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[P]
What Small Addition?

By Dolohov in Technology
Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 06:38:50 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Maybe it's the marathon Star Trek watching I've done in the past few weeks, or maybe it's the fact that I haven't yet picked a topic for my PhD thesis, but I've been increasingly interested in trying to figure out what more needs to be done to build a reliable space infrastructure. Specifically, what small things.


I don't mean that as a criticism of NASA, in whom I have a great deal of respect. The Russian program and the ESA have also done fine work in space exploration and research. But right now, those organizations working by themselves will not manage it.

Consider for a moment the notion of putting a permanent space station at Earth-Sun L4 or L5 or on Mars. Fuel, materials, labor (Not hard to find, but hard to train), etc. Now, these things have been gone over and over ad nauseum by organizations like NASA and the National Space Society, but all the things they discuss are large-scale things, like developing new propulsion systems. These are all interesting and worthy tasks, but I really can't work on any of them right now.

What I'm interested in are the small, manageable things that need to be (Or at least should be) done. I saw the article on growing fish flesh the other day, and that's exactly the sort of scale (pardon the pun) on which I'm thinking -- very useful, and conceivable for a single PhD student or a small group of such students. Anti-gravity devices are a little outside.

So, I'm putting out the question: what small-scale projects can people think of that are necessary (Or at least are very helpful) in the pursuit of having people live and work in space and other planets?

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Poll
Obviously, we need to:
o Port Linux to the space shuttle computers 14%
o Mass-produce Spandex uniforms in space 14%
o Find that damned monolith already 34%
o Get Jodie Foster back to work on the antennas 21%
o Cultivate some kind of hobby -- any hobby 15%

Votes: 132
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Earth-Sun L4 or L5
o National Space Society
o Also by Dolohov


Display: Sort:
What Small Addition? | 91 comments (77 topical, 14 editorial, 1 hidden)
obstacles to global stability == delayed space inf (3.00 / 14) (#4)
by truth versus death on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:13:43 AM EST

what more needs to be done to build a reliable space infrastructure. Specifically, what small things.

Remove George "National Missile Defense" "Accelerate the Nuclear Arms Race" Bush from the White House.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
I dunno (4.66 / 3) (#38)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 11:04:11 AM EST

considering that we got to the Moon in about ten years of frantic arms race (launching initially on ICBM's, no less, after experimenting with German-designed SRBM's), I'd have to say that an arms race is good for space exploration. We've stagnated at least since that damned Wall came down.

[ Parent ]
Right. (4.50 / 2) (#85)
by bill_mcgonigle on Fri Apr 05, 2002 at 12:05:47 PM EST

Developing a massive space-based defense system, with coordinated earth-based and inter-satellite control systems that have to be reliable and launched quickly and cheaply is a terrible way to further the development of the technologies we need to get into space.

[ Parent ]
Small edition? (3.33 / 6) (#6)
by The Eradicator on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:15:48 AM EST

A thermonuclear device would fit the bill, I'd say. The Space Station's only goal is to prepare us to go farther into space, where guess what, there's nothing different from what we have here.

We wouldn't have to leave this planet, ever, if we didn't keep breeding like rabbits.

if what you say is true... (3.50 / 2) (#7)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:25:01 AM EST

then the rabbits should be leaving the planet, too.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
But it's ok that the rabbits stay (4.50 / 4) (#11)
by skim123 on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:34:36 AM EST

See, nature has this thing called survival of the fittest and, somehow I think, "the nitrogen cycle," helps too. In any case, there are a lot of rabbits, too many, like you pointed out, but their population is kept in control in part by the tireless work of kind cosmetic testing firms. All part of God's great plan.

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


[ Parent ]
Common Misconceptions (Misinformations?) (4.33 / 3) (#8)
by kuran42 on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:27:30 AM EST

1) The space station does not help us get anywhere at all. Ask anyone serious about the space station and they will back this up, with the specifics as to why, if you ask.

Space is not a place to put our poor, our suffering, our huddled masses. You really have hit it on the head: we breed like rabbits; even with something fantastic like a space elevator, we couldn't send people into space nearly as fast as they reproduce, nor would we have anyplace to put them if we could.

So what is the space station? Useless, that's what. (Oh, unless you're a defense or aerospace contractor, then it's a great source of revenue)

--
kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
[ Parent ]

Usless... (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by joeyo on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 01:39:45 AM EST

You're right of course, a space station won't 'get us into space' in the sense that it won't (directly) help with any population problems here on earth. But it will 'get us into space', in the sense that it will GET US INTO SPACE!

After all, isn't the whole goal to get us to another planet so we can breed like rabbts there too? ;)

/joeyo || Geek || Grad Student || All-round Nice Guy
GPG fingerprint = F76B 9ACA 4197 C707 6E4D 2B78 E430 101A B663 781B
[ Parent ]

Space population (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by sigwinch on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 03:36:41 AM EST

You really have hit it on the head: we breed like rabbits; even with something fantastic like a space elevator, we couldn't send people into space nearly as fast as they reproduce, nor would we have anyplace to put them if we could.
That assumes a tiny number of people (a few billion) using current (inefficient manual) technology. 50 trillion people with robot factories could move the sun if they wanted.
So what is the space station? Useless, that's what.
Just because it's a corporate welfare project. The prime contractors are basically being paid to show up, and what they do build is designed to have the lowest possible risk. What is needed are performance goals and a willingness to get astronauts killed.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

No place to go? (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by EriKZ on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 02:57:52 PM EST

What are you talking about? We don't breed like rabbits, as soon as birth control becomes an option, people use it.

It's like they have a brain or something!

And even if we didn't, why can't we send people into space fast enough? Oh! I get it, you're thinking big expensive rockets, instead of, say, a space elevator.

Ok, so we can send people into space fast enough, even if they were breeding as fast as rabbits, but where would they go?

It's space! Anywhere they want to! Need a place to live? Grab a thousand people and hollow out that asteroid! Terraform the moon! Babylon 1, here we come!


[ Parent ]
Not quite (warning: MUCH handwaving inside0 (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by kuran42 on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 03:20:39 PM EST

You said: I get it, you're thinking big expensive rockets, instead of, say, a space elevator.

I said: even with something fantastic like a space elevator

Birth control? Tell that to the billion Indians - they're expected to surpase the Chinese this century, by the way. There will always be more people who don't use birth control than who do. Why? Because they reproduce faster! Amazing, isn't it?

In the next 50 years, the world's population is expected to hit 9 billion. Assume we want to keep the population steady and the outflow of people doesn't modify the growth rate (Though in reality it would increase it). That means 3 billion people in 50 years. Divide it out, 165,000 people a day. Give us a space elevator today. Call each person 50 kilograms, plus 50 kilograms of comestibles and potable water to keep them alive as they travel to these magical asteroid living spaces. That's 1.65 million kilograms into orbit every day. Costs about $0.50 in electricity to run a kilogram into GEO. Hmm, so $800,000/day for electricty. Pretty cheap, really. Consider it to be free, in fact. There are bigger problems ahead. You still need to carry these people to their asteroid home, though. Call the average trip 4 months (slightly sub-Hoffman transfer to a Mars-like orbit), and make each ship large enough for 500 people (we're talking a *big* ship here) and you need a fleet consisting of a scant 157,000 ships. Oops, improper use of the word "scant". If you can cram ten times as many people on each ship you'll only need 15,000 ships. Still not scant. Ok, maybe we can fit 50,000 people on every ship. Now we only need 1,400. That's *almost* in the same ballpark as feasible. Don't count on a ship that carries 50,000 people being around any time soon, though. Of course, you still need to fuel this massive fleet, and crew it, and this number doesn't allow any downtime for safety inspections or repairs that would almost certainly be required.

I won't even bother wasting your time calculating how much room these people would need to live, or how many asteroids would have to be converted to meet those needs. Let's just say this is highly improbably based only on the cost of getting them there.

--
kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
[ Parent ]

A better way (5.00 / 2) (#51)
by dennis on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 04:30:06 PM EST

Funny thing is, the richer a population is, the less it reproduces. We won't solve the population problem by moving a billion Indians to space. But we might solve it by using the resources in space to make India as rich as America.

[ Parent ]
I don't think you understand (none / 0) (#56)
by The Eradicator on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 06:01:38 PM EST

That quaint thing I like to call Energy. You can't transport goods across billions upon billions of miles. We might be able to mine planets in the Solar System, but that ENDS. There's a day when there's no more resources in the solar system. Then there's quite literally nowhere to go. Breeding is BAD.

[ Parent ]
Missing the point (none / 0) (#71)
by dennis on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 07:59:09 PM EST

You can't transport goods across billions upon billions of miles.

Of course you can, since in space you can coast the whole way. If you're willing to wait a while, it doesn't take much energy at all, and of course dropping things down the gravity well to Earth doesn't take any energy. In any case, energy is plentiful in space, the Sun pumps out an enormous amount and it's never cloudy.

The solar system has millions of times the resources of the Earth, so it will be a long, long time before we exhaust it. Ie., plenty of time to figure out other solutions.

In any case, you totally missed my point - fine, breeding is bad, but rich people don't breed as much as poor people. We can't make the whole Third World rich without seriously screwing up the planet, unless we draw on resources outside the planet. If we do that, population will level off.

[ Parent ]

Resources are finite (1.00 / 1) (#74)
by EriKZ on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 08:18:49 AM EST


Considering there's enough materials in the solar system to build a ringworld, your complaint isn't very valid.

Despite enormous population growth, we have no shortages. In fact, raw materials are becoming cheaper and more plentiful.

Population growth is GOOD.

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't worry (none / 0) (#75)
by Tatarigami on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 07:57:08 PM EST

Because you'll be dead a long time before that happens.

You're one of those 'the glass is half-empty' people, aren't you?

[ Parent ]
moron <nt> (none / 0) (#82)
by CodeWright on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:05:35 PM EST



[406@k5] NON ILLEGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
[ Parent ]
O/T but (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by zephc on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 02:38:32 AM EST

Hey The Eradicator: I heard you lost... you could take up volleyball.

[ Parent ]
Funny thing is (none / 0) (#53)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 05:27:00 PM EST

I've never seen crowds of starving rabbits. Fact is, even rabbits don't breed like rabbits. Malthus was more than a little off.

[ Parent ]
What you can do. (4.00 / 5) (#10)
by physicsgod on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:33:10 AM EST

Figure out a low-cost, reliable way to get to orbit. Preferably something that doesn't require dangerous amounts of high-energy-density materials.

Well, what are you waiting for? Quit gawking and get to work!

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary

Duh... (4.66 / 3) (#12)
by scanman on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:38:57 AM EST

Considering the large amounts of energy it takes to get something into orbit, how do you propose such energy could be procured without the use of high-energy-density materials, barring the discovery of a free-energy/perpetual motion device?

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

Energy to space (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by dennis on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 03:31:35 PM EST

Actually it doesn't take near as much energy to get into space as you'd think. The reason rockets burn up such enormous quantities of fuel is that they not only have to carry their cargo into space, they also have to carry the fuel to carry the cargo, and more fuel to carry that fuel, and so on. It multiplies very quickly. Any system that leaves the fuel on the ground (space elevator, laser launch, mass driver, etc) is much, much more efficient - the actual energy to get to LEO is only a couple dollars' worth per pound.

[ Parent ]
with a name like physicsgod... (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by rebelcool on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 01:11:31 AM EST

you should see the inherent problem with that statement.

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

First thing that came to my mind too. (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by khallow on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 01:36:46 AM EST

Figure out a low-cost, reliable way to get to orbit. Preferably something that doesn't require dangerous amounts of high-energy-density materials.

There really isn't any other need right now. However, there is another way. Increase launch demand. Come up with something that requires a lot of little objects that people want up there rather than down here. That should help matters a lot.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

L5 Society proposal (5.00 / 2) (#32)
by dennis on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 09:10:54 AM EST

Increase launch demand.

In the early 20th century, the U.S. government wanted to bootstrap the airline industry. It did so by offering money to ship mass by air. Any mass - if nothing else was available they'd ship sand. And it worked.

In the late 80s/early 90s or thereabouts, the L5 Society was trying to talk people into doing the same thing for space, to promote low-cost launch development. If nobody can pull it off at the price you're offering, it costs you nothing. If somebody thinks they can pull it off, they have a guaranteed market, and the cost to the government is relatively low.

[ Parent ]

There is a way (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by dennis on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:26:51 PM EST

The space elevator is looking more feasible by the day, according to this article. These guys are talking about private investment in the $10 billion range, which is comparable to some of the major skyscrapers and bridges currently proposed. Nanotube production is scaling up fast, apparently - they think they can start in about a decade.

It takes seven shuttle launches to put an initial cable in place, then you send robot crawlers up the cable, trailing more cable, until you have the size you want. The crawlers have solar cells, powered by lasers on the ground. So you don't carry any fuel at all, which brings your cost down to a couple hundred dollars a pound, just for starters. The energy cost is actually a lot less than that, so the more volume you do, the cheaper it gets.

Much more detail in this 15MB pdf from NASA.

[ Parent ]

The problem... (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by physicsgod on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 06:11:56 PM EST

Space elevators only work near the equator. Places near the equator don't have much money. The places with money aren't near the equator. You also have the really high initial cost, and the fact that it's made out of Handwavium.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Re: The problem... (none / 0) (#62)
by Wolfkin on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 12:00:52 AM EST

Places near the equator don't have much money.

That will make the land cheaper for the consortium's purchase, then, no?

You also have the really high initial cost, and the fact that it's made out of Handwavium.

I guess you didn't read the article. They're talking about using carbon nanotubes, which are apparently well over the minimum reasonable strength. Carbon nanotubes are produced (in small amounts) commercially, so it's not exactly "Handwavium".

Randall.



[ Parent ]
Not at any length they're not (none / 0) (#68)
by kuran42 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 01:14:54 PM EST

We aren't even talking about centimeter long nanotubes yet. Maybe in a decade, but definately not today.

--
kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
[ Parent ]
I think it's neat what you and your friends... (2.33 / 3) (#16)
by elenchos on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 01:27:35 AM EST

...want to do. Will you promise to tell everyone all about it? I'm sort of at a loss for how you plan to pay for it all though.

Adequacy.org,

big gubbermint (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by khallow on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 02:26:51 AM EST

Will you promise to tell everyone all about it? I'm sort of at a loss for how you plan to pay for it all though.

With your tax dollars! :-) Method varies by location, but in the States we have congresspeoples to look out for the little guy with the big scam^H^H^H^Hidea.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Develop closed-cycle recycling. (4.80 / 5) (#19)
by notafurry on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 01:50:03 AM EST

Specifically, a biological system which maximizes atmospheric efficiency, protein content, and vitamin mixtures. Carbohydrates and such are a plus. Ability to handle small meatstock animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, small fowl, pygmie goats and pigs, etc.) is a definite plus but increases the minimum output of the system.

CELSS (4.00 / 1) (#89)
by valentine9 on Thu Apr 11, 2002 at 11:37:24 PM EST

Aspects of this would be useful. To do the whole thing is NOT a small project.You'll need a few million bucks and multiple grad students.

SSI/ Cornell has gotten a partial system functioning over the past two years and even with all economies we were able to make, it still cost a fraction of a megabuck.

To do what you suggest we estimate will cost several million bucks, at least, and a lot more in total if done under NASA funding.

[ Parent ]
Could you provide links? (4.00 / 1) (#90)
by khallow on Sat Apr 13, 2002 at 10:38:00 PM EST

SSI/ Cornell has gotten a partial system functioning over the past two years and even with all economies we were able to make, it still cost a fraction of a megabuck.

What's the details? I'm completely clueless on several major points. What is the capacity of the system, design goals, interesting remarks/results, pretty pictures and drawings, etc.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

top of the head (4.90 / 10) (#20)
by khallow on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 02:20:47 AM EST

Ok, here's some ideas brewing in my head.

Zero-gee shrimp farm. Screw the NASA fish-chunk factories. One of the most stable ecologies invented by man is a algae, shrimp, snail mix. Try it with something edible instead. Should produce a bit of oxygen as well.

A stellar internet. Lots of ideas around. Now, how do you make a real working system? I don't see any reason why some variation on a wireless network (for "local" activity) and microwave repeaters couldn't be duplicated for the entire Solar System. I think there's some protocol based loosely on UDP that is intended for this task.

A stable of on-call space probes. Not just for science but also for close-up looks at problem satellites or other emergencies.

Factory on the moon - teleoperated from Earth. Makes more factories and mines useful materials like water, concrete, and living space. Later could mine Lithium or He 3. That two second delay is going to be a real pain though.

Securitized launch insurance. Insurance company underwrites the launch and then sells the insurance (or perhaps parts of several launches) to eager investors. If the rocket pops at the wrong time, then the launcher gets the money otherwise the investors do.

Storage - I'm thinking of shipping containers like you see in trains or cargo ships. These containers are used everywhere. Most new cargo are built to handle containers. My suspicion is for most cases you're going to want something like a reflective rectangular tent. Stuff put in Earth to Space (or otherwise experiencing a lot of acceleration or gravity) would probably have to go in more rigid (possibly pressurized) containers. Ask yourself what the standards for outer space shipping containers are going to be in 2100? I'm not real sure, but I bet they'll measure roughly 8 feet by 8 feet by 20 to 48 feet long.

The parking problem. Ok, I want to put a satellite in a particular orbit. How much do I pay in rent and why? Ie, how to make putting stuff in orbit economically fair.

The garbage problem. How to remove junk from orbit or even better salvage it in orbit.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

l'escargot (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by CluelessNewbie on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 04:18:13 AM EST

a algae, shrimp, snail mix. Try it with something edible instead

Just make your astronauts french, they'd cook up a storm.



-------------------------------------------------
"Do you know what nemesis means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by a 'orrible cunt. Me."
BrickTop
[ Parent ]
The InterPlanetary Internet (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by eemeli on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 10:50:35 AM EST

A stellar internet. Lots of ideas around. Now, how do you make a real working system? I don't see any reason why some variation on a wireless network (for "local" activity) and microwave repeaters couldn't be duplicated for the entire Solar System. I think there's some protocol based loosely on UDP that is intended for this task.

Is this what you were thinking of? The InterPlanetary Internet



[ Parent ]
absolutely <nt> (none / 0) (#40)
by khallow on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 11:33:33 AM EST


Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

On internet and H20 (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by kuran42 on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 02:28:15 PM EST

I think the 40 minute delay from Earth to Mars would be a bit more annoying than the Earth-Moon's piddly little 2 seconds. Heck, when the network is congested, I get 2 seconds to destinations on this planet. It'd be interesting to see a protocol that takes orbital position into account. Mars' distance from Earth ranges from 4 light minutes all the way up to 20 light minutes. That's a hefty discrepency any packet-based protocol would need to take into account when deciding whether or not to retransmit. Have any links to this long-range protocol?

Water on the moon - eh. When you're on the dark side, it's cheaper to drag an asteroid back from some nearby belt than to power the equipment needed to bake water out of lunar regolith. When you're on the sun side it's less of a problem. Those month long nights pose an interesting problem for power generation though. You can build an infrastructure that ignores solar power, or you can try and come up with a battery that will run your entire operation for a month between charging. Tough choices...



--
kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
[ Parent ]

power down "overnight" (none / 0) (#59)
by khallow on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 06:15:03 PM EST

Those month long nights pose an interesting problem for power generation though. You can build an infrastructure that ignores solar power, or you can try and come up with a battery that will run your entire operation for a month between charging. Tough choices...

Actually lunar nights are 14 days long. One could power everything down except essentials. Ie, you only do stuff when the sun is up.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

I like infrastructure. (4.00 / 1) (#80)
by Rhinobird on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:40:53 AM EST

Put solar collectors all over the moon and link everybody with superconducting cables. Then when your in the dark you just suck power from the sunny side, no loss. And keeping the superconductors cool should be easier on the moon, I think all you have to do is keep the cables in the shade.

"If Mr. Edison had thought more about what he was doing, he wouldn't sweat as much." --Nikola Tesla
[ Parent ]
Lunar nights (5.00 / 2) (#87)
by Graymalkin on Fri Apr 05, 2002 at 03:35:00 PM EST

Lunar nights are only 14 days long and you don't necessarily have to go without power for this length of time. One option is to have the whole Lunar base powered by a microwave power transmitter in orbit, a giant solar panel that beams power down in the form of microwaves to a receptor on the Lunar surface. An orbital power station like this could be in a lunar synchronous orbit so it would have a view of the sun all month long.

A less expensive route would be either a nuclear or fuel cell power generator near the base. While you were in the dakr you could get 100% of your power from either system as opposed to just a fraction when the Sun was up.

[ Parent ]
Another one (5.00 / 2) (#52)
by dennis on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 04:35:45 PM EST

Robotics. "Fast, cheap, out of control." Plenty of room for low-budget experimentation here, and there are all sorts of ways we could use robots to support manned space activity. Forget teleoperating, if you want a lunar mining operation, build a swarm of cheap robots that work together like termites. If your budget's too low for hardware, you can at least develop the swarming algorithms with simulations.

[ Parent ]
the Swarm (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by khallow on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 06:03:51 PM EST

Forget teleoperating, if you want a lunar mining operation, build a swarm of cheap robots that work together like termites. If your budget's too low for hardware, you can at least develop the swarming algorithms with simulations.

Well, two problems with this. First, AI just isn't there. Second, you have Von Neumann machines with dubious control. Ie, the robot factory is making copies of itself. What are we going to do if these factories get out of control? Nuke the Moon a lot?

Teleoperating is better for several reasons. You leverage this huge mass of people on Earth. A few second delay is critical if you're juggling or doing some other fast activity. However, there's no reason that you need to go that fast. Currently, there are devices that act that slow. For example, I believe that the average passenger jet is pretty sluggish and has a similar reaction delay. Also, it could employ a lot of people on Earth in infrastructure building on the Moon. That's something to think about.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Two answers (none / 0) (#72)
by dennis on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 08:09:26 PM EST

AI just isn't there

That's the whole point of this approach - we can't get human-level intelligence, so we quit trying and go for insect-level intelligence, which is reasonably feasible. There's a lot of work being done along these lines, pioneered by Rodney Brooks, and it's turning out pretty well so far.

Self-reproducing robots would end resource scarcity *if* they could be controlled, but that's way more advanced than what I'm talking about. I'm just thinking of a bunch of simple robots that swarm around like an ant colony gathering whatever materials you need, and maybe putting together some kind of structure like a termite mound. Nothing fancy.

Not saying teleoperating is a bad idea for the Moon, but you'd need the robots farther out, and even for the Moon they might be cheaper for some applications.

[ Parent ]

I think we're talking about different things (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by khallow on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 10:03:21 PM EST

That's the whole point of this approach - we can't get human-level intelligence, so we quit trying and go for insect-level intelligence, which is reasonably feasible. There's a lot of work being done along these lines, pioneered by Rodney Brooks, and it's turning out pretty well so far.

Ok, this is much more feasible although I should point out that a bunch of our current efforts would be on the level of a stupid ant. That just means that AI researchers have a little work ahead of themselves.

From my point of view, a manufacturing facility on the Moon wouldn't require a lot of AI (it would require human intervention instead). Mining resources, refining, manufacturing, etc are tasks that can be highly automated. OTOH, when something breaks one needs a human (at least at this time).

Hmmm, making a termite mound would be an effective way to start a habitable base since you'll need extensive underground space (most effective protection against solar radiation and meteor strikes). They could be programmed to make large underground chambers. Doesn't matter if they take a few years to do it either.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Cleaning up the junk (none / 0) (#76)
by Tatarigami on Sat Mar 30, 2002 at 08:03:52 PM EST

Interesting link for you: Tethers Unlimited.

The idea is to attach a conductive tether to something in orbit. It generates current as it drags through the planet's magnetic field, if you syphon it off, conservation of energy demands that the object's velocity will decrease until eventually it re-enters the atmosphere.

[ Parent ]
As they have done in many other fields (3.62 / 8) (#25)
by hovil on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 03:02:00 AM EST

Porn will lead the way, I suggest studying various sexual positions that can only be performed in microgravity!

small scale (4.00 / 4) (#26)
by Weezul on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 03:16:09 AM EST

I don't think the small scale projects are really going to do it as they do not get the publics attention. We should build a tiny space station that can be assembled in one or two shuttle flights and build a space elivator down from it (many more shuttle flights to build the small cord to pull up the big cord). Once you have a space elivator with at least one up and one down track, you can move amazing ammounts of material into space cheaply. At this point you no longer have any trouble getting funding for growing fish from soybeans. Everyone just wants to know when it will work.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
Space elevator research (5.00 / 3) (#43)
by dennis on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:58:10 PM EST

Actually NASA's recent study on space elevators mentions that there's a lot of small-scale research that needs to be done - they say the first step is putting a bunch of grad students to work on related projects.

So I'd give that my top priority - engineering studies, nanotube production research, etc. If the biologists pitch in with closed-cycle life support, we'll be well on our way.

[ Parent ]

Anything we take for granted. (3.66 / 6) (#31)
by Tezcatlipoca on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 08:00:17 AM EST

-Toilets (I am not joking).
-Leisure activities and sports in places with different gravitational attractions.
-Space law.
-Human reproduction in space both the old way and the kind-of-1984-artificial-big-broterish alternatives.


---
"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look;
at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
human reproduction and medicine (none / 0) (#55)
by khallow on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 05:45:32 PM EST

-Human reproduction in space both the old way and the kind-of-1984-artificial-big-broterish alternatives.

Apparently, low air pressure is bad for pregnacies. Ie, you can live in a low pressure environment, but you can't give birth (or at least have a much greater chance of complications) in the same environment. I seem to recall Charles Sheffield mentioning in passing (in a Sci Fi story) a asteroid dedicated to serving pregnant mothers. The asteroid deliberately maintained a near earth air pressure and gravity. Presumably the medical staff was up to snuff too.

This reminds me. People get hurt, so you need hospitals and some sort of space medical kit. Eg, my bud is in outer space and gets nailed with a large metal rod that pieces through his leg, as well as his suit. You need to seal the leak in the suit, stop the bleeding, and stabalize the shaft (removing the rod isn't a great idea in vacuum) pretty much in that order. I assume NASA has done an enormous amount of research on this subject.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

injuries and treatment (none / 0) (#67)
by kuran42 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 01:10:29 PM EST

I assume NASA has done an enormous amount of research on this subject.

Perhaps. But few medical advances are made without test subjects, and NASA certainly hasn't jammed any large pieces of metal through its astronauts during missions ;) I doubt there will be much progress made in this field until a several people have been unfortunate enough to be subjected to such circumstances.

--
kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
[ Parent ]

A small thing.... (4.00 / 6) (#34)
by Elkor on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 09:26:12 AM EST

Recreation.

Unless you have a large enough population to emulate a wide variety of social dynamics, things will get boring eventually.

Imagine 5 years with the same 50 people and nobody else. Eventually you run out of things to talk about.

If someone could write an AI entertainer (music composition, video game, etc) then I think that would be "useful" to space exploration.

Finished your Command and Conquer game? Have the AI recreate it with a different theme and different rules.

Program in some music parameters and listen to some "original" compositions. Some of it's crap, some of it is decent. Much life real life.

Just a thought.

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
Not that complicated (none / 0) (#42)
by dennis on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 12:31:41 PM EST

Sounds like you're thinking in interstellar terms. Within the solar system you can just get your new music and games from Earth.

Hmm....I was going to say download from Earth, but it seems more appropriate to say "upload." I wonder which term they'll settle on...

[ Parent ]

Which side of the orbit are you on? (none / 0) (#48)
by Elkor on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 03:20:04 PM EST

"Below" the earth's plane of orbit would be "Down."

"Above" the earth's plane of orbit would be "up."

On the same plane as the Earth would be "Frisbee."

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Satellites (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by cpt kangarooski on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 07:16:07 PM EST

This has already been done.
[N]ote that ground-to-space communications has its own usage rule for this term. Space-to-earth transmission is always `down' and the reverse `up' regardless of the relative size of the computers involved.
--The Jargon File 3.0.0: Download


--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
This will need to be updated (none / 0) (#66)
by kuran42 on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 01:07:20 PM EST

For it assumes Earth is at the bottom of the gravity well. Earth-to-Mercury transmissions, for example, would be `down' and the verse `up'.

Not that I see any reason to differ from the traditional definition. If data is coming to you, it is a download. If data is going away from you, it is an upload.

--
kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
[ Parent ]

Imagine Big Brother (none / 0) (#81)
by sfischer on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 01:42:10 PM EST

Ha! 50 people for 5 years. It's a new breed of reality TV. Oh wait, NBC already did Big Brother.

Actually, a project that could be worked on is some type of psychological selection process for space colonies. How do you make sure you get the right skills, the right temperaments, the right sexuality mix, and the right basic number of bodies for self-propogation?

-swf

[ Parent ]

Some suggestions (2.00 / 5) (#35)
by hatshepsut on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 10:19:30 AM EST

Please consider moving this to a diary entry - it would be a good one.

On to your question: while you commented on the "growing fish protein" study, you didn't specify your field(s) of interest. Food studies may be of concern (freeze-dried ice cream is only popular for so long, I expect), psychology and group dynamics in isolated environments, materials science (better, lighter, tougher materials out of which to build equipment for the space environment?), improving solar panels (better collection efficiency, improved energy storage mechanisms).

I haven't done work in any of the above fields, so they are just the things I would wonder about.

Interests (none / 0) (#61)
by Dolohov on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 10:17:08 PM EST

I'm an electrical engineer, specializing in control. On the one hand, that narrows my possible contributions away from materials sciences, but I have considerable leeway if I were to want to look into robotics, satellites, even artificial intelligence.

As for a diary entry, I have a related topic that might fit better.

[ Parent ]

Hydrogen For a Better Future (4.66 / 6) (#39)
by opendna on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 11:14:41 AM EST

Shuttle/missile launches require massive amounts of fuel, which is generally a hydrogen/oxygen mixture. Current methods of producing hydrogen gas are inefficient and/or require hydrocarbon fuels.

Do the space program (and the rest of humanity) a favor: develop a better catalytic membrane for hydrogen fuel cells.

You've got lots of competition (e.g. 3M) but it needs to be done. Membranes are one of the reasons fuel cells are still so expensive. When they improve and the cost falls, hydrogen will essentially be ready for prime-time.

Or: Develop a salr-water tolerant, low-cost, mass-producion ready, renewable-to-H2 unit. Maybe a photovoltaic or wind turbine tied into an electrolysis kit? Don't forget that salt water contains NaCl so you'll have to figure out something to do with the Chlorine gas!

Coordinate (3.00 / 3) (#44)
by QuickFox on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 01:22:08 PM EST

Arrange a website that discusses and coordinates small-scale space projects, attracts funding for projects that need it, promotes ideas, and so on.

Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach him how to fish, and though he'll eat for a lifetime, he'll call you a miser for not giving him your fish.



A Few Suggestions (4.71 / 7) (#46)
by MrAcheson on Thu Mar 28, 2002 at 02:54:45 PM EST

There are a bunch of things that are incredibly useful for space exploration:

One of the first is advanced materials. The higher a materials strength and/or stiffness to weight ratio, the better it is. From the most elementary standpoint, it means you have less weight to boost into space for a given function so things get "cheaper". But advanced materials also make new designs possible. Why are people talking about Space Elevators as if they might be plausible? Advanced materials in the form of carbon nanotubes.

Secondly, look at practical AI to automate higher level tasks. Machines do not require crops to be grown and can be far more flexible than we can in general if not specific, especially when you consider hostile alien environments. Automated space factories on the moon/asteroid to exploit their shallower gravity well would need this technology since keeping a large number of people alive there is not plausible in the near term. Even low level AI to create space grunt workers would be incredibly useful.

Thirdly, look at ways to get materials into orbit cheaper. Chemical rockets are expensive. What about different engine designs? Nuclear, Ion, etc. What about different launch paradigms entirely? Would the suggestions made by the HARP project be plausible? Could you actually shoot things into orbit using a specially designed cannon?

Fourthly, look at ways to make things smaller but functional. Again refining materials on the moon and shipping them into space is much cheaper than doing the same thing from earth once a stable manufacturing base has been set up. But how do you do that? You need small scale refineries and industrial plants to bootstrap the larger ones which could practically export materials. So small, transportable, but functional packages are key here.

These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.


Drinking vodka and smoking cigarettes (2.00 / 1) (#63)
by iggie on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 01:06:50 AM EST

I recently read 'Dragonfly' and was astonished to find that the Russians (god bless them) were drinking vodka and smoking cigarettes aboard Mir. In *freaking* space, man. I don't think we can claim that we've conquered space until this is done routinely. Probably not what you were looking for, though. But what a PhD thesis that would make...

Low-G fun (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by mamann on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 04:02:53 AM EST

Most of the ideas I've seen proposed so far don't seem very suitable for a single person or small team of people to tackle. How about considering some small items that take advantage of the low gravity environment instead:
  • Entertainment:
    Invent the physical structures and rules necessary for games that take advantage of the near-zero-G environment such as 3d pool or 3d air/space hockey
  • Communication:
    Provide a zero-G "ballon" that transports small items between people across pods. It'll make sharing reports, food or other weird stuff easy since you stuff them in, type in a couple of coords and send it off. It'd be better than having to hand carry every dumb ol' thingamajig. Yes, I know a balloon makes no sense in orbit... that's the whole point.
  • Privacy:
    Create a way for someone to "get away" from their incredibly annoying pod-mates. For example, an inflatable sphere with sound proofed walls, embedded CD/DVD player, sleep system, snacking system... or diversions of any other sort. If you need to be alone, you unpack your sphere, inflate and hide. It has to be better than hiding in a wiring closet.
Of course, these are all pretty much dumb ideas from someone who has never spent a minute in space. It would seem better to talk to the astronauts that have spent time up there to find out what the heck it is they need (but were afraid to ask due to their trivial nature).

small things (4.00 / 1) (#65)
by logiterr on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 10:01:20 AM EST

while you are trying to find small things for the space infrastructure, there is also all that underwater infrastructure that needs to be done too. think about it for a moment. if man lives in space, man will have to adapt to zero and high gee situations. this might mean biological adaptation, though medication might do the trick? any ways, underwater is as good an environment to adapt too as well, this opens mans total environments: land, space, and underwater. so like figure that out too. how hard would it be to set up a city under the sea? and might that mean we get real merpeople? well, i know man isnt a frog, but how different are we(while as a fetus) from frogs? could a few hormone changes force a fetus to adapt to underwater conditions, sort of like reversing evolution? but then again this raises the question...is intelligent and organized life possible underwater? if so, why did mammals become intelligent on land? man. to much things to think about. infrastructure and all the assorted fings indeed.

organic gardening and vegetarianism (5.00 / 3) (#69)
by turmeric on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 06:30:59 PM EST

organic gardening, or permaculture, or some other kind of 'new' type of 'old' gardening, which uses natural systems, judo style, against less-favorable natural systems, is just about the only way to have a closed-system greenhouse that can sustain life. think about it, on the moon, you need a closed- system to grow things in. except for energy from the sun, you basically cannot open yourself to the atmosphere, because there isnt one. you cant use pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, etc, because you will wind up drinking/eating them in very short order and causing untold health problems, not to mention that if you grow to depend on them, you cant really manufacture them on the moon, and you will 'run out' if the earth cannot keep sending supplies. you also cannot pipe in water when you are on the moon, you have to recycle all of it. now, the earth as a whole accomplishes these goals, and it is relatively self sufficient. to really be self sufficient on the moon, wouldnt it make sense to try to copy mother natures wonderful self-sufficient invention, the earth?

ok actually maybe you can manufacture pesticides and herbicides on the moon, but think about it, if it is in fact possible through advanced scientific theories to make gardens without any artificial chemicals, (actually yokels and farmers have been doing this for years, and civilization has been doing it for millenia) does this not simplify and greatly improve the efficiency and ease with which a moonbase could become self sufficient? this was part of the reasoning behind the 'biosphere ii' project, unfortunately most of those people did not do very good science, not a single paper was published on what went on in there, except many newspaper articles on how they had to let in a bunch of outside air due to the unbalanced nature of the gases inside (it was CO2, Nitrogen, or oxygen, i cant remember which.)

so step 1 if you want to help move along a self sufficient moon base is to study small scale closed-system high-diversity agriculture, which by its nature is probably going to be organic and/or permaculture.

ok so man cant live on vegetables grains fruits legumes nuts etc alone, or can he?

seeing as how you can be a vegetarian you dont really need to mess with 'fake meat', like fish flesh, that is simply a waste of time. vegetarianism has been around for thousands of years, and it would greatly reduce alot of problems with space flight, including like how you store the meat, or how you would raise cattle and sheep and chickens and turkeys and ducks and etc on the moon anyways. you simply do not need meat, get over yourself. people can overcome weightlessness and nausea and years of training and study to go into space, then they can learn to get rid of meat in their diet, greatly easing the means by which a moonbase could be self sufficient.

thus, basically, research into these two areas is something that can easily be done in your backyard and on your dinner plate, and it would greatly benefit the colonization of the moon

pesticiedes unnecessary (5.00 / 2) (#84)
by fringd on Fri Apr 05, 2002 at 02:40:33 AM EST

if you're in a little bubble on the moon, you can handle insect problems simply by not bringing them with you. pesticides should prove totally unnecessary.

the real thing i worry about forming is molds. that was the problem in schismatrix anyways.

:P

[ Parent ]

mazlows hierarchy of needs (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by turmeric on Fri Mar 29, 2002 at 06:42:46 PM EST

take back what i said before, what you need to do is go down the pyramid of what people actually really need to survive.

they need food, shelter, air, water. they need a stable mental condition, usually involving other people and recreation.

now, to get things going on the moon, you have to have those things. presenty we build lots of steel and plastic and whatnot, but that simply is not good enough. it basically requires things to be shipped from the earth to the moon. self sufficiency for the moon is a better prospect because the earth will always have its own politics and etc.

so what do you need? figure out how to get shelter, food, air, and water, all on the moon. then everything else will follow.

my personal opinion is that food air and water will come from recycling in a closed-system high-diversity no-pesticide greenhouse of some kind. but as for shelter, i just have no clue. you need something to protect you from the suns radiation, for there is no ozone layer on the moon. you need something to protect you from the high heat and great cold of the dark/light side of the moon. you need something to keep your air inside, and some way to make sure that it doesnt leak out or get dirty over time. now, some of these things are what 'biosphere ii' was about, but as i said before it suffered from shoddy scientific method and lack of critical observation record keeping and god knows what else. but that is not to say biosphere ii is the only area into which research should go, definitely these basic problems, shelter, air, food, and water, can benefit from very many different areas of research, some of them not all that complicated when compared to something like nano-machines or anti-gravity.



Most of those problems have been solved (none / 0) (#79)
by kuran42 on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 10:24:14 PM EST

For example, mix lunar regolith with water and allow it to freeze (cover it with tin foil in the day or build it in the shadow of a crater wall) and you have air-tight building material. Finding the water is a bit of a challenge, but you can always harness solar energy and bake it out of moon rock...

The most important thing you need to go to the moon is a reason. Come up with one that is good enough and everything else will follow.

--
kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
[ Parent ]

Porn and Tube Socks (1.00 / 1) (#78)
by Lenny on Sun Mar 31, 2002 at 12:32:05 AM EST

Need I say more?


"Hate the USA? Boycott everything American. Particularly its websites..."
-Me
Teaching and inspiration (5.00 / 2) (#83)
by epepke on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 12:31:05 PM EST

I didn't have an idea when this appeared, but now I do.

The best small thing you could do would be to teach kids that space is exciting.

I'm 40, and I remember that when I was a kid, you could buy plastic models of 20 or so different kinds of rocket boosters in drug stores. You could buy a Snoopy with an astronaut helmet. When some publicist of the space program came to school, we were excited.

The only way we are going to get into space is if people want to, and they currently don't. Don't sweat the details; once you get kids interested, they will become engineers and scientists and solve the problems. But first they have to get fired up.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


Develop reliable systems (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by bill_mcgonigle on Fri Apr 05, 2002 at 12:07:14 PM EST

We need stuff that doesn't break several AU's away. Stuff that can fix itself. Stuff that doesn't break. Once you have that everything else follows.

25 years and still going strong (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by kuran42 on Mon Apr 22, 2002 at 03:14:23 PM EST

Voyager I. 'nuff said.

--
kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
[ Parent ]
Figure out which measurment system we're using! (none / 0) (#88)
by fortytwo on Fri Apr 05, 2002 at 06:32:33 PM EST

I mean, fer cryin' out loud!

What Small Addition? | 91 comments (77 topical, 14 editorial, 1 hidden)
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