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Space, the final frontier...

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
The 135th and final launch of the space shuttle was successful. When it lands 12 days from now, the program will be at an end.

Where do we go from here?

 

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post #2 of 49
We don't. No government's going to fund space travel anymore. Humanity dies on Earth.

And I never get to go to the Moon like I wanted.

Originally Posted by asdasd

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post #3 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

We don't. No government's going to fund space travel anymore. Humanity dies on Earth.

The keyword there is "government".
Private industry will continue... and they'll do it orders of magnitude more efficiently.

Just have a look at what Burt Rutan is doing with his company, Scaled Composites. Funded by Paul Allen and Sir Richard Branson.

The moon may be out of reach for tourists in our lifetime, but LEO is likely to be available to you as a tourist.



...still, I was there to watch the very first Space Shuttle launch ... I probably should have made a point to be there for this one.
From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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post #4 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post

... I probably should have made a point to be there for this one.

I'm so embarrassed that I've never been to see a live shuttle launch, despite living in south Florida for 24 years. And now I really regret it.
post #5 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post

The 135th and final launch of the space shuttle was successful. When it lands 12 days from now, the program will be at an end.

Where do we go from here?

Mars. See my posts in the thread:
http://forums.appleinsider.com/showt...=127519&page=2

(I know these are reposts below but it will save people time)

F**k the moon. Does it have any currently exploitable resources? No. What else are we going to find there that we haven't seen? A crashed ship from Cybertron?

As to the space program benefitting the American public more than any other technology, well, that's probably an endless debate.

But I can tell you, a manned mission to Mars in co-operation with the Europeans, Russians, Japanese and Chinese by 2050 will be immensely galvanising and inspiring for America and the world. That has always been the greatest contribution of the space program... Ironic that it came out of fear of the Soviets but at the end of the day it stimulated the hearts and minds of billions around the world to strive, to seek, to create, to think, to grow, to put aside petty conflicts even for just a short while.

A human on Mars by 2050 will set the tone for the future of mankind beyond our current squabbles over resources and debating on and on about how good or bad the environment is getting. Make it a global co-operative effort and the financial burden is shared. Why does the US have to be the main party that has to spend trillions more this century on space exploration?

And yes, private enterprise and so on, stimulate that. In fact, private investment is the key to human Mars missions. Heck, charge $5 billion per person per trip. Tap into the hearts and minds of the super-rich. They're bored of Guccis, LV bags, supercars, private jets, supermodels and buying sports clubs. Gather them for human Mars missions... To invest, to go, whatever. If nothing else, their egos will drive their funding for Mars. We've seen it with Branson, with the way wealth is distributed these next few decades, there are more than enough billionaires to tap to fund Mars missions and colonisation going past 2050 into 2100.

(A)
There are not many billionaires that could afford $5 billion a trip. But all you need is, say 10. There are over 1,200 billionaires according to Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/wealth/billionaires. Offer some of them the trip of a lifetime only the very richest can buy... I'm sure you'll have a few takers. Virgin Galactic already has a long waiting list of over 80,000. Now some of these billionaires are smart. Some would be willing to pay outright just for the trip, say $500 million if you want to be more realistic. That's not much to be among the first humans to visit another planet. Some would also see this as investment opportunities such as patents and licenses arising from the venture, and also branding for themselves, companies, book and film rights, etc. TV rights could be worth a few billion alone. I'm not a millionaire or billionaire but this is what I mean by "tap the rich". The billionaires of the world could ignite a new age of space travel where international governments work with private enterprise, or even where private enterprise goes further than governments. It may disgust some to see a big Google or Coca Cola logo on the side of the rocket to Mars, with spacesuits made by Adidas... but if it advances humanity's space capabilities, I think it's okay. (Of course Pepsi's idea back in the day of the orbiting signboard was ridiculous). I recently saw the movie "Amelia"... Regardless of what the truth was, and not to take anything away from any astronaut, but it is this *ideal* of the early aviators that has floundered. To go, because it's there and because it hasn't been done before... And to achieve it by hook or by crook, yes, to risk lives for the sake of adventure. Mars is the atlantic crossing of this century.

(B)
The moon. I remain skeptical on this and maybe you could enlighten me further. There are a few areas where I think it offers no real benefit above shooting straight for Mars.

1. Technology development
It is thought that moon missions by 2020 or 2030 would prepare for Mars. I'm not convinced about this. Firstly, it's all been done before. So yes, restarting human missions to the moon and Mars would reignite programs involving navigation, propulsion, spacecraft, shielding, software, and so on. But the moon is at most 400,000km away. Mars is between 55 *million* to 400 *million* km away. We're talking a few day's travel versus several months at best. Saying that moon programs can help Mars is almost like saying making sandcastles helps to build skyscrapers. All the energy put towards moon missions would be better spent investing directly in going to Mars.

2. Staging area
Some say the moon could be a staging area for Mars missions. This of course is far in the realm of science fiction. Of course, a few centuries from now when we have space elevators, large space stations where spacecraft can be assembled (and fueled!) and moon bases, the moon could be used as staging areas. But right now, you need to get the people and the hardware up there anyway, there's no additional resources or fuel yet discovered on the moon to help. Earth orbit is a slightly different story because depending on the Mars plans (of which there are a whole range) you might launch from Earth and shoot straight for Mars or you might put stuff in Earth orbit first and then go for Mars. But the moon itself may not be so useful except for a gravity slingshot or something like that.

3. Habitat preparation
One could argue that any Mars mission would require it to be a colonisation mission as well. You're not going to spend months getting there just for a few days walkabout then mosey on back. There has to be a semi-permanent habitat system. Obviously if the habitat gear was sent separately to the human mission itself that would spread the risk. Now the moon could be used to test out human habitation in a hostile environment. Astronauts could try and spend a month on the moon, for example. But I think it is a waste of resources. The gravity is different. The atmospheric composition is different. There is much reduced protection from meteoroids or any other object due to the lack of atmosphere. We have the technology to research and prepare habitats on Earth itself by simulating Martian atmospheric and radiation conditions. Probes which deploy test-habitat modules can be sent to Mars, that seems at least as useful as looking at rocks.
post #6 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post

The 135th and final launch of the space shuttle was successful. When it lands 12 days from now, the program will be at an end.

Where do we go from here?

Soyuz, the mainstay of the Russian space program based on 1950s technology, is still running. In comparison to anything we have, it's very cheap, and tried 'n' tested for decades. The average cost per launch of a crewed Soyuz spacecraft is about $50 million, compared to $450 million for each Space Shuttle. Maybe the Russians could license the Soyuz plans/design to NASA, so they can update/modernize it and thus keep our own space program running without having to spend another $$squizilion designing a new rocket/orbiter from scratch.

The $billions in savings could also fund another few weeks of the 10 year recreational killing spree in the Middle East.
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"We've never made the case, or argued the case that somehow Osama bin Laden was directly involved in 9/11. That evidence has never been forthcoming". VP Cheney, 3/29/2006. Interview by Tony Snow
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post #7 of 49
We'll go up there again. However it's very sad space exploration has to take a back seat to useless wars etc. If humans spent money on constructive things they'd get a lot farther in many arenas. It's sad we don't have a replacement right away. People will bring up this recession ( that's not a recession any more but there's yet to see a real recovery so it still feels like a recession ) but the sad truth is NASA's budget is a drop in the bucket compared to almost any other government program out there ( not to mention the waste ).

It's really funny that here's a peace time program that by its own need for innovation brings us just as many inventions ( or more ) to improve the quality of life in our society that the military does without the need to kill people. Now some say that it's dangerous. That people have lost their lives and will again. Well name any new endeavor that humans have done, anything that prompted us to look towards the horizon, anytime we've gone where no one has gone before ( yes you knew I was going to say that but it says it so well ) where it hasn't cost lives. To that I say : Don't let their sacrifice be in vein.

Here's an interesting blog on the topic : http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-bl...in-spaceflight

also : http://www.freakonomics.com/2008/01/...nomics-quorum/

Also an article about the future of space exploration : http://articles.cnn.com/2011-07-06/u...ation?_s=PM:US

From that article about the difference between now and the 1960's :

Quote:
Regular exploration -- even colonization -- of "the final frontier" seemed just around the corner. Astronauts were heroes. And the world depicted in the 1968 movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- Pan Am-branded space shuttles, moon bases and a Jupiter mission -- seemed possible to achieve in the next decades.

But here we are, 10 years after 2001. Pan Am has long since gone out of business. The space station isn't a regular tourist stop. Forget Jupiter or those moon bases -- humans haven't even set foot on the lunar surface since 1972. The space shuttle, which is set to launch on its last mission Friday, has been a useful machine -- "a fantastic vehicle," in the words of a NASA rocket scientist -- but it's rarely ignited public fascination the way the '60s and '70s moonshots did.

Perhaps that's part of the problem. When I grew up in the 1960's kids were always dreaming of space travel. Now it's iPads, cell phones, and texting that seem to be their focus. This is why I think we just need the right kind of stimulus. All we need to do is discover life out there or another earth type planet around another star to get interest going again. Short of that kind of chance happening perhaps a mission to Mars might do it ( especially if some other country is going to do it first ). While it's true that we should have turned the moon into the resource it should be a long time ago : a staging area for trips farther out into the solar system, the best radio telescope area ever on the dark side, Helium 3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium-3 if we ever get fusion going ( and we will )etc. And now the fact that we've discovered that it has a water supply frozen in the ground just adds to the possiblities. The problem right now is that it's just not as glamorus as say a trip to Mars.

Also I think it's sort of sad at this point we would have to resort to the competition thing again. Especially after how we've seen what space exploration can do for us and it's potential for what it can do for us in the future. One thing that really makes me ill is to hear someone say something so unintelligent like : " Well what did the moon do for us? Just a bunch of rocks is all we have to show for that? ". People don't realize what life was like without weather and communications satellites or anything else space exploration has done for us. There's all manner of things you can manufacture up there that you can't here because of the vacuum and low gravity. Not to mention all of the raw materials we could use from out there. And then there's just simply the knowledge we could add to our understanding of the nature of things. I fully believe there will come a time when we will wonder why there was any doubt as to should we be in space. At that point we'll likely not be able to do without it.

And then there's the thought that we shouldn't put all of our eggs in one basket. If something should happen to the earth we'd still survive as a species.

There's a lot more than just a bunch of rocks to be had.

All we have to do is have the courage to reach for it. And that brings me to the last thing which is just basic simple old pride in being able to once again take our civilization up one more rung on the ladder of accomplishment.

Well that's my viewpoint ( and rant ) on the subject. Thanks for listening.
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post #8 of 49
Thread Starter 
One major problem with long term deep space travel/colonization is the changes it would bring to the body. After just a few years, people who lived on the moon or Mars would be unable to return to earth as they would have adapted to the lower gravity and likely purer air due to being inside a controlled environment the whole time. Their bone structure would change; it changes while they're on the ISS. In short, it would be a one-way adventure.

 

Your = the possessive of you, as in, "Your name is Tom, right?" or "What is your name?"

 

You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

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Your = the possessive of you, as in, "Your name is Tom, right?" or "What is your name?"

 

You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

Reply
post #9 of 49
Where do we go from here? Like what we've been doing for the last 40 years. Going around and around about 200 miles up.

If I were to make an analogy, today's space travel is like when humanity started testing out rafts and trying to cross the seas 50,000 years ago. There were probably serious questions back then if those rafts would lead to anything. I'd estimate that we are at least 50 years from anything significant, such as colonization of Mars. Colonization of the Moon is at least 20 years away. Maybe 30, if not 50. It could be hundreds of years.

It's not like the movies folks. Space is a hostile place for us. If it doesn't kill us quickly through a variety of things (equipment failure, etc), it'll kill us slowly (radiation, health effects). Living on the moon might kill us in a few years through bone/muscle loss and associate complications thereof. A colony at the L4/5 points might work if we're able to put some asteroids (metal, rock) and comets (water) there, while living in rotating space stations. It'll take something crazy to make that happen (billionaire conglomerate; government; or environmental disaster here on Earth). And this is just within Earth's sphere of influence.

A little further out such as Mars is like the moon. It's generations away. It'll take disaster on Earth (like over-population and ecosystem collapse) to provide impetus for a group of folks to escape.

Real space, like visiting the next star system, is probably 1000s of years away. A trip will take hundreds of years in of itself. You'll really need those asteroid and comet clusters then. Oort cloud farming would be serious business to get all those resources. Assuming we can deal with all of the biological effects.
post #10 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post

One major problem with long term deep space travel/colonization is the changes it would bring to the body. After just a few years, people who lived on the moon or Mars would be unable to return to earth as they would have adapted to the lower gravity and likely purer air due to being inside a controlled environment the whole time. Their bone structure would change; it changes while they're on the ISS. In short, it would be a one-way adventure.

Well there are ways around those problems. They've even talked about sheilding using water to counteract the radiation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_...om_cosmic_rays

As for long term weightlessness there are ways to counteract that as well. One is to rotate the craft ( or a portion of ) to simulate gravity. As far colonists on say the moon some might actually benifit from living there because gravity makes life too difficult here at 1 g.

But yes it's true after a time returing might not be an option however on Mars isn't as bad as the moon.

http://www.astrobio.net/interview/25...des-of-gravity

From that article :

Quote:
AM: Knowing what goes wrong with the human body in microG, how optimistic are you about human colonies on the Moon or Mars?

CC: Oh, Im sure that partial G will be better than microG. We just dont know what level is required for optimal health. It may be that if youre on the Moon youre somewhat better and if youre on Mars youre even better, but you really need to be on the Earth to be perfectly healthy. And thats one of the other things were trying to explore with the worms the adaptation over multiple generations to microgravity.

Quote:
AM: In Kim Stanley Robinsons books about the human colonization of Mars, he talks about how humans adapted to the lower G there wouldnt be able to come back to Earth.

CC: That could happen if you have enough generations of reproduction and if youre not adaptable enough. Humans can survive at 3 Gs. Theres about that much difference between Mars gravity and Earth gravity -- its only a relatively small fraction of one G. That suggests that even if youre living on Mars for multiple generations, you could adapt to come back to Earth. It might be difficult, but its not going to take generations to adapt back, there probably will be some physiological adaptation but its not going to completely prevent you from returning. Although with the developmental aspects of human growth, such as bone development, it may require a lot of exercise and a lot of work to be able to come back.
Without the need for difference or a need to always follow the herd breeds complacency, mediocrity, and a lack of imagination
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post #11 of 49
Thread Starter 
Grew up with Star Trek, then the development and first flight of the shuttle, and in high school I saw a conceptual image of a spinning spacecraft that looked like a huge bicycle wheel. Left an impression that lives on and I have found myself on the odd Sunday or so toying with the concept in Sketchup. It's fun and I've created a few whacky designs. It is fun to sit back and dream.

After the tsunami here in March, my Sunday time has been spent on earth looking into disaster response systems and recovery for Japan. One item that could be on the revolving spacecraft that also has use here would be an indoor farm. I'm looking at tower farming now, and how it could fit into Japanese society.

The use of water to block radiation lead me to wonder if they couldn't make a suit for the workers at the Daichi plant. The weight, however, would require motors to assist movement, but there are concepts for these already. Size would be another major factor; the plant was not designed for a large hard shell suit. Maybe they could quickly build another of the special robots that was sent to the ISS and functions as a human torso...

 

Your = the possessive of you, as in, "Your name is Tom, right?" or "What is your name?"

 

You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

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Your = the possessive of you, as in, "Your name is Tom, right?" or "What is your name?"

 

You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

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post #12 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post

The 135th and final launch of the space shuttle was successful. When it lands 12 days from now, the program will be at an end.

Where do we go from here?

Another great gift from Obama deleting the program for good.
post #13 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by marvfox View Post

Another great gift from Obama deleting the program for good.

Like Final Cut Pro 7, the architecture was on its last legs. To continue with it would have handicapped the future. Of course, the current management isn't inspiring any confidence in winning the future, but to do anything beyond shuttle, the program has to be retired one way or the other.
post #14 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

Like Final Cut Pro 7, the architecture was on its last legs. To continue with it would have handicapped the future. Of course, the current management isn't inspiring any confidence in winning the future, but to do anything beyond shuttle, the program has to be retired one way or the other.

Agreed.

But they have no replacement plans for it ... well... none that "they" are admitting to, anyway.
The military has a newer vehicle that is capable of carrying people to orbit, but while it's common knowledge, "they" won't quite admit to it.

... And the retirement of the Space Shuttle was decided long before Obama took office... he just happens to be there when it happened. (Yes, he could have extended it, but as Shrike said, it has to be shut down before "they" will ever consider starting something new.) Much like the killing of OBL happened on Obama's watch, even though it was set in motion long before he took office.

Personally, I'd like to see the government(s) drop most of their regulations and prohibitions regarding "private" spaceflight and let private industry do their thing!... Maybe even get OSHA off their backs, as this kind of exploration is inherently risky and the pilots/astronauts know the risks before they ever sign up for it.
From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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post #15 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post

Agreed.

Yeah. Shuttle could have work better if it went through another 2 design cycles, but alas no. The vehicles were essentially the same as their original 1970s design. Some improvements in the SSME turbos here, change in SOFI formulation there, but the whole architecture from TPS robustness, servicing capability, engines, primary structure, etc, were substantially unchanged.

Another full 2 design cycles (a decade each) could have made it more airline-like, like in the original vision.

Quote:
But they have no replacement plans for it ... well... none that "they" are admitting to, anyway. The military has a newer vehicle that is capable of carrying people to orbit, but while it's common knowledge, "they" won't quite admit to it.

There are replacement plans. Two of them. CCDEV and MPCV/SLS. Like with FCPX, change is hard and there is a lot of disarray. I'm not saying that NASA is like Apple, as basically, no one is like Apple, and the disarray is worse.

Quote:
Personally, I'd like to see the government(s) drop most of their regulations and prohibitions regarding "private" spaceflight and let private industry do their thing!... Maybe even get OSHA off their backs, as this kind of exploration is inherently risky and the pilots/astronauts know the risks before they ever sign up for it.

There will be no such thing as private space flight as long as there is no profit motive or survival motive. It's only in science fiction where there is a linear or exponential progression of technological improvement like it is a manifest destiny.
post #16 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

There will be no such thing as private space flight as long as there is no profit motive or survival motive. It's only in science fiction where there is a linear or exponential progression of technological improvement like it is a manifest destiny.

See... I disagree with you there.
There are extremely wealthy people around (Sir Richard Branson and Paul Allen, just to name the two I'm familiar with) who are willing to throw money at this endeavor within private industry. They are willing to front the money just to see what develops. (Knowing full well that there will be patentable technologies that come from it, just not knowing WHAT those technologies will be.)
Those wealthy people also are willing to support really smart engineers (like Burt Rutan) who are passionate and willing to do the work, that in fact, devote ALL of their energy to that single mission.
From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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post #17 of 49
Thread Starter 
Yeah, Paul and Richard do believe in this kind of stuff and are more the willing to put a few bucks into it. It will be exciting to see what they come up with, and what comes out of it.

 

Your = the possessive of you, as in, "Your name is Tom, right?" or "What is your name?"

 

You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

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You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

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post #18 of 49
They haven't done anything yet.
post #19 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

They haven't done anything yet.

Who hasn't ?

Branson, Allen, and Rutan ??? ... They've put a re-useable vehicle into space twice already ... with a turnaround time of ONE WEEK. (With a total development and launch cost of less than that required to do a single Space Shuttle launch.)
From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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post #20 of 49
I want to go back to a moon, but this time I think we should go to Phobos. Landing on a moon orbiting Mars is significantly easier and cheaper than trying to land by entering the Martian atmosphere and than trying to launch off that planet with no pre-existing launch pad.
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post #21 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Commodification View Post

I want to go back to a moon, but this time I think we should go to Phobos. Landing on a moon orbiting Mars is significantly easier and cheaper than trying to land by entering the Martian atmosphere and than trying to launch off that planet with no pre-existing launch pad.

Wasn't too hard to launch from the Moon without a launchpad... Mars is only 1/2g as opposed to 1/6g, so the only difficulties to overcome are the symptoms of journey time (I think the new ion engines can cut that to two months each way) and sending enough fuel beforehand in an unmanned mission to launch the lander back to the ship left in orbit.

Originally Posted by asdasd

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post #22 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Wasn't too hard to launch from the Moon without a launchpad... Mars is only 1/2g as opposed to 1/6g, so the only difficulties to overcome are the symptoms of journey time (I think the new ion engines can cut that to two months each way) and sending enough fuel beforehand in an unmanned mission to launch the lander back to the ship left in orbit.

The difficult thing about Mars is the entering and exiting the atmosphere with it's massive wind/dust storms and etc . Moons are so much easier since you have little-to-no atmosphere to deal with.
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post #23 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

There will be no such thing as private space flight as long as there is no profit motive or survival motive. It's only in science fiction where there is a linear or exponential progression of technological improvement like it is a manifest destiny.

May I suggest having a look at the Virgin Galactic waiting list.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the world rich enough to finance a heck of a lot of suborbital and orbital flights... They would pay for a chance to be part of those flights either in person, or through sponsorships, technology licensing, etc. Once this is in play Mars would be the next logical playground of the rich... Forget buying islands, supercars and partying with models all night. That's old hat.

Throw in some international government co-operation and you could have the perfect storm for a new era of space exploration. Tell me China doesn't want a piece of the space action. The US, Europe and Russia still want to be involved. No individual government can bear the individual cost of the next era of space. Working together and working with the private sector and facilitating space tourism is the only logical way forward.

And yes, as a poster mentioned, there's no other way to put this. More people are going to have to die and bigger risks will have to be taken. Some colonists on Mars could return to earth but have to be wheelchair-bound or hooked up to assistive mechas like the Japanese are pioneering. Of course, they could (and should) always go back to Mars. Death and disability has and will remain the price of human endeavour... At least until we figure out how to backup our consciousness and re-implant them into cloned bodies.

The only thing where I would say humanity is behind the 8-ball is in terms of energy. We need way better mastery. Yes renewables are great for Earth use but for space and colonies on Mars and the moon, a significant leap in energy ability would deliver the propulsion and habitat management necessary to make things an order of magnitude more practical. 8 months to Mars is way too long, you spend too much resources into making the 8 months bearable and survivable.
post #24 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post

Grew up with Star Trek, then the development and first flight of the shuttle, and in high school I saw a conceptual image of a spinning spacecraft that looked like a huge bicycle wheel. Left an impression that lives on and I have found myself on the odd Sunday or so toying with the concept in Sketchup. It's fun and I've created a few whacky designs. It is fun to sit back and dream.

After the tsunami here in March, my Sunday time has been spent on earth looking into disaster response systems and recovery for Japan. One item that could be on the revolving spacecraft that also has use here would be an indoor farm. I'm looking at tower farming now, and how it could fit into Japanese society.

The use of water to block radiation lead me to wonder if they couldn't make a suit for the workers at the Daichi plant. The weight, however, would require motors to assist movement, but there are concepts for these already. Size would be another major factor; the plant was not designed for a large hard shell suit. Maybe they could quickly build another of the special robots that was sent to the ISS and functions as a human torso...

I had a revelation the other day. Star Trek and all that fired up our collective imagination. We see it today in an IT revolution no one could have dreamed of would take place so quickly. We see it in a lot of novel medical research that still has a long way to go to practical application but it's getting there.

I think between 2012 and 2100 will be more baby steps into the solar system and understanding how humans adapt in space. I think the energy revolution will truly happen, we are at the equivalent stage of when computers were "mechanical adding machines"... In terms of energy we haven't even gotten to the vacuum tube equivalent in computing.

Faster-than-light travel to other stars and so on may be possible should there be some breakthroughs in science that would define humanity's evolution into a spacefaring race. It could be 50 years off, or 500.

But once these breakthroughs happen, Star Wars and Star Trek and Aliens will all look quite antiquated... We think of needing "ships" to "travel"... That there will be "fleets" of these ships doing things like mining, trucking and so on. But once space and time can be bent at will it will be a real pandora's box. You may not need a ship. You could create portals to other dimensions. You may experience different space and time experiences through neural connections to probes. We could really travel to any part of the universe without moving.
post #25 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

May I suggest having a look at the Virgin Galactic waiting list.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the world rich enough to finance a heck of a lot of suborbital and orbital flights... They would pay for a chance to be part of those flights either in person, or through sponsorships, technology licensing, etc. Once this is in play Mars would be the next logical playground of the rich... Forget buying islands, supercars and partying with models all night. That's old hat.

Here's an analogy. Climbing Mt. Everest is dangerous to your health too. There are a lot of people who pay a handsome price to climb it, but I don't see anyone proposing to go live there or found a city there. The Arctic (Greenland) and Antarctic latitudes are dangerous places, there are stations in some places there, and even some cities that get close to those latitudes. There are people who pay a handsome price to make treks there. Yet, there isn't anyone forking over lots of money to build a society there.

Those places on Earth will orders of magnitude easier, safer and cheaper to build colonies there than in Earth orbit or the Moon. Yet, we as a society really don't do it. Their needs to be a profit motive and or a survival motive. These places will kill you for any little mistake and will take huge expenditures to live there.

Quote:
And yes, as a poster mentioned, there's no other way to put this. More people are going to have to die and bigger risks will have to be taken. Some colonists on Mars could return to earth but have to be wheelchair-bound or hooked up to assistive mechas like the Japanese are pioneering. Of course, they could (and should) always go back to Mars. Death and disability has and will remain the price of human endeavour... At least until we figure out how to backup our consciousness and re-implant them into cloned bodies.

Not worried about safety. The worrying thing are the costs and the motives. We're not at a point where life here on Earth is so bad that we as a society feel an urgent need to escape and live somewhere better. If or when we get to that point, it will take the wealth of nations (material resources, labor) to get an actual space colony.

Maybe there is a conglomerate of crazy billionaires that put 100+ billion into it, but that's a long shot.
post #26 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post

Branson, Allen, and Rutan ??? ... They've put a re-useable vehicle into space twice already ... with a turnaround time of ONE WEEK. (With a total development and launch cost of less than that required to do a single Space Shuttle launch.)

Like I said, they haven't done anything yet.

All they did was a high altitude Mach 3 jaunt. Since they got about 100 km or 60 miles altitude, one could say they were in space, but they were, and will be with Virgin Galactic, woefully short of actually being in orbit or even a suborbital trajectory. They were more than 8x short. To get into orbit, they need to get 8x faster. That's just to get to low earth Orbit.

As long as we're using thermochemical processes for propulsion, it's going to be expensive to get into orbit. An analogy would be like asking you to drive from Barrow, Alaska to Miami, Florida, all without refueling. You'd be driving a car where 95% of the mass of your car is fuel. 95%. (All Spaceship One did was drive to Fairbanks, Alaska.) If you want to go further, like say, Argentina, that fraction gets even bigger.
post #27 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Commodification View Post

The difficult thing about Mars is the entering and exiting the atmosphere with it's massive wind/dust storms and etc . Moons are so much easier since you have little-to-no atmosphere to deal with.

No, no, no. Atmospheric pressure on Mars is 170x less than it is on Earth (at mean surface levels). It is very very thin. Wind and dust mean nothing at those pressures. The bigger risk is that dust which may contaminate systems.

The difficult thing about Mars is orbit insertion and landing. For low mass payloads, less than 2000 lb, you could use parachutes, airbags, and stuff to slow down and land. This is for a mass that is about half as much as your typical SUV. If you're lucky to have a Lotus Elise, 2000 lb is about a Lotus Elise with a passenger. For larger masses, the problem is slowing down and landing.

The easiest is retro-propulsion. But that means you have to launch 2x the mass off Earth. There are other lower-mass techniques, but those are kind of stopgaps until we can afford to do retro-propulsion, as the stopgaps can't scale or are one-off applications.
post #28 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

Like I said, they haven't done anything yet.

... And then you went on to describe what they did... And it wasn't "nothing".
What they did was to prove that their concept works... They did the hard part. As you said, achieving orbit, now, is merely a matter of scaling up the engine. Ability to aunch and re-entry have been proven.
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post #29 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

No, no, no. Atmospheric pressure on Mars is 170x less than it is on Earth (at mean surface levels). It is very very thin. Wind and dust mean nothing at those pressures. The bigger risk is that dust which may contaminate systems.

The difficult thing about Mars is orbit insertion and landing. For low mass payloads, less than 2000 lb, you could use parachutes, airbags, and stuff to slow down and land. This is for a mass that is about half as much as your typical SUV. If you're lucky to have a Lotus Elise, 2000 lb is about a Lotus Elise with a passenger. For larger masses, the problem is slowing down and landing.

The easiest is retro-propulsion. But that means you have to launch 2x the mass off Earth. There are other lower-mass techniques, but those are kind of stopgaps until we can afford to do retro-propulsion, as the stopgaps can't scale or are one-off applications.

I think you would find the costs and risks of landing and launching on the Martian surface are significantly greater than doing the same thing on the Martian moon Phobos. While I want to see people on the surface of Mars one day, I would be more than happy if we landed on Phobos as a preliminary step towards that goal.
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post #30 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post

... And then you went on to describe what they did... And it wasn't "nothing".
What they did was to prove that their concept works... They did the hard part. As you said, achieving orbit, now, is merely a matter of scaling up the engine. Ability to aunch and re-entry have been proven.

You're not understanding. Achieving orbit will be 10x hardware than getting to Mach 3. Scaling up will be a problem. And launch and re-entry from orbital velocities will be totally different problems.
post #31 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Commodification View Post

I think you would find the costs and risks of landing and launching on the Martian surface are significantly greater than doing the same thing on the Martian moon Phobos. While I want to see people on the surface of Mars one day, I would be more than happy if we landed on Phobos as a preliminary step towards that goal.

Like I said, the problem with these beyond Earth-Moon system visits will always be slowing down. They are not much different and Phobos may be harder as you can aerobrake with Mars and save some mass. And Phobos' micro-G environment doesn't sound like a walk in the park to me.
post #32 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

You're not understanding. Achieving orbit will be 10x hardware than getting to Mach 3. Scaling up will be a problem. And launch and re-entry from orbital velocities will be totally different problems.

Yes, scaling up will HAVE it's problems (but it won't BE a problem)... they can be overcome. That's the whole point of experimental exploration.
And no, launch and re-entry from orbital velocities will NOT be "totally different" from what's already been demonstrated. Different, yes... but the differences are known now, and are planned for. It really is just a matter of scaling up. (And the costs that go with that.)
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post #33 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post

Yes, scaling up will HAVE it's problems (but it won't BE a problem)... they can be overcome. That's the whole point of experimental exploration.
And no, launch and re-entry from orbital velocities will NOT be "totally different" from what's already been demonstrated. Different, yes... but the differences are known now, and are planned for. It really is just a matter of scaling up. (And the costs that go with that.)

With the current design, I do not believe they will be able overcome issues with scaling it up to orbital velocities. The current design is a one-off specifically to get above 62 miles at as low a velocity as possible.

If they want to get into orbit, they will go with a different design.
post #34 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

With the current design, I do not believe they will be able overcome issues with scaling it up to orbital velocities. The current design is a one-off specifically to get above 62 miles at as low a velocity as possible.

If they want to get into orbit, they will go with a different design.

Different the way Apollo was different from Mercury. Same technology, just "scaled up".
Mercury was nothing more than proving runs to get ready for Apollo. In the same vein, Spaceship One and White Knight was never intended to be anything other than a proof of concept for the next iteration... but the net iteration will use the same technology pioneered by version 1.
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post #35 of 49
The future of space travel is in the hands of nuclear fusion, which is in the hands of nanotechnology. half a liter of heavy water can send 1000 tons into LEO. At this point, probably within 20 years of said technological breakthrough, sending chemical rockets up is just plain stupid, unless there's a succinct, commercial reason to do so. When you have an energy source like fusion, all of these silly problems of mass and aerodynamics melt away.
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post #36 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

Here's an analogy. Climbing Mt. Everest is dangerous to your health too. There are a lot of people who pay a handsome price to climb it, but I don't see anyone proposing to go live there or found a city there. The Arctic (Greenland) and Antarctic latitudes are dangerous places, there are stations in some places there, and even some cities that get close to those latitudes. There are people who pay a handsome price to make treks there. Yet, there isn't anyone forking over lots of money to build a society there.

Those places on Earth will orders of magnitude easier, safer and cheaper to build colonies there than in Earth orbit or the Moon. Yet, we as a society really don't do it. Their needs to be a profit motive and or a survival motive. These places will kill you for any little mistake and will take huge expenditures to live there.

Not worried about safety. The worrying thing are the costs and the motives. We're not at a point where life here on Earth is so bad that we as a society feel an urgent need to escape and live somewhere better. If or when we get to that point, it will take the wealth of nations (material resources, labor) to get an actual space colony.

Maybe there is a conglomerate of crazy billionaires that put 100+ billion into it, but that's a long shot.

Okay, if we don't focus so much on the habitation but just the adventure then you've agreed with me that there's a lot of rich crazy people that will pay handsomely for an adventure. Such as going into orbit... They don't have to stay too long, a few hours orbiting the earth and that's enough... Some might want to stay in the ISS or extremely rudimentary stations in the future. Same for Mars... Just like Everest you don't just walk up and come down... You camp out along the way. Anyone going to Mars will have to "camp out" on Mars for at least a month before coming back. Some may want to stay longer.

So, I reckon the profit motive in the "adventure, fame, ego and sponsorship" component of earth orbit, space station, and Mars travel is definitely there.

I would say in the next 100 years the travel to Mars and beyond is more important than colonisation. Colonisation requires a lot more technology than travel and temporary habitation for adventure and research. Mars colonisation certainly has to involve some level of terraforming or at least living in large biodomes initially, maybe powered by Martian resources. Definitely a long term thing. As for orbiting space stations, yeah, I wouldn't say it would be so great to live up there until we have space elevators and such.

Anyways I reckon if we can't have a manned mission to Mars under the equivalent of 100 billion of today's dollars in direct costs by 2050 "we're doing it wrong". 100 billion from private enterprise and governments is a piss in the lake compared to the cash pumped in to keep our failing global monetary system from collapsing.
post #37 of 49
When it comes to the government properly assessing it's budget on any of it's programs, one should consider that when the Space Shuttle was being sold to congress it was pitched that it would only cost 7 million dollars per launch. In reality, over the last 30 years (and when you factor in all associated costs) the Space Shuttle has cost nearly 1 billion per launch. So one can easily say that when it comes to space we have a problem of under budgeting.
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post #38 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post

Different the way Apollo was different from Mercury. Same technology, just "scaled up".
Mercury was nothing more than proving runs to get ready for Apollo. In the same vein, Spaceship One and White Knight was never intended to be anything other than a proof of concept for the next iteration... but the net iteration will use the same technology pioneered by version 1.

I doubt it. Virtually none of the composites that Scaled specializes in will be applicable for orbital flights. They'll have to move to aluminum construction for primary structure, probably cryogenic propellents (at least oxidizer) which means new main engine design, thermal protection design is always a problem and it will be a problem for this design, actual environmental systems have to be designed. The list just goes on and on.

Mercury's design was scalable. A horizontal launch & landing, two stage to orbit, reusable design like SS1 + White Knight? I'm thinking not.
post #39 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splinemodel View Post

The future of space travel is in the hands of nuclear fusion, which is in the hands of nanotechnology. half a liter of heavy water can send 1000 tons into LEO. At this point, probably within 20 years of said technological breakthrough, sending chemical rockets up is just plain stupid, unless there's a succinct, commercial reason to do so. When you have an energy source like fusion, all of these silly problems of mass and aerodynamics melt away.

But you still need to carry a "propellent". Thrust is provided by throwing stuff at high velocities out the back. Nuclear thermal propulsion just replaces the heat source from a chemical based one to a nuclear one. With nuclear, you're still pumping a fluid through the reactor, heating and pressurizing it up, than accelerating it through a nozzle. You could do it with nuclear fission today if the will is there.

Unless you are talking about fusion bombs... which we could do today too (I think).
post #40 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrike View Post

But you still need to carry a "propellent". Thrust is provided by throwing stuff at high velocities out the back.

You are mistaken. Thrust is provided by force being applied in equal and opposite directions. A fusion reaction creates a _force_. Expansion of gas in a chemical reaction is also a _force_, and the exhaust is really just a byproduct of the gas expansion. This is basic newtonian physics. Before you try to lodge further arguments on the matter, you should do some research & homework.

The idea of a fusion rocket is old enough, and thoroughly conceptualized, that it has manifested into basically all sci-fi. The only thing that is missing is the steady-state fusion.
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