25
   

Aliens Check Out the Earth

 
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 11:06 am
@Cycloptichorn,
Either you're being obtuse, or you didn't understand what i meant by justification. Such projects will cost horrendous amounts of resources. I avoid the use of the term money, because it is a distraction in such a discussion, and may not apply at all in an alien civilization--but the expenditure of resources would be a universal term. However, putting it in terms of money, what justification could a government give to the electorate for expenditures of vast sums of money? Your heroic phrases about the future of mankind ain't gonna cut it with practical politicians. Like it or not, that is how things on this scale get done.

When you speak about places with no gravity well at all, i wonder if you are aware of the known effects of exposure to extremely low gravity. When you say spin for "gravity," do you mean set asteroids spinning? Are you giving a realistic consideration to the resource cost of such plans?
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 11:20 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Either you're being obtuse, or you didn't understand what i meant by justification. Such projects will cost horrendous amounts of resources. I avoid the use of the term money, because it is a distraction in such a discussion, and may not apply at all in an alien civilization--but the expenditure of resources would be a universal term. However, putting it in terms of money, what justification could a government give to the electorate for expenditures of vast sums of money? Your heroic phrases about the future of mankind ain't gonna cut it with practical politicians. Like it or not, that is how things on this scale get done.


It has to be a built-up proposition. I mean, consider the cost of building America; if viewed from the beginning of the enterprise, it would have been considered to be, for lack of a better term, astronomically expensive and completely unfeasible.

We do things by doing things. The industry and resources necessary to create a viable colony, inside or outside of our solar system, will have many financial and industrial rewards outside of the expansionary project. Each step of the path requires initial investment, but then begins to provide rewards far before the end of the path.

This is how it will be done; through a combination of private investment and public. Through small-scale projects that can show results in a matter of years or decades, instead of long-term ones.

Quote:
When you speak about places with no gravity well at all, i wonder if you are aware of the known effects of exposure to extremely low gravity.


Of course I am. What, did you think that things were going to be easy? There are technological challenges to overcome - but not theoretical challenges - in building space stations.

Quote:
When you say spin for "gravity," do you mean set asteroids spinning? Are you giving a realistic consideration to the resource cost of such plans?


Yes, of course. The cost of creating a space station dwarfs the cost of spinning it. And there is no shortage of resources in space, Set; in fact, the amount of resources there dwarfs what we have available on our planet. It's just a question of getting them.

The plans for the creation and maintenance of said stations are well thought out and it's time we tried it.

The rewards of space utilization, on the 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1000 year time-scale, are tremendous. You sell people on the short-term projects in order to gain funding for the long-term ones. Which if you think about it is basically how our government works right now.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 11:59 am
I agree that an incremental program makes the most sense. But i don't agree that you could get private enterprise interested, at least not for a long time to come. But consider, if you will, just how few resources are likely to be committed in economic hard times such as we face now. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to make a space program which were "economic crisis-proof."

And don't think i'm your enemy in any of this. I agree (mostly) with your points of view. I am just considerably less sanguine than you about the prospect of getting the necessary funds out of government or the private sector.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:07 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

I agree that an incremental program makes the most sense. But i don't agree that you could get private enterprise interested, at least not for a long time to come. But consider, if you will, just how few resources are likely to be committed in economic hard times such as we face now. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to make a space program which were "economic crisis-proof."

And don't think i'm your enemy in any of this. I agree (mostly) with your points of view. I am just considerably less sanguine than you about the prospect of getting the necessary funds out of government or the private sector.


Well, let's look at it from a risk/reward viewpoint for the private sector:

There are over 200k asteroids in the asteroid belt which have a primary composition of metal and rock/silica. There are also thousands of asteroids which we think have ice on them.

Many of those asteroids are truly gigantic and have a wide variety of metals within. If your company were to fly to one of these asteroids and take possession of it, in terms of 'resources,' you would have as much as the entire output of the Earth, in metal, per year.

That is to say, just one or two of these objects would match the resources we mine in a whole year. You would be roughly as rich as everyone else on the planet combined.

It seems there's an economic incentive; the question is really one of feasibility.

What we need are about 5-10 years of continued advances in the field of robotics and miniaturization, and it will be viable for us to send a rocket to one of these asteroids, with no need for human payload, and begin the process of building a factory out of the material of the asteroid itself. Then within a few years we can ship some people up there and REALLY get to work.

It's a front-end cost. A 100 billion dollar investment would do it; it would take 10 or 20 years to mature, but eventually we would have production facilities independent of a gravity well, which would be sweet. It would minimize the cost of exploring and utilizing our solar system greatly; and it would be, for lack of a better word, a New Frontier.

I believe that this the US' destiny and mission, our reason for existence; Manifest Destiny writ large. All this dicking around on the surface of the planet is frustrating as hell. It's like inventing sea-going boats and then getting into constant arguments over your limited supply of clams, and who cooks them better.

Cycloptichorn
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:12 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Quote:
Many of those asteroids are truly gigantic and have a wide variety of metals within. If your company were to fly to one of these asteroids and take possession of it, in terms of 'resources,' you would have as much as the entire output of the Earth, in metal, per year.

That is to say, just one or two of these objects would match the resources we mine in a whole year. You would be roughly as rich as everyone else on the planet combined.

It seems there's an economic incentive; the question is really one of feasibility.


No, the question is really one of the bottom line. Will any part of the private sector be willing to make the initial outlay? I doubt that any single corporation would have the cash resources to finance something like this. Corporations in most parts of the world don't look more than a couple of fiscal years down the road, and you're talking about a program which would eat up huge amounts of capital for many, many years, before having the remotest prospect of producing a return.

I believe the only way you'll see something like this is either from the Japanese (who do tend to take a very long view), or after governments have gotten together, and done most of the work to produce the systems and expertise which were needed for capitalists to exploit the opportunities.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:19 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Quote:
Many of those asteroids are truly gigantic and have a wide variety of metals within. If your company were to fly to one of these asteroids and take possession of it, in terms of 'resources,' you would have as much as the entire output of the Earth, in metal, per year.

That is to say, just one or two of these objects would match the resources we mine in a whole year. You would be roughly as rich as everyone else on the planet combined.

It seems there's an economic incentive; the question is really one of feasibility.


No, the question is really one of the bottom line. Will any part of the private sector be willing to make the initial outlay? I doubt that any single corporation would have the cash resources to finance something like this. Corporations in most parts of the world don't look more than a couple of fiscal years down the road, and you're talking about a program which would eat up huge amounts of capital for many, many years, before having the remotest prospect of producing a return.

I believe the only way you'll see something like this is either from the Japanese (who do tend to take a very long view), or after governments have gotten together, and done most of the work to produce the systems and expertise which were needed for capitalists to exploit the opportunities.


I think this is mostly right.

I envision something akin to the English colonization of America; that is to say, the government will license out access to space on orbital delivery systems to private companies, which will help lower the cost for the private investors substantially. Instead of funding the projects and costing the gov't money, we'll license them, allow investors (of varying levels) to innovate in their own way, and hopefully have redundant and multiple attempts to do this at the same time.

A large part of the equation is: initial cost. How much to design and build a ship which will take a bunch of robots - or let's say one or two people - to an asteroid? It depends. On one hand I can see small vessels being designed and created for 10 billion dollars or less; that seems like reasonable levels of investment for modern companies, who spend that much on long-term projects all the time. On the other, larger and bigger factories in space, who knows how long they will take; we've never tried.

We have to start trying or we won't know how much these things cost, or how difficult they will be. The idea that we can't start trying, b/c the whole equation is scary large and complex, is crippling our space efforts.

On a somewhat separate track, when it comes to making new colonies or stations, there's little reason to go to the bottom of a gravity well to do so and tons of great reasons not to. Neither of our primary targets (Mars and the Moon) have abundant physical resources, nor habitable atmospheres or anything even close, which would make such choices obvious; instead, a rotating space station (which provides ancillary benefits) retains mobility and accessibility while providing the same living environment for our people.

Cycloptichorn

0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:27 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Cycloptichorn wrote:

Setanta wrote:

A couple of issues arise here, apart from the speed (or, rather, because of it). How much expenditure of resources would be necessary to send even just a few people there, shielded from cosmic radiation, and with a system adequate to prevent serious bone loss from extremely low gravity? What would be the justification (governments are not free to spend as much money as they wish on anything they wish, except in the case of dictatorships)?

It makes more sense to send out automated missions, unless and until a planet suitable for colonization is identified.


The justification is the survival of our species as a whole. Greater diversification means greater survivability. If we can spread out to have viable colonies in more than one star system, our species can progress past almost any known natural disaster. There literally is no greater goal than this for Humanity as a whole.

We don't need planets to colonize; we can build plenty of stuff on asteroids and space stations with no gravity wells involved. Spin for gravity.

Cycloptichorn

True, but planets would be fun, although they might pose many dangers.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:31 pm
I think it is unrealistic to believe that asteroid mining could be accomplished for as low an initial outlay as $100,000,000,000. At the same time, though, i think that Mars would be an excellent choice for colonization. We'd have to have the colonies below the surface because of the lack of a magnetic field, but the gravity is close (38%?) enough to obviate most of the issues of the effect of extremely low gravitational fields. One of the best reasons to go there is because it is close to the "asteroid" (really, planetoid) belt, so Mars could be an assembly and shipping point, and/or a factory planet.

However, i don't think it would be realistic to expect that it would be accomplished any time soon. Where there is no real will, there is likely no way.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:36 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

I think it is unrealistic to believe that asteroid mining could be accomplished for as low an initial outlay as $100,000,000,000. At the same time, though, i think that Mars would be an excellent choice for colonization. We'd have to have the colonies below the surface because of the lack of a magnetic field, but the gravity is close (38%?) enough to obviate most of the issues of the effect of extremely low gravitational fields. One of the best reasons to go there is because it is close to the "asteroid" (really, planetoid) belt, so Mars could be an assembly and shipping point, and/or a factory planet.

However, i don't think it would be realistic to expect that it would be accomplished any time soon. Where there is no real will, there is likely no way.


Why put the colony at the bottom of a gravity well in the first place? I'm not sure what the advantages of doing so are.

It's not logical to do shipping and construction from that position; the energy it takes to ship goods up and down the well is prohibitive. I mean, it's as expensive to get a ship out of the gravity well as it is to fly across the entire solar system - and back!

You don't have to worry about the effects of the low gravity field if you spin the space station or asteroid - something which is not difficult to do!

Colonizing mars would be an order of magnitude more expensive than doing so in the asteroid belt, with less resources available and they would be more difficult to recover.

For some excellent spec literature on colonizing Mars, may I recommend Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson?

As for the money, I'm unsure as to what will cost so much. I mean, the payload delivery to space, sure. But we could build the rest of the system with basically off-the-shelf technology; we already have engines which could push the unit there no problem and our tele-operation seems to be working without too many hitches. If we could get a few robots with servos to the site, we could have quite a bit ready for the humans when they show up.

Cycloptichorn
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:40 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Quote:
Why put the colony at the bottom of a gravity well in the first place? I'm not sure what the advantages of doing so are.


If the object is to secure the future of the human race by setting up a lot of colonies in a lot of places, then you're going to need colonies at the bottoms of gravity wells because otherwise, you'd end up with an evolutionary product which would no longer resemble human beings at all. And as well know from human history, that would be begging for trouble.

By the way, once again, my pragmatic sense tells me this ain't gonna happen for a long, long time to come. I consider what we are doing here to be entertaining, but basically to be wool-gathering.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:42 pm
Hopefully, one day we'll move all our heavy industry out into space.

Telepresence makes more sense than colonization, at least initially.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 12:55 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Quote:
Why put the colony at the bottom of a gravity well in the first place? I'm not sure what the advantages of doing so are.


If the object is to secure the future of the human race by setting up a lot of colonies in a lot of places, then you're going to need colonies at the bottoms of gravity wells because otherwise, you'd end up with an evolutionary product which would no longer resemble human beings at all. And as well know from human history, that would be begging for trouble.

By the way, once again, my pragmatic sense tells me this ain't gonna happen for a long, long time to come. I consider what we are doing here to be entertaining, but basically to be wool-gathering.


Yeah, eventually planets are the way to go. The long-term sustainability is unmatched.

But it's better to be doing all your heavy industry in space that's possible and shipping it down, rather than trying to do it on the ground and ship it up - an extremely expensive proposition.

Having viable space stations/colonies not in a gravity well gives us a launching point from which to explore and utilize the entire solar system. We should start with an (expensive) L3 or L4 station near Earth and then branch out from there.

With the advances we see in modern genetic engineering, I think that the human race is going to become rather fractured within my lifetime. I see this as an inevitability, as it already seems that every time some new modification comes out, people jump on it. I don't think it will be long before they can make changes which breed true, and we'll really see some fun conflicts then.

Cycloptichorn
akaMechsmith
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Feb, 2009 05:56 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Yes it's fun to think about but it's really very simple. We build a space tug that can push the asteroids around. As we slow the asteroid down to the orbital speed of Mars they will fall to its surface. Once Mars gets big enough to hold an atmosphere and restart the volcanoes we've got it made. If necessary we should be able to grab a few comets to make some oceans.

That would be possible with current technologies. Since humans are so good at co-operation for the greater good it'd even be affordable.(:-(
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Feb, 2009 07:31 pm
@akaMechsmith,
akaMechsmith wrote:

Yes it's fun to think about but it's really very simple. We build a space tug that can push the asteroids around. As we slow the asteroid down to the orbital speed of Mars they will fall to its surface. Once Mars gets big enough to hold an atmosphere and restart the volcanoes we've got it made. If necessary we should be able to grab a few comets to make some oceans.

That would be possible with current technologies. Since humans are so good at co-operation for the greater good it'd even be affordable.(:-(

Probably a hundred times as hard as simply developing a colony on the surface. Anyone who would make that plan at the present time would have to be nuts. Planning a colony, on the other hand, is plausible.
0 Replies
 
solipsister
 
  0  
Reply Sun 1 Feb, 2009 07:59 pm
@Brandon9000,
Your supplications have been answered, now all rise.

Earth shall henceforth be an alien free zone.

Cast aside your thought helmets for I shall protect thee.

Let the antonymous anthropomorphic deification begin.

All payments to post office box 69 ( please no USD ).

rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Apr, 2009 07:42 pm
@solipsister,
solipsister wrote:
Your supplications have been answered, now all rise.
Earth shall henceforth be an alien free zone.
Cast aside your thought helmets for I shall protect thee.

Apparently that ended the discussion.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Apr, 2009 08:56 pm
For all the reasons already enumerated previously on this thread, I do not believe aliens will ever visit Earth. Still, one should never say never, just in case . . .
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Apr, 2009 09:19 pm
I doubt we'd be well prepared at all, although I believe that we do have a plan for it somewhere.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Apr, 2009 04:41 pm
I have my doubts that it'll ever happen, unfortunately. But if it does, I hope I'm alive to see it (I think).
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Apr, 2009 06:58 pm
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:

I have my doubts that it'll ever happen, unfortunately. But if it does, I hope I'm alive to see it (I think).

Don't be too sure that you would enjoy seeing it.
 

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