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Space Exploration! [to boldly go]

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Posts

  • ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    [Tycho?] wrote: »
    Yeah, that was my only problem with the series. Even if they had the robots to build robots, they'd need a ton of energy to do it, and Mars is kinda lacking in that regard.

    That's why they brought nuclear reactors with them. Mostly upgraded Rickovers. I think most of the other common stuff ate hydrazine at first and high-molar hydrogen peroxide later.
    MKR wrote: »
    Because the window for hitting Mars' orbit is very narrow and infrequent.

    Actually, you can go any time you want, you just have to take an appropriate transfer orbit. For a Hohmann transfer, though, I think the period between launch opportunities is about 700 days, which honestly isn't so bad.

  • ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    Why should we devote any time and money to the space program?

    Because having a frontier has always advanced us as a species and space is the next place to go.

  • NoneoftheaboveNoneoftheabove Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    If it hasn't already been mentioned in so many different ways, I think it is still worth bringing up again -
    Technological discoveries intended for space development may open entirely unexpected avenues that progress our culture and understanding as a species. It isn't just about building the better space rocket/telescope/robot probe, etc. There are benefits to all science and humanity in funding a space program like NASA.

  • SkutSkutSkutSkut Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    go back about a century and a half and replace "space shuttle" with "airplane" and probe with "hot air balloon" and space with "sky", pretty much the same thing.

  • Premier kakosPremier kakos Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited July 2009
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    Edit: There's no such thing as "first...."

    It just doesn't happen. You don't ever get to the point when you can say with certainty "ahhh, done!" Making life on Earth "good" is too fractal a problem.

    Why should we devote any time and money to the space program? The only possible benefit I can think of that would be worth it is so we'd be able to evacuate Earth once the Sun's getting ready to go out, and it's entirely likely that something else would have caused humanity to go extinct by then.

    picard_facepalm.jpg

    That has never been more apropos.

    Anyway, if you can't see the value of exploration, then you are truly and utterly daft. Do you know much shit you use every day came out of our space program? Also, it should be pointed out that the Earth only has a finite amount of area. We are eventually going to outgrow it.

    Anyway, I feel like a quote from West Wing sums up my points nicely.
    That's because great achievement has no road map. The X-Ray is pretty good, and so is penicillin, and neither were discovered with a practical objective in mind. And when the electron was discovered in 1897, it was useless and now was have an entire world run by electronics. Hayden and Mozart never studied the classics. They couldn't. They invented them.

    SuperKawaiiWillSig.jpg
  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    SkutSkut wrote: »
    go back about a century and a half and replace "space shuttle" with "airplane" and probe with "hot air balloon" and space with "sky", pretty much the same thing.

    also replace "traveling to habitable lands filled with friendly people and precious resources" to "a merciless wasteland with nothing of value".

  • CycloneRangerCycloneRanger Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    Edit: There's no such thing as "first...."

    It just doesn't happen. You don't ever get to the point when you can say with certainty "ahhh, done!" Making life on Earth "good" is too fractal a problem.

    Why should we devote any time and money to the space program? The only possible benefit I can think of that would be worth it is so we'd be able to evacuate Earth once the Sun's getting ready to go out, and it's entirely likely that something else would have caused humanity to go extinct by then.
    I know, right? Everything of value in the universe exists here on Earth. Just as everything of any use once existed in the Old World, or in China, or in the African rift valley any of those other places were colonized. What benefit could exploring the unknown possibly bring us?

    Have you really never looked up at the sky and wondered what else might be out there? Or even looked at a distant mountain and wondered what was on the other side? Part of space exploration is about economics (and it has given us commercial satellites, the GPS system, etc.), and part of it is about pure discovery and science. If you just don't put any value on the latter, no argument we make will be able to convince you, except maybe one:

    We have the opportunity in the near future to create nothing short of an entirely new branch of human civilization, with all the economic development, social and political progress, and scientific discovery inherent in that classification. Mars contains all the materials and resources necessary to sustain a civilization, and although it is foreign and dangerous to us today, so did the whole of the Earth at one time. Humanity is not itself native to the Earth—only to a very small, tropical corner of Africa. Everything else was an inhospitable wasteland at one point. We had to invent new technology just to be able to survive in these lands—things like clothing and improved hunting tools. The old ways of life were no longer effective, either, and new languages and, in time, forms of government arose.

    In the short term, the benefits of space exploration are knowledge, scientific advancement, inspiration of the people, and the occasional technology invented through space exploration that wouldn't have been invented without it. In the long term, the benefits are exactly those that have come from any other major human civilization—from Europe to Asia to the Americas. This is doubly important as things begin to stagnate politically and socially here on Earth. America was once called the "great experiment"—a place where people could go and start over, without the entrenched social gentry of Europe, with a bold new vision for government, and one that much of the world would eventually embrace. There are few opportunities left on Earth to do this anymore—but there are plenty outside our planet.

    Really, I think the arguments about settling space to defeat potential terrestrial catastrophes are red herrings. Yes, eventually we will have to leave Earth or die here with it, but the timescales involved are so enormous there's hardly much impetus to do anything now. It's the scientific, social, and long-term economic reasons that I find persuasive—in addition to the fundamental need to know just what might really be out there.

    MWO User Name: Gorn Arming
    StarCraft II User Name: DeadMenRise
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    SkutSkut wrote: »
    go back about a century and a half and replace "space shuttle" with "airplane" and probe with "hot air balloon" and space with "sky", pretty much the same thing.

    also replace "traveling to habitable lands filled with friendly people and precious resources" to "a merciless wasteland with nothing of value".

    :lol: Yeah, right.

    Tourism at the very least. There are also potential resources on other worlds.

  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Couscous wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    SkutSkut wrote: »
    go back about a century and a half and replace "space shuttle" with "airplane" and probe with "hot air balloon" and space with "sky", pretty much the same thing.

    also replace "traveling to habitable lands filled with friendly people and precious resources" to "a merciless wasteland with nothing of value".

    :lol: Yeah, right.
    what are you laughing at? When Charles Lindburgh flew across the Atlantic for the first time, the people there were pretty damn friendly. Hell, even the natives in the New World were friendly until we started killing them. There's no one like that on mars to help you out.

  • CycloneRangerCycloneRanger Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Couscous wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    SkutSkut wrote: »
    go back about a century and a half and replace "space shuttle" with "airplane" and probe with "hot air balloon" and space with "sky", pretty much the same thing.

    also replace "traveling to habitable lands filled with friendly people and precious resources" to "a merciless wasteland with nothing of value".

    :lol: Yeah, right.

    Tourism at the very least. There are also potential resources on other worlds.
    Not to mention that the old "there is nothing of value outside [where we live]" canard has been used to discourage exploration of every frontier since the beginning of civilization itself, and has been wrong each and every time. It's an almost hilariously stereotypical response, historically speaking. Half the US was sold to Jefferson for a pittance because France thought it worthless at the time. The Mings doomed the Chinese to be discovered and controlled by colonial trading powers, despite their significant advantage in naval technology and their far greater maritime expertise compared to contemporary Europeans, because they declared that nothing of value exists outside China. The Chinese explorers' fleets were burned, and many years later Europe caught up to China and forced it to trade with them on their terms.

    On the contrary, we have every reason to believe that space holds resources far in excess of those available on Earth. The asteroid belt contains far greater quantities of metallic elements (including rare metals such as platinum) than are accessible on Earth, and in quantities and purities that would make any Terran miner faint. Mars itself is thought to be similarly endowed to the Earth with respect to mineral resources (we know it's swimming in iron), and samples indicate it has all the elements necessary to support life, so raising crops will be possible (in a pressurized greenhouse). Water, too, is known to exist on Mars and makes up the majority of most cometary bodies.

    MWO User Name: Gorn Arming
    StarCraft II User Name: DeadMenRise
  • The_ScarabThe_Scarab Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Plus, when we strip mine Mars and pollute the atmosphere beyond repair, it'll be harder to notice, cause it's already a dead, lifeless wasteland.

    scarab you have mental problems
  • redxredx East Bumblefuck, PARegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    hey, if we pollute the atmosphere enough we will be able to save a lot of money on heating and pressurization, and you'll be able to walk outside with just a breather. It would make the potential for sand storms worse, I suppose.

    All I've got is a snuggle hammer.
  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    The_Scarab wrote: »
    Plus, when we strip mine Mars and pollute the atmosphere beyond repair, it'll be harder to notice, cause it's already a dead, lifeless wasteland.

    Nobody will complain about global warming on Mars.

  • AbbalahAbbalah Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    tbloxham wrote: »
    [Tycho?] wrote: »
    It's been said before, but unmanned missions generally don't capture the public's imagination, whereas look at what we have right now looking back at the Apollo program and the first moon landings. Our parent's generation grew up remembering that moment, and I think it'd be safe to say it inspired a generation.

    Unmanned missions don't do that.

    So? I think its far more important to focus on missions that actually accomplish something, instead of trying to compete with whatever is on TV at the time. The Simpsons episode covered this pretty darn well; if your basing your space missions on TV ratings you're not going to accomplish a whole lot.

    My response to this is that if we truly believe that all that matters is efficiency, then we need to pick a 20 year timescale unmanned mission which is truly epic and do that instead. As has been suggested, MRO s around EVERY major object in the solar system. A satellite assembly and repair platform in earth orbit capable of producing its own fuel. The problem is that we say "Oh, unmanned missions are more efficient" and then hugely underfund them anyway.

    While I'd prefer to send a human to mars, I'd be pretty inspired if we could build a self managing base there which could produce, maintain and refuel Rovers under control from earth.

    This is pretty much exactly the kind of thing I'd like to see, yes.

  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Couscous wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    SkutSkut wrote: »
    go back about a century and a half and replace "space shuttle" with "airplane" and probe with "hot air balloon" and space with "sky", pretty much the same thing.

    also replace "traveling to habitable lands filled with friendly people and precious resources" to "a merciless wasteland with nothing of value".

    :lol: Yeah, right.

    Tourism at the very least. There are also potential resources on other worlds.
    Not to mention that the old "there is nothing of value outside [where we live]" canard has been used to discourage exploration of every frontier since the beginning of civilization itself, and has been wrong each and every time. It's an almost hilariously stereotypical response, historically speaking. Half the US was sold to Jefferson for a pittance because France thought it worthless at the time. The Mings doomed the Chinese to be discovered and controlled by colonial trading powers, despite their significant advantage in naval technology and their far greater maritime expertise compared to contemporary Europeans, because they declared that nothing of value exists outside China. The Chinese explorers' fleets were burned, and many years later Europe caught up to China and forced it to trade with them on their terms.

    On the contrary, we have every reason to believe that space holds resources far in excess of those available on Earth. The asteroid belt contains far greater quantities of metallic elements (including rare metals such as platinum) than are accessible on Earth, and in quantities and purities that would make any Terran miner faint. Mars itself is thought to be similarly endowed to the Earth with respect to mineral resources (we know it's swimming in iron), and samples indicate it has all the elements necessary to support life, so raising crops will be possible (in a pressurized greenhouse). Water, too, is known to exist on Mars and makes up the majority of most cometary bodies.

    By your logic we should also try and set up colonies on Antarctica, the bottom of the ocean, the peak of Mt. Everest, and the Sahara desert. Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars. And we might actually have a chance at bringing back whatever resources we find there- good luck bringing back a cargo of metal when it costs a million dollars a pound to get something into orbit. And it's not like we're really running short on metal, anyway.

  • ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

    Nobody LIVES in those places. We've had small groups of people stay there for short periods of time. We have to ship in all the resources they need to live there, at very high cost, and they've never given us anything of value except inspiring stories and some very esoteric scientific research.

  • saggiosaggio Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

    Nobody LIVES in those places. We've had small groups of people stay there for short periods of time. We have to ship in all the resources they need to live there, at very high cost, and they've never given us anything of value except inspiring stories and some very esoteric scientific research.

    You do know that colonies generally take ~150 years to become viable/self-sustaining, and that many do not even reach that point, right?

    3DS: 0232-9436-6893
  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

    Nobody LIVES in those places. We've had small groups of people stay there for short periods of time. We have to ship in all the resources they need to live there, at very high cost, and they've never given us anything of value except inspiring stories and some very esoteric scientific research.

    You do know that colonies generally take ~150 years to become viable/self-sustaining, and that many do not even reach that point, right?
    I wasn't aware that there was a commonly agreed upon timetable for how long it'll take for a mars colony to be set up. How long will it be before a research base in Antarctica becomes self-supporting?

  • evilbobevilbob Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

    Nobody LIVES in those places. We've had small groups of people stay there for short periods of time. We have to ship in all the resources they need to live there, at very high cost, and they've never given us anything of value except inspiring stories and some very esoteric scientific research.

    You do know that colonies generally take ~150 years to become viable/self-sustaining, and that many do not even reach that point, right?
    I wasn't aware that there was a commonly agreed upon timetable for how long it'll take for a mars colony to be set up. How long will it be before a research base in Antarctica becomes self-supporting?
    Probably never because there's no real point in making one self-supporting.

    evilbob wrote: »
    How pretty am I?
    Geth roll 1d10
    Geth wrote: »
    /me rolls 1d10 -> 10 (sum:10)
  • saggiosaggio Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

    Nobody LIVES in those places. We've had small groups of people stay there for short periods of time. We have to ship in all the resources they need to live there, at very high cost, and they've never given us anything of value except inspiring stories and some very esoteric scientific research.

    You do know that colonies generally take ~150 years to become viable/self-sustaining, and that many do not even reach that point, right?
    I wasn't aware that there was a commonly agreed upon timetable for how long it'll take for a mars colony to be set up. How long will it be before a research base in Antarctica becomes self-supporting?

    I'm talking about historically. It took that long for most colonies in North America to become viable.

    3DS: 0232-9436-6893
  • Darkchampion3dDarkchampion3d Registered User
    edited July 2009
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

    Nobody LIVES in those places. We've had small groups of people stay there for short periods of time. We have to ship in all the resources they need to live there, at very high cost, and they've never given us anything of value except inspiring stories and some very esoteric scientific research.

    You do know that colonies generally take ~150 years to become viable/self-sustaining, and that many do not even reach that point, right?
    I wasn't aware that there was a commonly agreed upon timetable for how long it'll take for a mars colony to be set up. How long will it be before a research base in Antarctica becomes self-supporting?

    I'm talking about historically. It took that long for most colonies in North America to become viable.

    North America is also naturally very habitable. Not so for antarctica, and especially not for a place like Mars. Consider that compared to Mars, Antarctica is basically eden, but you don't see a thriving nation or colony there do you?

    Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence --Thomas Jefferson
  • Salvation122Salvation122 Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    And we might actually have a chance at bringing back whatever resources we find there- good luck bringing back a cargo of metal when it costs a million dollars a pound to get something into orbit.
    Launch costs on the Mars-Earth leg of the trip would be much, much, much lower - roughly 30% of the Earth-Mars trip. Lower gravity + lower pressure = less fuel needed to make orbit.

    And I'd point out that there are metals we're in relatively short supply of. A while ago Cat posted an article about some rare element used in virtually all modern communications equipment, found and mined primarily in Africa with predictable consequences. If Mars ended up being teeming in - we'll call it Selenium, but that may be wrong - and we could get launch costs under control (which we already have the tech for - ALP is some seriously awesome shit, as is nuclear rocketry) then people would be less likely to get limbs hacked off over it.

    sig.png
  • KhavallKhavall Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Couscous wrote: »
    The_Scarab wrote: »
    Plus, when we strip mine Mars and pollute the atmosphere beyond repair, it'll be harder to notice, cause it's already a dead, lifeless wasteland.

    Nobody will complain about global warming on Mars.

    THE ICE CAPS WILL....


    Oh.




    right.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    And we might actually have a chance at bringing back whatever resources we find there- good luck bringing back a cargo of metal when it costs a million dollars a pound to get something into orbit.
    Launch costs on the Mars-Earth leg of the trip would be much, much, much lower - roughly 30% of the Earth-Mars trip. Lower gravity + lower pressure = less fuel needed to make orbit.

    And I'd point out that there are metals we're in relatively short supply of. A while ago Cat posted an article about some rare element used in virtually all modern communications equipment, found and mined primarily in Africa with predictable consequences. If Mars ended up being teeming in - we'll call it Selenium, but that may be wrong - and we could get launch costs under control (which we already have the tech for - ALP is some seriously awesome shit, as is nuclear rocketry) then people would be less likely to get limbs hacked off over it.
    Coltan. Provides cobalt and tantalum - tantalum capacitors are used in all modern high performance computers and gaming consoles. PS3's and XBox 360's have shot the price through the roof so now militia groups fight each other over them.

    There's a whole list of stuff likely to head this way if electronics consumerism continues the same trend - stuff like gallium, ruthenium, rubidenum - just off the top of my head (coz we use the last two in chemistry all the time). Anything beyond the first row of transition metals I think is somewhat endangered in the near future - 10-15 years or so.

    There are predictions we might run out of gold by 2040, and that we do use for everything.

    In fact the more I think about this aspect, the more I start to think it's damn fucking important we scan a bunch of celestial bodies and figure out which ones have these things, because it really might become viable to drop robots onto them to scrape some stuff out and send it back...within our lifetimes. And that's kind of a scary thought.

    EDIT: Article on the gallium thing here.

  • Curly_BraceCurly_Brace Unsilent Protagonist Egg Corridor?Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    L|ama wrote: »
    lg_earthrise_apollo8.gif

    Thank you for the perspective. I'd call that pretty damn significant and worth it.

    tQCnY.giftom_sig2.jpg
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

    Nobody LIVES in those places. We've had small groups of people stay there for short periods of time. We have to ship in all the resources they need to live there, at very high cost, and they've never given us anything of value except inspiring stories and some very esoteric scientific research.

    You do know that colonies generally take ~150 years to become viable/self-sustaining, and that many do not even reach that point, right?
    I wasn't aware that there was a commonly agreed upon timetable for how long it'll take for a mars colony to be set up. How long will it be before a research base in Antarctica becomes self-supporting?

    I'm talking about historically. It took that long for most colonies in North America to become viable.

    North America is also naturally very habitable. Not so for antarctica, and especially not for a place like Mars. Consider that compared to Mars, Antarctica is basically eden, but you don't see a thriving nation or colony there do you?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Treaty_System

  • Darkchampion3dDarkchampion3d Registered User
    edited July 2009
    MKR wrote: »
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    saggio wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Except, all those places would be much easier to live on than mars.

    That's the goddamn problem! WE'VE DONE THOSE. Mars is next, and it's harder, and once we can do that we can do EVEN HARDER THINGS.

    Step aside!

    Nobody LIVES in those places. We've had small groups of people stay there for short periods of time. We have to ship in all the resources they need to live there, at very high cost, and they've never given us anything of value except inspiring stories and some very esoteric scientific research.

    You do know that colonies generally take ~150 years to become viable/self-sustaining, and that many do not even reach that point, right?
    I wasn't aware that there was a commonly agreed upon timetable for how long it'll take for a mars colony to be set up. How long will it be before a research base in Antarctica becomes self-supporting?

    I'm talking about historically. It took that long for most colonies in North America to become viable.

    North America is also naturally very habitable. Not so for antarctica, and especially not for a place like Mars. Consider that compared to Mars, Antarctica is basically eden, but you don't see a thriving nation or colony there do you?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Treaty_System

    That hardly counts as a thriving nation or colony (few hundred researchers and a few thousand tourists during the less hostile months). The Antarctic Treaty System simply states that it's neutral ground, which is fine right now because at this point no one really gives too much of a shit about it. I expect that will change when people start harvesting resources there though.

    Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence --Thomas Jefferson
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited July 2009

    That hardly counts as a thriving nation or colony (few hundred researchers and a few thousand tourists during the less hostile months). The Antarctic Treaty System simply states that it's neutral ground, which is fine right now because at this point no one really gives too much of a shit about it. I expect that will change when people start harvesting resources there though.

    They can't.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protocol_on_Environmental_Protection_to_the_Antarctic_Treaty (linked on the other wiki)
    Article 7 states that "Any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research, shall be prohibited." This provision contrasts with the rejected Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities, which would have allowed mining under the control and taxation of an international managing body similar to the International Seabed Authority.

  • tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    And we might actually have a chance at bringing back whatever resources we find there- good luck bringing back a cargo of metal when it costs a million dollars a pound to get something into orbit.
    Launch costs on the Mars-Earth leg of the trip would be much, much, much lower - roughly 30% of the Earth-Mars trip. Lower gravity + lower pressure = less fuel needed to make orbit.

    And I'd point out that there are metals we're in relatively short supply of. A while ago Cat posted an article about some rare element used in virtually all modern communications equipment, found and mined primarily in Africa with predictable consequences. If Mars ended up being teeming in - we'll call it Selenium, but that may be wrong - and we could get launch costs under control (which we already have the tech for - ALP is some seriously awesome shit, as is nuclear rocketry) then people would be less likely to get limbs hacked off over it.
    Coltan. Provides cobalt and tantalum - tantalum capacitors are used in all modern high performance computers and gaming consoles. PS3's and XBox 360's have shot the price through the roof so now militia groups fight each other over them.

    There's a whole list of stuff likely to head this way if electronics consumerism continues the same trend - stuff like gallium, ruthenium, rubidenum - just off the top of my head (coz we use the last two in chemistry all the time). Anything beyond the first row of transition metals I think is somewhat endangered in the near future - 10-15 years or so.

    There are predictions we might run out of gold by 2040, and that we do use for everything.

    In fact the more I think about this aspect, the more I start to think it's damn fucking important we scan a bunch of celestial bodies and figure out which ones have these things, because it really might become viable to drop robots onto them to scrape some stuff out and send it back...within our lifetimes. And that's kind of a scary thought.

    EDIT: Article on the gallium thing here.

    Well, that articles a bit misleading. it's not that there will be none of these elements left, it's just that they will all already be busy doing other things. It means if you want to build new computer, you'll need to go get an old one, get all the copper wire and other elements of use out, repurify them and then use them to make the new computer. This will make doing things much more expensive in terms of cash and energy.

    The solar system is stuffed to the brim with resources. Back in the day on earth opening a mine meant simply opening a hole in the ground and digging up lumps of the pure element. On Mars and the asteroids, it will still be like that. Theres probably a billion times as much available useful material in the asteroid belt as there is on earth, since here we can only go maybe a mile or two down in search of material.

    Ion drive spaceships buzzing around the asteroid belt, fueling themselves on hydrogen they find, and grinding up asteroids for earth orbit return would be an incredible boon, possible within our lifetimes. People could live and work outside earth orbit. People against the space program are staring at a mountain of gold, behind a low picket fence, with a stepladder by their side and saying "Hmm, I don't know, looks a bit tricky. What if the stepladder doesn't work"

    Your puny weapons are useless against me
  • His CorkinessHis Corkiness Registered User
    edited July 2009
    I'm really looking forward to when launch costs are low enough to make Near-Earth Asteroid mining profitable.

  • SpindizzySpindizzy Registered User
    edited July 2009
    I'd like to prpose the idea of the space lift...An asteroid anchored in earth's orbit and a glorified elevator would allow the construction and launching of space fairing craft so much easier. The current issue is that we don't have the materials possible to construct a cable strong enough to support its own weight but the principle is understood so its only a matter of time before the solution is fixed. A space elevator would drastically reduce costs and all the mining of asteroids for their metals and allow mars to be much more easily colonised.

    Also an interesting idea that I did read regarding the return of metals from a mined asteroid is to melt them down then let them cool but like you would a sponge massivly increasing its surface area and theoretically allowing it to float. These floaters could be pushed into earths atmosphere and then dropped into the ocean for retreival and use.

    Could the space race be seen as a glorified economics and technology problem? Computers, communications technology has improved expodentially due to the strength of market forces and pressures, if we were to open up the space race once the infrastructure is there, the weight of people trying to do things because they are competing with others will surely make things zip along...

  • [Tycho?][Tycho?] Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Space elevators are a pretty big open question, I'm not yet convinced that they will be possible any time soon. Carbon nanotubes and other structures are theoretically strong enough, but building a cable of them over 30 000km long is quite another story. If they turn out to be viable it would truly revolutionize space travel; rockets are fundamentally dangerous making accidents unavoidable. A space elevator is a lot more stable and likely safer in the long run.

    edit: I thought geosynchronous orbit was over 100 000km above the earth. It isn't.

    ragesig.jpg

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Ah, I would like to make a commentary on space elevators (depression ahead):

    Carbon nanotubes definitely a theoretically strong enough. But - all the measurements of carbon nanotubes are done on items a micron long. We need a single nanotube (more like a bundle) that's a little under 36,000km long. Ok - so, difficult, but we might be able to make it right?

    Well, second problem: that nanotube, has to be absolutely perfect - every single atom needs to be properly ordered as nanotubular graphene. Essentially if you have just 1 atomic defect, you can lose up to 30% of the tensile strength of the tube. So we're not talking about an atomically perfect molecule, ~36,000 km long.

    Can it be done? Well, I'd still say maybe but we need a bunch of advancements to make it work. Either we need to under-load the nanotubes by a fair degree, or we need a way to do in-situ repair on their atomic structure (which might be possible). Currently, growing the longer nanotubes that can be turned into fiber and thread is proving problematic - the CSIRO project doing this has been very disappointed (it's high performance, but with 10x less tensile strength then Kevlar).

  • SpindizzySpindizzy Registered User
    edited July 2009
    The question is do we have another viable means of making space travel cost effective? If the required number of journeys to space to make a moon base or even a colony on mars being much larger due to scale than anything we have attempted before the problem is surely one of engineering and logistics.

    If we can make transit cheap enough and impliment a world system that every nation with the resources to fund their space projects wishes to do it will at least get the ball rolling. An example from history would be that the major colonization projects in our time have been most succesful when based around multiple countries competing.

    I think a spacelift/elevator whatever unless we develop a new type of power (fusion, ion boosters) etc it will be hard to make sustainable progress and infrastructure in these endeavours.

    The Japanese are plowing alot of money right now into the idea of a spacelift and are trying out alot of nanotube tech, it may not be too far away.

  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    tbloxham wrote: »
    Ion drive spaceships buzzing around the asteroid belt, fueling themselves on hydrogen they find, and grinding up asteroids for earth orbit return would be an incredible boon, possible within our lifetimes. People could live and work outside earth orbit. People against the space program are staring at a mountain of gold, behind a low picket fence, with a stepladder by their side and saying "Hmm, I don't know, looks a bit tricky. What if the stepladder doesn't work"

    And meanwhile, while we're waiting for that, we can still enjoy taking our flying cars to our houses on the moon. I'm glad that people are able to predict future technology so accurately.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    My money would be on nuclear rockets before space elevators.

    Or as a comparison case: the longest nanotube last I checked was about 4cm. And like I said: we need these to be atomically perfect, which means we need the technology to refine them somehow to this structure (I believe, this will eventually be possible, since we do something quite similar with silicon for the semiconductor industry [in terms of perfection - the exact process would need to be different). No one presently has any practical ideas of how to do this (everyone has an idea of how they'd like to do it).

    We need a nanotube 36,000 km long.

    I'd say it's presently a dead heat between fusion and nanotubes, and mostly because greenpeace has killed the chances of anything fission powered ever lifting off from Earth (god I wish the Russians would do it).

  • SpindizzySpindizzy Registered User
    edited July 2009
    To be honest as a non scientist I appreciate the concept behind nanotubes much easier than trying to 'get' fussion (or even cold fusion) explained to me. But both seem the next best thing as far as ways to make geting into space reasonable.

    Unless something changes technology wise I think the dominance of the US may prevent any real progress being made.

  • Grid SystemGrid System Registered User
    edited July 2009
    We need a nanotube 36,000 km long.
    Why does it have to be a single, long tube? Why can't it be a bunch of shorter, interlocking tubes or something?

    I'm sure there's a reason, I just don't know what it is.

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