Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

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Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby aardvark_admin » Mon Nov 06, 2017 7:23 am

This column is archived at: http://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2017/1106.shtml

How could scifi writers like Arthur C Clarke get it so wrong -- predicting manned bases on the moon (and further afield) but completely missing the meteoric rise in computer power and miniaturisation?

And, does the future of manned space exploration lie in the private sector rather than taxpayer-funded organisations such as NASA?

In what year (if ever) will man finally set foot on Mars do you think?
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby hagfish » Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:31 am

Right now, we have the technical capacity, the financial instruments, and the public support to push through and get the job done. The last time the western world had a Dark Age, it took 1000 years before the Renaissance kicked off. The difference this time is that there are hundreds of nuclear reactors dotted around the planet (power plants, ships, subs, research labs) and someone will have to keep them all cool for the foreseeable future. It's unlikely that the collapse will be very organised, in this regard, so there's not going to be another Renaissance in 1000 years time. If we want to get a foothold off-planet, it's now or never.

The trouble is, there's not much of a financial reason to go. Even if we could harvest Hydrogen3 from the Moon, fusion is still '10 years away'. There's already plenty of gold on Earth. Other than tourism and 'vouchsafing the future of humanity', it seems like a lot of bother, for very little shareholder return. If we ever colonise the stars, I think it will be our machines, not us.
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby par_annoyed » Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:47 am

Actually, I'm not convinced we really do have the capacity.

There are a few really hard things - Solar Wind (=radiation) is harmful to humans. The Moon missions only exposed people for a couple of weeks, but Mars missions would be months. There's lots of evidence now about how astronauts are now experiencing medical problems (eyes for example) due to extended [part] weightlessness, which means a Mars mission would need to provide a significant portion of Earth gravity. Food and waste and water and such mundane things get exponentially harder with time. The chances of a collision with something also climb with distance.

Nasa's missions were more about showing the ruskis than real science, which is a huge shame. Plus now we have come so far with electronics and such tech, we can send robots, which don't need gravity, air, water, etc, just power, which is [relatively] easy with solar energy all around (A solar wind harvester ? Who knows ?).

I think the idea of commercial off-world mining as a driver is quite credible, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's ALL robots.

I think Homo Sapiens is pretty much stuck right here - a powerful reason to sort out our mess at home. Chances are we won't be able to escape it.

Of course someone might make a stupendous breakthrough tomorrow, in wormholes, space-time, warp drives, teleportation, which would change the parameters forever.
Hell, I even like the idea of the 'space elevator" (can't remember who's idea that was... great idea if we can come up with something rigid enough. When I read that only diamond was strong/hard enough, but now perhaps some of the carbon fibres/nanotubes ?)

But right now, I think we're stuck here for the foreseeable future. No colonisation. [Sorry !]
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby GoGijoe » Mon Nov 06, 2017 10:40 am

there's a few asteroids out there that have more platinum and other precious metals than our planet contains, personally these are the kinds of things id be aiming to get to space to grab.
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby Muscular Jam » Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:17 pm

aardvark_admin wrote:How could scifi writers like Arthur C Clarke get it so wrong
Because they extrapolate from what they know, so the future is a better, stronger, miniaturised version of the present. They don't know about disruptive technologies that hadn't been invented. Carl Sagan once suggested if you asked a society that used runners and drums about the future of communications they would predict very fast runners and very large drums, even though they were surrounded by invisible radio waves. Likewise Konstantin Tsiolkovsky came up with the idea of a space elevator in 1895 by extrapolating from the Eiffel Tower.

How could we build a sustainable lunar base when we haven't even figured out how to live sustainably on earth?
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby phill » Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:53 pm

Muscular Jam wrote:
How could we build a sustainable lunar base when we haven't even figured out how to live sustainably on earth?


we have figured it out

its just not cost effective
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby phord » Mon Nov 06, 2017 1:29 pm

I find this amusing, NASA's vision of Space Shuttle ground processing in the 1970s versus the actual Space Shuttle ground processing:

SpaceShuttleGroundProcessingVision.jpg


SpaceShuttleGroundProcessingActual.jpg


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Space_Shuttle_program
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby roygbiv » Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:01 pm

Muscular Jam wrote:How could we build a sustainable lunar base when we haven't even figured out how to live sustainably on earth?


Whilst technology is advancing there is a major stumbling block of sustaining life outside and independent of earth ie. without earths resupply. Check out the history of Biosphere 2. Do we really want to spend time money, resource and effort in order to allow a select few live away from the blue planet. The consensus in recent times is that we must not take our planet for granted and reduce the man made factors of climate change. I hope that we do not put much effort into populating the solar system (and beyond) until we have sorted out this issue.
The most economic way of scientific research on other planets is use of robots and not manned travel. I think Arthur C Clarkes vision of space travel is not in the near but the very very distant future still.
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby phill » Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:07 pm

phord wrote:I find this amusing, NASA's vision of Space Shuttle ground processing in the 1970s versus the actual Space Shuttle ground processing:

SpaceShuttleGroundProcessingVision.jpg


SpaceShuttleGroundProcessingActual.jpg


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Space_Shuttle_program


OHS



The consensus in recent times is that we must not take our planet for granted and reduce the man made factors of climate change. I hope that we do not put much effort into populating the solar system (and beyond) until we have sorted out this issue.


i keep getting visions of the future us saying .. oh we would have had enough but they used it up and threw it away in the early 2000s
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Re: Space travel is hard (6 Nov, 2017)

Postby Kiwiiano » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:57 am

phill wrote:
Muscular Jam wrote:How could we build a sustainable lunar base when we haven't even figured out how to live sustainably on earth?

we have figured it out
its just not cost effective

Only because we repeatedly fail to factor in the long-term costs of NOT living sustainably.

On the space travel theme, another spanner was dropped into the works last week with a report from a team studying long-term weightlessness. The future astronauts will have to cope with severe brain damage due to the way the body deals with gravity. The report noted that the test subjects' brains were forced up the the top of their skulls, compressing important areas of their grey matter. Prevention will require space ships with artificial gravity, a la 2001 Space Odyssey playing merry hell with any budget.
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