nec209

What is the obsession going to the moon or mars?

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Let me say before anyone attempts to jump down my throat and accuse me of disregarding the many people today in the world still suffering, hunger, famine, exploitation and even torture under questionable regimes.

My wife and I have for the last 6 years sponsored a child through World Vision, and still currently do. Even though now retired, I still contribute to various charities, [Surf Lifesaving, House with no steps just to name two......

I cringe at times at the injustices that some in under developed parts of the world suffer, so I do what little I personally can, and hope that in time, humanity in general, will co-operate to alleviate such cruelty and injustices, and that money is directed world wide away from comparing military arsenals and general "cock waving" to such morally just causes, but to even suggest that money be diverted from space science stinks of hypocrisy at worst and short-sightedness at best imo.

My only advice to the powers that be in all countries, is that  the inevitable continuation of space exploration, be a combined International effort.

 

I am also realistic enough to understand that in this day and age, and with the incredible technological knowhow, that in most cases of space exploration, the emphasis will be on robotic craft, bio engineering and artificial intelligence, paving the way...particularly to anything beyond the solar system. When proper and all encompassing safety protocols and devices have been implemented, then the likes of Gagarin, Glenn, Valentina Tereshkova, Armstrong, Aldrin, can make their mark for all mankind.

Exploration, space or otherwise anywhere, will not be stopped by any bleeding heart sob stories, or political opportunist or any possible variable economic circumstance.

 

Edited by beecee

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On 7/24/2017 at 11:26 PM, Moontanman said:

Using back of the envelope calcs I have even carbon nano-tubes producing a max radius of 33km being both self supporting and spinning fast enough that centripetal force is roughly earth like.  

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1 hour ago, imatfaal said:

Using back of the envelope calcs I have even carbon nano-tubes producing a max radius of 33km being both self supporting and spinning fast enough that centripetal force is roughly earth like.  

Interesting, my sources say that even steel can be used to make a Oneil type cylinder miles across, let check and I'll get back to you! 

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26 minutes ago, Moontanman said:

Interesting, my sources say that even steel can be used to make a Oneil type cylinder miles across, let check and I'll get back to you! 

 

To be honest I was really winging it - and lots of these xeno-architectural projects are done by real experts in normal architecture so I would not be surprised to be wrong

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2 minutes ago, imatfaal said:

 

To be honest I was really winging it - and lots of these xeno-architectural projects are done by real experts in normal architecture so I would not be surprised to be wrong

So far I am getting lots of claims but no math, the biggest "claim" I find so far is a "Bishop Ring" Made from woven carbon fibers or nanotubes. This is the claim:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop_Ring_(habitat)

Quote

In the original proposal, the habitat would be approximately 1,000 km (620 mi) in radius and 500 km (310 mi) in width, containing 3 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles) of living space,[1] comparable to the area of Argentina or India.

Not exactly a peer reviewed paper:

http://www.iase.cc/openair.htm

So far it is just a claim, I will look into it, but such a large mega structure is not necessary to provide millions of Earths surface area in orbit around the sun. Quite small habitats either in a swarm or connected like a chain could be used to enclose the sun in a loose swarm of objects to absorb the sun's energy. If we ever manage to control fusion on a reasonably small scale the entire universe is open to us via rotating habitats. My own thought on this are quite a bit more modest than most of these huge megastructures but the idea of even interstellar space containing a reasonable amount of material allows the entire galaxy to be colonised without ever entering the deeper parts of the gravity wells of stars.

 

Here is a paper with math:

 http://www.zyvex.com/nanotech/nano4/mckendreePaper.html

 

My own thoughts on this are more modest: A torus built of carbon fibers, major diameter of 100 miles, minor diameter of 20 miles. The ratio is more important than the size within limits of material strength. It would resemble a circular suspension bridge, the inside gravity, atmosphere, and day night cycles would be controlled by the people living in it. Fusion power is necessary for these habitats to slowly occupy places like the kuiper belt, oort cloud, and interstellar space. I suggest the day night cycle could be maximized by 24 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness due to plants growth cycles being based on the length of darkness not daylight. 

This video by Isaac Arthur details some of this. I'll contact him and ask for the math, he is pretty good about providing it. 

 

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@Moontanman  Well I have found my first mistake.  Wikipedia gave density in the easy to use grams/cubic centimetre - but I should have been using kilograms/cubic metre - so that was three magnitudes out!  This figure was rooted which means the answer I get is 1000km across.  That is intellectually much more appealing as it means that the circumference is 6300km - and this is also the length of carbon colossal tube which could support its own weight in earth's gravity (presuming constant g over that height)

But even so - that is the longest carbon nanotube which can be spun up to sufficient rotational velocity to provide 1g at the circumference.  This calc is using the structure with the specific strength (tensile strength per unit mass) that is currently known to man - ie colossal carbon tube

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15 hours ago, beecee said:

Exploration, space or otherwise anywhere, will not be stopped by any bleeding heart sob stories, or political opportunist or any possible variable economic circumstance.

I am in agreement with several aspects of what you have said here and in other posts in this thread, but I have two counterpoints for you.

I think it is inappropriate to suggest that those who express concern for the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised are simply peddling "bleeding heart sob stories". I will go further. Making such an accusation tends to cement the opposition the of those are concerned about these matters and see space exploration as an unwelcome distraction. Using such rhetoric may make you feel good, but it does nothing to persuade the opposition. If manned exploration and colonisation of space is important to humanity it is important that we have the support of the majority of humanity in that endeavour. "One small step for a man, . . . . "

You discount the "variable economic circumstance(s)", yet our civilisation is perilously close to disintegration. Global warming, nuclear holocaust, falling spem counts. The list is a long one and that's without considering a chance encounter with an asteroid or stray comet. We'll probably make it through, but your absolute belief goes further than the facts warrant.

 

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1 hour ago, Area54 said:

I am in agreement with several aspects of what you have said here and in other posts in this thread, but I have two counterpoints for you.

I think it is inappropriate to suggest that those who express concern for the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised are simply peddling "bleeding heart sob stories". I will go further. Making such an accusation tends to cement the opposition the of those are concerned about these matters and see space exploration as an unwelcome distraction. Using such rhetoric may make you feel good, but it does nothing to persuade the opposition. If manned exploration and colonisation of space is important to humanity it is important that we have the support of the majority of humanity in that endeavour. "One small step for a man, . . . . "

If I have offended anyone, I apologise, but by the same token those that seem to oppose space exploration, are known to make counter claims for the proponents of continued and extended space exploration and lack of concern for those less fortunate then you or I...             It certainly does not make me "feel good" though, rather bemused and sometimes sad that those opposing such inevitability, seem to have short memories and misinterpretation of the benefits that are achieved.                                                                                                             I don't believe they have a really large support base anyway, although there are certainly a large percentage that are simply uninformed and rather nonchalant, and disinterested in such events. I remember after Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth and the deserved public fanfare they recieved, and how that quickly reigned back even before Apollo 12 got off the ground. It actually took a near disaster  with Apollo 13 and the very real danger that Astronauts could be lost to revive the same interest as there was with Apollo 11.                        Ask some ordinary folk how many times NASA went to the Moon...or how many men have walked on the Moon.

1 hour ago, Area54 said:

You discount the "variable economic circumstance(s)", yet our civilisation is perilously close to disintegration. Global warming, nuclear holocaust, falling spem counts. The list is a long one and that's without considering a chance encounter with an asteroid or stray comet. We'll probably make it through, but your absolute belief goes further than the facts warrant.

 

 I don't discount the variable economic circumstances. What I am trying to say is that while there may be legitimate reason for any limited hiatus in space exploration now, that probably will not be the case in the future and that better times could be ahead.                                       And I hold global warming as an important  problem that certainly should be dealt with appropriatley...but why pick on science...or space science in particular?

I also cringe and  sometimes am emotionally affected at some of the more ghastly and cruel examples of man against fellow man that appears to happen so regularly. Then again we are living in an age of multi communication methodology that wasn't available when I was a kid, not to mention of course how the media can certainly boost their sales of that particular media with accounts of world wide disasters, rather then some incredible scientific advancement in medicine, chemistry, physics and how that is improving our lot.

Finally as I have mentioned in every post, I do not put a time frame on any aspect of space exploration, and have stipulated the fact that all I have mentioned will be achieved if we can overcome our Earthly follies and avoid any "chance encounter" with an asteroid and/or comet.

Thanks for your realistic view and support, and I will try and take your advice re getting folk upset and taking an intransigent  position in all of this. You do  make a point that I should consider.

 

 

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2 hours ago, imatfaal said:

@Moontanman  Well I have found my first mistake.  Wikipedia gave density in the easy to use grams/cubic centimetre - but I should have been using kilograms/cubic metre - so that was three magnitudes out!  This figure was rooted which means the answer I get is 1000km across.  That is intellectually much more appealing as it means that the circumference is 6300km - and this is also the length of carbon colossal tube which could support its own weight in earth's gravity (presuming constant g over that height)

But even so - that is the longest carbon nanotube which can be spun up to sufficient rotational velocity to provide 1g at the circumference.  This calc is using the structure with the specific strength (tensile strength per unit mass) that is currently known to man - ie colossal carbon tube

From what I have read and listened to, the 100 miles X 20 miles is quite reasonable. Of course if you are going to be living there all the time you could go with less gravity and higher pressure. Lots more options than a torus and ways to surround a star. BTW a Dyson sphere as usually asserted by pop culture is, as far as we know, impossible but a Dyson swarm is completely supported by current technological advances. I've been following some futurists and have been blown away by what is possible within current limits.. 

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1 hour ago, beecee said:

And I hold global warming as an important  problem that certainly should be dealt with appropriatley...but why pick on science...or space science in particular?

Thank you for your reply. On this particular point I must have been unclear. My point about global warming is that if we fail to counteract it and the worst case scenarios are realised there will be no civilisation to practice space exploration and thus your claim that economic matters will not stop that exploration is faulty.

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5 minutes ago, Area54 said:

Thank you for your reply. On this particular point I must have been unclear. My point about global warming is that if we fail to counteract it and the worst case scenarios are realised there will be no civilisation to practice space exploration and thus your claim that economic matters will not stop that exploration is faulty.

No probs.

I was proceeding under the assumption that this and other "worst case scenarios" would be alleviated, and that we did survive such events.

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BeeCee, Moontanman, I'm not opposed - I just real doubts that the robotic explorations, placement of astronomical instruments or people in space can pave the way for commercial exploitation that is an essential prerequisite to colonisation in space. Lifeboat scenarios aren't going to work as motivation - it has to be the other way around; colonies have to achieve economies of sufficiently size, complexity and comprehensive competence for other reasons to develop the full range of capabilities needed for enduring survival in the absence of a continuing supply line from Earth. Those other reasons need to be economically viable and for space resources to be exploitable a whole lot of pre-investment has to be in place, specific to those enterprises. Whilst there are crossover elements just the scale alone makes the infrastructure for launching robotic explorers or service the ISS unsuitable.

Optimism about what space can do for us isn't what's needed - clearly there is an abundance of that; it's hard plans that have reliable expectations of profit, that bankers can be optimistic about are what are needed. It's a catch 22 - asteroid mining won't be viable without a lot of on ground and in space infrastructure and capability and that won't get built without the certainty that later viable mining and refining operations will recover the costs. My concerns are around those thresholds, past which things grow without subsidy - which I think are much higher than the extreme optimists are saying.

The scale of pre-investment to have any hope of establishing a self funding space economy, the scale that an in-space economy has to achieve to be able to survive if all trade with Earth were cut off - these are the problems I have with space enterprises. I think they are much larger than the extreme optimists are saying. Now people are discussing building massive orbital structures, like these fundamental problems of achieving the essential pre-investments will take care of themselves through the generous application of applied optimism. And object if I say the optimism looks and sounds like a form of science fiction.

 

 

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23 minutes ago, Ken Fabian said:

BeeCee, Moontanman, I'm not opposed - I just real doubts that the robotic explorations, placement of astronomical instruments or people in space can pave the way for commercial exploitation that is an essential prerequisite to colonisation in space. Lifeboat scenarios aren't going to work as motivation - it has to be the other way around; colonies have to achieve economies of sufficiently size, complexity and comprehensive competence for other reasons to develop the full range of capabilities needed for enduring survival in the absence of a continuing supply line from Earth. Those other reasons need to be economically viable and for space resources to be exploitable a whole lot of pre-investment has to be in place, specific to those enterprises. Whilst there are crossover elements just the scale alone makes the infrastructure for launching robotic explorers or service the ISS unsuitable.

Optimism about what space can do for us isn't what's needed - clearly there is an abundance of that; it's hard plans that have reliable expectations of profit, that bankers can be optimistic about are what are needed. It's a catch 22 - asteroid mining won't be viable without a lot of on ground and in space infrastructure and capability and that won't get built without the certainty that later viable mining and refining operations will recover the costs. My concerns are around those thresholds, past which things grow without subsidy - which I think are much higher than the extreme optimists are saying.

The scale of pre-investment to have any hope of establishing a self funding space economy, the scale that an in-space economy has to achieve to be able to survive if all trade with Earth were cut off - these are the problems I have with space enterprises. I think they are much larger than the extreme optimists are saying. Now people are discussing building massive orbital structures, like these fundamental problems of achieving the essential pre-investments will take care of themselves through the generous application of applied optimism. And object if I say the optimism looks and sounds like a form of science fiction.

Hi Ken...Let's not go over old ground again, but can I ask you a couple of questions?

What sort of time frame are you putting on the problems you foresee and when and if they can be resolved with greater and better technology? 

The foreseeable future I have heard some people say...so what do you see as the foreseeable future? How far ahead are you looking? 100 years?1000 years? 5000years? a million years?

Do you see what I'm getting at?

My point again is that given time, [and a bit of luck in surviving some of the worst case scenarios we can envisage] why would not space science continue as it should.

 

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33 minutes ago, Ken Fabian said:

Now people are discussing building massive orbital structures, like these fundamental problems of achieving the essential pre-investments will take care of themselves through the generous application of applied optimism. And object if I say the optimism looks and sounds like a form of science fiction.

Not me. But irrespective, once again, given enough time [and luck] why should not and why would not some of these things be built?

What if in say a 1000 years, some sort of new physics was discovered that enabled us to approach "c":  I mentioned back earlier in the peace, that "given time"  all that is not forbidden by the laws of physics and GR, are possible for a sufficiently advanced civilisation.

Sure some seem far fetched and as you say, certainly science fiction but......  

Today's science fiction [ in many cases] is tomorrow's science fact.

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Da, the artificial production of Oxygen from CO2 is one milestone that has been achieved in my own lifetime. Previously we were looking at intensive ice mining operation or being dependent on plants/algae.

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21 hours ago, beecee said:

.... 

Today's science fiction [ in many cases] is tomorrow's science fact.

I remember as a young child reading, listening to, and watching the HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy - and even at that young age realising that such a marvel as the Guide itself was never going to be within my reach. 

Now I reach across and touch a button on a black glass slab which reads my fingerprint and acknowledges my right to open the interface; I say Ok Google set timer for fifteen minutes. then I say Ok Google what is the mass of of a 352 mainsail.  Then OK Google play Bob Dylan. 

H2G2 had nothing on this - Now if they could get Peter Jones (RIP) to do the voice in OK Google my wishes would be complete

 

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23 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

BeeCee, Moontanman, I'm not opposed - I just real doubts that the robotic explorations, placement of astronomical instruments or people in space can pave the way for commercial exploitation that is an essential prerequisite to colonisation in space. Lifeboat scenarios aren't going to work as motivation - it has to be the other way around; colonies have to achieve economies of sufficiently size, complexity and comprehensive competence for other reasons to develop the full range of capabilities needed for enduring survival in the absence of a continuing supply line from Earth. Those other reasons need to be economically viable and for space resources to be exploitable a whole lot of pre-investment has to be in place, specific to those enterprises. Whilst there are crossover elements just the scale alone makes the infrastructure for launching robotic explorers or service the ISS unsuitable.

Optimism about what space can do for us isn't what's needed - clearly there is an abundance of that; it's hard plans that have reliable expectations of profit, that bankers can be optimistic about are what are needed. It's a catch 22 - asteroid mining won't be viable without a lot of on ground and in space infrastructure and capability and that won't get built without the certainty that later viable mining and refining operations will recover the costs. My concerns are around those thresholds, past which things grow without subsidy - which I think are much higher than the extreme optimists are saying.

The scale of pre-investment to have any hope of establishing a self funding space economy, the scale that an in-space economy has to achieve to be able to survive if all trade with Earth were cut off - these are the problems I have with space enterprises. I think they are much larger than the extreme optimists are saying. Now people are discussing building massive orbital structures, like these fundamental problems of achieving the essential pre-investments will take care of themselves through the generous application of applied optimism. And object if I say the optimism looks and sounds like a form of science fiction.

 

I think it's important to note that an optimistic attitude is important, the moon landing was preceded by much speculation and science fiction. Many people questioned not only the why but the expense.  If spending on space related activities was really exorbitant then a point would be conceded by me but as it stands now only a tiny percentage of what we spend on ways to end our civilization is spent on space travel. Literally more is spent in a year on the military than has been spent on NASA in 50 years... 

 http://www.upworthy.com/defense-budget-1t-50-years-of-nasa-budgets-800b-chart-of-this-ridiculous-dispari

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It's not about how much time; whether this is attempted now or attempted in some distant future the problems with achieving a kind of critical mass for being a self supporting enterprise are going to have to be faced. Technological advances will occur but, just as it was found that taking commercial aviation beyond the speed of sound was possible but it failed to thrive, there are no guarantees that the ones most required or desired will be delivered. The advances needed are not inevitable. Like Area54 pointed out above - our Earthly problems like climate change could be economically constraining enough to make investments at the scale required beyond reach, especially with enduring division, rejection of expert advice and wilful mismanagement; the geopolitical consequences of excessive fossil fuel use are going to occupy nations and polities for centuries to come and the opportunity to pursue large scale speculative enterprises may get harder over time, not easier.

Manned missions to Moon or Mars are in my opinion an extraordinary wasteful vanity - the inspiration value (and broadcast rights - probably the only real means to offset costs!) cannot compensate for failure to aim that precious support at more fundamental objectives; it's not people walking on Mars that will win the financiers over, it is successfully mining, refining and producing material commodities from space sources. And until those commodities are capable of earning real money from Earth markets it won't take it past the threshold that matters most to ongoing financial backing. Even being able to reduce requirements for materials from Earth isn't enough as long as the 'trade' only goes one way - or how do space colonists pay for their accommodation and living requirements and for the equipment that makes them productive?

There are advances that would help - a lot cheaper launch from Earth costs as well as much greater capacity are critical.

The long term visions I'm seeing here seem to include reliable small scale fusion generation as taken for granted but the combined efforts of the most advanced industrial nations haven't managed any working fusion generation so far so it's by no means assured that more time will solve the problems. It has to be something a space economy can make itself, reliably for enduring self reliance.

Fission will need to rely on nuclear fuels from Earth; I don't think there is any real expectation that ores with sufficient concentrations of uranium or thorium will be found anywhere that hasn't has geothermal and hydrothermal processes to concentrate them, ie fission technology requires planets not asteroids; if the planet isn't Earth then there is another whole world of essential infrastructure needed.

Fission rockets? Nerva's may work if revisited but will probably parallel other extreme technologies; durability and reliability is difficult to achieve let alone guarantee, no matter what we might wish. Big and risky pre-investments seem needed to develop  exotic alternatives into genuine rocket drive options. I remain very dubious about the workability of Orion's and don't even think about using them for launching from Earth.

Solar power can work a long way out from the sun but at the asteroid belt it would need huge mirror fields - 30x or more concentrators to get equivalent to solar intensity near Earth; big mirrors are possible in zero gravity but likely to be very fragile. A messy mining operation nearby could be a serious hazard to such a power supply - and one of the cited benefits of space has been absence of environmental regulations... at least for activities outside the habitats; inside them obsessing about environmental integrity and recycling may exceed that of Earthside fanatics. A cloud of ejected mining waste would be better out at the asteroid belt than near precious space assets nearer to Earth but I'm not convinced solar collectors would survive it.

Moving asteroids and processing them closer to the Earth and Sun? Perhaps, but it needs to be shown to work at smaller scale before attempting to push billions of tons towards the vicinity of Earth. A lot of infrastructure needs to be in place, wherever it's done, even at smaller scale, to refine and process it, all of which must come up from Earth and be paid for. Is there an expectation that the abundant iron will not be contaminated with nickel? Perhaps nickel-iron alloys can find significant markets by being cheap - if it can in fact be mined and processed and delivered cheaply - but it is pure, uncontaminated iron, for making desirable alloys that will be in demand.

I don't think much of anything we do in space will prove easy, simple or cheap. The great risk is that, despite their abundance, space mineral resources will be not be economic to exploit. But that initial push, how big it has to be to carry it past being a subsidised burden and into self supporting and how that can be achieved is what still concerns me. I'm a long way from convinced there is any real prospect of it in any near future I can envisage.

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Moontanman - it doesn't matter that military budgets far exceed NASA's; you haven't provided an argument that will divert the funding from the one to the other. Lifeboat scenarios won't do it - and will continually lose out against deep bunker options in military thinking. They are already in place and work for all but the most extreme disaster possibilities.

No matter that quantifying the value of military expenditures is impossible or that it includes a vast amount of waste, the financing of a big space push is going to be a separate matter, that will have to be on it's own merits.

Edited by Ken Fabian

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2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

It's not about how much time; whether this is attempted now or attempted in some distant future the problems with achieving a kind of critical mass for being a self supporting enterprise are going to have to be faced. Technological advances will occur but, just as it was found that taking commercial aviation beyond the speed of sound was possible but it failed to thrive, there are no guarantees that the ones most required or desired will be delivered. The advances needed are not inevitable. Like Area54 pointed out above - our Earthly problems like climate change could be economically constraining enough to make investments at the scale required beyond reach, especially with enduring division, rejection of expert advice and wilful mismanagement; the geopolitical consequences of excessive fossil fuel use are going to occupy nations and polities for centuries to come and the opportunity to pursue large scale speculative enterprises may get harder over time, not easier.

 

Of course the aspect of time is relevant! And whether attempts are made now, in the very near future, or a 100, 500, 1000 years hence [I won't go any further than that at this stage] the technological advances made will dictate when that will take place.

And commercial aviation is still experimenting with various means that entail going faster then the speed of sound. The demise of the Concord of course after the accident. was more to do with noise issues, low passenger numbers after 9/11, and the high price of oil: Again faster then sound commercial flight may yet again take off.

And while there is of course never any guarantees about the future, advances in technology are as close to certain as one could hope for and I would go as far to say again, inevitable.

 

I'm afraid that it appears the only agreement we can have is to disagree on this matter, and as Moontanman mentioned, of course optimism is paramount, and while that optimism appears as strong as ever among those at the coal face, I would suggest that the same optimism is of course tinged with the utmost caution with regards to safety etc, particularly radiation.

 

Edited by beecee

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2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

Moontanman - it doesn't matter that military budgets far exceed NASA's; you haven't provided an argument that will divert the funding from the one to the other. Lifeboat scenarios won't do it - and will continually lose out against deep bunker options in military thinking. They are already in place and work for all but the most extreme disaster possibilities.

Of course it matters...[1]Human  Morality. [2] Exploration and knowledge. [3] International co-operation as in the ISS.

2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

No matter that quantifying the value of military expenditures is impossible or that it includes a vast amount of waste, the financing of a big space push is going to be a separate matter, that will have to be on it's own merits.

The financing of a big space push, while depending on economic and political climate, will happen in time...I just hope it occurs because of our thirst for knowledge and exploration, and is an international effort, rather then a cock waving exercise.

Obviously there are many qualified people of the optimistic variety...

Marc Millis: Aerospace Engineer
NASA Glenn Research Center

and https://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=1962    https://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=11493

 

There are of course other respected orginizations that have a vision including

http://www.planetaryresources.com/#home-intro

 

Edited by beecee

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Here's another interesting realist/optimist....

Mae Jemison: Former NASA Astronaut with 8 honorary doctorates in science and also Principal of the 100 year starship company:

https://100yss.org/mission/team

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18 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

I don't think much of anything we do in space will prove easy, simple or cheap. The great risk is that, despite their abundance, space mineral resources will be not be economic to exploit. But that initial push, how big it has to be to carry it past being a subsidised burden and into self supporting and how that can be achieved is what still concerns me. I'm a long way from convinced there is any real prospect of it in any near future I can envisage.

Obviously it wont be easy or simple but I guarantee it will be cheap. Surely you agree its feasible that there will be enough technological advances to drop the price of space travel by just 1% within 500 years? Then a further 1% every 500 years? That means it's conceivable that space travel would be 99% cheaper after 49,500 years! Personally, I think this could be done within 300 years but 49,500 years would guarantee it.

Back in 1943 the president of IBM, Thomas Watson said "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers". The idea that there would be about 2 billion computers by 2017 was inconceivable. Impossible. But it happened. There has been huge advances in technology during the last 100 years and it's speeding up. Space travel is inevitable and it will be common place. Summer vacation, school trips etc. Visiting another planet will be something people take for granted. Inconceivable in our life-time but inevitable in the eventual future.

The propulsion system for such cheap space travel hasn't even been conceived yet. I cant even begin to imagine.

Edited by at0mic

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4 hours ago, at0mic said:

Surely you agree its feasible that there will be enough technological advances to drop the price of space travel by just 1% within 500 years? Then a further 1% every 500 years? That means it's conceivable that space travel would be 99% cheaper after 49,500 years! Personally, I think this could be done within 300 years but 49,500 years would guarantee it.

No, I don't agree with this; this reverts back to this "inevitable that problems will be solved with time" assertion of BeeCee and others, as if technological advancement is a natural law. It's not.

The potential to drop the price of space travel (and space mining and space refining and space manufacturing and space agriculture...) by a significant amount -  I'd think a lot more than 1% in the near term - is there but whilst time is a factor it is the identifiable physical and engineering possibilities and financial backing that carry it forward and define the limits. What can be done, including the funding of ongoing development, is still bounded by economics. Technology can made to work but not be economically viable. Resources can exist in abundance and not be economically viable.

Whether that "lot more than 1% in the near term" is sufficient to get over the hump is not clear to me - and I'm not getting responses that clarify; I think we disagree on how big an investment is likely to be required (how high the hump is) as well as whether those advances that we can treat as achievable carry it past the threshold of human activities in space being self supporting. Just as whether those near term improvements is sufficient to carry a space push past the critical mass to be self supporting is not clear.

Civilisations - economies - produced tech advances but civilisations collapsing can and often did take detailed knowledge of their advances as well as the economic capability to achieve them down with them. Other civilisations, because of distance and isolation, did carried on. Now there is convergence into a single economy; collapse, should it happen, is likely to be global. I don't see much sign of good overall management in the face of identifiable problems of global scale so the prospect of the "inevitable" tech progression stalling and going backward due to changed geopolitical realities looks very real to me. And whilst much knowledge will persist, what will be irretrievably lost is actual working expertise and continuity, so that even having all the plans for a space launch system and the funding does not assure the ability to build it.

Large, diverse, wealthy economies are fundamental for enabling these things and that applies to the size and capabilities of communities in space being able to do more than exist as an expensive expression of national pride - or worse, be no more than a government subsidised reality TV program, which manned "explorations" such as to Mars risk becoming. Wrong objectives; Mars is a dead end if establishing a working space economy is the goal. The economics of these space activities can't be treated as an afterthought. Which comes back around to what the minimum threshold is before they can break even.

BTW, I suspect that a space society/economy would be more fragile and more at risk of extinction than human life on Earth. More likely that Earth will be the long term lifeboat for space civilisations than the other way.

 

Edited by Ken Fabian

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