The problem with Space Exploration

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The problem with space exploration isn't that we need new shields on the space shuttle.
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.
Don wrote:

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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 activities sustainable.
-- R'zenboom
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Adam Weiss wrote:

To me Capitalism's end is always war. It is the ultimate competition, and the only end when vying for dollars. I say keep Capitalism out of space, or else we'll have battlestar gallactica up in here.
--
Night_Seer

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Night_Seer wrote:

I'm gonna get it for that one. Its what I live for :).
--
Night_Seer

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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.
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Night_Seer wrote:

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.
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Adam Weiss wrote:

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.
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The problem with space exploration is that it's expensive and hard.
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Don wrote:

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 market.
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.
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Adam Weiss wrote:

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.
--
Night_Seer

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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.
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Adam Weiss wrote:

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 high-profit 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.
-- Cliff

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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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 moon.
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.
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snipped-for-privacy@slr.orl.lmco.com wrote:

I was simply addressing the points in his post.
-- Cliff
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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 senseless.)
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Just saw an article a couple days ago. A search should turn up something.
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AES wrote:

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 spacecraft 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.
-- Cliff
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AES wrote:

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.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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 step.

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.

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Adam Weiss wrote:

The 1960s were an exciting time. I was a school boy then, and I remember 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 had no moon? I don't think there will ever be another 1960s in our lifetime. 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 public.

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.
-- Cliff
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