quadibloc on July 21, 2011, 07:21:00 pm
It doesnt matter that the spin-offs from the frist 30 years of space flight have given us most of our modern society, people are just too dumb to understand the benefits of space-flight/exploration/colonization/exploitation.
It isn't that people are dumb.

It's that these benefits usually fit the "public goods" model or the "government project" model - either it's hard to monetize the benefits, or the timescale for return on investment, and the magnitude of the investment required, are just too big.

dough560 on July 23, 2011, 12:16:16 am
History or Technological History is not something a lot of people are interested in studying.  Never mind the equipment we're using to carry on this conversation, would not exist without the space program.  Never mind the changes in our furniture, homes, medicine, vehicles....  all from the space programs. 

J Thomas on July 23, 2011, 10:56:23 am
History or Technological History is not something a lot of people are interested in studying.  Never mind the equipment we're using to carry on this conversation, would not exist without the space program.  Never mind the changes in our furniture, homes, medicine, vehicles....  all from the space programs. 

I liked the space program and I did what I could to lobby for it until it was obviously a lost cause. But you are stating a fallacy.

Your claim is exactly like saying that when the government does an immunization program, there would have been an epidemic unless the government had done that, that there was no other way to get people immunized.

It's like saying that without the government-run Post Office there would be no way to deliver mail or parcels.

Things that the space program used *did* have a significant effect on the civilian society. But how many of them would have been developed anyway? We have no way to tell. How many useful things that in fact did not get developed, would have come into use if the space program had not diverted resources away from them? Again, we have no way to know.

The space program was a great thing, but it doesn't help at this point to inflate the claims. As one of my old teachers said, "We put a lot of money into NASA and then we get some great spinoffs. But let's instead put a lot of money into research, and then run NASA off the spinoffs."

It might have worked. If NASA had been first-to-market with a significant fraction of the products that get attributed to it, they might have significant funding today.

quadibloc on July 23, 2011, 06:35:36 pm
I liked the space program and I did what I could to lobby for it until it was obviously a lost cause. But you are stating a fallacy.
That's true enough.

But there was a bigger fallacy lying closer to his main point.

Simply because people were saved from an epidemic by an immunization campaign, does it follow that something must be wrong with them because a movie about a heroic doctor carrying out an immunization campaign... does poorly at the box office, compared to more trivial entertainment that provides immediate gratification?

If people don't share my feelings towards space exploration, I am not going to curse them for being ungrateful for Tang.

Plane on July 23, 2011, 06:37:41 pm
http://www.windstream.net/news/read.php?ps=1018&rip_id=%3CD9OLDE280%40news.ap.org%3E&news_id=18702093&src=most_popular_viewed&page=1


Quote
With the space shuttle now history, NASA's next great mission is so audacious, the agency's best minds are wrestling with how to pull it off: Send astronauts to an asteroid in less than 15 years.

The challenges are innumerable. Some old-timers are grousing about it, saying going back to the moon makes more sense. But many NASA brains are thrilled to have such an improbable assignment.

And NASA leaders say civilization may depend on it.

An asteroid is a giant space rock that orbits the sun, like Earth. And someday one might threaten the planet.

But sending people to one won't be easy. You can't land on an asteroid because you'd bounce off it has virtually no gravity. Reaching it might require a NASA spacecraft to harpoon it. Heck, astronauts couldn't even walk on it because they'd float away.



  Here is a good reason to visit asteroids they are dangerous and we might need to redirect one just to forstall collision.

     While developing this abity,  we might as well explore and mine as well.

    This is the most practical "need " for space travel I know of, perhaps compelling enough to gain widespread support, otherwise there is just nothing on  any heavenly body that is worth the expense of going t o get it right now.

paddyfool on July 24, 2011, 03:46:17 pm
Alongside that defensive need, of course, is the threat that anybody mining NEOs or the moon could also potentially weaponise them against the Earth's inhabitants.  (Although I've heard that The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress may have overstated this capability).  Not sure quite what failsafes would be needed to prevent this, short of orbital weapons platforms (which are similarly problematic in themselves, even if their ordinance were somehow designed to be useless if pointed through an atmosphere).

Larry G on July 25, 2011, 10:52:04 am
As far as Lunar mining and settlement, the rarest item will be nitrogen for the 'air' in the Lunar habitats.  I haven't found any research or recon work that gives nitrogen in any form as a component of the lunar soil and nothing in the rocks that Apollo returned give any indications either. 
That doesn't say that Nitrogen is non existent on the moon, just that it isn't where we have looked.
After all we only sampled the surface in a few places down to a depth of a few feet.  Solar heating over the last 2 billion years could have cooked off the Nitrogen on the surface to a depth of several yards, due to the turnover of surface material from the action of Meteor strikes (since it doesn't bind easily to many elements besides Carbon and Hydrogen).  And I suspect that solar/cosmic radiation would convert a lot of the out-gassed Nitrogen to Carbon 14 which decays naturally into Carbon 13.
I think that if Nitrogen is to be found on the moon, it would be locked up in fossil ice deep in the moon and in the ice at the south pole.
The proof would be going there and finding out.
Argon and other gasses have been used successfully used as a Nitrogen substitute in atmosphere mixes but we need Nitrogen for organic processes to build cells.

Killydd on July 25, 2011, 11:21:51 am


The space program was a great thing, but it doesn't help at this point to inflate the claims. As one of my old teachers said, "We put a lot of money into NASA and then we get some great spinoffs. But let's instead put a lot of money into research, and then run NASA off the spinoffs."

It might have worked. If NASA had been first-to-market with a significant fraction of the products that get attributed to it, they might have significant funding today.


It's been done.  We called it Bell Labs.  Well, at least after the anti-monopolists split Ma Bell up. 

Alongside that defensive need, of course, is the threat that anybody mining NEOs or the moon could also potentially weaponise them against the Earth's inhabitants.  (Although I've heard that The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress may have overstated this capability).  Not sure quite what failsafes would be needed to prevent this, short of orbital weapons platforms (which are similarly problematic in themselves, even if their ordinance were somehow designed to be useless if pointed through an atmosphere).

There really aren't any failsafes possible  Any technology capable of steering an asteroid to miss the Earth is equally capable of causing it to hit a particular point on the Earth.  I'm sure there are people out there who would like to see Meteor Crater superimposed on NYC, or Jerusalem, or Mecca. 

J Thomas on July 25, 2011, 01:37:50 pm


The space program was a great thing, but it doesn't help at this point to inflate the claims. As one of my old teachers said, "We put a lot of money into NASA and then we get some great spinoffs. But let's instead put a lot of money into research, and then run NASA off the spinoffs."

It might have worked. If NASA had been first-to-market with a significant fraction of the products that get attributed to it, they might have significant funding today.


It's been done.  We called it Bell Labs.  Well, at least after the anti-monopolists split Ma Bell up. 

Well, but the money didn't go to fund space research. So it was wasted that way.

Quote
Alongside that defensive need, of course, is the threat that anybody mining NEOs or the moon could also potentially weaponise them against the Earth's inhabitants.  (Although I've heard that The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress may have overstated this capability).  Not sure quite what failsafes would be needed to prevent this, short of orbital weapons platforms (which are similarly problematic in themselves, even if their ordinance were somehow designed to be useless if pointed through an atmosphere).

There really aren't any failsafes possible  Any technology capable of steering an asteroid to miss the Earth is equally capable of causing it to hit a particular point on the Earth.  I'm sure there are people out there who would like to see Meteor Crater superimposed on NYC, or Jerusalem, or Mecca. 

Yes, when you give power to human beings you have to assume they will not always use it wisely. So, are we more likely to get a giant meteor strike on Terra when it might happen by accident, or when people know how to prevent it and how to make it happen?

The last big meteor strike I've heard of, was the hypothetical one that probably made the Carolina Bays around 40,000 years ago.

If we had that technology, what's the chance we'd go 40,000 years without using it to win a war?

paddyfool on July 25, 2011, 03:12:59 pm
Yes, when you give power to human beings you have to assume they will not always use it wisely. So, are we more likely to get a giant meteor strike on Terra when it might happen by accident, or when people know how to prevent it and how to make it happen?

The last big meteor strike I've heard of, was the hypothetical one that probably made the Carolina Bays around 40,000 years ago.

If we had that technology, what's the chance we'd go 40,000 years without using it to win a war?

Valid argument, but it does somewhat depend what you define as "big".  The Tunguska event was only 103 years ago, and involved an explosion, "believed to be caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 510 kilometres (36 mi) above the Earth's surface" (according to Wikipedia), with an impact about 1000 times the size of that of the Hiroshima bomb.  Which wouldn't wipe anything but the smallest of countries off the map, but could take out a city.  Demonstrating the capacity to do that kind of damage would be enough to win a war, if you could realistically threaten a repeat performance and the opponent had no capability for an equivalent reprisal.

quadibloc on July 25, 2011, 09:36:33 pm
The last big meteor strike I've heard of, was the hypothetical one that probably made the Carolina Bays around 40,000 years ago.

If we had that technology, what's the chance we'd go 40,000 years without using it to win a war?
That makes sense, but wouldn't losing a war be a big disaster too?

The problem isn't us having the technology, it's the other fellow getting their hands on the technology.

So if the U.S.A., Britain, and France had and maintained a permanent monopoly of atomic weapons and space travel, what could possibly go wrong?

J Thomas on July 25, 2011, 09:55:28 pm
Yes, when you give power to human beings you have to assume they will not always use it wisely. So, are we more likely to get a giant meteor strike on Terra when it might happen by accident, or when people know how to prevent it and how to make it happen?

The last big meteor strike I've heard of, was the hypothetical one that probably made the Carolina Bays around 40,000 years ago.

If we had that technology, what's the chance we'd go 40,000 years without using it to win a war?

Valid argument, but it does somewhat depend what you define as "big".  The Tunguska event was only 103 years ago, and involved an explosion, "believed to be caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 510 kilometres (36 mi) above the Earth's surface" (according to Wikipedia), with an impact about 1000 times the size of that of the Hiroshima bomb.  Which wouldn't wipe anything but the smallest of countries off the map, but could take out a city.

If the carolina bays came from a comet etc strike, there were half a million or so strikes that probably would have taken out just about everything from Baltimore to Savanna and points west. There would presumably have been lots of effects other places from all that, and the fact that such effects don't stand out a whole lot is one reason to think it was something else happening.

Quote
Demonstrating the capacity to do that kind of damage would be enough to win a war, if you could realistically threaten a repeat performance and the opponent had no capability for an equivalent reprisal.

If we could do that sort of thing to each other, probably we would go through with it every now and then. Say, every few hundred years. Like a great big cheap nuclear war, without the radioactivity. That would be a whole lot worse than the chance it happens by accident once every 40,000 years.

But then, if we had that technology, then within much less than 300 years we'd surely have newer technology which was a whole lot more devastating.

Plane on July 26, 2011, 11:21:43 pm
   The technology to lift heavy loads into space is already developed,the technology to live in space is developed, but the cost is realy high and only a few uses of space can pay back right now.

    I think a key technology that could be developed soon is the stronger cables needed to erect a "beanstalk" or space elevator. The space elevator would make lifting tonns of materiel much cheaper and lifting persons much safer.

    Present technology doesn't produce cable nearly strong enough to bear its own weight over this verticle length , but the possibility is tantilisingly near.

Damocles on July 27, 2011, 04:38:22 am
Why do humans need to be in the picture?

This applies to both the recent changes at NASA and to the original topic of asteroid mining. 

For the latter, it would be much more efficient to use an entirely AI-driven robotic mining system: picture a self-repairing and self-sustaining roving refinery to conduct the mining, which then sends back refined products via a mass accelerator.  You only need to plan a one-way ticket for the hardware, no squishy humans to protect or life-support to worry about, not to mention the expense of sending and retrieving personnel.  The technology required to achieve this would be an extrapolation of many systems currently available or under development.

With respect to NASA, I was quite persuaded by the argument that space exploration using robotic probes was more efficient and cost-effective than manned space flight.  I just hope that the shift to unmanned space exploration doesn't reduce research into sustainable off-world habitats, as the technological solutions that this research will yield could also be used to solve or mitigate environmental problems on Earth. 

That being said, I have always thought that investing in the exploration and colonization of the ocean floors was a wiser resource allocation than spaceflight, but that is a whole other topic...

quadibloc on July 27, 2011, 05:09:00 am
That being said, I have always thought that investing in the exploration and colonization of the ocean floors was a wiser resource allocation than spaceflight, but that is a whole other topic...
Given that Earth is a crowded neighborhood, spaceflight, unlike going to the ocean floor, is a way to go where Russia and China might not be able to bother you for a while.