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Space Travel, 10/04/1957 - 10/04/2017


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October 4, 2017 is the 60th anniversary of the Space Age.  (I use the launch of Sputnik as the official beginning.)  Despite all the excitement over the last 60 years about space travel and the glittering, futuristic space age that we're now supposed to be living in, there have only been a handful of the human race who have ever slipped the surly bonds of Earth  (I was told about 600).  We don't have a permanent colony on or under the surface of the Moon.  We haven't had any non-robotic missions to anywhere other than the Moon (manned, that is), including Mars which was supposed to be the next logical step after the Moon in space exploration.  True, we have a space station but there's how many people on there at any given time? Half a dozen at most?

I realize what we ran into is the colossal cost of space travel, and--despite its novelty at the time of its invention--the limits and inefficiency of chemical rockets.  You can only send a handful of people up at once, and the cost is in the millions.  Add to that the fact you need special training to go into space.

So, keeping that in mind, what is in store for space travel and space exploration by the 100th anniversary of the Space Age? (Oct 4, 2057)  Will there be a lunar colony? Will there be a colony on Mars? Furthermore, SHOULD there be a Lunar and/or Martian colony? The benefits of space travel and space exploration--both manned and unmanned--have been substantial, to be sure, but so have the costs.  For now, it's too dangerous, expensive in both money and resources, cumbersome and inconvenient for any more than a handful of humans to get into orbit or beyond.

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  • JamesHackerMP changed the title to Space Travel, 10/04/1957 - 10/04/2017
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High altitude radiation is a dirty little secret with airline crews, especially on polar routes. I'm thinking it will be a big factor in long duration space travel.

Actually, space travel has consumed far fewer resources and done far less damage to the "natural" than mining, forestry, and commercial fishing.   Resources in space provide lots of data and imaging o

All the folks whining about the rich and powerful will still be sitting on Earth whining about the rich and powerful. Meanwhile, those who have something useful to contribute will become a spacefaring

4 hours ago, eyeball said:

As I see it we decided to squander our resources by liquidating them mostly for the benefit of a handful of rich people.

Anecdotally, personal computers came out of space research as I understand.  Applied science towards a goal should yield more practical results than pure research, so I hesitate to denigrate the space program as easily as you do.  Certainly the cuts to the space program ended up in the pockets of wealthy taxpayers, arguably, so you seem to have a paradox right there.

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8 hours ago, JamesHackerMP said:

Any thoughts on a space elevator? Think that'll happen in our lifetimes?

 

No...it's really a huge undertaking. Building a massive platform in a geostationary orbit and actually connecting it to the ground with some sort of tether (22,200 miles long) that could handle all the stress is a tad still in the Buck Rogers Zone.

But as the saying goes: No bucks...no Buck Rogers.

Things we will see: the SLS...a reusable Saturn V sized beast capable of sending a significant amount of payload...human or otherwise...to Mars.

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

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On 6/22/2017 at 3:48 AM, Michael Hardner said:

Anecdotally, personal computers came out of space research as I understand.  Applied science towards a goal should yield more practical results than pure research, so I hesitate to denigrate the space program as easily as you do.  Certainly the cuts to the space program ended up in the pockets of wealthy taxpayers, arguably, so you seem to have a paradox right there.

I didn't denigrate the space program I lamented our decision to go with a program that made the filthy rich putrescently rich and the ridiculously powerful, horribly powerful.  Notwithstanding the hope for some technological breakthrough that makes it easy I'm afraid we've squandered too much of the planet's resources on this pursuit to make the leap to becoming a spacefaring species.

I think we're too close to driving over a cliff to recover myself, mostly because of the destruction of the social capital it took to liquidate the natural. 

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2 hours ago, eyeball said:

...I think we're too close to driving over a cliff to recover myself, mostly because of the destruction of the social capital it took to liquidate the natural. 

 

Actually, space travel has consumed far fewer resources and done far less damage to the "natural" than mining, forestry, and commercial fishing.   Resources in space provide lots of data and imaging of the entire planet / environment over time.

Edited by bush_cheney2004
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22 hours ago, DogOnPorch said:

 

No...it's really a huge undertaking. Building a massive platform in a geostationary orbit and actually connecting it to the ground with some sort of tether (22,200 miles long) that could handle all the stress is a tad still in the Buck Rogers Zone.

But as the saying goes: No bucks...no Buck Rogers.

Things we will see: the SLS...a reusable Saturn V sized beast capable of sending a significant amount of payload...human or otherwise...to Mars.

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

Meh, SLS is a redundant and wasteful program. It'll cost 10-100x more to do the same thing that Spacex will do with the Falcon Heavy. The only positive thing to be said about the SLS program is that it keeps the guys at NASA and its contractors working so they don't forget how to do rocket stuff and its good training for the new people coming in. 

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8 hours ago, eyeball said:

I didn't denigrate the space program I lamented our decision to go with a program that made the filthy rich putrescently rich and the ridiculously powerful, horribly powerful.  Notwithstanding the hope for some technological breakthrough that makes it easy I'm afraid we've squandered too much of the planet's resources on this pursuit to make the leap to becoming a spacefaring species.

I think we're too close to driving over a cliff to recover myself, mostly because of the destruction of the social capital it took to liquidate the natural. 

All the folks whining about the rich and powerful will still be sitting on Earth whining about the rich and powerful. Meanwhile, those who have something useful to contribute will become a spacefaring species. 

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On 6/21/2017 at 11:27 PM, JamesHackerMP said:

So, keeping that in mind, what is in store for space travel and space exploration by the 100th anniversary of the Space Age? (Oct 4, 2057)  Will there be a lunar colony? Will there be a colony on Mars? Furthermore, SHOULD there be a Lunar and/or Martian colony? The benefits of space travel and space exploration--both manned and unmanned--have been substantial, to be sure, but so have the costs.  For now, it's too dangerous, expensive in both money and resources, cumbersome and inconvenient for any more than a handful of humans to get into orbit or beyond.

By 2057? Here's my predictions:

  • we'll have landed a person on Mars
  • some country or other will have landed people on the Moon again and probably established a small station (not a colony, more a lab like the ISS but on the moon) 
  • space tourism to low earth orbit will be routine (but still very expensive - only for the very rich)
  • we'll have solved the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy 
  • we'll have explored Europa, Enceladus, Titan, and other targets of interest more thoroughly with robotic probes, and very likely found microscopic lifeforms existing somewhere else in the solar system besides Earth
  • we'll have detected multiple planets within 20 light years that are potentially habitable and spectroscopically analyzed their atmospheres with a new generation of telescopes
  •  we'll have made a functional fusion rocket but will not have yet used it for any mission

As for the question of should we colonize the Moon, Mars, and eventually other things? Yes, of course. There's really only two choices: become a spacefaring species or sit at home and wait to die. 

Edited by Bonam
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12 minutes ago, Bonam said:

Meh, SLS is a redundant and wasteful program. It'll cost 10-100x more to do the same thing that Spacex will do with the Falcon Heavy. The only positive thing to be said about the SLS program is that it keeps the guys at NASA and its contractors working so they don't forget how to do rocket stuff and its good training for the new people coming in. 

 

I'm a firm believer of not putting all one's eggs into a single basket. Space X, frankly, could go out of business with one or two major failures...they happen.

 

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1 minute ago, DogOnPorch said:

I'm a firm believer of not putting all one's eggs into a single basket. Space X, frankly, could go out of business with one or two major failures...they happen.

Sure, having 2 or 3 separate programs is fine for redundancy. Problem is SLS costs 10-100x more than it should compared to what Spacex and Blue Origin are doing. If the objective is not putting all the eggs in one basket, NASA should have paid 1-2 more other private companies to do similar work. NASA can't build a large rocket for a reasonable price, and that's been completely obvious for about 40 years now. 

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Just now, Bonam said:

Sure, having 2 or 3 separate programs is fine for redundancy. Problem is SLS costs 10-100x more than it should compared to what Spacex and Blue Origin are doing. If the objective is not putting all the eggs in one basket, NASA should have paid 1-2 more other private companies to do similar work. NASA can't build a large rocket for a reasonable price, and that's been completely obvious for about 40 years now. 

I suppose the trouble I have with allowing only private space companies is that they have to turn a profit. Not a lot of money to be had sending a probe to Neptune. Sure...they say their booster can do it...and cheaper than NASA. But...will they?

Blue Origin...isn't that more sub-orbital tourist stuff?

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One interesting thing to note on this anniversary: the Russians still use the same basic R-7 rocket that launched Sputnik and Gagarin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R-7_(rocket_family)

They have the hypergolic Proton (1965) and a few other models...but only the R-7 is human rated. Not a lot of new thinking over there...

Good points: it's as reliable as they come.

Edited by DogOnPorch
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28 minutes ago, DogOnPorch said:

I suppose the trouble I have with allowing only private space companies is that they have to turn a profit. Not a lot of money to be had sending a probe to Neptune. Sure...they say their booster can do it...and cheaper than NASA. But...will they?

Blue Origin...isn't that more sub-orbital tourist stuff?

No, but plenty of money to be made selling NASA a ride for its probe to Neptune. The private company can build the rocket for 1/10 the cost of NASA, but charge NASA 1/5 what NASA would cost to build it. Boom NASA saves 80% and the private company makes 100% profit margin. 

Blue Origin:

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

45,000 kg to LEO announced so far. And unlike Spacex, Blue Origin is very secretive. I suspect they have much bigger things in the works quietly. 

SLS is 70,000 kg to LEO in Block 1, which is comparable to the falcon heavy. SLS Block 2 with the 130,000 kg capacity you mention is 12+ years away, and I'd give 5:1 odds it never flies. I'm betting ITS has a better chance of actually getting built than SLS Block 2, and ITS will have 550,000 kg payload to LEO, which is 4x more than SLS Block 2. 

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

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It's a dangerous business to be in to make money, me thinks....the rocket biz.

I agree that thrift is important in making these things go ahead. But, I also think that a country with a vigorous government space program says a lot about the nation's people. Call me old fashioned...lol. When it is done JUST to turn a buck...I think we miss-out. There isn't a single dime to be made (other than pretty pictures) in having a billion dollar probe cruising around Jupiter or Saturn. And I DO NOT trust big business to do it out of altruism...why would they/we/you? Not part of the business plan...throwing money away. 

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I totally think space tourism should be a private affair. But, just like air travel, once you get enough of these crazy MFs blasting rich people into LEO, you're gonna need regulations.....enter yea olde government.

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Just now, DogOnPorch said:

It's a dangerous business to be in to make money, me thinks....the rocket biz.

I agree that thrift is important in making these things go ahead. But, I also think that a country with a vigorous government space program says a lot about the nation's people. Call me old fashioned...lol. When it is done JUST do things to turn a buck...I think we miss-out. There isn't a single dime to be made (other than pretty pictures) in having a billion dollar probe cruising around Jupiter or Saturn. And I DO NOT trust big business to do it out of altruism...why would they/we/you? Not part of the business plan...throwing money away. 

The US spending 0.1% of GDP on its space program can hardly be called vigorous (though it is still a larger fraction than other nations). Besides the low spending, NASA has a major problem with direction when it comes to manned space travel / big rockets, which also makes it the opposite of vigorous. It spent billions of dollars on the Constellation program and the Ares launch vehicles, only to end up scrapping all of it, and there's every chance SLS will go the same way. There's still no replacement for the Space Shuttle to get astronauts into orbit, ~10 years later. The Space Shuttle itself was a fiasco, absurdly expensive per launch (~$1.5 billion per launch). 

As for big business doing it out of altruism... not really. What's really driving things is that Musk and Bezos are giant space enthousiasts and happen to have billions of dollars. If I was a billionaire, I'd do the same thing. No monetary return needed, I'd just want to make big rockets and send them places. 

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9 minutes ago, DogOnPorch said:

I totally think space tourism should be a private affair. But, just like air travel, once you get enough of these crazy MFs blasting rich people into LEO, you're gonna need regulations.....enter yea olde government.

Certainly I agree government has a role, and regulation is certainly part of it. Funding and research is also part of it. Robotic probes and telescopes. Human explorers, too. I just think NASA has shown it can't build rockets for a reasonable price any more and should get out of the rocket building business and focus on what it does better. No one does robotic probes better than NASA. No one does space telescopes better than NASA. NASA should focus on the science and exploration objectives and buy launches from private companies. 

Edited by Bonam
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6 minutes ago, Bonam said:

The US spending 0.1% of GDP on its space program can hardly be called vigorous (though it is still a larger fraction than other nations). Besides the low spending, NASA has a major problem with direction when it comes to manned space travel / big rockets, which also makes it the opposite of vigorous. It spent billions of dollars on the Constellation program and the Ares launch vehicles, only to end up scrapping all of it, and there's every chance SLS will go the same way. There's still no replacement for the Space Shuttle to get astronauts into orbit, ~10 years later. The Space Shuttle itself was a fiasco, absurdly expensive per launch (~$1.5 billion per launch). 

As for big business doing it out of altruism... not really. What's really driving things is that Musk and Bezos are giant space enthousiasts and happen to have billions of dollars. If I was a billionaire, I'd do the same thing. No monetary return needed, I'd just want to make big rockets and send them places. 

 

NASA spent the last 8 years doing SFA....a Muslim outreach organization. No bucks...no Buck Rogers. JPL mind you....good bang for the buck...for throwing away cash, I mean.

:lol:

Edited by DogOnPorch
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Well, the whole rocket business started with the need for ICBMs...not the desire to put man on the Moon...as per Von Braun.

Governments WILL have their rockets...some fashion there-of. One cannot privatize the ICBMs...I hope.

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Robotic telescopes....James Webb is in cryogenic testing at the moment...that'll be cool if it works out. I followed the mirror polishing/install closely. That was quite the business! 

Edited by DogOnPorch
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2 minutes ago, DogOnPorch said:

Robotic telescopes....James Webb is in cryogenic testing at the moment...that'll be cool if it works out. I followed the mirror polishing/install closely. That was quite the business! 

Yes, me too. I'm excited to see what new discoveries will be made with the JWST. Just hope the Ariane 5 carrying it doesn't blow up on launch!

Edited by Bonam
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