Space Exploration

skarm

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One of my favorite topics being a huge science fiction nerd in the past (okay maybe in present too!) is Space Exploration. However, it seems like the whole concept is going down the drain these coming years. Anyone who follows the topic will likely be familiar with, in 2009-2010, the NASA review panel's recommendation (later implemented) to abandon the Constellation Program which was to be the successor to the present day Space Shuttle program.

While the mission, thanks mainly due to the international community, to extend the life and research aboard the International Space Station was continued, the Space Shuttle program is quickly approaching its last flight.

We (I'm using this term loosely in this post) are still hesitant to take a few risks and send a crew to an asteroid, or to Mars, or let alone back to the Moon.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. There are bright spots in the future: The Ad Astra Rocket Company's VASIMR engine could, at extremely low cost, make a one way trip from Earth to Mars in as little as 39 days. All of their tests of this technology have been extremely successful and they are attaching a test model to help keep the ISS in orbit for a fraction of the cost. This makes a manned mission to an asteroid or Mars much more feasible: instead of 6 months one way we can do the entire round trip in a little over 2 months.

And yet despite this and all the research taking place it seems we as a species are incapable of actually wanting to fund these missions. Why is that? Is it because we feel there is very little pay off in respect to the amount of money put in? Because we don't want to take the (political or otherwise) risks associated with longer space missions?

Unfortunately the way I see it is that we won't get space exploration in earnest until our resources are dwindling and energy corporations need to start mining He3 gases or metals from our solar system. That is when I believe we'll see companies pouring large amounts of money into technologies for space habitats and mining operations. Granted, by the time we get here, technology will be advanced a fair share so it won't be as daunting as we see it today in 2011.

What are your thoughts? Feasible? Why aren't we doing it? Will we ever do it? Why or why not?
 
I actually like the fact that it seems that, in a way, the exploration of space is being handed off to private corporations. There have been a number of plans for company-created rockets, some even discussing the prospect of allowing certain people on out-of-atmosphere flights, for a hefty price, of course. It seems like the idea of going out of this planet has become less of a magical prospect that only a highly-funded government effort can achieve, and more to the point where true innovators who may not be interested in working at NASA can experiment with ideas and actually receive grants to create their own methods and vehicles.
 
I've always been of the opinion that space travel is cool and everything, but humanity has bigger issues at hand, such as hunger and disease and such. Space travel doesn't really get us anything other than bragging rights, so it shouldn't get the same priority in funding as, say, medical research, which doesn't get enough funding as it is.

If there really is a compelling reason as to why we should be exploring space, I'd like to hear it. But right now, it just seems to me that it's impractical and an irresponsible use of our resources. Please tell me if you can think of a practical reason why we should explore space.
 
Though completely agreeing with your post Lanturn314, there is an excuse where you can possibly find new medicinal substances somewhere, or that some substances behave differently in different conditions in extreme cold, or weightlessness etc. Which can maybe provide medicines.
However the risk is, what is the chance something else such as weaponry of mass destruction is found instead of which mankind has always wanted
 
If there really is a compelling reason as to why we should be exploring space, I'd like to hear it. But right now, it just seems to me that it's impractical and an irresponsible use of our resources. Please tell me if you can think of a practical reason why we should explore space.
Just as big as a reason for advanced medical research, if you think about it. In the same time that numerous diseases have been eliminated, we could be mining the moon for valuable resources. The moon is a good source for helium-3 at this point of our space exploration.

Funding space exploration and development is a pretty practical decision, if you consider the vast amount of industry needed to keep it in top shape (much more than medical research). Plus, there's the whole issue of rapidly running out of valuable resources on Earth...

You know, screw it. We just need to go to Mars and find that cache of ancient Prothean data and some refined Eezo.
 
I would love to see space exploration. There is always going to be some problems on Earth like; Disease, Hunger, Peace, etc. There was going to be a launch to the Moon in 2014, from there it was going to re-fuel there and then launch off again towards Mars. This was going to be the first big spaceship to another planet in which people will be on. This was a few years ago though, so I'm not entirely sure that this is still ago, iirc.
Otherwise, I really agree with what The Rock Doc said in his last paragraph:


Here's a good reason; on Earth we're rapidly running out of certain elements like Helium, which was whisked away in the early days of our atmosphere by solar winds and taken into the atmosphere of the gas giants, like Jupiter/Saturn. And there are some elements on Earth that we don't have easy access to, like iron because most of Earth's iron is in the core (and impossible to get to)

Basically, if we want to have those elements, we'll need to find some way to get more soon.
And besides that, I just think it'd be a good idea to colonize other planets/moons/etc if possible, because of a variety of reasons (e.g. a failure in Earth's resources or some phenomena caused by something that we did not foresee). It is a really cool idea though.
 
I've always been of the opinion that space travel is cool and everything, but humanity has bigger issues at hand, such as hunger and disease and such. Space travel doesn't really get us anything other than bragging rights, so it shouldn't get the same priority in funding as, say, medical research, which doesn't get enough funding as it is.

If there really is a compelling reason as to why we should be exploring space, I'd like to hear it. But right now, it just seems to me that it's impractical and an irresponsible use of our resources. Please tell me if you can think of a practical reason why we should explore space.
We're gonna run out of resources on this planet soon, and it is important to start preparing for the inevitable.
 
We're gonna run out of resources on this planet soon, and it is important to start preparing for the inevitable.
Considering our rescources might just run out soon enough, when people start looking for nuclear power as a last resort, and a lot of countries have it, not only will it be an endless cold war, and tension like something as bilateral as the Cuban Missle Crisis which nearly brought the world to chaos.
Unless Bill Gates somehow provides us with rocket proppelled couches with inbuilt Microsoft computers to shoot off to outerspace to a planet like ours which is possibly more than 100 light years away.
I dont see human civillization going anywhere fast, and soon, let alone space travel
 
Considering our rescources might just run out soon enough, when people start looking for nuclear power as a last resort, and a lot of countries have it, not only will it be an endless cold war, and tension like something as bilateral as the Cuban Missle Crisis which nearly brought the world to chaos.
Unless Bill Gates somehow provides us with rocket proppelled couches with inbuilt Microsoft computers to shoot off to outerspace to a planet like ours which is possibly more than 100 light years away.
I dont see human civillization going anywhere fast, and soon, let alone space travel
Nuclear power does not equal nuclear weaponry, just so you know And the technology to acquire resources from other celestial objects, as well as set up a habitat outside of this planet, is not that far off, and it must be researched sooner than later, no matter how sci-fi it seems.
 

skarm

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I've always been of the opinion that space travel is cool and everything, but humanity has bigger issues at hand, such as hunger and disease and such. Space travel doesn't really get us anything other than bragging rights, so it shouldn't get the same priority in funding as, say, medical research, which doesn't get enough funding as it is.

If there really is a compelling reason as to why we should be exploring space, I'd like to hear it. But right now, it just seems to me that it's impractical and an irresponsible use of our resources. Please tell me if you can think of a practical reason why we should explore space.
I did not say it would be the best use of money. I merely stated I would like to see more of it. There are plenty of science opportunities that aren't related simply to scavenging resources from the Solar System.

My point, more or less, was that there wouldn't be any actual effort at exploration/colonization etc. until there was a very compelling reason: the need of resources. I am not suggesting we break bank and go to Mars right now, although I would, personally, enjoy that.

I agree that there are a lot of current uses. I do also donate my computer's time to the WorldCommunityGrid, run by IBM much like folding@home, to further medical or environmental research.

Clearly, the biggest "waste" of money is military budget... what those trillions could do if we only took the USA's budget alone... :(
 

TheValkyries

proudly reppin' 2 superbowl wins since DEFLATEGATE
I always feel a sense of bitterness when people say that humanity has more important things to worry about than "Space Travel." Technology doesn't just advance by itself. You have to push its limits constantly to make new discoveries. If you expand upon and improve a certain piece of technology for a Space Mission, it's usefulness does not just stop at that mission, as it can apply to many different areas (like being used as a machine for disease research, or to create better preservatives for perishable items, etc.) That's the important thing to remember, a piece of brilliant engineering that would be produced by stretching our limits in such a way, is far more than just something that gets us to Mars. It's a piece of technology that will power our cars, connect each one of us to each other, provide energy, distribute supplies, and save lives. The Space Program allows us to challenge ourselves in that way, and its benefits are a LOT more than just "bragging rights."
 
Clearly, the biggest "waste" of money is military budget... what those trillions could do if we only took the USA's budget alone... :(
Just a minor nitpick, the military R&D budget actually funds a lot of cutting edge technologies that could easily be applied to helping a space program. Albeit, that's R&D and not the whole budget...
 

skarm

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I always feel a sense of bitterness when people say that humanity has more important things to worry about than "Space Travel." Technology doesn't just advance by itself. You have to push its limits constantly to make new discoveries. If you expand upon and improve a certain piece of technology for a Space Mission, it's usefulness does not just stop at that mission, as it can apply to many different areas (like being used as a machine for disease research, or to create better preservatives for perishable items, etc.) That's the important thing to remember, a piece of brilliant engineering that would be produced by stretching our limits in such a way, is far more than just something that gets us to Mars. It's a piece of technology that will power our cars, connect each one of us to each other, provide energy, distribute supplies, and save lives. The Space Program allows us to challenge ourselves in that way, and its benefits are a LOT more than just "bragging rights."
This is an extremely good point. I wish I had some examples, but I do remember reading articles about how the Space Race in the 50s and 60s between the United States and the Soviet Union brought us technology that is now commonly used by civilians. While I think most people will likely agree that the 50s and 60s Space Race was for bragging rights and, primarily, to get a leg up against the counterpart, that is not the goal of Space Exploration or the ISS today. We have NASA, the RSA, the ESA, JAXA, and the CSA all participating and working together on projects.

I recall an article on a geologist that wanted to study the Moon. When asked why he replied that information there may be directly useful to understanding and comparing to geology on the Earth. With more sources, like moons or other planets, we may gain a better understanding as to why some things on the Earth are the way they are. To reply to Lanturn314 again, I don't think anyone is suggesting if we fly to Jupiter we'll find some sort of miracle cure to cancer hovering in the atmosphere (it seems a bit of your post was directed at those type of arguments like 'lets go to planet x we'll find something to cure x' which are juvenile and not helpful).

I would encourage anyone who thinks the costs will always be astronomical to once again look into Ad Astra Rocket Company's VASIMR rocket. This rocket is not so much a rocket: it is terrible for escaping a gravity well and thus would be useless for getting out of Earth's atmosphere, but once in space it uses a fraction of the fuel at a fraction of the cost. This is a fairly recent development only having been worked on in a private company's laboratory for five years and shows amazing promise. As I said before they are putting one on the ISS which will save NASA and its compatriots millions of dollars in fuel that they must use to keep the ISS in orbit and rotated correctly.

The main use of this would be once in space to power a ship, cargo, or whatever at a fraction of the cost with far better results. You'd still have to use a traditional chemical rocket to achieve flight into space, though.

Some interesting sites:

physorg.com has a good space section of news articles.
ted.org has 'TED talks' which include high tech innovation, science, and social concerns and anyone interested in how our world's academic leaders perceive things.
 

skarm

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Just a minor nitpick, the military R&D budget actually funds a lot of cutting edge technologies that could easily be applied to helping a space program. Albeit, that's R&D and not the whole budget...
Well, okay, that is entirely true. I was thinking more along the lines of "if the US wasn't actively engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq that money that is spent extending supply lines to them and on extra ammunition, etc etc could be used for medical research, space exploration, etc."

I wasn't suggesting that nothing good has ever come from military budget. I am not sure how big the portion of the Defense budgets are spent on R&D, however. It does seem that a lot of the R&D companies are contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Haliburton, etc. It is my (perhaps entirely false or naive) opinion that the government themselves does little of their R&D themselves.
 
@everyone who said scavenging resources: sounds like a plausible answer... i guess... i'd like to know exactly how depleted the resources you mentioned are, though, and how practical it would be to go on a space mission to get more before making a definitive judgment on this aspect. Would it actually improve things, or would the costs outweigh the benefits?

I did not say it would be the best use of money. I merely stated I would like to see more of it. There are plenty of science opportunities that aren't related simply to scavenging resources from the Solar System.

My point, more or less, was that there wouldn't be any actual effort at exploration/colonization etc. until there was a very compelling reason: the need of resources. I am not suggesting we break bank and go to Mars right now, although I would, personally, enjoy that.

I agree that there are a lot of current uses. I do also donate my computer's time to the WorldCommunityGrid, run by IBM much like folding@home, to further medical or environmental research.

Clearly, the biggest "waste" of money is military budget... what those trillions could do if we only took the USA's budget alone... :(
I wasn't attacking you at all; I was merely curious as to what the actual benefits of space exploration were as you saw them. And it's great that you donate your computer's time to such an organization :) I'd also agree that the military budget is the biggest waste of all... but that's a different topic.

TheValkyries said:
I always feel a sense of bitterness when people say that humanity has more important things to worry about than "Space Travel." Technology doesn't just advance by itself. You have to push its limits constantly to make new discoveries. If you expand upon and improve a certain piece of technology for a Space Mission, it's usefulness does not just stop at that mission, as it can apply to many different areas (like being used as a machine for disease research, or to create better preservatives for perishable items, etc.) That's the important thing to remember, a piece of brilliant engineering that would be produced by stretching our limits in such a way, is far more than just something that gets us to Mars. It's a piece of technology that will power our cars, connect each one of us to each other, provide energy, distribute supplies, and save lives. The Space Program allows us to challenge ourselves in that way, and its benefits are a LOT more than just "bragging rights."
Well, that's all well and good... but I was inquiring about space travel specifically. What exactly does it itself get us?

As for the side benefits of space missions... well... why not apply our energy to pushing technology to its limits for a different purpose than space? Why not just apply our engineering specifically towards powering our cars, connecting each one of us to each other, providing energy, distributing supplies, and saving lives, rather than towards space missions? I mean, it's not like people working in those specific fields aren't also trying to push their technology, and having the engineering be more directed at those specific individual purposes just strikes me as more practical than saying, "Oh look! Here's a rocket! and the stuff we developed can be used for other stuff too!" It would be helpful if someone here provided a specific example of a space mission bringing an actual concrete benefit to society. It's not really in my field of study, so I'm not as knowledgeable as I should be, so my tone here is actually curious rather than flippant. I apologize if my posts have been coming off as the latter.

edit@sy123: i wasn't making a suggestion; i was asking a question-- why in a philosophical sense. I was asking more for an actual argument as to why space missions should occur rather than funding other things... not why things actually are the way they are. I am sorry I did not make that clear.
 
As for the side benefits of space missions... well... why not apply our energy to pushing technology to its limits for a different purpose than space? Why not just apply our engineering specifically towards powering our cars, connecting each one of us to each other, providing energy, distributing supplies, and saving lives, rather than towards space missions? I mean, it's not like people working in those specific fields aren't also trying to push their technology, and having the engineering be more directed at those specific individual purposes just strikes me as more practical than saying, "Oh look! Here's a rocket! and the stuff we developed can be used for other stuff too!" It would be helpful if someone here provided a specific example of a space mission bringing an actual concrete benefit to society. It's not really in my field of study, so I'm not as knowledgeable as I should be, so my tone here is actually curious rather than flippant. I apologize if my posts have been coming off as the latter.
Excellent idea and all, and I hate to be pessimistic but, I dont think it will happen, not because it isnt available (like I said earlier) but because of the deeper politics and money-politics involved more than anything
 
I don't get why we don't just build more Libraries.

I mean, you get a beaker for every 2 citizens - the US could get the entire tech tree in one turn.
 

cookie

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The thing about space exploration is that it's pretty fucking expensive so there needs to be a really good reason for it. In the 60's the Americans were trying to prove that they were better than the Russians, and that got men on the Moon. Right now, there's no such motivation to send men to Mars beyond "it's cool". There are obvious long-term benefits of such a project, like advancing technology in general and bringing us one step closer to enabling us to escape the solar system once the Sun blows up, but by and large there needs to be a big short-term incentive to pour billions of dollars into something.

A good example of this is laser science: solid-state lasers (the ones in DVD drives and laser pointers) were expensive as shit to build and were gonna stay that way until it became economically viable to put research into making them cheap to produce, but it was only when telecommunications needed solid-state lasers that that field took off in a big way.

Resource acquisition does sound like a good reason, although don't count on He-3 as an incentive because it would still be easier to just use tritium-deuterium reactions for fusion once you take the mining costs into account. Because to start off with, mining stuff from the Moon is going to be balls expensive. Space tourism is something I see advancing space exploration slowly but consistently: once there's a market companies will strive to reduce costs, invest in research to make it cheaper etc.
 
I thought there was a warning that told you about a duplicate post in the last 5 minutes...

There is a lot of weird stuff in space, and generally, if we know more, we will be better off. People barely know space enough to see if invisible matter and antimatter really exist, and if they can harm us. Will we suffer to the Big Rip? Will a giant chunk of dark matter slam into Earth and break off a huge chunk? Can we figure out how to prepare for these things if we ever saw them coming? What if a black hole was actively sucking us in now?

Yes, I realize that none of those disasters have been detected anywhere near Earth, there is so much we don't know about space, could we trust that these catastrophes won't happen to us?

In addition, say we find a few pounds of dark energy. People have very little experience with antimatter, but a lot of theories that need proof. If we find some antimatter, we could figure out many properties about it, how to make more and how it was floating in space, and there will probably be loads of new inventions that could come from the discovery, just like we have made many inventions after discovering how to generate lots of electricity.

There is too much in space we don't know about. There are disasters we have thought up that could be false, and disasters we would have never seen coming.
 

Destiny Warrior

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The problem is this: money.

Unlike science fiction stories, space travel is very costly. Like cookie mentioned, nobody is going to fund space travel unless it has short-term benefits. Sure, it helps us escape when the Sun is about to blow up, but that's a long way off, and nobody really sees the issue(at least the companies don't). THings will be staying this way unfortuantely unless we get some kind of alien invasion, chances of which are close to zero.
 
cookie must've double-posted.
i agree with cookie also, and also with DW in the fact that space travel is a bit of a waste of money, presently. Unless you are thinking of the fact that we as humans will need to have some kind of backup plan if anything were to happen, like; destroying our race of civilization.
 
Moon tourism brings to mind futurama. Anywho i had thought the Japanese had landed a satellite on an asteroid is it much farther off to land humans on one? As for the costs associated with space travel I think it's well worth it. When it does become more critically needed once again i'd rather we were leading the pack than at the back.

As far as the military budget goes I find it hard to think you can approve of huge space expenditures while disapproving of the money that protects your country. I thought that the military contracts out for the weaponry supply but researches what it wants at it's own bases. There's Aberdeen for example.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberdeen_Proving_Ground
 
I'm fascinated by space travel and I deeply wish it was possible. The problem with space exploration past our own solar system, however, is the light-speed predicament. Even if you could travel to the closest sun at 10% the speed of light, it would take you 40 years or so. No one could come home alive.
Here's where the real funny thing happens.. If we were able to construct a ship that could travel at about 70% the speed of light, we could get to the the center of our galaxy in about 25 years! We could definitely get home by the time a 20 year old was 70 right??? No, unfortunately... you see, as you travel at that speed, time itself slows down, but only for the objects moving at this immense speed. We would come home to an Earth that looks much different. The continents will have shifted, the Sun would be larger, the land would be dried, at all of humanity would be extinct. In short, we will never make an inter-galactic trade federation
 
The problem is this: money.

Unlike science fiction stories, space travel is very costly. Like cookie mentioned, nobody is going to fund space travel unless it has short-term benefits. Sure, it helps us escape when the Sun is about to blow up, but that's a long way off, and nobody really sees the issue(at least the companies don't). THings will be staying this way unfortuantely unless we get some kind of alien invasion, chances of which are close to zero.
The amount of money we are pouring out in massive amounts for our military budget that is largely necessary and superfluous could easily be put to use towards the research and development of space travel. This last missile barrage on Libya alone cost MILLIONS upon millions of dollars. Not every attack is necessary, and with just a small proportion of the military budget diverted to a space program, advancements would come much faster.
 

TheValkyries

proudly reppin' 2 superbowl wins since DEFLATEGATE
Well, that's all well and good... but I was inquiring about space travel specifically. What exactly does it itself get us?

As for the side benefits of space missions... well... why not apply our energy to pushing technology to its limits for a different purpose than space? Why not just apply our engineering specifically towards powering our cars, connecting each one of us to each other, providing energy, distributing supplies, and saving lives, rather than towards space missions? I mean, it's not like people working in those specific fields aren't also trying to push their technology, and having the engineering be more directed at those specific individual purposes just strikes me as more practical than saying, "Oh look! Here's a rocket! and the stuff we developed can be used for other stuff too!" It would be helpful if someone here provided a specific example of a space mission bringing an actual concrete benefit to society. It's not really in my field of study, so I'm not as knowledgeable as I should be, so my tone here is actually curious rather than flippant. I apologize if my posts have been coming off as the latter.
Challenging ourselves with different problems allows different kinds of ingenuity. If we limit ourselves to one set of problems, we not only limit our ideas, but we limit what we can learn from those other problems. It sets us on a track of one-dimensional thinking that isn't healthy for the advancement of all knowledge.

Since you asked for something "concrete" the space program did, I'll give you a few simple ones that we got from the early Apollo Missions. They developed the first Small-Scale Integrated Circuit, which is basically the father of the "microchip" as we know it today. They also produced the first working Fuel Cell ever, which we use in nearly all forms of transportation today. I'd also be insulting your intelligence to say how useful Satellites are as if you didn't already know, but it's worth noting that they were only created to test if it was even possible to get into Space at all, before we sent the actual people.
 

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