Space, the final frontier...

Posted:
in AppleOutsider edited January 2014
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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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 48
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 48
    jupiteronejupiterone Posts: 1,564member
    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.

  • Reply 4 of 48
    nvidia2008nvidia2008 Posts: 9,262member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 48
    sammi josammi jo Posts: 4,634member
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 48
    jimmacjimmac Posts: 11,898member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 48
    bergermeisterbergermeister Posts: 6,784member
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 48
    shrikeshrike Posts: 494member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 48
    jimmacjimmac Posts: 11,898member
    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, I?m sure that partial G will be better than microG. We just don?t know what level is required for optimal health. It may be that if you?re on the Moon you?re somewhat better and if you?re on Mars you?re even better, but you really need to be on the Earth to be perfectly healthy. And that?s one of the other things we?re trying to explore with the worms ? the adaptation over multiple generations to microgravity.



    Quote:

    AM: In Kim Stanley Robinson?s books about the human colonization of Mars, he talks about how humans adapted to the lower G there wouldn?t be able to come back to Earth.



    CC: That could happen if you have enough generations of reproduction and if you?re not adaptable enough. Humans can survive at 3 Gs. There?s about that much difference between Mars gravity and Earth gravity -- it?s only a relatively small fraction of one G. That suggests that even if you?re living on Mars for multiple generations, you could adapt to come back to Earth. It might be difficult, but it?s not going to take generations to adapt back, there probably will be some physiological adaptation but it?s 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.



  • Reply 10 of 48
    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...
  • Reply 11 of 48
    marvfoxmarvfox Posts: 2,275member
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 48
    shrikeshrike Posts: 494member
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 48
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 48
    shrikeshrike Posts: 494member
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 48
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 48
    bergermeisterbergermeister Posts: 6,784member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 48
    shrikeshrike Posts: 494member
    They haven't done anything yet.
  • Reply 18 of 48
    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.)
  • Reply 19 of 48
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 48
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    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.
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