The problem with space exploration isn't that we need new shields on the
The problem is that, at least in the US (less so in Russia) space
exploration is reserved exclusively for education and research purposes.
We spend a ton of money so that scientists can do experiments in zero
gravity. Taxpayers rightly question why we should be spending so much
to accomplish so little.
Space exploration won't really take off until we can get private
industry interested in investing in it with the promises of big economic
returns. Space exploration should be funded by space tourism, and
off-world mining, colonies, etc. etc.
NASA should be more than a multi-billion dollar chemistry set.
If that is really a big lake of water ice they photographed on Mars, we
could be landing there sooner than was thought. But maybe no-one will afford
it even then. I've yet to see how such expense as ET mining/ production is
justifiable. Better to adapt to changing means down here and make our
I'd have to disagree with you. Greed, power, control are what cause
war, not capitalism. The root of capitalism is that my good or service
is exchanged for your good or service. We're both happy when we feel we
get what we paid for.
Example: Client wants papers with pertty pictures of house to build on
pertty property. Client exchanges digital bits that represent green
paper with us for blank ink on large sheets of paper. We're like making
the large sheets of paper with pertty pictures for client. Client likes
the pertty pictures made with blank ink on large paper and we end up
with something we can then put a piece of plastic into a machine which
provides me with green papers that people seem to think have some value.
I could say more about capitalism, but I won't. I'll only say that I
have observed that capitalism, for all its flaws, is a much better
system than the alternatives.
Likewise the alternatives to capitalizing space. If we avoided
capitalizing space, we could turn the system over to big universities
full of researchers and with deep pockets (Harvard, Yale, Rice, etc.).
Taxpayers no longer pay for a few astronauts to study rats in zero
gravity; but students and their parents would, further exacerbating the
mounting costs of higher education in the US. Or Maybe we could leave
the system unchanged - facing mounting taxpayer costs, we'd let the
Space Shuttle go the way of the Concorde, and let space exploration
stagnate - eventually possibly getting rid of the program altogether and
never getting off this planet.
The NASA of today is not the NASA that landed
man on the moon...back then guys were allowed
to smoke!! Today that's yucky.
Today, you need to launch a blackie, a couple
of chicks, a chink, a cripple like a politician,
and a white guy and/or mexican...does that suck?
NASA is dead Jim.
If space flights are going to really take off, it's not going to be
about doing it for the enjoyment.
It's about speed of travel.
If a sub-orbital spacecraft can make the New York to Hong Kong trip in
under 5 hours, IMO it'd be a huge draw to businesspeople based in NY and
working in Asia. The trip currently takes over 15 hours nonstop.
Likewise a 4 hour New York to Dubai trip - it's currently over 12 hours.
And more importantly it'll be about making money for the airlines or
whomever else runs the flights. The space-liners need to be capable of
making money when tickets on them are priced at a level that business
people needing ultra-fast travel are willing to spend. Profit is,
after all, the reason that Boeing's 747 has been around for decades and
spawned a successor in the jumbo jet market, while the Concorde was
retired with nothing to take its place in the supersonic passenger jet
IMO tickets on ultra-fast sub-orbital spaceships shouldn't cost much
more than first class tickets on regular international flights. Of
course I'm not an expert in what people would be willing to spend for
ultra-fast flights between international cities.
Has anyone read "Deception Point" by Dan Brown? He's the same author
that wrote "The DaVinci Code". He says he researched it pretty well,
but the most intriguing part about it (besides the story) was a type of
plane that ran on a hydrogen gel type of thing. It sounded really cool.
Yeah, I read that book. Is it me, or does that guy not write very
well? I've read a couple of his books, and didn't think any of them
were particularly well written.
Also, creative plots, which seem to resolve themselves rather clunkily.
Just my opinion.
The only thing even remotely feasible in the near future, as far as
"space exploration," is sending rich tourists up into Earth orbit for
the thrill and bragging rights involved for people like that. As far
as off-Earth mining, that's a LONG way off. The only significant
body even within reach now for humans is the Moon. And even if
mining could be done there, the cost would staggering to say the least.
And Mars, IMO, is out of reach now for even a worldwide effort,
involving all the major nations of the world, even for just a visit
by a couple of astronauts. I think the biggest need is advances in
propulsion systems. With shorter travel times, the other problems
faced (including human factor problems) would be greatly minimized.
One only has to look at the shuttle to see how far even the U.S. is
from manned interplanetary travel.
You're kinda talking about 3 things at once.
1) Suborbital transportation.
This is basically passenger, or military, transport at very
high altitudes and speeds to reduce extremely long distance
travel times. My personal prediction is that it will have to
be done by the military first to establish the basic procedures,
capabilities, and necessary technologies. Then, if it is
shown to be useful, a business model can be formed around those
realities. Right now there is more unknown than known about
what such a vehicle would look like. (The thermal cycles this
aircraft are going to go through is going to be a challenge
every bit as big as the pressurization of aircraft was when
the early ones "discovered" low cycle fatigue problems with
the fuselages around the windows).
2) Earth orbit commercilization:
This really goes up to and includes the moon (which is in
earth orbit). As you suggest the first thing anyone has
to figure out is what is "out there" that we need/can use.
No one has ever really shown what could be there that we
need that badly. There could be loose diamonds, or pure
gold nuggets lying on the surface and the expense would
be prohibitive. Zero-g manufacturing has never really
demonstrated much value, the closest might be really pure
silicon crystals for the micro-electronics industy. But
again, the cost is too high. About the only other potential
opportunity is colonization. We're a long way from being able
to do that, it wouldn't be a commercial venture per se (the
cost would exceed what you could charge folks to live there)
and it isn't clear what "problem" you'd solve on earth by
doing this. A large one would hold several hundred thousand
people and that wouldn't particularly put a dent in any
earth bound population, even if you built a hundred of them.
3) Solar System Exploration
As you suggest, this will be expensive. The only truly
justifiable way will be some sort of international cooperative
approach. It will have to be a large, and diverse, effort
so that the assets can get used for more than one mission.
We're talking permanent space platforms (larger and more
capable than the ISS). Permanent "space only" transports
than will never return to earth's surface. Probably moon bases for
launching missions out of earths orbit. And in essence
relatively permanently stationed personnel in orbit or on the
And there is precident for this. In the US, westward expansion
was enabled by "military outposts" which were more there to
ensure the commercial ventures into the west than anything else.
The US government built the railroads in essence. But once
built, they became the basis for a slowly evolving commercial
trade. This trade never had to pay for the capital investment
made. So we explore the universe, and the commercial ventures,
and permanent human presence developes behind us.
One of the inherent and possibly (?) unsolvable problems in doing this
may be the radiation exposure to the crew on interplanetary journeys.
Can anyone give a quick summary/tutorial of just how serious this really
is? -- e.g., what fractional of a lethal dose, or a recommended safe
lifetime dose, is received in one round trip to Mars, with any
reasonably liftable amount of shielding.
Problem is, they didn't have the unbelievably capable, rugged, tireless
unmanned and/or robotic and/or remotely controlled capabilities we now
have. They basically make manned exploration senseless for any
functional or commercial purpose at this point. (Outside of tourism or
prestige or celebrity status, that is.)
(Same thing applies equally to exploring the bottom of the ocean. Just
look at who rescued whom in the Far East last weekend -- or the
permanently operating unmanned, but fiber optical cable connected,
"observatory" on the bottom of the ocean near Hawaii.)
(And the commercial spinoffs from the development of the unmanned
technologies make spending money on manned exploration even more
Putting people in Earth orbit is hardly space exploration. Manned
space exploration ended with the Apollo program and I've got
serious doubts that any of us will see any more of it in our lifetimes.
Can you imagine what many, many months onboard a small, manned
to and from Mars would do to a man's mind? There's gonna have to
be major advances in engine design and other technology before
manned trips to even Mars can reasonable be envisioned. Bush's
dream is just that, a pipe dream.
Interplanetary travel will almost assuredly have to be done
from ships constructed in orbit, either the earth or moon. As
such, "liftable" becomes a different term. Materials from the
moon could be lifted to the construction point to provide shielding.
It is sort of the "string of pearls" approach. You keep
establishing "outposts" along the way so as to provide a
credible activity and way station.
However, we still drill oil with manned platforms. Ships
cross the oceans in manned vessels. Helicopters and flying
boats patrol the oceans and provide support and rescue services.
The purchase of the Alaskan territory, as well as the Lousiana
purchase were considered "senseless" in their time. Ya just sorta
have to believe that we will go there because it is there and
start. Why will be figured out later.
This is more than a remotely feasable thing. Russia's already sending
rich tourists into earth orbit. We've (they've) already taken the first
Yes. These things are a long way off. But long term goals are what
NASA needs. They used to have them. When John F. Kennedy said "we will
land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth" - it got
everyone on their toes. NASA had something to work for - and they
pulled it off. Today there are no goals. Just send some people up to
check data. Or not even to check data - often they go up to deliver
toilet paper to the International Space Station.
IMO a worthy immediate goal for NASA would be to team up with Boeing and
Lockheed Martin to develop a spacecraft that can at once serve
passengers on ultra-fast sub orbital routes operated by commercial
airlines (see my previous post) and, with modifications, either go into
orbit itself and work as a replacement for the Shuttle, or piggie back a
new Shuttle like craft that goes into orbit.
The 1960s were an exciting time. I was a school boy then, and I
well the optimism about the future, including our future in space.
A manned Moon visit was a perfect goal for the time. What if the Earth
had no moon? I don't think there will ever be another 1960s in our
The '70s came and everything went sour. The leftists' voices were loud
enough by then to virtually kill off any future goals in true space
exploration, i.e. "let's solve the problems on earth first," blah blah.
The shuttle program has been a disaster. *Two* missions have been
completely lost, and it is a financial disaster that accomplishes
little, as you said. The politics of political correctness has
also played a role in the NASA of the last 25 years as compared to
the NASA of the '60s, when they truly had the best and brightest.
Today's bullshit politics has a tremendously damaging effect on
organizations like NASA, but of course, there will never be a word
of acknowledgement of this from anyone at NASA, at least not in
That would certainly be a good first step as it would lead to new and
improved technology for space travel. You know, forty+ years ago, it
was believed, even by the airlines, that airliners by now would all
be supersonic. The leftists killed the hell out of that idea. BTW,
the Concorde was an exceptionally safe and well designed airplane,
ESPECIALLY considering when it was designed and built.
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