0893: "65 Years"

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jfriesne
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby jfriesne » Mon May 02, 2011 10:13 pm UTC

willpellmn wrote:Better to take a big risk I think; let's catapult ourselves beyond the farthest star on a desperate hope that the brighter future we've imagined is indeed out there somewhere.


The only problem, of course, is that doing so is completely impractical. Even if we knew of an extra-terrestrial location that could support human life indefinitely, there isn't enough fuel/reactant available to get to that location, and we don't have the life support technology to keep people alive long enough to get there.

If you really want to do extra-solar-system colonization, your best bet is to send a sandwich-sized ship with an AI, a DNA database, a DNA synthesizer, and some machine for somehow growing humans from DNA. But of course technology like that is centuries away at best, and even if you did it, the colonists would have so little in common with you and me that it's almost more appropriate to think of it as starting a new species rather than preserving the existing one.

If you want to settle for colonization inside our solar system, fine, that's a bit easier -- but the other locations in our solar system are poor enough that it's unlikely that any human output on them would survive for more than a few generations without support from Earth anyway -- making the "we must expand to preserve mankind" argument moot.

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Samik
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 10:21 pm UTC

jfriesne wrote:If you want to settle for colonization inside our solar system, fine, that's a bit easier -- but the other locations in our solar system are poor enough that it's unlikely that any human output on them would survive for more than a few generations without support from Earth anyway -- making the "we must expand to preserve mankind" argument moot.



Two issues here.

1.) While you're correct that inter-solar system colonization doesn't really accomplish much in the long run, the lessons we learn in the process will be integral towards undertaking any other kind of major endeavors.

2.) While this is not the strongest counter argument ever crafted by human intellect, I'll still submit: you don't think that a solar system with two colonized planets, three or four colonized satellites, and plenty of orbital stations, is in any way more resistant to annihilation by nuclear war or disease outbreak or asteroid impact than one with it's population confined entirely to one planet? If you are correct that it is impossible to ever sustain a civilization long term on a planet like Mars, maybe not, but I don't think that it is at all clear at the moment that that is the case. We don't know enough about terraforming right now to say that it is possible or impossible.
Last edited by Samik on Mon May 02, 2011 11:13 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

jfriesne
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby jfriesne » Mon May 02, 2011 10:22 pm UTC

big boss wrote:We are eventually going to use up all of this planets natural resources and if we are to survive (or at least maintain the current level of civilization) we are going to need to explore space.


Well, no. We are, at worst, only going to use up all of this planet's non-renewable resources. For example, it's unlikely we will ever "use up" all of Earth's water -- and until we find another planet with significant amounts of water on it, that alone makes continuing to live on Earth a much more likely prospect that surviving via escape to somewhere else. (Plus, any space exploration that we do accomplish may well involve importing more non-renewable resources back to Earth)

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muntoo
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby muntoo » Mon May 02, 2011 11:24 pm UTC

Image

alreadytaken4536
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby alreadytaken4536 » Mon May 02, 2011 11:44 pm UTC


wmnwmn
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby wmnwmn » Tue May 03, 2011 12:08 am UTC

Our current technologies aren't sufficient for large-scale manned space
exploration, and no amount of costly, small-scale programs is going to change that.
So if you want to encourage space exploration don't mope and whine like
in this comic, but instead press for funding of fundamental physics, because that is
the only hope.

Personally, I think we can be happy that there's no way to reach the stars, because if there was
then there would be about zero chance that our species would exist. Our planet would have
been colonized long ago.

dedwrekka
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby dedwrekka » Tue May 03, 2011 12:32 am UTC

snakedriver wrote:Privatization. Just because a bloating, failing government agency is being shut down does not mean we will not reach other worlds again. SpaceX, Blue Frontier and others are already taking bids for commercial sub-orbit flights, how long before there is a Hilton Luna?


Even with privatization there needs to be government oversight of the projects to regulate those companies and make sure that they are not accidentally or intentionally harming others during their attempts.

mania wrote:
toastar wrote:Um....

I personally don't consider the moon a world.


This one troubles me too. I generally think.. world = planet.

Looking it up on wiktionary didn't help.

.. although I suppose reference.com is probably right in it's definition of "heavenly body". Still doesn't sit the best with me =/.


"World" could be taken to mean any heavenly body, as it isn't limited to the scientific definition of a "Planet".

willpellmn wrote:The alt-text is extremely poignant. We of course can't know for sure, it's always conceivable that the cosmos is empty of life, we were just a statistical anomaly, and we have only our planet's limited resources to preserve our life as best we can. But frankly, if true, this is too depressing to contemplate. Better to take a big risk I think; let's catapult ourselves beyond the farthest star on a desperate hope that the brighter future we've imagined is indeed out there somewhere.

Even if we were simply a statistical anomaly the alt-text still applies because remaining a one planet/heavenly body culture is tantamount to resigning ones-self to your fate, that the race will eventually die. Even if there are only a handful of sentient races in the universe the only people left to remember them or discover them will be those who made the leap despite the costs.

jadelane wrote:I'm calling BS. Don't mistake the trajectory of the present for the path to the future. Rockets were never the way to get there, and the space shuttle program was always only going to be transitory. This frees up resources--capital and expertise--for a space elevator, for private space travel, for any of a number of alternate approaches.

Walking on the moon was a big deal. Walking on the moon *again*? Not so much. So why keep up the capacity to do that, when we need to think about the capacity to get to and terraform Mars?

The problem comes in when the funding is not simply being re-arranged within the organization, but is being removed. Private space travel would be as terrible an idea as the flying car for a number of reasons (mainly safety). Commercialized space travel would not be so.


I think that the wording is somewhat overly dramatic, but plain speaking and waffling on the issue will not inspire a change.

ikemike11
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby ikemike11 » Tue May 03, 2011 12:56 am UTC

I wonder if the interstellar civilization described in the "Ender's Game" universe would be reasonable. If we manage to (I know it's a longshot) unite the world before we destroy it, build extraordinarily fast spacecraft or develop a way to slow aging, and adapt or adapt to new planets, it might be possible.

I wonder what the benefits of an interstellar human civilization would be, besides being a "backup" for humanity. Assuming the light-speed limit cannot be broken, so interstellar trade would be impossible.

HungryHobo
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby HungryHobo » Tue May 03, 2011 1:13 am UTC

as useful as it may be for scifi the odds of developing faster than light travel or even faster than light communication are very slim.

but I could imagine a situation where starwhisps or similar stl unmanned small ships are hurled out in all directions with the tech to build infrastructure wherever they end up and millions of samples of DNA and copies of all our libraries etc or (a happy thought)if we ever reach the point where a mind could be copied: uploads.

it may be slow but you could still hold something like a culture together through information exchange.
Give a man a fish, he owes you one fish. Teach a man to fish, you give up your monopoly on fisheries.

thkng
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby thkng » Tue May 03, 2011 1:21 am UTC

Absolutely Loved the Alt text....

The idea behind it seemed more interesting and profound than the one behind the actual comic.

FourTael
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby FourTael » Tue May 03, 2011 2:06 am UTC

HungryHobo wrote:as useful as it may be for scifi the odds of developing faster than light travel or even faster than light communication are very slim.


Actually, I'm working on a system of FTL travel that uses quantum time (chronons and whatnot), as well as some stuff I'm working on with infinity.

We don't really need FTL travel to travel to other solar systems, it would just speed things up. In fact, it would probably be a lot easier to work with sub-light speed and suspended animation.

The point is less that we become a civilization that constantly travels between star systems, and more that the Earth will not support our life forever. I'm not talking about billions of years from now when the sun turns into a red giant and swallows the Earth (though that presents some interesting implications with Christianity, reincarnation, and the lake of fire). There are dozens of ways for civilization as we know it to collapse due to natural disaster, or even the extinction of the human race, to happen at any time.

We can't say, "We'll leave it for future generations." There may not BE future generations if we don't go into space.

It sounds a bit doomsayer-ish, but the fact is that, even if the probability is low, there's still a chance that, without space faring capabilities, we could very well go extinct... or have to start over due to the collapse of civilization as we know it.

Look at it this way: No matter how certain you are that a stock is going to rise, you still invest in other stocks, don't you?

ijuin
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby ijuin » Tue May 03, 2011 4:54 am UTC

userxp wrote:Each space shuttle flight has cost about $1.5 billion (according to Wikipedia). I do support space colonization on the long term, but perhaps if we keep advancing our technology here on Earth, in 50 or 100 years the cost of space travel will be a few orders of magnitude lower than today, and we'll get the same results for much much less money (and it's not like having just a space station or a moon base will save our civilization in case some catastrophe happens). Perhaps we have to admit that we still don't have the technology for space exploration.

The main issue with developing better spaceflight technology is that, just like happened with aircraft technology, it won't happen without lots of money being spent by somebody to invent it. What we need most right now is a way to get into orbit cheaper--if the space launchers could operate for the same fuel/operating cost ratio as airliners (e.g. per-flight costs ten times as much as the fuel--I don't have exact numbers for how much it costs to operate an airliner), then it would be irrelevant that we need to put a thousand tons into orbit to get a viable Mars ship instead of the more convenient two hundred tons that rockets like the Atlas V-Heavy could launch--we could assemble something the mass of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier in space, and for only a few times as much as the Nimitz costs.

philip1201
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby philip1201 » Tue May 03, 2011 6:14 am UTC

Samik wrote:
philip1201 wrote:But that would be pointless.


I address what I see to be the point of such missions in about three of my previous posts. Please reread them if you actually care to know the opinion you're trying to refute. There is more at play than simply technological development.

RE: risking lives: I hear this one a lot. You fail to take into account that there would be volunteers lining up around the globe from pretty much any mission you could suggest, myself among them. I appreciate your concern for my well-being, but it's just not really an argument you can use, unless you think you have the right to tell me and folks like me that we're not allowed to risk our lives.

My point is those lives and that money would be risked and spent unduly. We can either go to Mars 10 years from now, and establish an extraplanetary base in 100 years, or we can establish an extraplanetary base in 70 years, given the same limited budget. Going to Mars is pointless because it doesn't help us forward, it's just the relevant nation going "f1rst!!1!". For durable space exploration, we need to go step by step.
(addressing what, if I read it correctly, you're saying the point of those missions would be) What we learn from those Mars missions, like with the Moon missions, will be scientifically and technologically uninteresting, compared to the price tag. As I said: it's merely a matter of using better versions of the Moon technologies.

Maybe we're talking past each other. If someone would manage to divert 3% of the country's tax revenue to a Mars program, I would be all for it. But not if that meant cutting the current space budget. With the budget granted to NASA by the government, it's better to invest in biological and ecological research than it is to try and land on Mars. Doing so would set back the development of space technologies by at least the time it takes to get there.

But beyond all that, it's just so incredibly irrelevant to the topic at hand, and clearly thrown in as an attempt to muddle the issue. I mean, really, you view the step from crossing the Atlantic in ships to walking on the moon as equal in scale to going from the moon to Mars?

Back then I was talking about moon bases, something which is a step of similar scale.

If I was poor as dirt, and you were my kid, and I could only afford to buy you ratty falling apart shoes, then I won the lottery, and still bought you ratty shoes, only with slightly fewer holes in them, would you consider yourself fortunate?

That's a faulty analogy. To show that, I'm going to show an analogous analogy which is equally valid, but doesn't appear as terrible.
It's as if you, a millionaire, gave me some expensive suit, then tripled your net worth, and still only gave me a slightly more expensive suit.
Given the US budget only increased threefold, mine is slightly better. Not much though: both try to find an analogy between one need (exploration) and another (keeping your feet in one piece / looking swell). Depending on which need you use for the analogy, You appear terrible, or I appear to be whiny.

In any case, I believe I also already addressed this point in a previous post: as our technology has increased, our resources and aptitude for implementation have increased as well. Except in the Space Program: there, they have regressed.


If that is true, then that is sad. But given the increase (albeit merely absolute) in space expenditure, I don't know if that is the case.

charonme
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby charonme » Tue May 03, 2011 6:37 am UTC

dedwrekka wrote:there needs to be government oversight of the projects to regulate those companies and make sure that they are not accidentally or intentionally harming others
you're incorrectly assuming 2 things:
1) there is no other system possible for the production of services of justice and protection
2) it's possible to achieve these goals using a government

CharonPDX
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby CharonPDX » Tue May 03, 2011 7:21 am UTC

Ideas sleep furiously. wrote:I heard something interesting on a documentary, not sure of it's accuracy, but it went something like;
"If there were gold bars stacked up on the moon, the cost of bringing them back to earth would be greater than their worth."

It was a documentary about mining Helium3 or something like that from moon rocks.


Simple. Let's take the new cheapest recoverable spacecraft, the Space-X Dragon, on its cheapest Lunar-capable launcher, the Falcon Heavy.

For the sake of this, I'm going to assume that the listed highest estimated price of a Falcon Heavy launch INCLUDES a lunar-landing-and-return capable unmanned Dragon. (For comparison, Space-X is quoting $56 million for a Falcon 9 launch at maximum payload, but they're quoting NASA $20 million per astronaut for a manned Dragon, which holds 7. Which means a manned Dragon would cost $140 million, or $84 million more than a 'base' Falcon 9 - so this is quite a ridiculous assumption, even for the unmanned Dragon, but as we don't have any other cost basis, it's what I'm going with.)

One Falcon Heavy launch is $125 million. Dragon has a return capacity of 3000 kg (disregarding the fact that this is the return capacity for an LEO Dragon - I'm going to assume that the extra payload allowed by the Falcon Heavy over the Falcon 9 accounts for lunar-landing and LEO-return weights.) That means, completely disregarding LEO-to-lunar-surface-and-back costs, each kg of returned material is $41,666. At present, gold is trading for about $1550 per ounce, or about $54,000 per kg. So using a yet-to-be-proven launcher, with a not-all-costs-accounted-for lunar lander and return vehicle, it would slightly pay off.

However, using anything older would obviously not pay off. And adding in reasonable lunar spacecraft costs destroys it as well. Even if we assume that NO changes are needed to manned Dragon to switch it from ISS mission to lunar mission, just the swap in launcher from -9 to -Heavy, the cost per kg returned skyrockets to $69,666 per kg. (As for the changes, Space-X has already said that their Launch Abort System could double as a lunar-or-Mars landing rocket system. But that doesn't include re-launch capability.)

Note: For full disclosure, while I personally have nothing to do with Space-X, NASA, or any other space-related company or organization, I do have friends who do, including a program manager/design engineer for one of the main components of Dragon manned.

firmware
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby firmware » Tue May 03, 2011 8:58 am UTC

The alt-text puts this "Tiny spec of wet rock we call Earth" into perspective... too bad we would rather use our resources to bomb/occupy/kill other humans.

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Samik
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Tue May 03, 2011 11:07 am UTC

philip1201 wrote:Maybe we're talking past each other.


Yeah, I think that was the case a little bit. I was in crazy fast-typing angry/passionate mode yesterday about this. What I meant by directing you to my previous posts was that in a few of them I had talked about the "point" of further manned missions having to do with increasing our knowledge base with regards to a.) how long term deployment in deep space or in alien environments will affect the bodies and minds of the astronauts, and b.) learning about the actual implementational difficulties of conducting manned operations in said environments - things that I feel are just as important as developing the actual technologies required.

Bear in mind that it is my position that not only is space exploration important, but it is important enough that we should, to some degree, be mindful of setting a good pace. IE if we wait until we have a high enough level of technology that doing these things is trivially easy, we're going to be waiting for a good, long while.

That's a faulty analogy.


Profoundly so :) I was just trying to make the point that if our resources have steadily increased overall by a large margin, but our commitment to space has remained more or less static, it at least gives the appearance that we're losing interested in the subject, which was, after all, my original point way back in my very first post on page 2 of this thread.




If that is true, then that is sad. But given the increase (albeit merely absolute) in space expenditure, I don't know if that is the case.


i still maintain that a.) the % of the total federal budget spent on space is the lowest is has been since 1960 (year 3 of NASA's lifetime), and b.) the absolute amount spent is half of what it was at its peak. I'm not necessarily arguing it needs to be where it was at its peak, but I really just do think that point 'a', when taken in conjunction with the seemingly rapid fire (of late) downward "revisions of expectations" for the space program do not paint a very optimistic picture.

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Samik
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Tue May 03, 2011 11:46 am UTC

philip1201 wrote:That's a faulty analogy.


Now, we could repair the shoes/suit analogy a little bit by considering quantity instead of quality. After your financial windfall, no one would judge you too harshly if you added a few extra suits or pairs of shoes to your meager wardrobe.

Of course, it's ultimately going to break down, because, as you point out, if you keep revising your resources upwards, you're going to reach a point where continuing to devote a fixed percentage of your net worth to your shoes - or even to revise that value upwards at all - is not going to really return any additional value to you.

Perhaps you could say the same thing about NASA - that even with an unlimited budget, they could only ever really deploy a finite amount of those resources in a given time frame - but I don't think we're anywhere close to reaching that point.


EDIT: /thread hijack.

squidbait
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby squidbait » Tue May 03, 2011 2:08 pm UTC

In 1968 I was born into a world where no living person had walked on the moon. Sadly I will probably die in a world where no living person has walked on the moon.

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HopDavid
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby HopDavid » Tue May 03, 2011 2:21 pm UTC

Ideas sleep furiously. wrote:I heard something interesting on a documentary, not sure of it's accuracy, but it went something like;
"If there were gold bars stacked up on the moon, the cost of bringing them back to earth would be greater than their worth."

It was a documentary about mining Helium3 or something like that from moon rocks.


The most valuable resource in space won't be helium3, nor gold, silver or diamonds.

It will be water.

The rocket equation:
propellant mass/dry mass = e(dV/Ve) - 1

This is an exponential equation where doubling the delta V needed doubles the exponent.

An illustration of exponential growth:

Image

If the propellant is hydrogen and oxygen, each 3 km/sec is a square on the above chess board. That is, each 3 km/sec added to the delta V budget doubles space craft mass.

At first glance it would seem skyrocketing amounts of propellant make space flight expensive. Not so, propellant is cheap. Large delta V budgets mandate impossibly small dry mass to propellant ratios. To circumvent this, we throw away dry mass along the way in the form of expendable stages. If we threw away a 747 each transcontinental trip, no one could afford a ticket to board these vehicles.

Having propellant depots at various locations would break the exponent in the rocket equation into smaller chunks:

Image

The moon has water. This water is only 3.2 km/sec from Low Earth Orbit. Hydrogen and oxygen at low earth orbit and the Earth Moon Lagrange 1 and 2 regions would make travel about the earth moon neighborhood routine. It would also enable travel to NEOs, Mars and other destinations in our solar system.

webgrunt
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby webgrunt » Tue May 03, 2011 4:08 pm UTC

I think there's a huge difference between never sending people back into space, and just not sending them until the technology has vastly improved to make it cheaper, quicker and safer. I doubt the human race is going to die out in the next couple hundred years. We can keep sending robots in the meantime.

FourTael
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby FourTael » Tue May 03, 2011 5:57 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:I think there's a huge difference between never sending people back into space, and just not sending them until the technology has vastly improved to make it cheaper, quicker and safer. I doubt the human race is going to die out in the next couple hundred years. We can keep sending robots in the meantime.


How cheap do we have to make it? There's always a cheaper solution on the horizon. Space planes are cheaper than rockets. Launch loops are cheaper than space planes. Orbital rings are cheaper than launch loops. Once orbital rings start to become more viable, who's to say we won't find a cheaper method? (As a side note, I rather like launch loops)

How much is ensuring the survival of the human species worth?

Consider it from a gambling perspective: Let's say you have a 95% chance to win, and if you do, you get 10% (if you bet $100 and win, you win $10). Would you be willing to bet EVERYTHING? Of course not. That's still a 5% chance that you'll lose everything. Even though, overall, you're the winner, the consequences of the loss is too great. Even a 99% win chance would still be too dangerous. You can't just look at the absolute probabilites. You must consider the consequences of the loss.

In this case, if we "lose," something happens to cause the extinction of our species before space travel becomes super-cheap. Sure, the probability is low. The consequences, on the other hand, are unacceptably terrible. If we "win," we save a relatively small amount of money.

kd7dvd
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby kd7dvd » Tue May 03, 2011 6:10 pm UTC

I want this on a postcard with the alt-text on the other side. Then I can mail them to the President, the Congress, the Chinese (who seem at this point to be the most likely to do something about it) and the Sierra Club. And every other person who thinks that space is only for robots.

Currently 99.99999996% of humanity is on earth (the remainder in low earth orbit). I'll be happier when that number comes down to around 10%.

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jjane
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby jjane » Tue May 03, 2011 6:44 pm UTC

Doesn't anyone else consider microscopic ecosystems "another world?"

We all walk on those every day...

FourTael
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby FourTael » Tue May 03, 2011 6:45 pm UTC

I'd be happy just with 10,000 people off-earth. Preferably some near Earth, some on the moon, and some on Mars.

I'll be even happier once we spread outside the solar system.

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Samik
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Tue May 03, 2011 7:13 pm UTC

EDIT: Meh, was a ridiculous wall of text that no one wants to read. I've already beaten the forum over the head with my opinion on this matter.


FourTael wrote:In this case, if we "lose," something happens to cause the extinction of our species before space travel becomes super-cheap. Sure, the probability is low. The consequences, on the other hand, are unacceptably terrible.


What Tael said. Suffice to say, you have to really, really, really take some liberties with the numbers to show that the risk of aggressive colonization (in lives and dollars) outweighs the potential future lives that would be lost due to a total extinction event. Statistically speaking, trimming even a single year off the colonization process causes you to come out vastly ahead in this gamble, for just about any reasonable values you could assign to a.) the percent chance of a total extinction event per year, and b.) the total number of humans who would ever live if we expanded throughout the galaxy (or even just a few dozen stars in our neighborhood).

gravityhomer
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby gravityhomer » Tue May 03, 2011 8:34 pm UTC

I think an equally sobering graph would be to plot the number of people alive who lived during the moon landings. It would be zero until 1969 and then jump to the population of the earth. It would then follow the population of the earth until 1972 and then it would decrease from 1972 as everyone who lived between 1969 and 1972 died. This would be pretty hard data to isolate. You would have to look at death rates as a function of age each year. In 1973 you would subtract the number of people older than 1 that died. In '74 would subtract the number of people older than 2 that died, etc. That graph would probably get us out to about 2060-70. So for about 90-100 years we will have had people on the earth who were alive when other people walked on ground that was not on earth.

Of course, this is taking the pessimistic view that our current governmental floundering on space travel means that we will be going nowhere for the next century.

HungryHobo
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby HungryHobo » Tue May 03, 2011 8:34 pm UTC

quick question about getting from LEO to Higher orbits and beyond.
I was under the impression that ion drives were insanely efficient and fairly cheap if very slow.

If you can get something above the atmosphere and into LEO can't you have an ion drive slowly boost it up to any higher orbit you need for a very low cost?
or if you were boosting a lot up, have a relay system with ion drive "tugs" relaying stuff into higher orbits.
Give a man a fish, he owes you one fish. Teach a man to fish, you give up your monopoly on fisheries.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby jc » Tue May 03, 2011 8:50 pm UTC

DragonHawk wrote:"The dinosaurs are extinct because they didn't have a space program." -- Larry Niven


Except that dinosaurs are far from extinct. There's one sitting on a branch of a tree next to our patio as I type this; chirping out his song telling the rest of the world "This is my tree!"

Of course, the big dinosaurs, especially the popular ones like the Tyrannosaurus, etc., are extinct. But they wouldn't have survived 65 million years, either. Large species are typically not the ones that survive. It's the little, adaptive critters, the mice and sparrows and cockroaches, that survive major disasters. We don't yet know whether humans are included in that set. Stick around and find out ...

unimportant
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby unimportant » Tue May 03, 2011 9:02 pm UTC

From lurker to poster on this one...

First, stop worshiping the wells. We as a species aren't going to spend all of the time, effort, and energy to have some offshoot go to the next well over and miserably eek out an existence after falling down the next well over yonder. The costs to claw up out of a well are just too expensive. It won't bring trade because there aren't little green men at the bottom of the next well seeking to give away pallets of valuable materials (>>$10,000/oz) in exchange for some fancy glass beads. If there were, we'd be building fleets of rockets and thousands of orbital transfer stations. Just now, corporate princes and sultans are playing with the novelty of suborbital craft. If you want to compare human history, somebody has brought the monarch/tribal leader to the beach and shown them a canoe. You don't ask for a nuclear powered air craft carrier to cruise over the horizon in after such an event. You go out in the canoe and bring back some really frickin' large and tasty fish that are unavailable when fishing the shallows. If the monarch/tribal leader is pleased, you upgrade from a canoe to a boat 2-3 times the size and bring wealth (tasty fish) back to the village.

We've built canoes. We've gone out in the water and said "Look boss, it floats!" Now we need to bring back "fish". For now, the only decent options are beamed energy platforms, terraforming (temperature/weather modifications) from orbit, some rare earth elements, or some sort of manufacturing of immense value that can only be done efficiently in microgravity (including energy costs to orbit). Once something of value exists/comes from orbit, a population will be required to maintain it. That will require food and somebody will present a cheaper way to make food in orbit than truck it out of the well. Somebody else will present cheaper ways to get resources into place than trucking them out of the well. That will require additional people for mining and manufacture, etc. After that, orbital transfer stations start popping up and inter-system (non-Earth) trade can occur. Colonies will grow at near intersections of transit routes and so-on. Once jobs and colonies start to appear in orbit, the overachievers of our species will gravitate towards opportunity.

Economic pressure for energy, terraforming, rare-earth elements, or microgravity manufacturing will have to start it. Anything after that will be exponential growth as humans branch out.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby HopDavid » Tue May 03, 2011 9:08 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:quick question about getting from LEO to Higher orbits and beyond.
I was under the impression that ion drives were insanely efficient and fairly cheap if very slow.

If you can get something above the atmosphere and into LEO can't you have an ion drive slowly boost it up to any higher orbit you need for a very low cost?
or if you were boosting a lot up, have a relay system with ion drive "tugs" relaying stuff into higher orbits.


Recall the rocket equation I gave earlier:
mass propellant / dry mass = edV/Ve - 1

e is Euler's number, about 2.72. To calculate en you would type in =exp(n) to a cell in an Excel spreadsheet.
dV is delta V needed
Ve is exhaust velocity.

A lot of destinations are about 4 km/sec from LEO. GEO, EML1, TMI to name a few.
Wikipedia's table lists various exhaust velocities. Hydrogen and oxygen is around 4.4 km/sec.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacecraft ... of_methods

You can see ion engines have much higher exhaust velocity than chemical.

Some drawbacks of ion:

Low thrust makes it hard to exploit the Oberth effect and impossible to ascend to orbit from the bottom of a steep gravity well.

They're slow. A payload suffers abuse during a slow ride and numerous passes through the Van Allen belts.

They require lots of power. A big goal is to get more kWe per kilogram. Franklin Chang Diaz suggests a dry specific mass alpha of .5 kg/kWe for his VASIMR. Some call such a power source science ficton.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby philip1201 » Tue May 03, 2011 9:30 pm UTC

Samik wrote:a.) how long term deployment in deep space or in alien environments will affect the bodies and minds of the astronauts

Already being tested in the ISS and on Earth.
, and b.) learning about the actual implementational difficulties of conducting manned operations in said environments - things that I feel are just as important as developing the actual technologies required.

I don't see what new things we could learn from Mars missions that we didn't already learn from Apollo, or couldn't be learned just as well on earth or when the technology exists.

Bear in mind that it is my position that not only is space exploration important, but it is important enough that we should, to some degree, be mindful of setting a good pace. IE if we wait until we have a high enough level of technology that doing these things is trivially easy, we're going to be waiting for a good, long while.

There's a difference between waiting until it's trivially easy, and waiting until attempting it with no way back isn't guaranteed to lead to the loss of all hands by every relevant test (that is to say, that closed ecological systems have always collapsed).

i still maintain that a.) the % of the total federal budget spent on space is the lowest is has been since 1960 (year 3 of NASA's lifetime), and b.) the absolute amount spent is half of what it was at its peak. I'm not necessarily arguing it needs to be where it was at its peak, but I really just do think that point 'a', when taken in conjunction with the seemingly rapid fire (of late) downward "revisions of expectations" for the space program do not paint a very optimistic picture.

(A) doesn't hold true for the rest of the world, only the US, and hasn't been true since 2006 - since then it's been increasing. (B) is only true because the NASA was funded massively to beat the Russians to the moon (it was political interest, not scientific inquiry or the desire for exploration that caused it). And with the James Webb Telescope, the KEPLER telescope, and various other projects NASA is engaging in, as well as those of the ESA, I don't see how you can fail to be optimistic about the course of space research. (I don't know what "revisions of expectations" you're referring to).
My advise to you is to adjust your standards for "the future". No flying cars, holograms, hoverboards or space exploration, but iphones, ubiquitous internet, exoplanets and cybernetic implants for monkeys.

Suffice to say, you have to really, really, really take some liberties with the numbers to show that the risk of aggressive colonization (in lives and dollars) outweighs the potential future lives that would be lost due to a total extinction event. Statistically speaking, trimming even a single year off the colonization process causes you to come out vastly ahead in this gamble, for just about any reasonable values you could assign to a.) the percent chance of a total extinction event per year, and b.) the total number of humans who would ever live if we expanded throughout the galaxy (or even just a few dozen stars in our neighborhood).

If you are using this argument in favor of sending a manned mission to Mars as soon as possible, using the NASA budget for the next 10 years, then it is invalid because it presents a false dichotomy, between that and between doing nothing. As it is, low earth orbit, terrestrial research and a next generation of space telescopes helps technology and science more than a manned mission to Mars, not necessarily excluding our space-faring capabilities a century from now.
If you are arguing to increase the NASA budget to maintain those projects, whilst also going to the moon, then I demand we split that issue, into (1) increasing the NASA (or science in general) budget and (2) spending 2/3 of it going to Mars. In this case, resolution (1) goes unopposed by most among us, but for resolution (2) the same argument as above applies. In practice, splitting these may not be possible because of politics, but in a speculative debate as to what's best for us, they can be considered independently.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby periboob » Tue May 03, 2011 9:46 pm UTC

893 wrote:Unfortunately, this should be titled "Number of living Americans who have walked on another world".

Apparently the US won't walk on other worlds again for a very long time, but others definitely will. China is almost certainly the next, then who.... Japan, maybe? India, if they and Pakistan don't nuke it out first?


China looks like a good bet.
http://www.fastcompany.com/1750093/what-chinas-new-space-station-means-for-china-and-the-world

As to the post suggesting that rockets should be replaced by the Space Elevator (Bean Stalk), wouldnt the LaunchLoop be the first step? Not my field, but it should work with existing materials unlike the Bean Stalk. Plus, the LaunchLoop can be built from the surface up, rather than building it in space and then anchoring needed for the Bean Stalk.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby segj » Tue May 03, 2011 10:20 pm UTC

Oh hey! You guys! Guess what?! There are really scary terrorists on Mars. Also, they have WMDs. Lets get 'em!

Problem solved.

Seriously though, one point that hasn't come up so far in favor of manned space flight, is that it is inspiring. Money spent on manned flight buys more than the immediate scientific and technological prowess (which itself ought to be enough); it buys a powerful argument that science is truly awesome, and that pursuing knowledge is a terrific way to spend your life. It says, "If I become a scientist or engineer, I might get to help build spaceships!" It reinforces a vision of the kind of society I think everyone here wants. A society where science doesn't need salesmanship.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Tue May 03, 2011 10:31 pm UTC

philip1201 wrote:Already being tested in the ISS and on Earth.


No, no no. I already addressed in depth in a several previous posts why that is not sufficient. I'm not going to cut and paste and spam the board further. Again, if you want to actually go back and read the opinions you're responding to, be my guest.

philip1201 wrote:I don't see what new things we could learn from Mars missions that we didn't already learn from Apollo, or couldn't be learned just as well on earth or when the technology exists.


Really? You don't think that colonization of Mars has technical challenges that differ from the Apollo missions to enough of a degree to warrant practice runs? Before colonization, you're going to need moderate-term test habitats, and before that, short-term scientific stations, and before that, ultra-short term touchdowns for dry runs a la the moon landings, and before that, approaches and orbital insertions. Before we ever are prepared to establish fully sustainable colonies, there are going to be decades of tests runs. The longer we wait to get started on those, the longer the entire process is going to take. Back to my airplane/windtunnel metaphor: you can't just plan the whole of your future endeavors on paper, and then say, "Whelp, looks like we're set. Let's launch this sucker."

philip1201 wrote:There's a difference between waiting until it's trivially easy, and waiting until attempting it with no way back isn't guaranteed to lead to the loss of all hands by every relevant test (that is to say, that closed ecological systems have always collapsed).


Yes. Because I have repeatedly suggested that we should launch missions we are not ready for, haven't I?

No, my position is not that we should be setting up colonies right now. Of course we need to be endeavoring on less ambitious missions first. This is exactly the point that I have been arguing this entire thread.

We can have this debate without putting words in each other's mouths.


philip1201 wrote:(A) doesn't hold true for the rest of the world, only the US, and hasn't been true since 2006 - since then it's been increasing. (B) is only true because the NASA was funded massively to beat the Russians to the moon (it was political interest, not scientific inquiry or the desire for exploration that caused it). And with the James Webb Telescope, the KEPLER telescope, and various other projects NASA is engaging in, as well as those of the ESA, I don't see how you can fail to be optimistic about the course of space research.


If you're getting your numbers from Wikipedia, I suggest looking up some resources that have updated since 2008. You might be surprised. (2011 boasted the lowest percentage of total federal spending spent on NASA since 1959 - the second year of NASA's existence.)

I'm not going to take this in a nationalistic direction. The US has traditionally been in a position to leverage large amounts of resources to the space program. Failing to do so represents time lost, regardless of what other nations are doing.

The problem here is that I've argued two distinct opinions in this thread, and you're trying to treat them singularly. The fact that I believe there is a strong argument to be made for hyper aggressive exploration is not equivalent to my belief that the US could be doing more than it is. They are closely connected, yes, but I could easily envision a scenario where the US was doing enough that I felt I could appreciate their commitment, acknowledging that my own desires are sufficiently radical that I can't really expect others to conform to them.

If you're trying to tell me that I'm wrong for wishing we were doing more, that's good for you.
If you're trying to tell me that we are doing all that could reasonably be expected, I disagree.
If you're trying to tell me that we're in a perfect sweet spot of commitment - that the level of commitment we were making for the other 80% of NASA's lifetime was too much - then, again, I disagree (and apparently so did the US government from 1961 to 1993 (the span during which the budget was over 1% of federal expenditures).
If you're trying to tell me that we are doing enough that additional committed resources wouldn't have any appreciable benefit, then that's quite a large claim and you're going to have to do some convincing.
If you're trying to tell me that there's no possible way to divert more resources to the space program without damaging other key US interests beyond repair, again, a claim that would need a quite a bit of legwork to back up.

Just what are you trying to tell me?

philip1201 wrote:My advise to you is to adjust your standards for "the future". No flying cars, holograms, hoverboards or space exploration, but iphones, ubiquitous internet, exoplanets and cybernetic implants for monkeys.


Again, you are making assumptions about my opinions that you would not be making if you'd actually read the posts you're responding to. At the same time, you are rapidly approaching ad hominem territory hear. Let's try to keep it on topic, okay?

philip1201 wrote:If you are using this argument in favor of sending a manned mission to Mars as soon as possible, using the NASA budget for the next 10 years, then it is invalid because it presents a false dichotomy, between that and between doing nothing. As it is, low earth orbit, terrestrial research and a next generation of space telescopes helps technology and science more than a manned mission to Mars, not necessarily excluding our space-faring capabilities a century from now.
If you are arguing to increase the NASA budget to maintain those projects, whilst also going to the moon, then I demand we split that issue, into (1) increasing the NASA (or science in general) budget and (2) spending 2/3 of it going to Mars. In this case, resolution (1) goes unopposed by most among us, but for resolution (2) the same argument as above applies. In practice, splitting these may not be possible because of politics, but in a speculative debate as to what's best for us, they can be considered independently.


I was arguing none of those things in that particular post. I was arguing that when you weigh the costs involved with aggressive exploration / colonization endeavors, with what is to be gained, longitudinally, by a thoroughly dispersed human race, any argument against aggressive exploration / colonization will fail if it tries to make a case exclusively on cost/benefit terms alone.

I am not only talking to you in this thread. Please read Tael's post to see what I was responding to.


That being said,

philip1201 wrote:In this case, resolution (1) goes unopposed by most among us


You could not have possibly given off a stronger impression of your disagreement with this if you'd tried. Perhaps you did try.

philip1201 wrote:(2) spending 2/3 of it going to Mars.


Could you have pulled any more arbitrary a number to attribute to me out of the air?

My wild, totally impractical desire would be to have sufficient budget devoted to NASA to aggressively pursue all of the terrestrial and low earth orbit missions you and others have described, while also aggressively pursuing projects to a.) increase our competence at, and understanding of, the challenges of a.) maintaining human life in alien environments (and no, the ISS cannot possibly hope to simulate all the variables that can affect astronauts on long term missions to the wildly diverse hostile environments outside the earth's magnetosphere) and b.) actually physically managing projects on the scale required to create colonies, or mining operations, or whatever the ultimately goal may be. I wish for all of these things to be running in parallel, as they certainly can be.

Failing that, any appreciable commitment at all to my 'a' and 'b' would be nice.
Last edited by Samik on Tue May 03, 2011 11:03 pm UTC, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby 5ynic » Tue May 03, 2011 10:43 pm UTC

A steeper downward trend: % of all humans who've walked on another planet, not from China or India.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Tue May 03, 2011 11:01 pm UTC

EDIT:
Sigh, forget it. I'm as complicit in allowing this to get drawn off topic as anyone.
Last edited by Samik on Tue May 03, 2011 11:58 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby dcnblues » Tue May 03, 2011 11:28 pm UTC

Nooseybear wrote:Best alt-text ever.
Reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke's short story 'Improving the Neighborhood' where aliens discover the remains of our civilisation and reflect upon our demise.


Or one of my favorite bumper stickers: "The meek shall inherit the Earth. (in smaller text, below): The rest of us will go to the stars"

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby dcnblues » Wed May 04, 2011 12:37 am UTC

jadelane wrote:...Walking on the moon was a big deal. Walking on the moon *again*? Not so much. So why keep up the capacity to do that, when we need to think about the capacity to get to and terraform Mars?


Urr. I have not verified this but am under the impression that Mars is small and old enough to have cooled its inner core. No molten rotating metal core, no magnetic field, no Van Allen belt, nothing to prevent the solar wind from vaporizing your atmosphere. Mars has only one thousandth Earth's atmosphere. Unless you can install a planetary core, and are carrying a planet's worth of atmosphere in your back pocket, any talk of terraforming Mars is very frustrating to those who know better. Sadly, it's an outdated concept that's widely held.

Bobbert wrote:We don't have the technology to actually create any sort of colony on the moon, and there's no vital natural resources. Right now, attempting to send more people to the moon, or to Mars even, would be little more than a vanity project that would cost billions upon billions of dollars...


Again, wrong. This frustrates the hell out of me, but most people are totally unaware of our collective ignorance about the Universe. We have no idea of the basic composition of the Universe.

Image

We don't know jack about the big picture. Dark Matter, Dark Energy, even (potentially) Dark Flow. It's possible we're little more than ants on a piece of wood floating down the Mississippi, and we don't know what water is, and we don't know where we're going. Any YET, we can gather data. Radio and optical astronomy have the potential to give us some answers, or at least enough data to let smart people come up with theories.

At the same time, we have big problems with Astronomy. Radio astronomy has to deal with enormous and increasing levels of interference created by our satellite-addicted civilization, and optical observatories, no matter how large, are seriously hindered by our atmosphere.

If only there were some place nearby, with terrain conducive to creating large optical and radio reflector dishes, and with some large mass shielding it from the radio and optical interference from this planet... Hmmm. Why am I the only one who thinks optical and radio observatories on the dark side of the moon would be a worthy goal to pursue? I am really frustrated by this.

The only technology that would preclude such an investment (huge shielded dishes built in lunar dark-side craters) would be an array of telescopes in planetary orbit (radio and/or optical), using Very Long Baseline Interferometry to simulate a dish the size of Earth's orbit. But I don't know much about such a project and how much it would cost relative to lunar observatories.

We'd need new tech to get us to low orbit as chemical rockets just won't do it. My favorite possibility are railguns. Shooting a steady supply of cargo capsules into low orbit suddenly makes a lot of new things possible. The G's involved aren't even prohibitive to humans. Properly packed, we can take 20G's for fraction of a second. Lower G's would make for a hell of a transport technology. How'd you like to get shot from New York to Tokyo in an Inter Continental Ballistic Railgun Capsule, with a window? I sure would.

I'm in favor of spending NASA budgets on such projects. You really want to go to Mars? Here's a dummy pressure suit, a weather balloon that can take most of your weight and simulate a 1/3 earth gravity pull, and a bus ticket to Arizona. You'll get to see plenty of orange rocks, and the rest of us can use the several billion for something worthwhile, like a basic understanding of the Universe. I think that would be nice.

ps thanks philip1201 for your considered remarks. Always good to hear from those in the know.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Wed May 04, 2011 1:12 am UTC

While there are 413 aspects of this discussion I want to address, I really feel I need to crystallize my thoughts down to one or two at a time, regardless of how tempting a given tangent may be.

The first point to address: Are there things we need to learn that cannot be learned without manned missions outside low earth orbit?

I will summarize my thoughts on this here. (Many of these 'points' are just as much questions that I don't know if we have the answers to yet. Feel free to point me towards any resources with which you are familiar that may address these):

1.) It is not possible to learn everything we need to learn about how long-term away-from-earth missions will affect astronauts from the ISS.
- How well do we really know how spending long periods of time outside of the Earth's magnetosphere will affect astronauts?
- Will spending extended periods of time at different G's than 1 or 0 have any unexpected effects?
- How would spending months or years on an entirely different world affect the psyches of the astronauts/colonists? On top of the typical issues associated with space travel -
* isolation
* constrained nutrition sources
* reliance on uncomfortable equipment for basic functions
* need for constant vigilance against every single small anomaly that could grow into something greater
- you know have to throw in issues specific to Mars:
* different levels of gravity
* different optical characteristics of Martian day/night
* the knowledge that you're months away from any aid...
Maybe these factors won't trigger incontinence or mass disassociative events for the whole crew, but how would living in an environment like Mars' affect the immune system, or the ability to heal? Should we expect most astronauts to deal with significant disruption of sleep schedule after arriving? Will these factors be the same as in the zero-g environment on the ISS? We just don't know.

2.) It is not possible to learn everything we'll need to learn about maintaining Martian facilities strictly from testing at the ISS or in the Sahara. (Some of the following can be simulated from Earth orbit, but the parameters will be vastly different at 1G than at Martian G.)
- We have 0 experience in managing a ground facility from an orbital facility. All of our experience runs in the reverse.
- We have 0 experience in managing a facility too far to receive aid in a timely fashion.
- We have 0 experience with implementing frequent, regular round trips from a ground facility to an orbital facility in anything other than earth orbit (an early Martian research station would likely have lower tolerance for disaster than an Earthbound one, or the ISS, and therefore the need for unplanned, rapidly deployable support operations from the orbital station are much greater).
- In line with the first and third point, we have 0 experience with INITIATING and carrying out entirely new projects from an orbital station, without support from the Earth.
- We have 0 experience with initiating and carrying out as-needed missions FROM the research location back TO Earth.

These are all massively involved issues, and this is just off the top of my head. I can't begin to imagine all of the complications we would run in to, which is exactly the point.


-------

An example of what I would consider a reasonable step for the near future, which can be performed in parallel with the various terrestrial and low earth orbit research which has been advocated by several in this thread:

- A small but permanent research platform in lunar orbit.

I'm not talking about anything remotely like the ISS. I'm talking a module with some scientific instrumentation, some supplies, and ability to host and deploy a number of craft that we would send at later dates.

While many of the issues I've described above cannot be thoroughly tested from Earth orbit, many could be simulated from lunar orbit, at a fraction of the expense of going to Mars. The very low escape velocity of the moon means that you could perform a large number of orbit-to-surface operations much more quickly and cheaply than anywhere else, while still gaining valuable experience, and still being near enough to get some aid from Earth if something went wrong.

We follow the ISS approach of modularity, and add on to it as we are able. We send additional satellites, telescopes, etc., for the module's crew to gain experience utilizing and maintaining from orbit (which simultaneously gives us useful scientific instruments with different vantage points than anything we have now). Eventually, we construct a tiny research station on the surface of the moon, which doesn't need to be manned at all times, but which we can use a.) to gain experience at several of the tasks I mentioned earlier, b.) to gain experience conducting manned ops on the lunar surface, such as detailed geological surveys, exploration, rapid response test runs, and, ultimately, c.) construction of additional posts from the existing posts, rather than directly from Earth.


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