6
   

Vice President Heads for Moon

 
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:13 pm
@engineer,
Quote:
How does space travel stand a chance?


Brandon is fond of trotting out the age of exploration, although it seems that he really doesn't know much about it. No one who engaged in these pursuits did so on the governments dime unless they could show a reasonable prospect of a quick return on the investment. Even after the Spanish had established a paying empire in the West Indies, new ventures were set up on a "pay as you go basis," and were often even discouraged. Cort├ęs just barely got out of Cuba ahead of a warrant for his arrest, and while he was in Mexico, another expedition was sent out to arrest him. Those conquistadores such as him and Pizzaro worked on a simple basis. They took a royal accountant along with them, and 20% went to the King, who would retrospectively approve the venture, and grant charters with exclusive trade rights and large grants of land. The church would send along one or more priests or friars who would see to it that the church got 20%, and they would approve the venture on the basis of bringing pagans to an understanding of the true mercy of Jesus Christ (lessons usually delivered at the point of a sword). The leader of the expedition got 20%, the officers split 20% and the remaining 20% was divided among the surviving private soldiers.

Nobody, but nobody expected government to fund these expeditions. The English were even more tight fisted, they just handed out charters for exclusive trade rights, and if the venture failed, as in the example of the Virginia Company, they stepped in and took over the company.

As for Engineer's question which i have quoted above, the best example would be the Portuguese. Prince Henry the Navigator, the third son of the King of Portugal (and therefore without much hope of becoming king himself) convinced Daddy to fund an expedition to take Cueta on the coast of North Africa in 1415. It succeeded, and Henry had a flash of insight into what kind of wealth he believed they could obtain by making further ventures on the African coast. They didn't work out, because the Moors weren't going to get suckered twice, and Henry's further military ventures were all failures. So, bankrupting his personal finances in the process, he promoted further ventures which crept gradually south along the coast of Africa, often getting no return on investment, but limping along getting a little gold and taking slaves to sell to the Moors, so that he was able to maintain a modest program for most of the rest of his life. They crept along south on the Africa coast. They "rediscovered" Madeira in 1420, they discovered the Azores in 1430. It was not until the mid-1440s that ships began sailing home from what is now Lagos in Nigeria with modest cargos of gold and slaves which helped keep Henry in funds.

The Portuguese did not make a big strike until Vasco da Gama's expedition in 1498. That was more than 80 years, more than three generations after Henry began his ventures. Da Gama picked up an Arab navigator at Malindi on the east coast of Africa, and with unheard of boldness (other than the example of Columbus) struck out across the Indian Ocean, landing at Goa. Only one of his ships survived the expedition, and that a small one, while more than half of the crews of his original five vessels were lost. But that one ship brought back riches from India which were worth about 15 times the cost of the entire, original expedition.

This is likely how it will work out in space. As the distances and the degree of difficulty are so much greater, so the time scales are likely to be that much greater. I suspect that people will potter around in space, making modest advances at a snail's pace, and after many, many years, it might provide some return on investment which will justify the expenditure. Some day, when we make it to the asteroid belt i suspect, there might be a return on investment to rival Da Gama's 1498 voyage. But it will take a hell of a lot longer than the 80+ years from the beginning of the voyages sponsored Prince Henry to the landing in Goa.

I suspect that a lot of Brandon's reaction is simply frustration that nothing noteworthy will be accomplished in his lifetime.
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:18 pm
@Setanta,
The last chance we really had was when GW Bush took office looking at a $1 trillion surplus over ten years. He could have funded a space program then instaed of tax cuts. I doubt we will see those days again.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:21 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
Some day, when we make to the asteroid belt i suspect, there might be a return on investment to rival Da Gama's 1498 voyage.

Why the asteroid belt? What does it have that the inner planets and their moons don't?
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:23 pm
@engineer,
Agreed. People should recall the political wars between Clinton and a Republican Congress to get them to actually stop writing checks which they couldn't cash. That was almost unprecedented in our nation's history.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:33 pm
@Thomas,
Mine-able resources. The "moons" of Mars are little more than captured asteroids, they're not even remotely spherical, as they likely would have been if they had formed in the same time period as our moon, and the moons of the Jovian planets. Venus and Mercury don't have moons, and the problems of solar radiation increase the degree of difficulty and the cost astronomically (pun intended).

There is a method of propulsion which could be used in the asteroid belt very, very cheaply, like a space mule. You can run a fairly low voltage current through wire wrapped around metal rods and use that to propel any type of mass along the rods. This has already been tested--at MIT they did this with a ridiculously low voltage and produced a result non dissimilar to a small caliber cannon of the black powder era--the "muzzle velocity" of the rods was quite impressive.

In the asteroid belt, you could hook on such an array of rods, and solar panels could have charged a set of batteries to provide the necessary voltage to make the mass propeller rods operate. You'd latch on to a modest asteroid, set up your array of rods and a solar array, and start boring into the asteroid, using the mass you'd dig out of it to propel the asteroid back into orbit in the vicinity if our moon. (As i'm sure you understand, the laws of motion operate such that the mass would stay where it is and the asteroid would move.) It would take years to get back here by that method, but then, it took HMS Beagle on her second voyage, the "Darwin voyage," six years to complete her surveys and circumnavigate the globe. There was a time when humanity was not impatient of ventures which did not have immediate results--but always only if there were a foreseeable pay-off.
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:46 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

...I suspect that a lot of Brandon's reaction is simply frustration that nothing noteworthy will be accomplished in his lifetime.

Yes, correct. It's a combination of that and what I regard as short-sighted stupidity. As for the first Age of Exploration, my argument is just that in the end it did turn out to be worth it.
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:51 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Brandon9000 wrote:
The really big steps forward are rarely popular or well supported by the man in the street when they occur. The president should propose some reasonable continuation of manned exploration just because it's the right thing to do.

Alternatively, you could explain to the man on the street why he should let the government tax away more of his income so it can fund your space adventure. He'll probably say: "You're a conservative, Brandon. You're supposed to be about small government. Why don't you go fund your own adventure?" How do you answer that?

You're ask a lot of incredibly obvious questions today. First of all, advocating a small government doesn't mean that the government must take the shortest possible view of everything and that all programs which involve multiple steps to fulfillment are banned. Secondly, people are routinely asked to pay for the whole government budget, rather than only the parts they personally agree with. And finally, the average person is often not in favor of things that in retrospect are universally regarded as having been critically important.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:51 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Setanta wrote:
Some day, when we make to the asteroid belt i suspect, there might be a return on investment to rival Da Gama's 1498 voyage.

Why the asteroid belt? What does it have that the inner planets and their moons don't?


Gigantic amounts of freely available resources which are currently doing nothing.

Set, I wonder if it would be more efficient to use the Gauss rifle you propose to send packets of mined material back into orbit rather then move the entire asteroid. This leaves your propulsive infrastructure where you want it to be - in the belt. You don't have to haul it back out there every time. Additionally, smaller packets of material mean there's less chance of catastrophic error, I'd hate to tug an asteroid into orbit just to seem some jackass knock it down onto the planet via terrorism.

Cycloptichorn
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:54 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
The main reason to advocate bringing the whole asteroid within a quarter of a million miles of the earth is to set up the manufacturing facilities either on its surface or on the moon--to have materials readily available for use in space or to be dropped onto the earth. I can see what you're getting at, though. In the end, the R & D boys in industry will be the ones to figure it all out.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 03:56 pm
By the way--Gauss rifle, thanks, i couldn't remember what they called the damn thing. I read about in the "Science Times" section of the New York Times and then saw a show about it on the tee vee, but that was 20 years ago or more.

It could also be used to pick up a big f*ckin' snowball from the rings of Saturn and slam it into Mars at the equator. Get a little water ice and some CO2 ice down on the surface in the "warm zone."
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 04:12 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

By the way--Gauss rifle, thanks, i couldn't remember what they called the damn thing. I read about in the "Science Times" section of the New York Times and then saw a show about it on the tee vee, but that was 20 years ago or more.


I built one in college physics. Launched a 12 lb steel bar 36 feet. The winning one in our class launched that same bar over a hundred feet, and that guy works for the DoD now.

Nothing but a reverse electromagnet really. I wouldn't want to stand next to a powerful one, though.

Quote:
It could also be used to pick up a big f*ckin' snowball from the rings of Saturn and slam it into Mars at the equator. Get a little water ice and some CO2 ice down on the surface in the "warm zone."


Several books about colonizing Mars (and a Niven short story) discuss exactly this.

Cycloptichorn
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:05 pm
@Brandon9000,
Brandon wrote:
You're ask a lot of incredibly obvious questions today.

Then your difficulties in answering them are all the more mysterious.

Brandon9000 wrote:
First of all, advocating a small government doesn't mean that the government must take the shortest possible view of everything and that all programs which involve multiple steps to fulfillment are banned.

No, but it does require that government programs must yield public benefits that are large enough to justify the tax money going into them. So far, you have not identified any such benefit.

Brandon wrote:
Secondly, people are routinely asked to pay for the whole government budget, rather than only the parts they personally agree with.

That doesn't make it right. Additionally, what you envision would be programs that the majority of voters disagree with. In a democracy, that's a legitimate reason not to pursue them, so you'll need to come up with a good-enough reason to trump it.

Brandon9000 wrote:
And finally, the average person is often not in favor of things that in retrospect are universally regarded as having been critically important.

The reverse is not true though: just because the average person disapproves of something, that doesn't mean future generations will regard it as having been critically important. And besides, what makes you any less average than Setanta, engineer, and me? You're a "guy on the street" just as we are -- no more, no less.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:08 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Thomas wrote:
Why the asteroid belt? What does have that the inner planets and their moons don't?

Cycloptichorn wrote:
Gigantic amounts of freely available resources which are currently doing nothing.

Please name three of those resources.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:14 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
I'm not surprised that people have brought this up in stories about Mars--but it's 20 years or more since i was a sci fi junky, so i hadn't run across it. With the gauss method, it would be really cheap, too.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:25 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Thomas wrote:
Why the asteroid belt? What does have that the inner planets and their moons don't?

Cycloptichorn wrote:
Gigantic amounts of freely available resources which are currently doing nothing.

Please name three of those resources.


Nickel-Iron, Silica, and Carbon - coincidentally three resources which we will need in abundance to further our ambitions for space exploration.

From wikipedia:

Quote:
Composition

The current belt consists primarily of three categories of asteroids: C-type or carbonaceous asteroids, S-type or silicate asteroids, and M-type or metallic asteroids.

Carbonaceous asteroids, as their name suggests, are carbon-rich and dominate the belt's outer regions.[40] Together they comprise over 75% of the visible asteroids. They are more red in hue than the other asteroids and have a very low albedo. Their surface composition is similar to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. Chemically, their spectra match the primordial composition of the early Solar System, with only the lighter elements and volatiles removed.

S-type or silicate-rich asteroids are more common toward the inner region of the belt, within 2.5 AU of the Sun.[40][41] The spectra of their surfaces reveal the presence of silicates and some metal, but no significant carbonaceous compounds. This indicates that their materials have been significantly modified from their primordial composition, probably through melting and reformation. They have a relatively high albedo, and form about 17% of the total asteroid population.

M-type (metal-rich) asteroids form about 10% of the total population; their spectra resemble that of iron-nickel. Some are believed to have formed from the metallic cores of differentiated progenitor bodies that were disrupted through collision. However, there are also some silicate compounds that can produce a similar appearance. For example, the large M-type asteroid 22 Kalliope does not appear to be primarily composed of metal.[42] Within the main belt, the number distribution of M-type asteroids peaks at a semi-major axis of about 2.7 AU.[43] It is not yet clear whether all M-types are compositionally similar, or whether it is a label for several varieties which do not fit neatly into the main C and S classes.[44]


There are also confirmed spectra of many other types of metallic and ice asteroids there as well. And it's just floating there for the taking. We need this stuff in orbit and the cost of hauling it up there is tremendous compared to the cost of stuff which is already in zero-G.

It isn't that the inner planets or their moons don't necessarily have these things, it's that - like the Earth - these resources are stuck at the bottom of a well. Why dig your way out of a gravity well if you don't have to?

Cycloptichorn
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:33 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
not to mention kryptonite

we're gonna need a good supply of kryptonite if superman ever goes rogue
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:34 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Cycloptichorn wrote:
Nickel-Iron, Silica, and Carbon - coincidentally three resources which we will need in abundance to further our ambitions for space exploration.

Thanks -- this answers my question. Although Silica is as abundant on Earth as sand in the desert. I don't see the business case for mining it in outer space.

Cycloptichorn wrote:
Why dig your way out of a gravity well if you don't have to?

But you do have to. The Earth's surface itself lies in a gravity well from the asteroids' perspective. To get to the asteroids, we'd first had to dig ourselves out of this well -- with an expensive technology we know as "rockets".
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:40 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Cycloptichorn wrote:
Nickel-Iron, Silica, and Carbon - coincidentally three resources which we will need in abundance to further our ambitions for space exploration.

Thanks -- this answers my question. Although Silica is as abundant on Earth as sand in the desert. I don't see the business case for mining it in outer space.

Cycloptichorn wrote:
Why dig your way out of a gravity well if you don't have to?

But you do have to. The Earth's surface itself lies in a gravity well from the asteroids' perspective. To get to the asteroids, we'd first had to dig ourselves out of this well -- with an expensive technology we know as "rockets".


Quote:
I don't see the business case for mining it in outer space.


Really? The cost of hauling a SINGLE POUND of sand, into orbit is a thousand dollars or more.

It's a lot cheaper to send a facility up into space which can then mine and process an almost unlimited amount of silica and other elements, than it is to haul those elements up from the earth. Tremendously cheaper.

The entire point is to be able to produce items and machines in space without having to haul ANYTHING from the bottom of a well.

Cycloptichorn
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:46 pm
And if I go crazy then will you still call me Superman?
If I'm alive and well, will you be there holding my hand?
I'll keep you by my side with my superhuman might
Kryptonite


0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Feb, 2010 05:51 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Eggs-actly . . . the European colonies were all a drain on their respective "mother countries" until such time as they could produce what they needed, and turn a profit.

This becomes even more crucial in a situation in which everything you use has to come from the bottom of the mother well. Setting up a situation in which we can manufacture the wherewithal for exploration in microgravity will be a watershed moment. But i don't look for it to happen any time soon. It's kind of a shame, but not only will it not happen in my lifetime, i doubt that it will happen in the lifetime of anyone now living. Maybe in the lifetimes of the grandchildren of the children of today, and i'll bet that even that is an outside shot.
 

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