The Shuttle/ISS, and manned spaceflight in general

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Post by Toaster on Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:41 pm

I've been wanting to have a discussion about Space Travel on here for a while, but I could never really come up with a more specific topic up until now.

I came across an old article, and I've decided to write up a response, from which point discussion can hopefully pick up. Here's the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/04/opinion/a-failed-mission.html

TL;DR: Written shortly after the events of the Columbia Space Shuttle re-entry disaster, the Author writes that it is time for the Space Shuttle program to end. Safety issues aside, the author feels that most of that the Space Shuttle is capable of can be done more effectively with unmanned spacecraft, and that other uses for the Shuttle, such as the building of the International Space Station, are without purpose, or otherwise, merely show put on by NASA too keep the interest of the public in space travel.

Response: Despite my being extremely passionate about space travel, I have to agree with the author when it comes to the Space Shuttle. It is, of course, necessary to have some kind of simple, re-usable, Earth-to-Orbit space craft for emergency situations, like, as the author mentioned, the Hubble Telescope's early malfunction, but the shuttle program itself has amounted to very little actual progress in space.

The International Space Station might seem romantic, but in reality, it's rather pointless . The docking stations on the ISS are designed for the Space Shuttle. In the event of a hardware malfunction on-board a Space Shuttle, it would seem practical to have that Shuttle dock up with the ISS to make repairs and avoid catastrophic re-entry. Had the Space Shuttle Columbia taken this course of action, seven human lives, along with over 1.7 billion USD worth of equipment could have been saved. Unfortunately, quite stupidly, the Space Shuttle is not capable of, for example, repairing the Hubble Telescope and stopping by the ISS on its way home, due to fuel restrictions, as well as other factors.

It would seem that NASA is wasting its time by focusing on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.

The only problem I find with the article is the author's later opinions expressed towards the concept of manned space flight in general. The author mentions the Orion Starship, a spacecraft based upon the idea of Nuclear Propulsion, which, along with being capable of traveling to nearby stars, would have allowed for fast, human spaceflight within the Solar System. Had it not been dropped after the signing of an international treaty banning the use of Nuclear weapons in Space; had it been seriously pursued, we could have landed men on every planet in the Solar System by now, and even Pluto! The author, while admittedly impressed at first by the idea, went on to remark that even human spaceflight to other planets is a senseless endeavor when it comes to anything other than future colonization. He claims that most other projects could be more easily accomplished by Machines.

In this assumption he is wrong. As useful as probes and Rovers have been to us in the past, they are ultimately inefficient, and incapable of accomplishing many of our goals in space. When it comes to exploration, a small team of Astronauts can cover about as much area in one afternoon excursion as a remotely controlled machine can cover in 2 years. When it comes to things like transforming, and mining, modern machines are, once again incapable of performing on a desirable level. Manned spaceflight, along with being vastly more romantic of a concept than remote controlled robots, is necessary for the efficient progression of Humans in space.
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Post by BBJynne on Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:53 pm

I'm going to make a serious remark instead of saying something about aliens.

unless we can use the planets for something, I don't really see a purpose to send people to them except as explorers.

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Post by tiny tim on Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:25 pm

Colonization. Earth is beginning to be overpopulated and we need to expand.

"Space, the final frontier."

Really the only place we know of that we can go. I think the shuttles do serve a good purpose though. As well as the ISS. It is planned that the ISS will be a space hotel pretty much in that it will allow travelers to other planets to stop and rest/refuel there. It is also a laboratory that investigates astrophysics. When something goes wrong in those machines generally can't fix it like a human can. At least until we get true AI. The shuttles simply serve as a good transport method that is reusable. We should start working on a new one though that can actually land on other plaents and has longer range though.

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Post by Ascendant Justice on Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:03 pm

tiny tim wrote:Colonization. Earth is beginning to be overpopulated and we need to expand.

Now add pollution, fuel shortage, and disease to that list. Colonization is a higher priority then some people may think.

Right now though I think we need to focus on the war in the east, then global unity needs to happen before we even think of advancing our tech THAT far. And by that I mean like colonizing Mars and shit like that. The moon could be done with what we have but it'd be pushing it.
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Post by Nocbl2 on Fri Aug 07, 2009 12:04 am

I think the UN should try and unify all of the 224 (yes, I counted) by any means necessary. The Middle East is kinda pushing against that, considering Iraq, Iran, Afghanastan, Saudi Arabia and anyone in that generally area will be REALLY pissed when we pull out.
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Post by BBJynne on Fri Aug 07, 2009 8:20 am

Nocbl2 wrote:the UN should unify [...] by any means necessary

let's talk about that for a bit eh?

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Post by tiny tim on Fri Aug 07, 2009 8:54 am

Nocbl2 wrote:I think the UN should try and unify all of the 224 (yes, I counted) by any means necessary. The Middle East is kinda pushing against that, considering Iraq, Iran, Afghanastan, Saudi Arabia and anyone in that generally area will be REALLY pissed when we pull out.

*great argument against global unity*
*rant against the uselessness that is the UN*
*generic insult*
<3

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Post by Rasq'uire'laskar on Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:22 am

The problem with manned flight is how expensive it is. Sending humans to Mars would require a shuttle MUCH larger than we can efficiently construct at the moment.
And then these poor astronauts would have to spend three months cooped up together. A nuclear drive is a must. As well as a large team specially picked for a pioneer spirit.

Colonization is really out of the question. It can only occur where natural resources beckon. The moon is a good target, because we can build shelters and get needed H3. What does Mars have?

As for overpopulation: It ain't going to happen for a while. Sure, India needs to be hit with a Co60 nuke, but most of our population problems can be cured with better farming techniques. Oil? Switch to electric and start drilling at home. Energy? Nuclear reactors.

When Earth does get too crowded, we can move populations to Luna and Mars, while we build Clarke's Orbital Ring.
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Post by CivBase on Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:28 am

Dude... we can make Halo! Razz

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Post by tiny tim on Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:31 am

Well if we get to Mars soon enough, we can begin the, admittedly expensive, centuries long process of terraforming.

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Post by Angatar on Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:20 am

...Or we can build Halo!

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Post by tiny tim on Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:30 am

or we could just release a parasite on the galaxy without any countermeasures to stop them!

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Post by Kasrkin Seath on Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:46 am

We dont need to make more food... we already make a surplus and could cover the entire world. THe problem lies within logistics and moving food from one place to another, which is a problem considering the large distance you ahve to sometimes move it to get it to the areas that need it the most.

There are also political and economic problems in the way of this, which would stop the food from properly being moved even with the transportation system in place.

Last thing on food since this thread isn't about it: Less perishable foods should be grown more often.

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Post by Zaki90 on Fri Aug 07, 2009 11:11 am

Overpopulation is not the problem. Earth will find its balance.

Colonization is needed for resources and land. But colonization should not be achieved until after the world is united under the UN because then everyone is going to rushing to Mars trying to get whatever land there is.

Then we have a Mars wars. And until we terraform Mars enough to be able to support planting, we have a massive famine wars. And food will be hundreds of dollars on Mars due to the cost of transporting it there.

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Post by BBJynne on Fri Aug 07, 2009 11:17 am

the problem with terraforming mars is that it's so far away from the sun

we'd need much hardier crops if we wanted to live there

but, if we find lots of good resources over there, I can see that we'd be interested in sending something

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Post by Rasq'uire'laskar on Fri Aug 07, 2009 11:49 am

CivBase wrote:Dude... we can make Halo! Razz
Much bigger, actually.

This thing was big enough to encircle the earth, 100 km above the equator.

Zaki90 wrote:Overpopulation is not the problem. Earth will find its balance.

Colonization is needed for resources and land. But colonization should not be achieved until after the world is united under the UN because then everyone is going to rushing to Mars trying to get whatever land there is.

Then we have a Mars wars. And until we terraform Mars enough to be able to support planting, we have a massive famine wars. And food will be hundreds of dollars on Mars due to the cost of transporting it there.
I call bullocks.
Not just because of the UN bull, but also because of the sheer difficulty in getting to Mars. That combined with automated construction SHOULD allow us to construct biodomes for farming and living space.
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Post by Zaki90 on Fri Aug 07, 2009 12:02 pm

Rasq'uire'laskar wrote:
CivBase wrote:Dude... we can make Halo! Razz
Much bigger, actually.

This thing was big enough to encircle the earth, 100 km above the equator.

Zaki90 wrote:Overpopulation is not the problem. Earth will find its balance.

Colonization is needed for resources and land. But colonization should not be achieved until after the world is united under the UN because then everyone is going to rushing to Mars trying to get whatever land there is.

Then we have a Mars wars. And until we terraform Mars enough to be able to support planting, we have a massive famine wars. And food will be hundreds of dollars on Mars due to the cost of transporting it there.
I call bullocks.
Not just because of the UN bull, but also because of the sheer difficulty in getting to Mars. That combined with automated construction SHOULD allow us to construct biodomes for farming and living space.

How is it hard to get to Mars?

I see the biodomes, but those would cost millions. Also, the plants need water. Frozen ice doesn't help you very long.

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Post by tiny tim on Fri Aug 07, 2009 12:37 pm

actually in the book One Day on Mars they used Geodesic domes that encompass an entire city. It was really effective until the giant supercarrier crashed into part of it and broke the seal.

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Post by Toaster on Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:07 pm

Rasq'uire'laskar wrote:
As for overpopulation: It ain't going to happen for a while. Sure, India needs to be hit with a Co60 nuke, but most of our population problems can be cured with better farming techniques. Oil? Switch to electric and start drilling at home. Energy? Nuclear reactors.

Fission reactors won't last us long. Ignoring the HUGE initial costs of building something like 100,000 nuclear energy plants (each costing what? A billion dollars?) the world wide uranium supply would be quickly depleted. Fusion plants would last us a LOOOOOOOOOONG time, but we're not capable of that, and won't be before it's too late.

Hydroelectric and Wind energy won't ever make up for a large percentage of power. In order for solar energy to carry us, we'd need a RIDICULOUS land area to be taken up by them , which would require an enormous amount of money and a pretty huge feat of engineering. Hydrogen is great, but it's still inefficient, and we'd need something like 30 years to perfect it.

The world runs on oil and oil is running out. Sure there's a hell of a lot of oil in the ocean, but we need time to figure out how to drill it. Saudi Arabia, Alaska, and parts of Russia hold the last major supplies of oil these days, and they have reached peak discovery. Pretty soon, production levels world wide are gonna reach their peak... and it's all downhill from there.

Wars will of course be fought to secure those last major reserves, but they won't last us long.

We get EVERYTHING from oil. Gasoline, electricity, industry, plastics, cosmetics, ect.... and there's no other resource available to us in the near future that can possibly sustain the lifestyle that oil has given us in the past 100 years. We're fucked.

Sorry for the apocalyptic rant.
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Post by Nocbl2 on Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:35 pm

ReconToaster wrote:
Rasq'uire'laskar wrote:
As for overpopulation: It ain't going to happen for a while. Sure, India needs to be hit with a Co60 nuke, but most of our population problems can be cured with better farming techniques. Oil? Switch to electric and start drilling at home. Energy? Nuclear reactors.

Fission reactors won't last us long. Ignoring the HUGE initial costs of building something like 100,000 nuclear energy plants (each costing what? A billion dollars?) the world wide uranium supply would be quickly depleted. Fusion plants would last us a LOOOOOOOOOONG time, but we're not capable of that, and won't be before it's too late.

Hydroelectric and Wind energy won't ever make up for a large percentage of power. In order for solar energy to carry us, we'd need a RIDICULOUS land area to be taken up by them , which would require an enormous amount of money and a pretty huge feat of engineering. Hydrogen is great, but it's still inefficient, and we'd need something like 30 years to perfect it.

The world runs on oil and oil is running out. Sure there's a hell of a lot of oil in the ocean, but we need time to figure out how to drill it. Saudi Arabia, Alaska, and parts of Russia hold the last major supplies of oil these days, and they have reached peak discovery. Pretty soon, production levels world wide are gonna reach their peak... and it's all downhill from there.

Wars will of course be fought to secure those last major reserves, but they won't last us long.

We get EVERYTHING from oil. Gasoline, electricity, industry, plastics, cosmetics, ect.... and there's no other resource available to us in the near future that can possibly sustain the lifestyle that oil has given us in the past 100 years. We're fucked.

Sorry for the apocalyptic rant.




Lets see...


A solar field that costs three months of the Iraq Gaywar across the Nevada desert=power the continental U.S. Now, let's get talking about the Outback....
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Post by Carcarius on Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:37 pm

ReconToaster wrote:
Rasq'uire'laskar wrote:
As for overpopulation: It ain't going to happen for a while. Sure, India needs to be hit with a Co60 nuke, but most of our population problems can be cured with better farming techniques. Oil? Switch to electric and start drilling at home. Energy? Nuclear reactors.

Fission reactors won't last us long. Ignoring the HUGE initial costs of building something like 100,000 nuclear energy plants (each costing what? A billion dollars?) the world wide uranium supply would be quickly depleted. Fusion plants would last us a LOOOOOOOOOONG time, but we're not capable of that, and won't be before it's too late.

Hydroelectric and Wind energy won't ever make up for a large percentage of power. In order for solar energy to carry us, we'd need a RIDICULOUS land area to be taken up by them , which would require an enormous amount of money and a pretty huge feat of engineering. Hydrogen is great, but it's still inefficient, and we'd need something like 30 years to perfect it.

The world runs on oil and oil is running out. Sure there's a hell of a lot of oil in the ocean, but we need time to figure out how to drill it. Saudi Arabia, Alaska, and parts of Russia hold the last major supplies of oil these days, and they have reached peak discovery. Pretty soon, production levels world wide are gonna reach their peak... and it's all downhill from there.

Wars will of course be fought to secure those last major reserves, but they won't last us long.

We get EVERYTHING from oil. Gasoline, electricity, industry, plastics, cosmetics, ect.... and there's no other resource available to us in the near future that can possibly sustain the lifestyle that oil has given us in the past 100 years. We're fucked.

Sorry for the apocalyptic rant.
two words: sugar phosphates
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Post by tiny tim on Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:37 pm

You have to think about maintenance on something like that though. Who wants to go out into the middle of the Nevada desert to preform regular maintenance on hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of solar panels? Besides, how many power companies have that type of money?

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Post by Toaster on Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:47 pm

Carcarius wrote:
two words: sugar phosphates

To produce sugar, you need farmland. To produce viable farm land, you need petroleum based fertilizers and you need to divert current farmland to the cause of energy production, starving billions.

I need rasq/rot to come in here and tell me how wrong I am... please.
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Post by Cheese on Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:59 pm

Solar Power has come in leaps and bounds in the last several years.

Behold!

The Shuttle/ISS, and manned spaceflight in general SolarTowerMojaveDesert

We're still screwed though; but I just think the space elevator should be built before we start bleeding billions into what is currently excavation.

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Post by Ringleader on Sat Aug 08, 2009 9:20 am

There is already a new Nasa workhorse in the making, the Ares rocket will have 7 times the payload capacity in Low Earth Orbit, and 24 times the trans-lunar injection capacity then the space shuttle. That means that only 2 Ares flights can carry the entire ISS into space. In addition to this, by next spring, the NGST will be proposed, and we will soon have a telescope with 2,000 times the magnifying power as the Hubble telescope.
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