your view of the need of a new frontier to keep human spirit alive is only half the equation. The human spirit not only thrives on *exploring* new frontiers, but on *finding* new frontiers to explore.



-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

For those people concerned about meteorites (3.00 / 2) (#126)
by Steeltoe on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:08:15 PM EST

Who cares? What do YOU care personally that all of humankind was wiped off the face of the universe in one big bang? Why be concerned about something like that at all when it is of no concern to you personally? If people were to be worried about getting killed each day, you SHOULD turn nevrotic each time you crossed a street (which kills most people every year except in *ahem* more violent areas).

Not that I feel it too sometimes, but it's an unbased fear we should get rid of, not nurish. Just too sad we're governed by such irrational fears.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
Go ahead, stick your head in the sand ... (3.00 / 1) (#139)
by Bad Mojo on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 01:06:02 PM EST

It's not an unbased fear. It's based on the internal drive that all animals feel to perpetuate their own kind into the future. Most people DON'T care if the world ends after they die. Most people couldn't care LESS that a giant meteorite strike could wipe out life on Earth in one fail swoop. But some people realize why people want to procreate and why it IS important to think about the future of humanity. And besides, what's the point of living if everything in this world is lost? Our future generations are the closest thing we have to immortality right now.

And while I'm at it. The eventual destruction of the Earth isn't an irrational fear.

-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

[ Parent ]
The need to extend (my opinion) (3.25 / 4) (#39)
by Steeltoe on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:13:58 AM EST

First of all, I don't think there is only one human nature. The diversity of folks on this planet is pretty obvious when watching the Discovery Channel ;-)

Having said that, it's very typical of mankind to want to go one step further. First done by a very small elite, then the rest usually follows. We call it "progress" without really understanding why we do it, or if it really makes our lives better. This is not even criticism, just the way it is. Maybe there just isn't a straight answer to that at all.

I think the present feeling that "we have reached the final frontier" have ALWAYS been present among the general populace. It's takes alot of guts, courage and resources to break the old patterns. History has shown that once broken, an enormous potential has been unleashed that was previously only dreamed of. Some of it has been good, much has also been bad (nightmares?).

Isn't this a time to reflect WHY we want to extend our way of living to all the corners of the universe? What will we do when we have achieved this, what will we have achieved?

I don't find it sad that we are today unable to colonize other planets and star-systems, because I don't think we are yet worthy of such campains.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

Apathy of Normalcy (4.00 / 10) (#44)
by BinerDog on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:56:20 AM EST

This, and several posts in response to it, touch on a major problem I have noticed in intelligent people between 23 and 30 or so. We (for I am one too, even if I had to extend the age bracket up a bit to fit me :P ) seem to hit an older version of the teenage angst. For the most part, in the US anyway, the economy is such and upward mobility is such that if you have a full brain (which if you can keep up with Kur05hin you have at least 99% of a brain) you can do pretty much whatever you want. The problem comes in finding somethin gthat will combine making enough money to not worry about it, and finding something that you think is worth doing.

Most people, from observation not research, seem to hit the purpose nihilism (compared to the existance nihilism of adolesence) and go out and start a family or a business. (The business seems to be gaining in popularity compared to the family of late, but is still soemthing external that you believe has intrinsic value) That creates a nice raison d'etre.

This is particularly relevant to frontiers in that having a frontier to be conquered fires th eimagination about possibility. Even if you are a 25 year old loan officer at a credit card bank if there is a frontier that involves challenge, hardship, and opportunity it provides an additional escape from the purpose nihilism. You now have dreams about somethin gnew, not just something known to suck (moing up in company fo rinstance - you see perfectly well the EVP is no happier than you, he just drives a nicer car). Now the collective group has an extrinsically valuable goal. You can follow progress, debate ideas, and you know that you could probably go.

At first each frontier was only accessible to a handful. The Americas by state-funde explorers (astronauts), the American West by those same explorers, and then select military units, and then the rush.

The rush happens late in the frontier timeline. Only when the frontier yields up economic benefits sufficient to improve the lot of the masses and the pople who control the masses does the rush occur. Historically that incentive has been the discovery of precious metals or fertile lands. That is unlikely to change, though the resources we chase will be different.

Until Challenger America was progressing quickly towards colonization. As a boy my dreams of being a colonist were not unheard of (though because of the slowdown following Challenger it will now be much more difficult).

The dream of soemthing bigger, better, more important than you is the driving force to unite a society. As long as there is plenty of opportunity at home, and the biggest, best, most important thing 90% of the individuals can point at is themselves, we will sit in what amounts to a stagnant culture (which the US is in right now. When growth ceases to occur, stagnation automatically sets in, there is no maintenance of the status quo.

Several different things can provide that uniting bigger/better/more important idea. It doesn't have to be colonial expansion. Other historic examples (from Western history anyway) woul dbe the Renaissance, the Industrial Age, and the Civil Rights movements in the US. Each of these provided something external to the individual that could be held up and esteemed.

It may be possible to construct an argument holding up the digital era in the samelight, except that there is still rampant disenfranchisement. The digital era, the cyber-world, the interconnected society (to use media-words) is really just improved capacity for communication. Very few people believe for an instant that anything about their computer, or what it connects to, is more important than they are.

On a completely different side, many many many many people would argue that a united society is bad. United societies are the ones who commit the great atrocities. All of the frontiers that have been discussed have been sought at the expense of others. They have usually been bought with genocide and been used as a nice excuse for atrocities committed at home.

In that way space may or may not be a better than previous frontiers. There, to our knowledge so far, is no life to kill off anywhere within reach of us at present. The benefits in terms of resource plunder are richer than anything on earth. Technology is well within reach of making non-terrestial living a real possibility (if it just had the nudge of neccesity instead of coolness bio-tech research would rapidly find compensations for lack of gravity and all those things humans deal with in space). What's more, it may even be possible to do without war (unlikely, but possible). Most wars have been started more though lack of communication than any other cause. Yes, many major wars have had nothing to do with lack of communication, but at the same time some of the really biggies, particularly those driven by colonialism, have been.


-- The Entity Formerly Known as Frums (Cuz someone nabbed my name on K5) (I want it back :ž)

How excited can I get? (2.28 / 7) (#48)
by lahosken on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:35:02 AM EST

Pioneers going to new continents on Earth got a lot of thrills in exchange for their hassle. They had new critters to look at. They had new people to talk to (and to beat up on, perhaps). They had a chance to try out some new foods.

If I go up to Mars, I get-- What do I get? I get some new rocks? Great. New rocks. Maybe we should colonize the place like the UK did with Australia--we can send up convicted criminals. There's a precedent for having convicts hammer rocks. And Mars does seem to have plenty.

If you really want to go explore someplace exciting, go into my kitchen and fix me a sandwich. I haven't washed up in over a month. You'll probably discover a new form of life.

Whose history? (4.55 / 9) (#49)
by Tin-Man on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:45:30 AM EST

Throughout history, man has looked for new frontiers.

You cite Romans going west to Britain and Europeans moving west to America, and Americans moving west to the Pacific. It sounds like you are calling Western History the history of all mankind.

So, if this search for a frontier is so universally ingrained into the human spirit, how do you account for Asia?

Without something new to discover, to tame, and to colonize the human spirit will suffer. We need something to rally behind.

I think you misread the history you've stated. Conquering new frontiers hasn't as a rule been a rallying point for society; rather it is a greedy land-grab by those who have power and want to maintain it. The Romans moved west to expand their empire. Europeans initially came to America to bring back gold. (Later others came to flee from religious persecution, not to rally behind a common goal of society.) Americans traveled to the Pacific largely for new land. The gold rush also got quite a few more people out here. Even the American Space Program, with our goal of beating the Russians to the moon, was a bid to maintain our technical superiority over our arch-enemies.

And that is the true rallying point of a people. We don't need a frontier; we need a war.

And if you want to unite all of humanity, we need an enemy from another planet.

Maybe we'll get that by trying to colonize Mars. :-)


--
The future sure isn't what it used to be!

Asia (4.00 / 2) (#60)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:33:03 PM EST

You cite Romans going west to Britain and Europeans moving west to America, and Americans moving west to the Pacific. It sounds like you are calling Western History the history of all mankind.

I also said "There are countless examples of different cultures, and peoples venturing out in the hope of discovery. That’s really beside the point, because currently, western civilizations are making the largest contribution to space exploration.

As far as the question of “How do I account for Asia.” I’d prefer you to be more specific. As far as I am aware, Asians traveled west to populate most the islands of the east/west (depending on viewpoint I guess) Pacific. Though I may be mistaken, as my history of eastern peoples is less developed than my western history.

Are you happier if I include the following... The Native Americans who traveled from the modern-day Russia, to Alaska, and then south and east across what is modern day America? Or maybe the Polynesians who traveled north(?) east to settle in Hawaii?

So are you saying that virtually all societies did NOT rally behind the plight of the Apollo 13 astronauts? I checked my history, and guess what, it seems they did!

I believe that there is only one way to maintain a significant, permanent manned Mars program, with the ultimate goal of colonization. International cooperation. People from all civilizations must, and will rally behind this goal and contribute to it. That was my point in all of this.



[ Parent ]

History (4.00 / 4) (#71)
by Tin-Man on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:07:31 PM EST

I just think that you're misinterpreting both the reasons that people migrate as well as the impact that has on all of society.

All of the references you have to new frontiers is basically just segments of one population breaking off and moving to another location. That can as easily be explained by overpopulation, discontent, ejection from society, or greed for more land. In fact, as a reason for moving, the idea of a desire for experiencing the newest frontier seems like the least likely.

The one exception to this is, as you stated, the excitement surrounding what has been called humanity's greatest acheivement: that of getting a man to the moon and back. That doesn't follow the same pattern as other frontiers that you described. You acknowledged in your article that we went, came back home, and then never really went back to colonize.

This is more akin to conquering Everest than it is to expanding the limits of society to the new frontiers.

I would suggest that the reason this captured the interest of so many people around the world was because it was a superhuman achievement that was able to be broadcast, live in many cases, around the globe.

I don't think that the goal of colonizing Mars is necessarily a bad one; I just think that associating man's desire for new frontiers with a tendency to unify society behind a single banner is mistaken. As I said before, a war against a common enemy is more likely to pull a people together than expanding to a new frontier.

As evidence, take the latest "frontier" that we have embarked upon: the Internet. With land-grabbers, early movers, attempts of all manner for exploitation, I think this frontier has given us an excitement about possibilities, while at the same time causing more of the same strife that others have talked about as reasons for staying on Earth until we find answers to the more basic problems. Did the Internet serve to pull us together?

You said:

I believe that there is only one way to maintain a significant, permanent manned Mars program, with the ultimate goal of colonization. International cooperation. People from all civilizations must, and will rally behind this goal and contribute to it. That was my point in all of this.

This is called a circular argument. In order to build a permanent outpost on Mars, we must rally together. And building an outpost on Mars will cause humanity to rally together. Think about it. That's my point.

--
The future sure isn't what it used to be!
[ Parent ]

The New Frontier (4.00 / 3) (#81)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:39:25 PM EST

Let me clarify my position. Do we need international cooperation for a permanent Mars presence. Yes.

Do we need it to get the ball rolling? No.

Will we have something to rally behind on the international scene? Yep, just like the lunar program.

In my view, from this international rally point, I think that a need for colonization will become increasingly evident. Beyond just the superhuman aspect of going to Mars, we will most likely have to live there for an extended amount of time. This will prove the viability of such a program. International cooperation will be the evolution of the initial international interest. A somewhat romantic statement would be “If you build it, they will come.” And then they’ll make it bigger, and better.

Ultimately, yes, people will start to go to "start a new life". People will go for jobs, to seek their fortunes, and for the land grab. Business will come too, in the hope of running things. (As a side note, this discussion sounds just like the premise of Red Mars, By Kim Stanley Robinson.)

Ultimately, does it really matter why people go? As long as people do, indeed go?

[ Parent ]

That's more like it (4.00 / 3) (#107)
by Tin-Man on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:22:35 PM EST

Now I can agree with you.

When your premise was "Let's go to Mars because the human spirit needs a new frontier in order to rally together," I wasn't very persuaded.

But, if your premise is "Let's go to Mars for the heck of it," I can agree wholeheartedly.

This is a superhuman achievement that dwarfs getting a man to the moon and back, and I agree that it will be a rallying point for all of the participating nations, and many of the spectator nations. Not because it is a frontier, but because it is a challenge that requires international cooperation and a goal that the individual people of the international community can sink their teeth into.
--
The future sure isn't what it used to be!
[ Parent ]

Yeah! (2.00 / 2) (#61)
by jxqvg on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:36:38 PM EST

Let's go kick some alien butt!

[sig]
[ Parent ]
Destroy Mars by 2125! (4.20 / 5) (#68)
by factorer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:01:43 PM EST

Tin-Man makes a good point. People tend to rally very nicely behind a war, as long as it's properly presented. So I suggest that we destroy Mars, not colonize it. What's it good for? At best it catches a couple asteroids or performs some other gravitional function of dubious utility. We don't need it, as far as we know. It's up there right now NOT being destroyed, mocking all our progress up to this point. What better way to unite the people than to present a common enemy? There may be no reason to hate Mars, but there's certainly no reason not to, and I think it's about time. Think of the advantages:
  • Total employment
  • Global peace treaties
  • Enormous demand for R&D
  • And More!
The only possible disadvantages are how to coordinate the project without creating a bureacracy which would strangle all freedom on the planet and what to do with all the debris. Those may be left as an exercise for the reader, but solutions may be assumed by Moore's Law applied in the general case.


this too shall pass
[ Parent ]

Gengis Khan? (3.00 / 2) (#82)
by Red Moose on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:47:50 PM EST

OK, maybe I can't spell his name properly, but the thirst for conquest and expansion was definitely the status quo back in those days in Asia. Also, Japan is reputed to be aiming for a moon-base (like from Rocket Ranger, all you Cinemaware fans) by around 2015. So there.

[ Parent ]
Re: Ghengis Khan (3.00 / 2) (#86)
by kallisti on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:05:02 PM EST

The Mongol invasion was a period of a few decades. By the time Marco Polo met with his grandson Kublai, the invaders were completely assimilated in Chinese culture. There have been expansions and conquests (China into Tibet, for example) but nothing like the Europeans' world wide slaughters. And culturally, the Japanese these days are a mix of Eastern and Western ideas. The wars in Asia mostly tended to be internal (the Three Kingdoms and Boxer Rebellion in China or the Warring States in Japan).

This of course, only covers the so-called Far East and I am by no means an Oriental historian. (IABNMAOH)

[ Parent ]

Why not the moon? (3.42 / 7) (#50)
by cme on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:56:10 AM EST

The moon is probably a near-term dead end. It is by NO MEANS a stop on the way to Mars.

Why *isn't * the moon a stop on the way to Mars? It's really much easier to build and launch large craft in low gravity than it is down in the gravity hole this planet has. With the discovery of water ice on the moon, it's that much easier.

In fact, if you wanted to, you could build at least part of whatever you were sending to Mars in the old shuttle main boosters that are still lying wastefully around in orbit... :)



Propellant (4.00 / 2) (#51)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:15:17 PM EST

The propellant that you need to haul to get to the Moon, is only a little less than what is needed to get to Mars (assuming insitu propellant generation on Mars). My point is that a lunar base, while immensely beneficial in the long-term, will not help us get to Mars initially.

[ Parent ]
What propellant? (3.00 / 3) (#56)
by cme on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:25:10 PM EST

Who says you need propellant? Why think in terms of chemical rockets and fuel? Why not mass drivers and light sails and ramjets?



[ Parent ]
Current technology (3.50 / 2) (#63)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:39:36 PM EST

The basis for this essay current technology. Eveything being done, assuming we use chemical propulsion.



[ Parent ]

Current tech (3.33 / 3) (#69)
by cme on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:03:14 PM EST

But... you aren't even going to make it as far as Mars without at least expanding on current technology, and it would actually probably be easier and more efficient to redesign from the bottom up than to use something like the shuttle as a base.

At least ramjets have been worked out in their full theoretical detail- and I think mass drivers and light sails have been too. It's just that no one's *tried* them before. And we'll need things like that eventually... chemical rockets are expensive and inefficient. Any trip to Mars would be completed more efficiently by developing a cheap technology like these first (remeber: people have worked out the theory already!), rather than using chemical rockets. And then the next time we wanted to go somewhere, we wouldn't have to either develop the new technologies then or drag *more* fuel along wiht us. Have you thought about how one would accomplish the trips between Earth and Mars (particularly the ones back to Earth) with chemical rockets?

You're talking about thinking for the future... *really* think for the future. Keep pushing the boudaries of the technology to keep pace with the frontiers.



[ Parent ]
Nuclear (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:01:32 PM EST

Nuclear rockets are really the most viable short term propulsion solution. If you don't know anything about them, do a search on Google before replying to this. They're not really environmentally threatening (if you use them after you leave Earth's atmosphere). There is already an existing wealth of data, provided in the 70's(?) when they were initially researched.

Light sails are still very much a fringe technology. Minimal testing has been completed in LEO.

I'm all for new technologies. Nuclear (or possibly plasma, but it's not nearly so developed) is , in my opinion, the way to go.

However, chemical rockets are more than capable of handling it. To answer your questions, a Mars Return Vehicle would utilize propellant produced while insitu (on planet). Without doing chemical equations, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would be extracted, mixed with a small amount of hydrogen hauled from Earth, to produce water, and fuel.

[ Parent ]

Call it by its full name! (3.00 / 1) (#148)
by TheDullBlade on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 03:50:54 AM EST

It's called an interstellar ramjet.

You need to be moving at a pretty decent fraction of the speed of light for it to work, and you can't be running into little rocks all the time. The scoop's gotta be bigger than a lightsail and it has to have a complete active defense system because otherwise it channels everything right into its own middle. The lightsail can stand a few holes, the ramjet can't.

Interstellar ramjets are clearly not suitable for interplanetary travel. Ion engines, mass drivers, and sailing (both sheet and bubble methods) are the way to go.

But the moon is where you want to start. First of all, you can build a huge array of solar panels from local rock, and that's plenty of power to build a whole subterranean civilization on (go read some Heinlein). Secondly, you can build a huge kick-ass magnetic catapult (low gravity, no atmosphere, no limits). Thirdly, if you use mass-drivers, you can gather all the rocks you want to throw off the moon, easily (it would be fairly easy to manufacture nice little aluminum pellets, too).
Visit Boswa Bits, now with 99% less evil!
[ Parent ]

Shuttle boosters and tanks (none / 0) (#162)
by Andreas Bombe on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 06:15:09 PM EST

...in the old shuttle main boosters that are still lying wastefully around in orbit... :)

You can't. First, the boosters are fished out of the sea after they did their work to be reused. They never reach orbit. What you are thinking about is the external propellant tank which goes up with the shuttle into orbit but is then sent back to burn up in reentry.

They have enough problems with all the small bits and pieces in orbit that can harm space craft, so they are definitely motivated to not let those *big* tanks float around as space debris.

A posting way too late to be seen, but what the hell...

[ Parent ]

Reasons to go to Mars (4.00 / 9) (#55)
by Eloquence on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:23:47 PM EST

First, the possibility of life on Mars, both complex and non-complex, has not been eliminated at all. The meteorites we have found are possible evidence of bacteria, and the water channels indicate that there may be an ocean below the surface (we've known for several years that there has long been water on Mars even very recently, also because of meteorites). The recent findings on the development of life on Earth - it's about everywhere you could possibly expect it, including the poles - suggest that life is far more persistent than previously thought.

There are many scientists who claim that we already have evidence for life on Mars. There are many scientists who dispute this claim, and they usually get big press coverage. Of course there are always uncertainties and what we find may well be something completely different from what we expected, but not going there because of that possibility is just stupid.

So what could be gained by finding primitive lifeforms below Mars' or Europe's surface (where a water ocean is nearly certain to be found)? The consequences for humanity would be immense. I do not suscribe to the view that it would eliminate religion - religions have a long history of adapting to new findings, they would just claim that every planet has its own Jesus, nailed to his own cross - but I do believe it would give us a new, unprecedented sense of unity which may be just what we need to solve the economic and ecologic problems our very own planet faces.

Aside from that, it would be a tremendous milestone for science, allowing us to examine the differences between evolution on different systems. It would also make it much easier to get funds for additional space exploration and SETI with decent equipment (no, Arecibo is not enough, you need a dedicated orbital radio telescope or an array of them). I probably don't have to elaborate on the consequences of detecting another intelligent civilization.

I agree that Mars is of little interest if there's no life to be found, but we should dig as deep as we can before we actually proclaim this result. Last but not least, the colonization of Mars may actually be necessary - Stephen Hawking says it is, I like to believe that future tech will help us to repair our own planet.

However, rest assured that nobody will go anywhere because of some inner spirit. That was not the reason for exploration in any of the cases you cite. If we go to Mars, it's for the potential scientific benefits - and for the fact that some corporations get much richer for building the hardware. Competition between the US and Europe may be an additional motor.
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy · Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!

Life (5.00 / 3) (#64)
by cme on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:44:42 PM EST

The meteorites we have found are possible evidence of bacteria...

<annoying biologist hat>

Actually, the meteorite points more to Archaea than bacteria, in large part because the things that could be fossils were very *small*. It's not impossible that it's life, it's just less likely that it's bacteria as we know them.

The recent findings on the development of life on Earth - it's about everywhere you could possibly expect it, including the poles - suggest that life is far more persistent than previously thought.

Exactly so. And the life in all of those weird places, like heat vents in the ocean, polar ice, and hotsprings in Yosemite? Archaea. :)

</annoying biologist hat>

Really, I'd dispute the contention that it won't have been worth it if there's no life there. It's still a new place! People could live there, and it wouldn't be earth! And it wouldn't have to be under the auspices of any of the countries we're so fond of complaining about on earth! And gosh, think of all the stars you could see at night!

Isn't the challenge of making a home on a place like Mars enough fun, not forever, but to make it worthwhile? *I* think it is.



[ Parent ]
A new government? (4.50 / 2) (#75)
by Tin-Man on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:13:33 PM EST

And it wouldn't have to be under the auspices of any of the countries we're so fond of complaining about on earth!

Dude, what have you been smoking, and where can I get some? :-)

Under what conditions do you think that the colony on Mars would not be under the auspices of an earth government?

I can see it being a colonization sent by the USA, but what is more likely is that it will be an international effort, and subject to some muddled, labored, and complex international laws and procedures.

But please, show me how I'm wrong.
--
The future sure isn't what it used to be!
[ Parent ]

"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" (4.33 / 3) (#83)
by cme on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:49:20 PM EST

Sure, it starts out being controlled by some muddle-headed beaurocratic nonsense. Maybe. If we *let* governments do it at all.

Think about it. They've taken their own sweet time about it so far. Why should we trust the governments of the world to do something this important for us?

There are an awful lot of laws against doing it yourself at least in the US, and I think there are international treaties that cover the launching of objects into space. There are, as I see it, two ways to get around this:

  • Civil disobeidiance
  • Getting the laws repealed
Unfortunately, the first *might* get you shot out of the sky- since I think those treaties allow for shooting down any craft not sponsored by a nation on the theory that to not do so might be a threat to your national security. So maybe you get Tuvalu or someone to sign the papers saying that they sponsor you (they wouldn't have to do anything but sign papers, and maybe you could pay them a chunk).

If we are silly enough to let the world's governments do this for us, there are a few possibilities once we get there:

  • Split off and form a separate independant colony
  • Revolt
The first has the problem of equipment and supplies, and the severity of these problems and the number of other problems seems to me to be highly situation-dependant, so I can't address that too much right now. This could be a very difficult proposition. Add to this the fact that the now-belligerent parent colony is your close neighbor (you're on the same planet, after all) and it becomes an even more risky proposition.

The second is possible, but requires you to wait until the colony is mostly self-supporting and firmly established- a generation or more. Suckage. But the nice part is that if we're still talking colonies on Mars, Earth has even less in the way of things to retaliate with than it would with respect to Luna. It could be easy, nearly peaceful, and uncontested.

But even if silly government people are taking over Mars, there are other places to go! You people are planet chauvenists! Read any Niven lately? How 'bout them Belters? Even if the governments were taking over Mars and Luna, we, the nerds, could still have the asteroid belt. And there's probably *lots* of stuff to be mined there that could be sold to the greedy planetary governments... but life there would be riskier, and governments don't like risk- so they would probably leave the Belters alone. The Belt could be the place for all of those people who feel like rebels and free spirits, who have government and beauracracy. And it wouldn't take so much to get there and build a habitat there. Drag one of those booster tanks out of orbit on your way out- and be a citizen of the galaxy, cleaning up litter and reusing discarded parts.

Think I'll go read me a Niven novel. I'm getting depressed by all the naysaysers and the lackluster attitudes here.



[ Parent ]
Earth is a harsher mistress (4.00 / 2) (#111)
by Tin-Man on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 05:16:05 PM EST

If we *let* governments do it at all. Think about it. They've taken their own sweet time about it so far. Why should we trust the governments of the world to do something this important for us?

The only reason (other than the possibility of getting shot out of the sky, as you mentioned) I see for allowing the governments to do it for us is that it is an awfully spendy proposition. I don't have the cash on hand, myself.

I'm not saying we shouldn't go, but I don't think we're going to do this without the full support of the international community.

And I think it will be a good long time before any Mars colony would be free of Earther intervention. They wouldn't be given their own government until they had so many people and so much entrenched bureaucracy that any new government they formed would be almost indistinguishable from the one they were trying to replace.
--
The future sure isn't what it used to be!
[ Parent ]

You're thinking too big (4.50 / 2) (#116)
by cme on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 07:10:32 PM EST

Think smaller. I'm happy to admit that colonizing Mars would be a heinously expensive proposition. The entire last paragraph of the post I was replying to was about where I thought we *oughta* go (we being intelligent, motivated people, not we the government or we the "global community"). You're also thinking too big in terms of spacecraft. If you were using something like the Delta Clipper you'd only need about as much money as your average overfunded internet startup.

And I think it will be a good long time before any Mars colony would be free of Earther intervention. They wouldn't be given their own government until they had so many people and so much entrenched bureaucracy that any new government they formed would be almost indistinguishable from the one they were trying to replace.

True. But I'm not saying that you *wait* for the colony to have it's own government, for exatly the reasons you give there. I'm saying that while you're still until the control of the Earth government, but after you're physically self-sufficient enough, you revolt. Because Earth is so far away, retaliation would be nearly impossible.

I think I should have explained more clearly, for the benefit of those who have not read the book I referred to in the subject of my post. That book is about a revolution that frees a Lunar colony from the governments of the Earth. It worked well because retaliation was difficult and expensive. Since retaliation against Martian colonists would be even harder, the implied premise of my argument was that it would be even easier and more bloodless than the book suggested such a revolution would be.



[ Parent ]
Greedy (3.33 / 3) (#128)
by Steeltoe on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:40:57 PM EST

You talk about greedy governments, but how about yourself? What makes you so much better than "those greedy governments", who happens to be able to get along remarkably well in space (yet).

If you want to live alone and die, why not do it on earth? How would doing it on mars make you feel, every single day? Romantic? I think not, breathing in your own piss (gee, that sounds really "space-romantic", but I digress...=)

Why do you think those laws exists at all? Sure you can break them, and I doubt you'll get shot down unless you're trespassing territory which is undoubtful at that attitude (unless StarWars is implemented by the US after all).

Okay, to be fair to you, I respect and understand your dreams of space exploration. Heck, I'll even wish they'll come true (you're probably a nice, innocent and sincere person ;-). BUT, this is life and it usually sucks, until we do something about it. Make a change around you. People don't want to live under evil regimes, wether it be corporations or governments. We don't have to fight each other, and we don't have to go solo, racing to be the first.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
I'm not greedy, I'm individualistic (3.00 / 1) (#141)
by cme on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 03:44:47 PM EST

You talk about greedy governments, but how about yourself? What makes you so much better than "those greedy governments", who happens to be able to get along remarkably well in space (yet).

I think I missed some of the subtlteies of your grammer, but I'll try to answer anyway. What makes me better than them is that I'm *me* and not *them*, of course. :) Seriously, though, I could give you all sorts of arguments as to why I am "better", but since I don't believe in an objective standard for judging people or entities all I would be doing is trying to convince you that I was higher on your personal scale of goodness than a government. I don't think I shall bother, since you've got me pretty clearly pegged on your scale of worthwhile human beings (apparently near the part of the spectrum marked "starry-eyed idealist who might grow up and be a team player someday"). Any attempt to overcome this first impression would take a lot of time and effort, and if you want me to try you'd have to convince me that it would be worth it to me.

If you want to live alone and die, why not do it on earth? How would doing it on mars make you feel, every single day? Romantic? I think not, breathing in your own piss (gee, that sounds really "space-romantic", but I digress...=)

Who says I want to live alone and die? And if I did, why do it on earth? I happen to be fond of the idea of living someplace that's under my control and no one else's, that I at least designed all by myself, where I can shoot trespassers on the front lawn if it bloody well suits me and where I can refuse to answer the doorbell if I'm so inclined. Anyplace on earth you're subject to the laws of that country, which govern what you can and can't do in and about your own home.

You also seem to assume that any space habitat that was so poorly designed or maintained as to cause me to breathe my own piss would still support life- the margin of error for such things is not that big.

Why do you think those laws exists at all? Sure you can break them, and I doubt you'll get shot down unless you're trespassing territory which is undoubtful at that attitude (unless StarWars is implemented by the US after all).

I doubt you're really interested in my answer, but I'll answer you anyway. I think those laws exist because many of the worlds' governments want to have control over what's in orbit just as they have control over what is on the land, in the sky, or in the oceans. Granted, some of the people involved in making the laws were probably afraid that a basement bomber would do something stupid and, say, hit a spy satellite on the way up, but hopefully if you've gotten that far you're not that stupid.

(I'm going to assume you meant "doubtful" and answer your contention in that light.) Why *shouldn't* they shoot you down? If you succeed, you'll be a) out of their control, b) in a position where you could possibly seriously harm them, c) be planning just that, by their lights. And because of the international treaties signed, no one would fault whichever them it was. In fact, whoever shot you would probably be quietly cheered by the other major nations.

Okay, to be fair to you, I respect and understand your dreams of space exploration. Heck, I'll even wish they'll come true (you're probably a nice, innocent and sincere person ;-). BUT, this is life and it usually sucks, until we do something about it. Make a change around you. People don't want to live under evil regimes, wether it be corporations or governments. We don't have to fight each other, and we don't have to go solo, racing to be the first.

<blink> I think that's the fist time since I was in high school that I've been called nice, innocent, and sincere. I must sound an awful lot different here than I do in person.

Yes, this *is* life, and it *does* usually suck, and I'm campaigning for something that I think doesn't suck. In the end, the only way this debate really matters to me is that it will have temporarily depressed me by showing me how few people out there really are the pioneering rugged individualists that they like to say they are. So if the rest of you people sit here talking about humanitarian efforts and manned missions to Mercury, it probably won't actually affect whether I take my ass off this planet or not.

If people don't want to live under evil regimes, then "people" should do something about it. Your average person doesn't even think he's living under an evil regime, and he's happy with his SUV and his house in the burbs and his 2.7 kids. And even all of the intellectuals in places like this and that other site aren't doing much- they're mostly sitting around feeling hopeless. But even if I was convinced that I had the power to make a significant difference in overthrowing the evil regimes, I certainly wouldn't do it for the sake of anyone else, of for the sake of any goals held to be objectively "good".

I'm not fighting anyone (except your evil regimes), and I'm not racing to be first. But I am doing anything I do for me, because doing anything solely for the sake of someone else doesn't work- they won't thank you for it, and you'll wind up old and more bitter, probably without ever achieving whatever it was you were trying to accomplish. Do whatever you do for yourself, because it has meaning to you or brings you joy.



[ Parent ]
Is it just me, or is this just a bunch of... (2.12 / 8) (#57)
by marlowe on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:27:21 PM EST

futurist boilerplate? I used to read stuff like this in Omni twenty years ago. It got boring after a while. Every damn article a rehash of the same catechism.

Anyway, we've got plenty of problems to keep us busy on earth.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
As an aside... (3.66 / 9) (#58)
by carlfish on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:30:07 PM EST

This may be a largely American thing. Think about it - almost all the other nations built on European stock have rich histories of going out and either discovering new lands, or conquering other peoples. Histories of being world-spanning powers.

The USA never had this. Its power may be world-wide, but not its dominions. Its journies of discovery were all internal. The only wars its fought where it got to keep the land it fought over, were all fought on its own soil.

Is this big "frontier" thing just a deep-rooted insecurity? Do Americans wish, deep down, that they'd had an Empire? Someone once told me this was the great appeal of the original Star Trek in the USA - finally, even if only in fiction, there was this Federation, encompassing many races and species, with an American in the drivers seat.

Of course, Australia never had an Empire either, which may explain why so many of us are reluctant to cut our links to England.

Charles Miller
The more I learn about the Internet, the more amazed I am that it works at all.
Never had discovering new lands? (5.00 / 1) (#147)
by magney on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 03:48:55 AM EST

Never conquered other peoples? I'd think that quite a few Sioux would be quite incensed that you don't count them as conquered other peoples.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

That's not the new frontier (2.55 / 9) (#65)
by ubu on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:48:55 PM EST

Let's face it: the new frontier is the female orgasm. Nothing is so poorly understood or so rarely observed. Before we spend billions on space exploration, can we *please* learn how to build effective marriages through ecstatic coupling?

It would be good for society, good for the economy, and good for America. Let's just knuckle down and figure this out. After that, I'm totally game for space exploration.

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
Post Orbital Bliss (3.00 / 2) (#78)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:23:40 PM EST

what if zero-g fornication was the best solution for the female orgasm?



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
I really hadn't considered (2.50 / 2) (#84)
by ubu on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:52:40 PM EST

I admit, that is a distinct possibility. And now that I think of it, things could get really wild up there. If your suggestion is close to the truth, we could end up seeing a Zero-Gravity Kama Sutra, perhaps. Maybe even a Joy of Space Sex.

I'm a bit worried about gender-bias, though. Chemical rockets, Mars, the Space Shuttle, the ISS... think about it, these are all phallic symbols. We need to urge NASA to build female-friendly attitudes, and I mean more than just painting the Mars Rover pink.

Earthmen, unite! Let's keep our women happy, or we'll never reach the stars.

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
They tried that once (none / 0) (#161)
by roos on Tue Oct 24, 2000 at 07:12:42 PM EST

The Onion had an article about the failure of the Vagina-Shaped Rocket,
but it doesn't seem to be in their archives   ...

Seriously, though, we *all* need to get more, better sex. It's the only thing that may keep society from breaking down altogether...

[ Parent ]
Plenty of Frontiers on Earth (3.50 / 8) (#66)
by weathervane on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 12:49:02 PM EST

The is lots of almost completely unsettled land in Canada and Alaska, probably in Russia too. It may be cold, but it's a lot less hostile than space. The same goes for life under the seas.

But I think the real problem is the space isn't really much of a frontier, at least not in the human sense. In the 1800's U.S. you could get on a good horse, buy some supplies, and head west to start a new life.

Space will never be like that. Your very existence will depend on millions of dollars of delicate machinery, probably owned by massive corporations. It will be a world of skilled wage slaves, not pioneer spirit. And some of the more ominous possibilities are worrying, along the lines of Total Recall (turning off the air supply, perhaps for non-payment of bills).

I still like the idea of space though. It's not very rational, but all that technology and those new worlds just waiting to be explored make my kid heart sing. But I'm afraid the reality of space colonization would be bitterly from my childhood dreams, controlled by corporations and calculatedly spiritless.

I always used to argue with my roommate about this: I was for space colonization and she was against. When I would talk about the possibilities and the sort of 'disaster insurance' it would give the human race, she would say, "Great, let's build a multibillion dollar lifeboat for the Titanic. Millionaires and corprate vice-presidents first!"

It was one of my favorite arguments, but after a while it made me wonder what value it would really have. There's still plenty of work to be done here on earth.

What happens (3.00 / 4) (#76)
by kunsan on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:16:34 PM EST

This is a little out there, but if I thought of it, someone else probably will. As I was reading through the comments, I noticed a common theme, over population. That theme appears to be one of the "reasons" that we should, or must begin to colonize other planets. While I was thinking about that I had a rather chilling thought.

What if all of our technological advances are not good enough. When I say good enough I mean... good enough to make more than a token gesture (vis-a-vis Lunar Landings)at Inter-planetary colonization. How will the "Super-powers" of the world, with their massive standing armies, air, & sea forces view their alternatives. Is it too far a stretch of mankind's humanity to think that the haves will attempt to eliminate the have nots. I know this sounds exceedingly psychotic, but in searching the deepest reaches of my mind, I think if it came down to a them or us type of situation (situation= Facing starvation, diseases, and other known issues of over population) most would likely choose "us".

I hope (hu)mankind never has to face this dilemma. Thankfully it will not be in my lifetime.

What say you? Am I doom-saying and playing on fears, or would people make the choice as I think they would?
--

With a gun in your mouth, you only speak in vowels -- Fight Club
Havesnots (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by CodeWright on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:29:33 PM EST

The "Haves" won't ever "kill off" the "Have-Nots" in fear of impending [starvation/disease/etc], because, by definition, the "Haves" will always have [food/medicine/etc].

There will always be starving poor people and there will always be wealthy pinheads, as long as there is a human race.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
too late (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:48:33 PM EST

Is it too far a stretch of mankind's humanity to think that the haves will attempt to eliminate the have nots.

In World War II era Croatia, the haves, the religious and ethnic majority Catholic Croats wiped out thirty thousand Jews and over half a million Serbian Orthdox.

At the end of WWII, Marshall Tito ruled with an iron glove and made pretty much everyone equal. When he died and the Iron Curtain fell what's one of the first things that happened? The Serbian majority in what's left of Yugoslavia goes on a mission to wipe out the Croats.

To a certain extent this is an over-simplification. The politics of religion, ethnicity and hatred in the Balkans goes back for centuries, if not millenia and the dividing lines are not as simple as Muslim/Catholic/Orthodox and Croat/Serbian. My point, however, is that it seems to be the partly the natural inclination of humanity for those who have to declare war on those who have not.

My guess is that part of this stems from fear that the have-nots might some day rebel (like the proletariat turned on the capitalists during the October revolution in Russia) and partly out of selfishness (if we terminate all the unnecessary have-nots, there will be more for the haves to have). If one looks at the industrial revolution or the behavior of the conquering people in almost any war of invasion, one sees the same theme: those who have doing their best to eliminate those who have not. The exceptions to this rule are the have-nots that make themselves useful to those who have and provide some reason to not be put down.

The real question is: is this war always inevitable? In most of North America, we are blessed to have a very thin line between the haves and the have-nots with a large amount of class mobility. There is little or no inter-class warfare in most of North America*. Perhaps it is only in social conditions where mobility is impossible (or exceedingly difficult) that the war between those that have and those that have not enters the limelight.

regards,

-l

* In Mexico, where social mobility is much less common, there is much more class warfare going on. Witness the Zapatista movement in Chiapas where the haves are brutally putting down the have-nots.

[ Parent ]

are we soiling our own nest? (2.33 / 9) (#85)
by stpeter on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:56:09 PM EST

Heinlein said that humans always soil their own nest, so presumably that'll happen on Mars or any other outpost we colonize. That said, life on earth is getting better by any objective measure, so there's not exactly a press to dispose of the third rock from the sun anytime soon. For instance, population growth rates fall as people become more prosperous (cf. Korea, Taiwan, Europe, etc.), and even the UN models indicate that world population is not going to explode, and in fact will level off somewhere around 8 billion, after which it will quite likely decline. Everyone cries about environmental degradation, but the fact is that the environment is a lot better off than it used to be (as witnessed for example by the ever-lengthening human lifespan). Naturally there might be other reasons to go to Mars (I'm all for Zubrin's ideas), but let's be realistic about the relative state of the home planet before we make the big leap.

You lost me on the environmental argument (3.00 / 3) (#101)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:29:29 PM EST

Everyone cries about environmental degradation, but the fact is that the environment is a lot better off than it used to be (as witnessed for example by the ever-lengthening human lifespan).

It seems to me that the human lifespan is merely indicative of humanity in general learning how to cope with its environment. The increased human lifespan is not indicative of whether that environment is improving or not.

As an example, people learn how to deal with cholera and dysentry so these two diseases kill less people leading to an increase in lifespan. Is the environment improved? Perhaps the environment has been changed to be more favorable to a localized population in one or more aspects. This speaks nothing to whether or not there will be any long term effect on the global environment.

If anything, the long term health of our environment is coming more and more into question. The ozone hole over the southern hemisphere keeps getting larger and larger. More people will make enlarge this effect, not reduce it.

[ Parent ]

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt (3.28 / 7) (#87)
by chuq_r on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:18:08 PM EST

And I have a lot of them.

Let's just assume for a minute that I don't go for any bullshit lines about pursuing frontiers, stagnating societies, or any rah-rah go humanity, go feelings. In face of that, I still think that exploration to places outside of Earth would be a good thing, if not an eventually inevitable thing as dated technologies such as rocketry gets replaced with something less resourcefully expensive that does the job just as effectively or preferably better.

For all my hopes of humans being able to "take to the stars", as the old clichè goes, it also scares the hell out of me. The little boy in me can't wait to get on the next ride to Mars and help dream up a spiffy new technological society that does away with famine and oppression and poverty and all of that wishful, probably humanly impossible crap, but the other part of me is afraid of who is going to be the first there and who is really going to control human colonization on Mars (or elsewhere for that matter).

If a corporation did it, the colony could just because a highly propagandized slave labor camp that is fabulously popular back on Earth because we are "Expanding Our Frontiers, Reaching For A New Universe And A New Mankind" (as a Siemens-GE Space Foundation four-color glossy might one day read). Or it would be a total flop and given up on because the profit margins are too small and the costs are too high, and maybe the colonists are even stranded there because "We are working the numbers and doing everything we possibly can to bring these men and women home in light of the current situation," according to the VP of PR for Matsushita-Lockheed in a press release which really means "we're too cheap to pony up the dough, and you governments are too puny to do anything about it. Neener, neener."

Or maybe if it was carried out by any of various governments or an alliance of several there would be problems. It would be such an elephantine bulk of bureaucracy, red tape, and committees that we wouldn't even get the first ship built for 30 years and then it would take another ten for the governments to decide who goes, who stays, what the rules are, what happens if Billy pokes Petra's eye out en route, and the official represenatative bird of the new colony complete with t-shirts and mugs. In the meantime, there would be supply problems of every kind, labor issues, wars, societal uprisings, civil wars, pollution, and the standard soap-opera politics that plague the media. But on the bright side, when we did get there, it probably wouldn't be a slave labor camp. Would it be worth the hassle and the wait if it happens at all?

Of course, no one can be certain what's going to transpire in the future. What I've just written is probably just as much hogwash as the rest of the sci-fi-èsque, if hopeful or jaded guessing. But the fact remains that I'm still fairly worried and uncertain about this issue. And that until it actually happens and I can see for myself that it's going to be OK and things are going to be well-handled, I'm going to remain worried and uncertain.

But I don't think I'll lose too much sleep over it or start moulting gray hairs. Yet. :)

Get a grip (4.50 / 2) (#108)
by ubu on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:39:21 PM EST

Or it would be a total flop and given up on because the profit margins are too small and the costs are too high, and maybe the colonists are even stranded there because "We are working the numbers and doing everything we possibly can to bring these men and women home in light of the current situation," according to the VP of PR for Matsushita-Lockheed in a press release which really means "we're too cheap to pony up the dough, and you governments are too puny to do anything about it. Neener, neener."

Huh, right. A stranded, doomed colony would be no PR problem for a commercial enterprise.

Follow the money. If there's money to be made in extraterrestrial colonies, it will be done, and it will be done as safely and cost-effective as possible according to the expectations of those who participate. Most of the logic in the postings here seems to follow the "too much baseless sci-fi" school of logic.

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Yeah right (2.00 / 1) (#124)
by Steeltoe on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:57:35 PM EST

As if the flow of money is always righteous and just Right, right?

Gimme a break.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
Type A Controlling Personality (none / 0) (#143)
by ubu on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 05:28:48 PM EST

Who said that? I will say this: in a free market, the flow of money is always voluntary. I realize that many dipsh*t armchair sociologists and political science have a low view of voluntary action, which is why I think it's worth mentioning that free markets (and those who live by them) have been kicking ass around the world for 200 years.

That 200-year mark represents a fundamental change in the development of mankind. If you track quality of life and life expectancies throughout all of history, you'll see a nearly flat straight line drawn straight to 1800, and then it explodes upward with the growth of Western freedom-style markets and societies.

But you're not really worried about people dying, of course, because any idiot can see that oppressed societies are gigantic bloodbaths, and that free societies are dramatically safe, clean, and peaceful by relative measure. What really bothers you is the notion that people might go and live their lives as they please, and you wouldn't be able to stop them. Doesn't that bother the sh*t out of you? Of course it does.

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Getting the grip (5.00 / 1) (#129)
by chuq_r on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 10:47:19 PM EST

Who said there was any logic in my post? Who also can tell me outright that that would never, ever happen? The answer to both questions is -- wait for it: no one. It's just pseudo-academic masturbation to try and prove otherwise. But that's just an aside, really.

The whole damn post was baseless. At least in the details. I haven't the foggiest notion whether any of those potential, possible (even if highly improbable) "realities" that I used for illustration will ever see light. Most sensible creatures would probably have understood that and to pick one of the illustrations out and pick at it like it was a major point but leave the others untouched bespeaks of, well, flameage. Can't we all just get along? ;)

Not to poke at you and cause a big scene, but the whole point that I was trying to make is just basically that there are an awful lot of bad realities that even someone who didn't think much on the subject could see as far as space colonization is concerned. And with the current track records of governments and major corporations, I have very little trust that either entity would really be up to the task and could quite likely screw it up in various big ways. And, of course, the subject is semi-important to me, so I used somewhat extreme possible situations as illustrations as a result. (The reason being that no one cares for weak illustrations. It's the difference between a stick figure drawing by yours truly or a portrait by Pablo Picasso: the former inspires yawns while the latter is probably very incorrect, but also very striking and tends to stir more emotion.)

Think about it this way: it's just another case where your mind (well, my mind in this case) might start telling you about all the completely awful things that theoretically could happen, even though you know perfectly well that things probably won't turn out as bad as you fear. Everything better? Do I have a grip now? :)

[ Parent ]

I think your wrong about Mars (3.55 / 9) (#88)
by Alhazred on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:19:55 PM EST

I think you, and I think Mr Zubrin, are completely wrong about Mars vs Moon, etc. Mars would take centuries to colonize, and at best its no better than Antarctica as far as living conditions. It costs about 1 MILLION $ per pound to put payloads on Mars! By comparison the cost for the Moon (which is really just as habitable as Mars, ie you need virtually total life-support in either place) is about $25,000 per pound.

Next generation launch vehicles should reduce these costs further to approximately $2,500 per pound within the next 5 to 10 years. This makes the "O'Neil" concept of a small mining base on the moon who's resources would be used to build colonies or construction platforms, and solar power satellites at L5 (or some variations of these plans that you can argue all day about) economically viable concepts.

The US alone will spend over 1,000 billion $ on installing power generators over the next 20 or so years, plus uncounted billions more mining over 2 billion tons of coal per year to burn in them. I think a trillion dollars is more than enough to create an SSPS program, which under current economic predictions could pay for itself in under 15 years.

Mars could not possible EVER pay for itself. There is no concievable scenario in which goods could be produced on Mars and shipped back to Earth economically. Its too far away for power. Its a pipe dream. It would cost 1/4 of the worlds GNP to carry out the colonization and for zero return?

Now lest you lambaste me for my ECONOMIC analysis, let me remind you that economics is the application of thermodynamics to human society. We just don't have the energy available to colonize Mars. If we did, the moon would be trivial! I say yes to EXPLORING Mars, as well as the Moon (which is still hardly explored really).

As for the ISS, it is both a good and a bad thing. Its the right and proper next step after we have cheap heavy lift capability. The problem is that the space shuttle was an utter failure at providing that. NASA promised 100 shuttle flights a year, and costs of under $1000 a pound to orbit, they obviously were off by a decimal place on both counts... The ISS should never have been built with such high lift costs, thats why its a $100 billion white elephant. We put the cart before the horse, but your darn well going to need an assembly and testing facility in space to go to Mars or anywhere else, so it wasn't a stupid idea, just done at the wrong time.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
Your Numbers (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:44:19 PM EST

I almost totally disagree with your economics. I mean, where do I begin? The moon is useful for all sorts of thing (long-term it's even useful for Mars). But in the short run, the energy cost of getting to Mars is not significantly greater than the moon.

Mars has at least some useful characteristics. It has an atmosphere worth discussing, there is an abundance of carbon dioxide, sun light is still a viable alternative energy source... fuel and water can be produced from the atmosphere (with a small amount of hydrogen hauled from Earth)... etc, etc.

With the moon, almost EVERYTHING has to be hauled with you. There might be water on the moon. But the levels they are discussing are similar to the water levels contained in decade old concrete. Meaning, it may be impossible to extract - near-term. It may not exist at all. Even without significant water resources on Mars (which most evidence points to there being), Mars is still immensely more habitable in the long run. It's probably even cheaper in the long run, since theres not a need to haul all resources with you.

Saying that Mars could never pay for itself is simply narrow-minded.

[ Parent ]

Economics (5.00 / 1) (#123)
by Steeltoe on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:52:36 PM EST

How can you say this and that without something concrete to back up your claims? I don't know wether "in the long run" things will be cheaper by going to mars than the moon. Nobody really does. What I do know is that building stuff, solar sails for instance, out in space, or on the moon for that matter, makes alot more economical sense than trying to fit everything through the earth-needlehole (read: gravity well) to mars. That mastering new technologies are best done back at home, than waiting for hours before your signals arrives, then transmit new ones that will take a few hours before they arrive "over there". What is theoretically possible doesn't really apply here at all. We're discussing billions upon billions of dollars that could be better spent here on earth (not on food though, but on more sustainable solutions than mere immediate ones).

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
Infrastructure (5.00 / 1) (#134)
by icer on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 01:58:15 AM EST

Maybe our visions of what it means to "going to mars" are different. Here's what I'm talking about...

We get there now (within 7-10 years). We use either a traditional chemical rocket (based on the Saturn V, or an Energia-class vehicle), or a nuclear rocket (not too far off). We send an Earth Return Vehicle (Mars Direct), and follow up ~2 years later with a manned crew, and another ERV. This would eventually establish a research colony, or series of Mars outposts. Is this cheaper in the long run? No. But it will people there to determine if such an infrastructure is even worth-while at this point.

In the mean time, we continue to develop new tools to bring colonization closer. We work on moon bases, inter-planetary space stations, gravity sails, plasma engines, permanent Earth-Mars orbit vehicles, etc. As these tools become viable technologies we apply them to colonization.

What I'm trying to get at is that it makes more sense to put in a dirt road, then to build a highway to nowhere. Sending small crews to establish permanent mars outposts now, to study and determine how viable Mars is for humanity makes more sense to me at least, then building up an infrastructure that may not be utilized.

[ Parent ]

and screw up mars like we've done earth?? bah... (2.28 / 7) (#89)
by mrflibble on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:24:22 PM EST

We don't have to find geographic frontiers and go about conquering "places" like some nimwitted conquistador.

Why not conquer frontiers like poverty, the piss-poor education system, or even *gasp* the frontier of "not fscking up our Earth."

-mrflibble

you miss the obvious (2.33 / 3) (#97)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:22:03 PM EST

Why not conquer frontiers like poverty, the piss-poor education system, or even *gasp* the frontier of "not fscking up our Earth."

While all of these are noble goals, none of them address the key issue: Earth (and our solar system as well) is finite. While some people might use colonization of Mars as an excuse to kill the environment, the fact of the matter is that Earth will eventually pass away whether or not we take care of the environment.

Mars is the first step to escaping the eventual collapse of our solar system. We need to crawl before we can walk. The knowledge humanity will gain in colonizing Mars will help humanity prepare to colonize other star systems.

Think long term, real long term.

I'd also like to mention that exploring space is not mutually exclusive to erradicating social problems. While we do have finite resources, we do not have to define a zero sum game where winner takes all. Working on social issues could very well be part of exploring the final frontier.

[ Parent ]

hmmm.... (3.00 / 2) (#113)
by mrflibble on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 06:37:09 PM EST

<Quote>
Mars is the first step to escaping the eventual collapse of our solar system. We need to crawl before we can walk. The knowledge humanity will gain in colonizing Mars will help humanity prepare to colonize other star systems.
</Quote>

...and spread like an uncurable fungus throughout the rest of the universe....

I still am not comfortable with this thought. I would rather we NOT go anywhere beyond these soils before we fix our problems. They will be immensely more difficult to fix if we think (or some subset of the population thinks) that we can just merely escape and move on...

-mrflibble

[ Parent ]
bbbbbut! (1.00 / 1) (#138)
by excession on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 12:08:25 PM EST

if we don't have enough leg room for people to live properly, we can't fix stuff. we need the extra (mental and physical) space to sort our problems...

[ Parent ]
Mars would be too expensive at first (3.40 / 5) (#90)
by ribone on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:28:18 PM EST

I didn't read the whole article... yet. I plan to, but must say right now that Mars would be way too expensive. Sure, it's gravity is less than Earth's, but even then it costs alot in fuel to get back off the damn thing.

Moon? Same kinda thing, but diminished...

I might be wrong about this, but before we try and colonize a planet, I think we might want to have some sort of outpost (definitely NOT the ISS) from which we can construct ships and whatnot. If you build a huge structure at a Lagrange point, for instance, you don't have to work really hard to keep it from getting pulled into another planet's gravity. You could stage mining operations on asteroids and get metals, etc like that. And the best part is that you don't have to worry about escaping from a gravity well, even if it's only the moon's puny gravity.

Now, I'll go back and finish your article. I think the basic idea is sound. Man needs challenges. If he doesn't have lots of war, he needs something else. I agree with you that Space should be that challenge. More comments coming down the pipe....



Lovely idea! (4.00 / 1) (#92)
by cme on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:38:00 PM EST

Let's you and I go do this while the rest of these people whine about humanitarian needs or write to their congressmen about why Nasa should send a manned mission to Mars. :)

[ Parent ]
Overcoming the Gravity Well (4.00 / 1) (#99)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:25:19 PM EST

A Mars Direct style approach, as avocated in my article, negates much of the gravity well problem, by producing propellant insitu (while the ship is on Mars). I don't have the chemical equations at hand, but basically, carbon dioxide gets sucked outta the atmosphere, and when combined with a realitivly small amount of hyrdogen that gets hauled from Earth, it works as a nice propellant. Random fact, Mars is gravity is 1/3 Earths.

[ Parent ]
"There's still plenty of work to be done here (3.10 / 10) (#91)
by cme on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:35:05 PM EST

<Sigh>

This is really lame- and people saying this seem to outnumber the people crying "Go for it!" And on kuro5hin, of all places!

Here's why it's lame. You may think there's lots of "humanitarian" things to be taken care of on Earth. Fine. And you may even think these things need to be done first. Okay. But I don't have to agree with you. If I think space exploration is more important, I should be able to go off and do it, now, later, or yesterday. "So go do it already, and stop annoying me!" you say. But I can't- because lots of people think like you, and they have enacted laws that say I can't go off and do it myself. I may try anyway. But the fact is that people who think like you think are chaining people who think like I think to this dirtball. Yes, I said dirtball.

You may argue that I'm being kept here so that my strengths can be put to their best use, helping out with all those humaitarian things, so that *then*, later, when the world is a Utopia, we can deal with minor things like space exploration. Well, even if I didn't think that attitude constituted impressment (which I do), I have news for you: No one does very good work when their hearts aren't in it. And if their hearts are totally set against it, they don't do very good work at all. So you might as well let me go chase my pipe dreams- I'm no use to your humanitarian efforts.

Besides, as history has shown, things "nobody wants", like war and space exploration have a habit of turning up amazingly useful side technologies that improve normal people's standard of living.

"So how about the oceans?" you say, "Or how about the poles?" But that's not space. I want to go to *space*. Not the poles. Not the Mariannis Trench. Not the Great Barrier Reef (though I'd love a vacation there someday). Not Death Valley, not the Yukon, and not the Amazon rainforest. I want to go to SPACE. "But the corporations will take over," you whine, "or the governments. It'll suck just as much as it does here, and they'll be able to blow out your atmosphere if you disagree with them." Not if we don't let them! Everyone talks about what "we" or "they" should do- why sit around and let we or they do it for you?!

If you don't like what you think will happen, make sure it won't, with your own damn hands and neurons! Don't be helpless, don't be lame, don't be afraid- all of those Roman and British and French and Spanish and Portuguese (sp?) and Mongoloid and Polynesian poineers didn't sit around at home and whine how the same old shit was just going to move into the new place- they got up off their duffs and went out and made *sure* that shit didn't take over while they were alive! (It could be argued that at least in some cases they *were* the same old shit and had every intention of bringing it with them, as missionaries or conquistadores, and I'll concede that fact. Oh, and someone make sure to flame me about the ethnicities I left out and the fact that not all Asians these days are considered Mongoloids, or even that "Mongoloid" is politictically incorrect. Go on.)

And maybe someday, when we hit the nth generation colony, each colony being supplied from a place that was once a colony, after these people have self-selected for independance and intelligence many times over, the same old shit won't inevitably follow them. But you'll never know, will you?

Re: "There's still plenty of work to be done (4.00 / 1) (#114)
by Filip on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 06:54:16 PM EST

You are missing out on a couple of points in IMHO.

First, what so good with going into space anyway?[tm]
The obvious answer seems to be "it's a frontier". But in reality the europeans didn't start colonization of the "New World" until it proved lucrative. Before that, only people with horseloads of money ever made the journey.

Second, why should you be the one to go?
Obviously anyone paying to send a couple of persons into space, be it to Mir, Moon, or Mars, would send the people that most likely would bring something of value back. Since trading with the Indians isn't going to happen (Columbus motivation to be sent; though I suspect that king Filip gave him the money to get rid of his blathering - possibly hoping he'd fall over the edge ;), what'll make sending you worthwhile?

Third, who will pay for your journey?
Last I checked - the majority of the people who colonized just about anything, payed their own tickets.
/Filip
-- I'm just a figment of your imagination.
[ Parent ]
Who pays for the journey? (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by weathervane on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:20:22 PM EST

Last I checked - the majority of the people who colonized just about anything, paid their own tickets.

Not so. A large proportion of early american settlers were either slaves or indentured servants. In either case their voyage was paid for by others in the expectation of extracting labour from them or selling their labour to others.

Since there's no way most people are going to be able to pay for their tickets into space, this might happen again. In fact, it still happens today among illegal migrants.

One of the more worrying prospects of life in space is the possibility that we would see true corporate states, where de facto slavery would be legal and no protective laws would exist. In fact, this already is almost the case on the high seas. The Scientologists' Sea Org is an interesting example of this, involving forcible confinement and slave labour and the like.

Anyways. Not to get too off-topic.

[ Parent ]

Not missing any points (none / 0) (#140)
by cme on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 02:26:12 PM EST

First, what so good with going into space anyway?[tm]

For me, it's because it's an Inherently Valuable Thing. This is a long-winded way of saying it's one of those low-level convictions that cannot be explained- it is the way you *feel*. It's like a religion, or any other sort of faith, including a faith in the goodness of humanity- it can't be proven or disproven, it rests on no foundation of facts that can be attacked- it *is*. And arguments over differences in fundamental opinions like this eventually must come down to "It is what I believe".

Second, why should you be the one to go?
Obviously anyone paying to send a couple of persons into space, be it to Mir, Moon, or Mars, would send the people that most likely would bring something of value back. Since trading with the Indians isn't going to happen (Columbus motivation to be sent; though I suspect that king Filip gave him the money to get rid of his blathering - possibly hoping he'd fall over the edge ;), what'll make sending you worthwhile?

You're laboring under the misapprehension that I expect myself to be sent by some other party conducting a research mission, or that I want to go to space for the benefit of anyone but myself. I would enjoy seeing missions to the moon or Mars, and that's because I think space travel is a Good Thing(tm), but it's also because it means it would be easier for me to take myself out there. I want to *live* in space, and if I go, it will be because I and a few friends left to never come back!

Third, who will pay for your journey?

Me.



[ Parent ]
Care (3.00 / 1) (#122)
by Steeltoe on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 09:37:02 PM EST

You don't notice it when it's there.
You don't notice it while it lasts.
You won't notice it until it's gone.

- Steeltoe

Clearer now?
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
Crawl before you walk (2.28 / 7) (#93)
by acestus on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 02:45:40 PM EST

There are a few things you're not taking into account, and they're pretty important. First, before discounting frontiers on Earth, remember that the 2/3 of the surface of this planet, under the seas, have not been settled or vigorously explored. I will admit, however, that expanding our frontiers into outer space is a Good Thing. You just seem to want to go do it, without really thinking about the technology or economics involved. The moon is not a bad place to start. We had the technology in 1969 to get there and back, and we certainly could do it again. Could we, similarly, get to Mars and back? While I wouldn't put it beyond our reach, I think it's a lot to ask. First of all, Martian gravity is significant. To leave Earth, we need to send our rockets up at some 50-odd Mm/hr. Leaving mars might be half of that, but it's not peanuts -- and we don't have a spaceport built there yet. Leaving the moon, on the other hand, would require less than one tenth the escape velocity of Earth. Let's put this in economic terms: shuttle payloads cost $10,000 per pound. True, the X-33 VentureStar will supposedly cut that to $1,000/lb, but the X-33 looks less and less likely to happen -- and it's not fit to fly to Mars. If you want to be able to go to Mars and back, you need to cut down the launch price, and that's best done by providing a waypoint for launching vehicles. If a fleet of intrasystem craft are going to be kept, they will be driven into the ground both physically and economically by going up and down the gravity wells of two major planets. Can this pay for itself? Well, imagine that on every trip to Mars, the Mars vehicle returned with a bay full of platinum. Platinum, going for about $500/oz, would not pay for the shuttle launch just from Earth to space, no matter how much you brought back. The moon is no fun, perhaps, but it is a necessary step towards the planets. Mars Direct would be nice, but it will not happen. The governments of the world do not want to pour the GWP into a project with no clear benefit for them. Is that a pity? Sure. Is it likely to change? No.

Acestus
This is not an exit.
The time for crawling has passed (2.33 / 3) (#96)
by icer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:17:35 PM EST

I realize that it's much easier to lift off of the moon, than it is to lift off of Earth. But you have to keep in mind, that the amount of propellant required to get to the moon (in terms of mass) is not significantly less that what it would take to get to Mars.

My concept relies totally on a Mars Direct style program. My question is Why Wont it Happen?

There is obviously still more to be gained from space stations, and moon bases. In fact, I'm all for a moon base. But not now. A moon base is a great tool to help open Mars up. But it's just another obstacle to overcome for early expeditions. Go to Mars now. Develop the dirt road, before we put in a highway.

[ Parent ]

dirt road, or trade route? (1.00 / 1) (#144)
by acestus on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 11:36:57 PM EST

The question of a Mars Direct mission as you seem to be suggesting it is different from the way in which it was originally suggested. There are two (at least) major ways to make a trip to mars: we can stop by and bring back some souveniers, or we can set up a branch office. While I am still wary of even a "first manned mission" to Mars at this point, I would love to see it happen. I would even suggest that it's possible in the next 25 years without any major leaps in technology. We send out some robotic equipment (escape vehicle, rover, overnight residence) and, some time later, go visit for a day or two. This would, of course, be fantastically expensive, but it would be inspiring and important as a first step in a long, long journey. The original proposition seemed more to be advocating an immediate route to serious colonization and economic exploitation of Mars. That might be a realistic goal in 50-100 years, but as for an immedaite start on it... that, I think, is the moonbase. As for the other reply to my comment, that we should build an elevator, I am in complete agreement. Once we have the technology (!) it would be perhaps the most important step towards serious off-worlding. Of course, I can't imagine the technology existing at a reasonable price for another 50-100 years, at best. I hope I'm still alive to ride it.

Acestus
This is not an exit.
[ Parent ]
Space Elevator (none / 0) (#160)
by icer on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 04:53:20 PM EST

NASA has plans for a space elevator by the year 2050. I can't seem to find the link, but there was an article on slashdot a while back.

As for the cost of starting to go to Mars now, under the Mars Direct style program that you outlined in the previous post, I think that you're somewhat overstating the cost and time involved. Mars Direct (as envisioned by Robert Zurbin) estimates between 29-40 billion (it varies due to how such a program could be implemented) over ~7 years. While it is a big number, it's still considerably less than the international policing of Kosova has cost us thus far. This type of number, for a project of this magnitude, is a very reasonable number, as far as Military budgets go. Furthermore, this could easily be paid for with even minor increases in NASA's budget.

The money numbers aside (because it's too easy to argue in terms of billions), I think 50 years is an overstatement. There is no need for any significant technological advancements in order to establish a small research facility (ala Antarctica) on Mars. Furthermore, if properly funded, a cost-effective re-usable orbiter could be completed shortly. It's all just a matter of will in this case. If we had any type of push, even remotely similar to the Kennedy push in the 60's, we could be to Mars by 2007. The technology is here, now. The cost is (adjusted for inflation) only a fraction of the Apollo program. Additionally, the majority of the public actually supports a manned-Mars mission. Now is the time.

[ Parent ]
Space Elevator!? (none / 0) (#163)
by acestus on Wed Nov 01, 2000 at 06:56:28 AM EST

NASA's so-called plans for the space elevator admit that there are quite a few mission-critical technologies that we are not too close to discovering, and makes no reference to any projected date -- likely because it can't, without an idea of when technologies like those needed will be developed.

There may be a more detailed version of any "plans" on their site, but this is clear enough: we don't know when we'll have tethers 100 times stronger than steel or superconductors, etc...

Beyond that, I think that it's a little silly to suggest that stopping genocide is less important than immediate large-scale space exploration. Space exploration is cool, but justice is a moral imperative.

Acestus
This is not an exit.
[ Parent ]
Stop the Genocide! (none / 0) (#164)
by icer on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 01:20:54 PM EST

Won't somebody please do something to stop the Genocide?!

Excuse me, but could you point out where I said that space exploration is more important than stopping genocide?

There are problems here on Earth. But no government, anywhere has ever directed most of their funding towards solving a single problem (except in defense and wartime spending). Why? Because that’s just plain and simple stupidity. No government wants to put all their eggs in once basket. So, your argument of "Stop Genocide, screw space" is really somewhat ignorant. And here's why... we can't ever say "Hey we did it, we stopped genocide!". It doesn’t work like that. We can't say, hey, lets dedicate 90% of our budget towards feeding the hungry, and stopping genocide. Why? Because you have to change the way people think, to do either. Sure, we cant police the world for a while, stopping genocide. We can even feed the world for a while too. But wouldn’t it be better to educate the world, and change peoples thinking? To help counties in poverty, and educate their people?

No where have I said that we should stop trying to make the world a better place. Quite the opposite. With genocide, and feeding the hungry, you quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. Adding more money to these projects, doesn’t really help them in the near, or long terms. Only though continued effort while these plagues be eradicated. It takes time... time on the order of decides, or centuries.

So, in the mean time, wouldn't it make more sense to try and get off-world? Wouldn't it make sense to try and establish a colony on the most Earth-like planet we know of? What we learn in that process will do more to help eradicate poverty, and stop genocide, than you or I can really comprehend. The possibilities are truly endless.

Saying “Stop Genocide, screw space” is about as near-sighted as you can get. If we put all our energies into stopping genocide, or anything else for that matter, and continue to put off meaningful attempts at space exploration, humanity won't be around to do anything.

[ Parent ]
Genocide, Budgets, and All That (none / 0) (#165)
by acestus on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 02:47:43 PM EST

My 'genocide' comment was a sidenote, directed at the fact that you'd compare what we consider "reasonable" spending (on the Kosovo operation) to what we might consider "reasonable" spending on space exploration.

My comment was mainly there to rebut your Space Elevator comments. ;)

Acestus
This is not an exit.
[ Parent ]
What we need is an elevator.. (2.75 / 4) (#100)
by evvk on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:25:22 PM EST

.. to space, like in Clarke's Fountains of Paradise and 3001: The Final Odyssey. See http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/spaceelevators000914.html.

[ Parent ]
so basically... (2.62 / 8) (#105)
by maketo on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:16:46 PM EST

...now that we have fscked up Earth, you want to do that to other places... in the name of what? We killed off most of living things here (or are on the way to do it), so what is to tell us that we wont do the same elsewhere and/or to other possibly existing civilizations? Fuck that - destruction in the name of survival of humanity, I dont think so - I'd rather die.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
I disagree (1.66 / 3) (#109)
by Rand Race on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:49:40 PM EST

"Fuck that - destruction in the name of survival of humanity, I dont think so - I'd rather die."

Fine, die. Just don't insist that me and mine die as well for your nebulous reasons. You know, EATING is destruction in the name of survival. Have a nice dinner.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

blah (1.66 / 3) (#120)
by maketo on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 08:33:54 PM EST

Animals eat to satisfy their needs. So do humans, but there is a lot more going around than just eating. On the note of "you and yours" - who cares about them? I dont see what gives you the moral right to exploit everything around in the name of survival when in the 99 percent it is not survival but pleasure.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
[ Parent ]
Trouble with thesis, history, and method (4.61 / 13) (#106)
by mrjinx on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 04:20:49 PM EST

"Without something new to discover, to tame, and to colonize the human spirit will suffer."

Support? Document? Explain, fer cryin' out loud. And who cares? Aren't there better reasons for colonizing space?

Justify the rush. Explain your urgency. Concrete rationale, please, not post-Star Trek frontierism.

Is it because you want a challenge? Figure out how to get people to burn less fuel and have fewer babies. Figure out how to get the people here now to manage the resources they have. Unsexy? Sure. Boring? Often. But so's colonization, read some American history. And here's the clincher: we have to solve these problems anyway, whether we solve them here on Earth or somewhere else.

Speaking of history, why is it such a disaster that we have passed THIRTY WHOLE YEARS between landing on the moon and living on Mars? How much time passed between European discovery of America and permanent colonization there? And how much space do we have to cross this time, versus last time? And how much adapting will we have to do this time versus last time? Part of the reason why so little has come of the lunar landings is the simple fact that they were conducted, in large part, to be able to say "We done it!" rather than looking beyond that goal and asking "what next?"

Sooner or later, even under the best possible conditions, we will use up this planet or it will just die out from under us. We know that's going to happen, so we might as well prepare for it sooner rather than later. That still doesn't excuse the cowboy enthusiasm for a headlong rush to Martian colonization, for a number of reasons.

Read Asimov's late-life writings on this subject. Is Mars going to be our last stop? I sure hope not, it's a cold, boring rock of a planet and if terraforming is even possible there it'll be a long way off. I'd also prefer not to repeat some of the planning boo-boos that have made our cities here on Earth such dreadful places for so many people. So let's do this in a calm, rational, planful way for once. Rather than repeating the North American land rush of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for no reason other than "the land's out there and nothing that looks like me lives there now," why don't we expand in a way that we can sustain? Take SMALL steps. It's less risky, less expensive (financially and ecologically), and we have the time, for now.

Go to the moon first. Permanent colonization of the moon will require solving a lot of problems that we'll face on Mars. It will be easier and cheaper -- just the expense of launching all the raw materials we'll need to get started will be greatly diminished if the target is the moon. And it will provide an excellent stopping-off point on the way to Mars. Why aren't we living on Mars yet? Why haven't we even set foot there? Because it's damned far off, and consequently really damned tough to get there. We know we can get people to and from the moon. If we can't get a colony on the moon to support itself and to generate a raw materials surplus, then chances are we won't be able to do it on Mars either and there's no justification for all the effort in any case. If we're going to fail, best to fail cheap and close to home. We might even get a second chance that way. If we can establish a permanent, lucrative foothold on the moon, our opportunities for expanding past Mars become much more attainable.

ISS is an excellent step in the right direction. It is justifiable based on terrestrial concerns alone (better drugs, better raw materials). It is a step toward colonization (zero-grav manufacturing, hard vacuum survival, one step up out of Earth's crippling gravity well).

Leaving this planet is necessary for our species' survival in the long term. But our methods and and timing should be carefully planned as an open-ended affair, not an overenthusiastic fling toward one closed-end goal, be it Mars, the moon, or Alpha Proxima. If we don't learn how to survive in space in general, rather than Mars in particular, we're doomed sooner or later. And we're many incremental steps away from that goal. We don't even have fusion figured out yet, and we're going to need it. We're also kidding ourselves if we think that "humans" as we know them now are the ideal life form to handle space colonization, and this species is a LONG way off from being willing to accept a redifinition of what it means to be a human being, so far off it makes fusion, Mars, or any other concrete goal seem small by comparison. Why launch all this bone and muscle, all this water, into a realm where bone and muscle just aren't the best tools for getting the job done?

So please, let's not burn our planet and our species to a cinder just so that you can have a winter cottage on Mars. That's not what this is about. We either transcend planets, this and any other, or we wall ourselves into a dead end. If we expend too much getting to Mars, we may lose the chance to get past Mars.

Historic note: this idea led to nuclear power (3.40 / 5) (#110)
by shuzzzit on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 05:04:09 PM EST

Just a historic aside: this idea -- that humans need some sort of great quest to keep them off each other's throats -- was Leo Szilard and cronies' original motivation for studying nuclear energy in the 20's and 30's. They realized that this was the only source of sufficient power energy for Big Space Travel, and led to Szilard's invention/discovery of the self-sustaining nuclear reaction (see The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes).

Screw Mars (3.20 / 5) (#112)
by freakazoid on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 06:00:16 PM EST

I must say I completely object to the idea that the moon is not a worthwhile place to go.

Let's say humans living on Earth get wiped out by some sort of catastrophe. Unless the planet is somehow rendered permanently unlivable (unlikely), the first priority should be recolonization of Earth. It's *much* easier to get back here from the moon, and much easier to get to the moon in the first place. It seems to me our first priorities should be the easier things to do.

In addition, it's unlikely that a colony on Mars will help in any other way than just being a colony. Ship back minerals mined on Mars? Build spacecraft there? Give me a break. It's much easier to get things off the moon than it is to get them back off of Mars. Getting water and minerals from the moon to Earth orbit is also practically trivial. So if we established a colony on the moon, we'd have a source of cheaper material for building stuff in space *and* a separate human colony.

Another target is the near earth asteroids. Talk about the motherlode! Some of these are large enough to build colonies on, though there wouldn't be much in the way of gravity. Mining the near earth asteroids could significantly increase our standard of living on Earth and make it *much* easier to build things in space. These are both things it is unlikely Mars will bring us.

So don't talk to me about Mars until we've got a self-sufficient colony on the moon and we're mining the near earth asteroids.

Other frontiers (2.14 / 7) (#119)
by Gameboy70 on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 08:30:18 PM EST

I'm in the camp that says that there are more important projects to tackle on earth, like eliminating world hunger, which are far more attainable than the colonization of Mars. As it stands, even getting a single astronaut to Mars intact (due to debilitating factors like muscle tissue degradation of the 18-month voyage) is questionable. Given the current state of the art, colonizing Mars is definitely biting off more than we can chew.

I suspect many K5 readers like myself (30) are children of the Space Age, and our notion of the future is largely nurtured by NASA and Star Trek. Another generation ago, it was the Atomic Age that was romanticised. I admit that it's been hard to let go of Space Age mythology, but I think it's time to move on. I'm sure most teenagers, brought up on the PCs and the internet, have a very different concept of the future.

My vote for a new project would be, as mentioned before, eliminating world hunger. That's a much more worthy challenge than colonizing Mars. One thing that came out of the space program was its focus on planning. So rather than dismiss the genuine contributions that came from the space program, we can use them as a foundation. Alvin Toffler said it best 30 years ago: "Angered by the narrow, econocentric character of technocratic planning, [critics] condemn systems analysis, cost benefit accounting, and siomilar methods, ignoring the fact that, used differently, these very tools might be converted into powerful techniques for humanizing the future."

JFK told America and the world that the US would reach the moon within 10 years: that's a very solid goal. We need to apply the same strategic planning to the world hunger issue. To do this, we need to start with a very specific goal (a globally agreed-on economic definition of poverty, a zero population growth target) and work backward from broad concepts to specific technologies and methodologies. We can model different RFPs in software (like Jay Forrester-derived World Model simulators), determine the most efficient and effective approach, and implement the best solution in stages. Outlandish? Perhaps, but a lot less so than migrating to Mars.

World Hunger (5.00 / 1) (#150)
by bjrubble on Mon Oct 16, 2000 at 09:00:51 PM EST

eliminating world hunger, which are far more attainable than the colonization of Mars

Say what?

The solution to world hunger can't be bought. It's a political, economic, and social issue, mainly revolving around the way other nations run themselves. No practical amount of money or brainpower will simply solve the problem. It will most likely require decades or centuries of small steps -- some political reform here, some economic incentives there -- with lots of dead ends and the occasional falling backwards. What's more, I'd wager that by the time you've solved world hunger, you've also solved poverty, oppression, war, and most of the other problems facing us.

Now, world hunger and all that should definitely be goals and priorities, but since all our money and scientists and industrial capacity aren't really going to help there, why not use them to do space exploration?

[ Parent ]
Frontiers (1.00 / 2) (#131)
by scriptkiddie on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:57:56 PM EST

People have talked a lot about going back to the moon. While a simple return trip would be possible, it wouldn't particularly require the development of new technology - in fact, NASA would probably use the old Saturn V rockets it used in the 60s (modern equipment is designed for getting things into Earth orbit, and is much less powerful). Going to the moon wouldn't be particularly useful in terms of long-term colonization. It has no atmosphere, meaning you're constantly getting radiation pumped into you without a few feet of shields. Also, there are problems with getting solar energy on the moon (there are very long day/night cycles). Scientific American said sending 6 people to Mars would cost $40 billion; this was slightly more than a NASA estimate, and quite a bit more than that of the Mars Society. I recall that the U.S. spent about $20 billion on peaekeeping in Kosovo; since the costs would be spread out over 10 years, establishing a basic Mars program would barely impact the Federal budget. This is all assuming it's the U.S. that goes to Mars. Although an international consortium is unlikely after the squabbling over ISS, after a decade of U.S. spending cuts NASA might not be a likely organization to attempt such a mission. ESA is the other big player right now, but they focus on commercial launches and won't do anything that won't make them money. China is believed to have the capability to launch a human into space; they've announced sending up one mock-up and landing it safely, and there are rumors the Air Force thinks they've sent up two more. It only took 10 years for us to make it from manned flight to the moon; with the help of already-developed technology, the Chinese could conceivably catch up to the U.S. and Russia in even less time. India is well into its own space plans as well. The fact remains that no country has anything like the technology needed to actually colonize a planet or satellite. It may be possible in 20 years, but right now, no way. Hoow much would the other frontiers people have mentioned cost? "Colonizing" the ocean would cost way more than sending a mission to Mars; on Mars, they'll probably use fairly simply inflatable habitation units, which obviously isn't possible underwater. Unlike in space, placing more than a few posts on the ocean floor would have major environmental impact. Finally, there really aren't that many people who really know about the issues behind marine research in the same way the world in the same way everybody supports space research. Solving world hunger? Today's politicians are more interested in setting up a global market in such a way that people could afford to eat. While in a way this has worked - the number of hngry people worldwide has declined somewhat in the last 30 years although the world population has greatly increased - many of those who can eat are still in extreme poverty. Also, this kind of market driven world change is very slow and very dodgy. If I were hired by somebody with an infinite budget and told to solve world hunger as quickly as possible, I wouldn't start dropping food in starving countries; in the Sudan, for example, governmeent forces have actually destroyed dropped food in order to starve certain segments of the population. I think I'd probably concentrate on education; in most countries, reform begins at the universities, and people trained professionally rarely starve. If I were the U.N., I'd seriously think about setting up educational systems in areas that don't have them, thus providing a source of income, science and democracy to the local populations. Just a few ideas.

Frontiers (4.00 / 9) (#132)
by scriptkiddie on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 12:00:11 AM EST

(Oops! I always forget to format in HTML....)

People have talked a lot about going back to the moon. While a simple return trip would be possible, it wouldn't particularly require the development of new technology - in fact, NASA would probably use the old Saturn V rockets it used in the 60s (modern equipment is designed for getting things into Earth orbit, and is much less powerful).

Going to the moon wouldn't be particularly useful in terms of long-term colonization. It has no atmosphere, meaning you're constantly getting radiation pumped into you without a few feet of shields. Also, there are problems with getting solar energy on the moon (there are very long day/night cycles).

Scientific American said sending 6 people to Mars would cost $40 billion; this was slightly more than a NASA estimate, and quite a bit more than that of the Mars Society. I recall that the U.S. spent about $20 billion on peaekeeping in Kosovo; since the costs would be spread out over 10 years, establishing a basic Mars program would barely impact the Federal budget.

This is all assuming it's the U.S. that goes to Mars. Although an international consortium is unlikely after the squabbling over ISS, after a decade of U.S. spending cuts NASA might not be a likely organization to attempt such a mission. ESA is the other big player right now, but they focus on commercial launches and won't do anything that won't make them money.

China is believed to have the capability to launch a human into space; they've announced sending up one mock-up and landing it safely, and there are rumors the Air Force thinks they've sent up two more. It only took 10 years for us to make it from manned flight to the moon; with the help of already-developed technology, the Chinese could conceivably catch up to the U.S. and Russia in even less time. India is well into its own space plans as well.

The fact remains that no country has anything like the technology needed to actually colonize a planet or satellite. It may be possible in 20 years, but right now, no way.

How much would the other frontiers people have mentioned cost? "Colonizing" the ocean would cost way more than sending a mission to Mars; on Mars, they'll probably use fairly simply inflatable habitation units, which obviously isn't possible underwater. Unlike in space, placing more than a few posts on the ocean floor would have major environmental impact. Finally, there really aren't that many people who really know about the issues behind marine research in the same way the world in the same way everybody supports space research.

Solving world hunger? Today's politicians are more interested in setting up a global market in such a way that people could afford to eat. While in a way this has worked - the number of hngry people worldwide has declined somewhat in the last 30 years although the world population has greatly increased - many of those who can eat are still in extreme poverty. Also, this kind of market driven world change is very slow and very dodgy. If I were hired by somebody with an infinite budget and told to solve world hunger as quickly as possible, I wouldn't start dropping food in starving countries; in the Sudan, for example, governmeent forces have actually destroyed dropped food in order to starve certain segments of the population. I think I'd probably concentrate on education; in most countries, reform begins at the universities, and people trained professionally rarely starve. If I were the U.N., I'd seriously think about setting up educational systems in areas that don't have them, thus providing a source of income, science and democracy to the local populations.

Just a few ideas.

I didn't see the first car (3.50 / 2) (#145)
by Paul_F on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 02:00:10 AM EST

Nope didn't see that, but I did see Niel take that step live. I was only 3 and a half at the time but I remember it. Honestly it was pretty boring. Well, exciting and boring at the same time. It was about 3 in the morning our time, and it played out pretty slowly. I mean you don't just go to the Moon then jump out of your lander and say 'I'm here!' It's a bit more involved than that.

I think it'd be pretty safe to say that there were people alive that saw the first car, and the Moon landing. Somehow I doubt that anyone that was alive in 1885 is still alive today. Really I'd bet it'd be safe to say that there were people alive in both times, it's quite unlikely that they witnessed both events though.

Still, isn't the advancment from the beginnings of mechanized travel to spaceflight in a generation swift enough? It sure doesn't seem so to a vocal crowd in these tech forums. Maybe it's a legacy issue here? Maybe, the current generation feels like it's going to look pale compared to previous generations? No Telsas, no Bessemers, not even really an Edison (go find your own link for this cretin) to hold out and call their own.

What's all this hangup I always see with manned space exploration anyways? this article states that we have the technology to go to Mars today. I think our last probe to Mars might put a bit of a crimp into that theory, but besides that. We have the technology today to wipe all life off the surface of the Earth. Should we do it just because we can? That's hardly an argument for doing something, just because you can.

Unmanned missions have always, and will always give much more bang for the buck than manned missions ever will. People are expensive baggage in space.

Do a bit of research and you'll find that society inhibts evolution, not the nonexistance of new frontiers. The human race ceased to adapt and evolve a long time ago. Not putting people into space has nothing to do with it. How much evolution occured crossing the Atlantic, or winning the west? I mean really now. The only adapting and evolving that's been going on for quite some time now has been the environment around humanity, not the other way around. Or are you suggesting that by going to space somehow we can figure out how to live without breathing?

'Look Ma, no lungs!'

I'm as big a sci-fi nut, and tech freak as you'll ever find, but even I have to admit that a lot of space expenditures are downright wasteful. You want to see evolution? Keep an eye on the silicon based lifeforms we're in the process of bring into the Universe. I believe that in my lifetime I might just see real AI. It might not be the end for humanity then. Who knows? Running off to Mars isn't going to change much though. At least not humanity running off to Mars. Mars might just be a great place for machines though. Dry, cool, lots of sand and iron.

Maybe we are all witness to the end of an era, and the dawn of a new one?

What are you talking about? (none / 0) (#156)
by icer on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 01:06:51 AM EST

that there were people alive that saw the first car, and the Moon landing. Somehow I doubt that anyone that was alive in 1885 is still alive today. Really I'd bet it'd be safe to say that there were people alive in both times, it's quite unlikely that they witnessed both events though.

Where are you going with this statement? Re-read my original statement. Don't just reply to things without reading them.

I think our last probe to Mars might put a bit of a crimp into that theory, but besides that.

I really should stop replying to comments like this, but... Does it make you happier if I say "We have the technology, when properly funded to get to Mars today."?

We have the technology today to wipe all life off the surface of the Earth. Should we do it just because we can?

That’s a totally irrelevant statement. I somehow don't see a connection between going to Mars (good thing), and destroying all of mankind (bad thing).

Unmanned missions have always, and will always give much more bang for the buck than manned missions ever will. People are expensive baggage in space.

Any facts to back that up? I mean, putting people on the surface of Mars, will give us a greater return (in all imaginable ways) than continuing to throw robots at Mars. Even the best AI (for now, and the foreseeable future) cant make even the most simple judgment calls, let alone mission critical decisions, or try to reliably troubleshoot itself.

Or are you suggesting that by going to space somehow we can figure out how to live without breathing?

No, what I'm suggesting is that new frontiers (such as Mars) will spur along human evolution. By exposing ourselves to new extreme environments the body will adapt. Even the first generation of Martians will most likely exceed us considerably in height (not exactly evolution, but an adaptation nonetheless.

Maybe we are all witness to the end of an era, and the dawn of a new one?

It's a shame your in such a hurry to do away with humanity. By going to Mars we will learn more than we've ever learned before. Mars has the potential (based on the current limited knowledge that machines have provided) to become the next Earth. It has the potential to save humanity. If nothing else, it moves some of our eggs into a different basket. Mars presents us with an entire new world (both literally and figuratively).

Now is the time to begin a new chapter in the evolution of humanity.

[ Parent ]
Why not the sea? (2.66 / 3) (#146)
by skim123 on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 02:11:21 AM EST

Why does everyone think space should be the next frontier? It's so expensive to get there and planets/stars are just so dang far away. Why not turn our interests to something a little more closer to home - the seas. They cover something like 2/3rds of the planet, yet we've colonized none of it. There are extremely deep parts of the ocean that we know so very little about... why not turn our attention there first?

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


Change the capitlalism... (3.00 / 1) (#152)
by spiryt on Mon Oct 16, 2000 at 11:10:14 PM EST

No. It's not one of these posts about comunism.

Does anybody thinks that we need another economical system. Comunism is out of question, we'll never be able to accept equality. Capitalism . tested but so unethical.

It's really started to annoy me, nothing is anymore done for ideas(i know You will say idealism sucks - well everybody got a right to have an opinion) and only for profit. While money is nice, it's not everything and that is exactly what modern capitalism implies.

Anybody has any alternative ideas ???

Maybe a bit off topic but hey, that's a real frontier....

Spiryt

Socio-anarchism. (none / 0) (#158)
by sventon on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 10:10:38 AM EST

No it's not communism. What's been wrong with all political systems so far is that there has always been a number of people, those who led whatever revolution or coup-d'etat, who thought that the "people" didn't understand what was best for them. Even communism has this fault in every incarnation that we've seen of it world-wide.
--
I am a vegan bastard.
[ Parent ]
I think you're a little late (2.00 / 1) (#153)
by end0parasite on Tue Oct 17, 2000 at 11:00:30 PM EST

They have already begun plans for the terraformation of Mars. The ISS is very important to this mission. Colonized in seven years? Try 50-75. And even then it will take about 200 years to fully terraform Mars. In the meantime, let's try to hold out on what we have.

What? (none / 0) (#155)
by icer on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 12:38:07 AM EST

Who said anything about it being fully colonized in seven years?

Maybe you could offer some insight as to WHY the ISS is so critical.

Fully terraform Mars in 200 years. Weather 200 years ends up being a remarkable understatement, or even an overstatement, it's impossible to extrapolate 200 years of scientific growth at this point.


[ Parent ]
Nope (2.00 / 1) (#157)
by end0parasite on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 09:17:38 AM EST

My biotechnology class and I had to write a report on it. It will be colonized roughly 50 years after initiation and terraformed about 200 years after initiations. NASA has the whole thing planned out to the hour. I'm pretty sure they can do that.

[ Parent ]
Plans (4.00 / 1) (#159)
by icer on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 04:34:31 PM EST

NASA has been unable to make a firm commitment to anything beyond a 10-year time horizon. How can they hope to make a commitment to anything spanning 200 years? Politically supporting any singular project beyond a decade (let alone a couple of centuries) is very, very, very difficult.

This is not to say that it's impossible. On the contrary, I think 200 years to terraform (depending on what one considers "terraformed" to be) may be a little on the high side. Technology (nano, bio-engineered, or even mass-industrialized) might significantly speed that along. I don't think there were many alive in 1769 that thought we'd be to the moon within 200 years. But at the same time, I don't think many people in 1969 thought that in the year 2000 the Apollo program would have been our greatest manned accomplishment in space.

I think that the biggest thing holding a manned Mars mission back politically, is that people think it will be prohibitively expensive (not the case at all).

[ Parent ]
The Need for a New Frontier | 165 comments (162 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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