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Why is space a viable frontier?

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2003 7:43 pm    Post subject: Why is space a viable frontier? Reply with quote

RelicNews Forum wrote:
Can anyone think of an economical reason to get into space?
Retro wrote:
Several, but some are longer-term.

1) Mining. If you can harvest and harness a nickel-iron asteroid, there is enough raw material in a good-sized one to fill Earth's present production requirements for several years. Smelting it in space (using alternative 3 below) removes all greenhouse-gas concerns.

2) Access to exotic materials. (Hope I'm getting this one right) There's plenty of Helium-3 floating around in Jupiter's atmosphere, which is one of the highest-yield fusion fuels, and gives incredibly good mass-to-energy ratios. With the right spaceship, you can cut transit time to Mars to days.

3) Energy. Solar panels in space could provide for terawatts of clean power, with the only pollution being heat. Fusion reactors - same story.

4) Defense. Not the most laudable of reasons, but there yuh go. Wanna trash your enemies? Drop a crowbar on them from orbit.

5) Removal of regulations. The problem with nanotechnology (atomic-sized assembly/disassembly robots that construct products atom by atom) is the "gray goo" threat - where rogue nanodisassemblers tear every molecule in the world apart. Moving all nano-experimentation off of Earth significantly reduces this threat.

6) Freedom of religion. With human cargo, in this case. Many speculative futures posit colonization of other planetary bodies as a way to avoid religious persecution. This one's probably a long way out.

7) Zero-gee manufacturing of exotic crystals, superconductors, perfect giant mirrors, and other wonky science stuff. This is probably one of the biggest short-term reasons to go to space.

8) Commercialization of exploratory science. If you could as a private corporation complete a safe manned mission to Mars for under a billion dollars, (yeah right), you might be able to secure governmental funding.

There's more.
Retroboy (another thread) wrote:
Earth-Command, the reason why there's no hype is because "it's been done". The standard space mission is now take off, go to low earth orbit, do some stuff, come back. At least the Hubble telescope repairs added a lot of interesting events to one of their recent missions. Many prime physicists and science fiction authors groaned when they heard the plans to build the ISS, because they knew that all manned space travel was simply going to be back and forth to it for the next 20 years. They feel, and I agree, that it's just "baby steps", and we should be doing something BIG like establishing a permanent base on the moon. I think if NASA were to acquire funding and the mandate to build, say, a manned mission to Mars, there would be a lot of interested folks that would feel the way you did when you watched the shuttle take off. I felt exactly the same when I was that age and watched the Apollo's take off for the trip to the moon.
Rodimus wrote:
Yeah, try establishing a permanent colony on the moon with fixed funding of $14.5 Billion a year that is never adjusted for inflation. Now if we spent a little less buying relatively-ineffective-for-their -cost b-2 bombers ($44 billion at $2.2 billion a pop - new shuttles cost about $1.7 billion a pop) or on 'defense' in general - even in the wake of 9-11 - ($329 billion in fiscal year 2002), who knows? The sad truth is, we the american people will always be too nosy-in-other-peoples-business, and at the same time too paranoid-about-our-safety-at-home to care that much about broad human scientific and symbolic gestures as space exploration.

BBC news talkingpoint wrote:
As has been said many times above, space exploration is just as dangerous today as was the early exploration of the oceans tall ships and little navigational technology. Space exploration must continue but I think the time has come for a world space organisation with participating nations contributing towards the cost.

The current situation with disparate agencies ploughing separate furrows is a waste of resources with duplicated expenses and research and little shared experience. I know it will not happen overnight, and may not happen for many years, but we all also know it is inevitable one day. Why not now?
Steve Pearson, Manchester, UK
ditto wrote:
We need space research. We always try to be hard-nosed, looking at the economic value of space research. It is true that today's computer systems, aero-engineering and, yes, Velcro and frying pans owe a lot to the space programme.

What really matters, though is the vision of man's future as an explorer of our solar system and, perhaps, beyond. The crew of seven knew the risks, they had bought into the vision. We, in respect for their memory and for the future they imagined, should not give up on the programme they died for.
Craig Livingstone, UK
etc wrote:
Space travel has been happening for 40 years, but even so our knowledge and understanding of both it and the Universe is still woefully small. It is tragic that lives are lost, but the exploration and eventual colonisation of space are so incredibly important to the future of mankind that the programme must continue, with more vigour not less.

Hundreds of years ago many lives were lost as ships departed overseas on voyages of discovery. If these pioneers had abandoned their efforts then our development as a species today would be significantly less.
Mark Hickman, UK
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2003 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JohnHopkins applied physics lab (1 February 1999) wrote:
"Our goal is to achieve comprehensive understanding of how the Earth's space environment - the magnetosphere - interacts electrically with the Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere to generate the beautifully complex northern and southern auroral lights," explains Dr. Barry H. Mauk, the project leader at APL and a magnetospheric physicist. "Our multiple-satellite, formation-flying approach would provide, for the first time, the tools needed to understand how the magnetosphere generates the electrical currents, how those currents are modified and channeled to the polar regions of the Earth's upper atmosphere, and what the consequences are to the atmosphere and space. These processes are fundamental to many planetary and astrophysical environments, and have practical consequences for large-scale ground and space-based engineering infrastructures on Earth, such as those concerned with power distribution, communications, and navigation."

*related picture created february 2003*
Washington Times (UPI) wrote:
The solar system just grew a little stranger -- and perhaps lonelier -- as instruments aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft have discovered a large and surprisingly dense magnetic gas cloud occupying the same orbit as Jupiter's icy moon Europa.

The discovery raises some doubts about whether the fourth-largest and second-closest Jovian moon is capable of sustaining life, as scientists have speculated.
Cassini - at present en route to a July 1, 2004, orbital rendezvous with Saturn -- focused its magnetospheric imaging instrument in the general direction of Europa during a recent flyby of Jupiter's neighborhood. In doing so, the spacecraft detected a cloud millions of miles in diameter in a torus, or donut, shape. The cloud is thought to be the result of Jupiter's severe bombardment of Europa with ion radiation -- radiation so strong it actually disturbs the moon's surface, kicking up and pulling apart water-ice molecules and dispersing them into space, NASA scientists explained.

I wonder how intense the radiation belt is compared to Earths? (ie. how far does one need to go to get the equivalent earth type radiation belt strength?)
    EDIT: below is a blurp i found recently while searching for jupiter's "discernable atmosphere"
Internal Heat: Jupiter is a heat source; it radiates 1.6 times a much energy as it receives from the Sun. This energy is produced by Jupiter's shrinking due to gravity, and this produces heat. Also, it is still cooling down, losing its initial energy (the energy it received as the Solar System formed).

Does Jupiter produce energy by nuclear fusion -- NO. Jupiter, the biggest of the gas giants, is too small to produce a core temperature that is hot enough to undergo fusion (you need about 3 million degrees to start the fusion of hydrogen). You'd need a body that was many times the mass of Jupiter to get nuclear fusion (the theoretical limit is about 8 percent of the mass of the Sun).

Magnetic Field: Jupiter has a very strong magnetic field. The magnetic field is probably generated as the planet spins its deep metallic-hydrogen layer with electrical currents .

Jupiter's magnetic field (Jupiter's magnetosphere) extends for millions of miles into space. The tail of this magnetic field (which is extended by the solar wind), extends into the orbit of Saturn! A tremendous amount of charged particles are trapped within this magnetosphere, especially in the inner parts of this field. This makes Jupiter the most deadly radiation environment of any of the planets.

Last edited by Muffy on Mon Apr 07, 2003 7:27 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2003 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Rewards of Spaceflight

The exploration of space reflects humanity's highest aspirations. As life evolved on this planet it expanded to occupy every possible habitat, from the lightless oceanic abyss to the frozen dry valleys of Antartica and the scalding sulphurous water of volcanic hot springs. In a few short millennia human beings have occupied the continents, exploited the oceans and soared into the atmosphere. We have an insatiable urge to explore and understand our environment, for only then can we make it our own, and it is not surprising that curiosity is our outstanding characteristic, for knowledge has been the key to our survival and success. During this century for the first time we reached beyond our native planet crossed the threshold of space. Exploring the alien, but unbounded environment about us has vastly expanded our scientific knowledge and caused the development of new technologies that today are exploiting the opportunities offered by near Earth space. Our growing understanding will lead humanity, both as individuals and in concert to appreciate the profound proportions of the universe which our planet is but a tiny part. Awesome as those proportions are, none the less our intelligence and courage will allow us to hold fast to them while we seek ever deeper into the mysteries of time and space.

Ignorance is not bliss. It means fear, poverty, and powerlessness. Knowledge will be the basis of wealth in the coming century, just as land, labour and energy were during the three centuries which preceded it. The exploration of space is an investment that will return handsome dividends in the form of yet more new technologies and a detailed understanding of the resources that lie just beyond our outstreched fingertips. In some future history of the world, the icon of the twentieth century will be the image of this fragile, blue planet seen by the Apollo astronauts looking back from the Moon, for spaceflight has profoundly touched us all.

Artificial satellites monitor the condition of Earth's ecosphere, oberserve the weather and track hurricanes. From orbit we measure changes in the Earth's crust and guide the geologist's search for new mineral resources, while transportation systems call upon the Global Positioning System to direct the prompt and efficient delivery of freight and passengers. Communication satellites have spawned a multi-billion dollar a year industry, whose services are so all pervasive that the general public only becomes aware of their importance when a satellite occasionally fails unexpectedly. The space sector is the most flexible component of the communications network that has enriched and saved lives, carried our thoughts to every corner of this planet and soon will link even the remotest village into a seamless global web of information.

We are an intelligent species that has evolved on a planet orbiting what seems to be an unremarkable star. It would be unwise to assume that we are unique. Our radio broadcasts have already announced our presence across interstellar space to anyone who was able and carred to listen. If other intelligent species exist it would surely be better to contact them as we expand out into space in our own search for knowledge and ability, than as the inward looking of an overcrowded planet.

No doubt the demands and opportunities of spaceflight will acccelerate innovation and discovery here on Earth, but as our understanding of our wider environment develops, so will the chance of survival for future generations. The solar system is a violent place. The Earth bears the scars of over a hundred major impacts. Prudence suggests that it would be wise to prepare for and, if possible, forestall such an eventuality, for the history of life is punctuated by cosmic collisions, tectonic catastrophes, and violent climatic changes, and now, added to which, our industrial activities threaten to disrupt the biosphere. Only the exploitation of space offers us an opportunity to remove some of life's precious eggs from their one, vulnerable, cosmic basket.

Space flight is relatively expensive, and it may be argued that the money invested in spaceflight could be better spent on other terrestrial activities. This argument is not supported by history. The original cold war investments in space technology were substantial, but have been more than matched by their long term benefits. Today, commercial space activities are a thriving business sector that sustains itself from the global venture capital market, and overall it generates a substantial profit. Space research, like anyother form of research, can not be supported this way, and yet without a continuing research effort, eventually the economic benefits wilt. The global annual expenditure on all space activities is approximately 40 billion dollars, and is equivalent to only 4 percent of the world's military budget. This ratio will change in favour of space activities as new opportunities in space appear.

Space activities have already yielded significant returns and for the future, unlike terrestrial assets, the resources of space are unlimitless and justify an expanding, world wide, programme to expand our abilities in space. Space professionals bear the responsibility of demonstrating both the immediate and long term importance of space research and space technology to a sceptical public. Exploring and exploiting the alien, but bountiful, reaches of space will be a task that will challenge our civilization's finest talents, and, as it emboldens us to pursue a common destiny beyond the atmosphere, will enrich our global civilization as whole.

In the screenplay for the 1936 film "Things to Come", H.G.Wells wrote: "Above all the old order (war) was an ugly spectacle of waste". Modern weaponry has rendered total war totally destructive, and therefore unsupportable. Increasingly economic competition is superseding war as an instrument of politics. Space offers room enough for the pent up drives and dreams of humankind to be expressed. Like war, space is dangerous and unforgiving, but, instead of weeping over the partitioned wasteland of battle, from space, our descendants will look back towards the Earth and as one echo Well's words as he looked forward to Man's first journey to the Moon. "We didn't abolish Danger and Death, we simply made Danger and Death worthwhile."

A review of the short history of space research and development can only led to the conclusion that it is incumbent on all nations to support and to participate fully in the further evolution of spaceflight. Its rapidly increasing economic and social benefits clearly justify expanding the exploitation of space supported by well funded programmes of space research and technology development. Indeed, the real possibility of a catastrophic cosmic impact makes the continued evolution of spaceflight a necessity. The world's politicians carry the responsibility of allocating adequate resources to activities of importance, and in particular, the leaders of the spacefaring nations need to recognize the vital, and increasing relevance of spaceflight and space research.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2003 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

UniversityofArizona wrote:
Asteroids are classified into a number of types according to their spectra (and hence their chemical composition) and albedo:
  • C-type, includes more than 75% of known asteroids: extremely dark (albedo 0.03); similar to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites; approximately the same chemical composition as the Sun minus hydrogen, helium and other volatiles;
  • S-type, 17%: relatively bright (albedo .10-.22); metallic nickel-iron mixed with iron- and magnesium-silicates;
  • M-type, most of the rest: bright (albedo .10-.18); pure nickel-iron.
    There are also a dozen or so other rare types.

Because of biases involved in the observations (e.g. the dark C-types are harder to see), the percentages above may not be representative of the true distribution of asteroids. (There are actually several classification schemes in use today.)


Asteroids are also categorized by their position in the solar system:
  • Main Belt: located between Mars and Jupiter roughly 2 - 4 AU from the Sun; further divided into subgroups: Hungarias, Floras, Phocaea, Koronis, Eos, Themis, Cybeles and Hildas (which are named after the main asteroid in the group).
  • Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs): ones that closely approach the Earth
    Atens: semimajor axes less than 1.0 AU and aphelion distances greater than 0.983 AU;
    Apollos: semimajor axes greater than 1.0 AU and perihelion distances less than 1.017 AU
    Amors: perihelion distances between 1.017 and 1.3 AU;
  • Trojans: located near Jupiter's Lagrange points (60 degrees ahead and behind Jupiter in its orbit). Several hundred such asteroids are now known; it is estimated that there may be a thousand or more altogether. Curiously, there are many more in the leading Lagrange point (L4) than in the trailing one (L5). (There may also be a few small asteroids in the Lagrange points of Venus and Earth (see Earth's Second Moon) that are also sometimes known as Trojans; 5261 Eureka is a "Mars Trojan".)

NEAR wrote:
An AU, or astronomical unit, equals 149,597,870 km (approximately 92,750,679 miles), the average distance from the Earth to the Sun


Comets with orbital periods of less than 200 years are thought to originate mostly in the "Kuiper belt," a newly discovered belt of small bodies beyond the orbit of Pluto (>40 AU from the sun). Long-period comets, which may visit earth's vicinity only as often as every few thousand years, are thought to comes from an even more distant reservoir called the "Oort cloud." The Oort cloud is hypothesized to extend part way to the nearest stars, but no small bodies in the Oort cloud have yet been observed directly

just emailed these guys to see what pops up about deep space mining.

Astronomy Encyclopedia wrote:
A type of stony meteorite which (usually) contains chondrules. Almost all chondrites also contain iron and nickel, as well as some stony minerals and sulfides. From their texture and their mixture of stone, metal, and sulfides which would separate on melting, it is clear that chondrites have not melted since their formation. Indeed, they are believed to be composed of primitive material, unaltered since the formation of the planets about 4,550 million years ago. This is confirmed by the observation that, hydrogen and helium aside, the relative abundance of elements in them closely matches that of the Sun. A rare category of chondrites, important in the study of the origin of life, are the carbonaceous chondrites.

The High Frontier wrote:
Building the First Colony
If we were to start now, with determination and drive, I believe that the first space colony (Island One) could be in place, with its productive capacity benefiting the earth, before 1990. This is possible, I must emphasize, within the limits of present-day, conventional materials and technology.
A modified space shuttle and a chemical space tug would be used to transport basic construction equipment, supplies, and 2,000 workmen to a point in space called L5. (L5 is a point in the moon’s orbit equidistant from the earth and the moon at which objects will remain in a stable orbit, stationary with respect to the moon.) A smaller work force of about 200 people would establish a lunar outpost which would provide 98% of the raw materials needed for the construction of Island One.

The mass driver, operating only 25% of the time, could lift 500,000 tons of material to L5 in the six-year construction time of Island One. An identical machine, located in space, could be a very effective reaction motor for the shifting of heavy payloads in the 100,000-ton range.

Lunar soil is 40% oxygen, 19.2% silicon, 14.3% iron, 8% calcium, 5.9% titanium, 5.6% aluminum, and 4.5% magnesium. The aluminum would be the primary building material and the oxygen would be used as atmosphere and to fuel rocket engines. Lunar surface materials are poor in carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen, which would have to be brought from earth. For every ton of hydrogen brought from earth, nine tons of water could be made at the colony site, using oxygen from the processing of lunar oxides.

The removal of half a million tons of material from the surface of the moon sounds like a large-scale mining operation, but it is not. The excavation left on the moon would be only five meters deep and 200 meters long and wide, not even enough to keep one small bulldozer occupied for a five-year period.

In the long run, we can use the fact that the asteroids are also a source of materials. The three largest asteroids alone contain enough materials for the construction of new lands with a total area many thousands of times as large as that of the earth. Once the asteroidal resources are tapped, we should have not only metals, glass, and ceramics, but also carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen. These three elements, scarce on the moon, are believed to be abundant in the type of asteroid known as carbonaceous chondritic.

Island One
Within the materials limits of ordinary civil engineering practice and within an overall mass budget of 500,000 tons (about the same as the mass of a super-tanker), several designs for the first "island in space" have evolved. All are pressure vessels–spherical, cylindrical, or toroidal–containing atmospheres with the same oxygen content as at sea level on earth and rotating slowly to provide a gravity as strong as that of the earth. The axis of the structure would always point toward the sun, the source of all the energy used by the colony.
The first space community would house 10,000 people; 4,000 would be employed building additional colonies, while 6,000 would be producing satellite solar power stations. The interior of the colony will be as earth-like as possible–rich in green plants, trees, animals, birds, and the other desirable features of attractive regions ‘on earth. The design would allow a line of sight of at least a half mile, giving the residents a feeling of spaciousness. The landscape would feature plains, valleys, hills, streams, and lakes. The residential areas might consist of small apartment buildings with big rooms and wide terraces overlooking fields and groves. Near the axis of the structure, gravity would be much reduced and, consequently, human-powered flight would be easy, sports and ballet could take on a new dimension, and weight would almost disappear. It seems almost a certainty that at such a level a person with a serious heart condition could live far longer than on earth, and that low gravity could greatly ease many of the health problems of advancing age.

The space colony would have separate residential, agricultural, and industrial areas, each with its optimal gravity, temperature, climate, sunlight, and atmosphere. Intensive agriculture would be possible, since the day-length and seasonal cycle would be controllable independently for each crop and care would be taken not to introduce into the agricultural areas the insect pests which hamper earth agriculture. Agriculture could be efficient and predictable, free of the extremes of crop failure and glut which the terrestrial environment forces on our farmers. Only 111 acres would be needed to feed all 10,000 residents.


First Colony Could Cost $100 Billion
The best estimate currently available is that the establishment of Island One would cost $100 billion, with a possible variation of $50 billion in either direction. That figure is 2.5 times the cost of Project Apollo and 5-15% of the estimated cost of Project Independence, the U.S. energy self-sufficiency plan

Massive database of links
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

while reading stories about sky hooks (space elevators) i saw references to various atmospheric zones and needed a pic. I'll be studying the viability of sky hooks versus other orbital delivery systems (cost per tonnage; efficiency/lifespan/maintenance over initial cost)

the question now becomes, where is the earth's van allen belt located and how much deadlier is it than pure solar wind/radiation?
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