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Where Are The Space Advocates?

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the in-my-house dept.

Space 327

QuantumG writes "Greg Zsidisin appeared on The Space Show today to ask Where Are The Space Advocates?. For the first time in decades Space is once again a political issue with all four major presidential candidates having something to say about space policy and yet nothing is being heard from space advocates. As we enter a new "Space Nexus" like we did after Apollo, now is a critical time to let your representatives know how you feel about space exploration, and yet no-one has anything to say." The show itself is a podcast if you want to give it a listen. Personally I'm hoping that this election puts space exploration back in the public consciousness- Apollo inspired a generation to learn math and science. I want my kid to be inspired by something bigger than that. And as some readers have noted- there are 3 candidates left (and really only two) so the submitter is probably high.

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Conversly, where are the space critics? (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377194)

As someone who is extremely skeptical myself of the value of space exploration, I think it would be just as important to ask conversely "Where are the space critics?" The whole idea of space exploration seems to elicit and great big "ho hum" from the American people now (not sure about the rest of the world). Politicians are neither willing to adequately support it nor actively oppose it. So NASA limps along with neither the funding boost to actually go to the moon/Mars nor the funding cut necessary to move the space program entirely into the private domain.

Personally, I would love nothing better than the abolish NASA and move this whole thing over to the private sector. If the work is truly as important as NASA supporters assert, they should have no problem getting private funding (as companies like Scaled Composites [wikipedia.org] did). If it isn't that important, and it's just some baby-boomer pipe dream, than the market will reflect that too.

Either way, the leaders of this country need to make up their mind whether they ACTUALLY want to do what they claim and send men to the moon/Mars (in which case they need to seriously boost NASA's funding) or whether they need to just scrap the whole thing altogether and stop bullshitting us about lofty goals that they have no intention of funding adequately.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (0, Troll)

tak amalak (55584) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377240)

Do you want to go back to steam engines and abacus too?

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378028)

No, I just want to go FORWARD to universal health care, more aid for impoverished nations, and all the other stuff we could be funding ahead of Joe Boomer's dreams of a Flash Gordon future.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23378544)

Why should my tax money go to impoverished nations? I'd rather it go to something that benefits me.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377246)

It would be cool tho.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (4, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377380)

More likely, NASA will always be around to provide infrastructure and pure exploration. Unmanned private missions, for instance, would almost certainly be focused on searching for specific economically viable resources rather than pure science. NASA will still be useful for missions like the mars rovers.

Likewise, it's unlikely that a private body would be willing or able to invest in an advanced launch system, such as a space elevator or launch loop. OTOH, like the interstate hiway system, that's exactly the sort of infrastructure that the government could invest in to promote private ventures.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (3, Insightful)

frith01 (1118539) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377522)

For-Profit Corporations have a focus on next quarters profits, not next decade. Space exploration is only viable on a national level. This blue dot we all live on will not last forever. If the human species is to survive, we must look elsewhere for possibilities. This cannot happen over-night, and we need to use mid-term goals such as a moon /asteroid colony , then mars, then after that who knows ? Even without that argument, there has still been lots of practical gains from space technology research. Taking the hard problems of energy conservation, materials research, and other science research has greatly improved areas in the commercial sector.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (4, Interesting)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377646)

Don't think for a minute that NASA exists purely for humanitarian reasons. The reason it's becoming such a focus of political attention now is the same reason it did back in the during the Cold War - because of Space's importance in national security.

With the other developing superpowers quickly approaching the same level of access as the shuttle currently has, and some with ambitions to reach even further, the US Government can't afford to fall behind and lose the advantage of it's head start. China and India have both announced plans to revisit the moon -- something the US doesn't even currently have the capacity to do again. With Mars being the next great frontier, who will be the first to develop the technologies that will take us there? In a hundred years, what will be the ramifications of ceding the first foothold there?

Aside from the political aspect of being the dominant space power, there are also tremendous military technologies that come from developing for the space program, not to mention tactical advantages that can result from dominating space. From "innocuous" threats like shutting down enemy sattelites, to the real potential for MWDs parked in LEO over your enemies, there is a very real necessity for the space program to remain part of the government.

Private technology companies should have greater access and receive more funding, and further research into the depths of space will always require international cooperation and support. However, the US has reached the deadline of being the "Sole superpower" in the world, and once again must make the effort to compete in a global technology race. Anything less than a total commitment to being the leader in space technology would be irresponsible and dangerous.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (4, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377714)

There are additional critics that have watched NASA burn money furiously, put lots of expensive equipment into the ocean instead of space, have engineering standards and production practices that killed astronauts, while performing lots of military work that additionally invades privacy and puts weapons into the sky that have dubious value and effectiveness.

They've also made themselves a political football at a time when there's an unbelievable amount of money being spent on three different wars-- all but one of them dubious in origin. Add this to asset deflation (the housing crisis), inflation of the currency (790 billion dollars in new money printed by the Fed), high transport costs and deflation of the value of the US currency, and there's litte wonder why NASA's on the back burner.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (5, Interesting)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377716)

The market reflects what is near-term profitable. Don't conflate near-term profitability with importance.

Regardless, lets suppose we privatize space exploration, and a handful of entrepreneurs, with the gifts of great foresight and deep pockets, step forward. They make great strides. They drive the R&D for space-related tech, so they end up owning the spin-offs. They control the orbital research, so maybe they start amassing patents from that.

Now years down the road, space travel becomes really important, and they're poised to make a huge profit. Are we (as a society) prepared to let them profit for their decades of investment, or will we claim that this undeserving elite is trying to exploit our need from a position of unfair advantage?

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377856)

Not to mention... Who owns the land on the moon? This is the reason I think NASA will always remain under the control of the government. Heaven forbid someone finds a way to live on other planets/moons and sends out a new age Mayflower with enough intelligence to write up a "Constitution" without any loopholes that will be manipulated by greedy "representatives."

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23378280)

I'm pretty sure the grandparent would have no problems with a "Scramble for Mars" situation between competing mega-corporations. Myself, I'd rather see the vast undeveloped solar system be a level playing field for true entrepreneurs, not just Lockheed-Martin-Marietta-Convair and Boeing-North American-McDonnell-Douglas-Hughes.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (2, Funny)

jtseng (4054) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378270)

Personally, I would love nothing better than the abolish NASA and move this whole thing over to the private sector.
Does anyone know how I can buy shares in Weyland-Yutani? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (4, Insightful)

jandersen (462034) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378298)

Ah, yes, the holy and ineffable market. This is what would happen if NASA was abolished and moved over to the private sector: The private sector would seek out the cheapest options and outsource to India and China. I'm not saying this would be bad, just that is what they would most likely do.

To me, space exploration is not about what is profitable or what would be profitable for a private company - that would be far too limited and shortsighted. It is about basic research, expanding our knowledge into unknown territory. If the onlyresearch that was allowed was what you could see immediate profit in, we wouldn't know anything about electricity, quantum mechanics, mathematics etc etc. The internet that is now considered so hugely important for our economy wouldn't be here - no quantum mechanics => no semiconductors, no maths => no digital computers, no electricity, well need I say more?

Electricity was nothing more than a curiousity for centuries - first described by the Greeks, as far as I remember. Most of the maths essential for modern technology was no more than intellectual games for a bunch of nerds; a sort of very esoteric philosophy with scarcely any practical relevance. If we don't do basic research, we will end up stagnating sooner or later. I don't think we can afford to be so myopic.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378324)

Alot of ppl want to bash the space critic here, but to be honest
we got ppl living under bridges.

We got thousands dead from a storm in the former Burmese state.

And WW III is about to kick off over oil reserves in the middle
east cause we still have to find things on earth to burn for power.

3 things down here on the ground should be addressed first.

1) a replacement for oil so WW III might be averted
2) world wide weather/tsunami/hurricane/volcano warning system
3) permaculture food sources for the 3rd world

Some jaded elitists feel the ppl under the bridges are not
as good as them and deserve their fate, and I assume these
same elitists feel the thousands dead in Burma are justified ?

I think not, and the billions going into space would be
better spent stopping world war 3 down here.

WW III is coming, and it is not gonna be as fun and playful
as WW I and II, the nukes are coming out to play.

The tens of millions dead will seem small by comparison.

It is like our leaders embrace the damned religious apocalypse.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Guidestones [wikipedia.org]

So that is why I ALSO feel that space should not be our first
choice for billions in spending.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23378372)

The job of government is to do the things that are unprofitable that private industry would not do -- but could later benefit them. Who would have privately built the transportation infrastructure? Who would have developed a nationwide and now worldwide network for computers? Seems obvious now but I seriously doubt private industry would have made the initial investment. The point is that much of NASA's job is basic research of a kind that you can not put a dollar value on but will someday undoubtedly aide us and could bring us the next big thing. Don't forget that NASA also brings you thing like WMAP, Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra that have brought us a whole new understanding of the universe and how it works. Future missions will even uncover more. Who knows how that knowledge will benefit us. Try doing that in partnership with private industry. NASA's basic problem is that it is viewed mainly as the agency which puts man in space and we have already achieved the few "wow" moments like putting man into orbit, building a space station, and sending man to the Moon that are possible with late 20th century technology and more importantly, the money that is available. The next space challenges such as putting a man on Mars are unbelievably technologically daunting and expensive. We have to ask ourselves if we should really be dedicating ourselves to that kind of pursuit at this time in history. My personal opinion is to focus on what NASA DOES do really well right now which is science and maintain a manned program that supports it until such time that we will be technologically capable of moving out beyond the Earth-Moon system. The problem with that is most people -- obviously including you -- don't value those things as much or more than what "neat" thing we can do with man and space for which you clearly believe NASA is synonymous. That's a problem of education.

Re:Conversly, where are the space critics? (1)

Steneub (1070216) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378594)

We are the space robots.
We are here to protect you from the terrible secret of space.

It's simple, really... (2, Insightful)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377196)

The space advocates are not there because there's simply no room for it in the political universe...

Re:It's simple, really... (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377542)

Wars make more money. The media is all for it and against it. More companies are lobbying for war contracts than space contracts. That's where the money is. We went to the moon and didn't find oil.

Re:It's simple, really... (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377632)

What we need are some big charts that say something along the lines of "Increased space funding shows historical link to lower gas prices." It's technically correct, the best kind of correct. We used to spend more on space. We used to have lower gas prices. Is anyone seriously worried that the public at large will understand correlation isn't causation or statistics at all. It would work, and you all know it would!

Re:It's simple, really... (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378000)

Excerpted from RP2008 [ronpaul2008.com] , a discussion about charity, which in the limited usefulness of space exploration the space program is. I assume you could say it employs people, but those people would have no problem working other places as well.

If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give at all; and as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. 'No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity.'

"'Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this country as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have Thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.'

Re:It's simple, really... (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378224)

Next time we see a hurricane forming weeks before it hits land, remember how "limited use" the space program is.

Re:It's simple, really... (3, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378252)

...until a meteor hits a major city. Then people will be asking why NASA didn't do anything even though they cut their budget to near nothing.

Easier to be Against Things (5, Insightful)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377200)

It's a lot easier to be against things than for them. That's politics. If you are "FOR" something you have to be willign to defend and justify it, repeatedly.

Re:Easier to be Against Things (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377794)

It's a lot easier to be against things than for them. That's politics. If you are "FOR" something you have to be willign to defend and justify it, repeatedly.
Willing, and able.

You'll need more than rhetoric about "it inspires the little kids into Science!" and "we need to get off Earth ASAP!!! zomg" lines. Also, the "it brings us new technologies, like Tang!" bit grows weak.

Re:Easier to be Against Things (2, Insightful)

analog_line (465182) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377866)

If you are "FOR" something you have to be willing to defend and justify it, repeatedly.

Yeah, we call that "the way things ought to work". Too often, however, things don't work like that. WAY too often, we have really great ideas that aren't defended or justified repeatedly, and therefore aren't thought through nearly as well. While I am not personally a "professional skeptic", if you take a position on ANYTHING you'd better be prepared to back it up with evidence if possible, and argument if there isn't any evidence yet (because no one's tried it, or it's impossible to test for one reason or another). Every assertion should be questioned repeatedly and mercilessly, especially ones that will end up transferring other people's resources into something that you think should be done. You know, such sterling examples of crappy ideas that didn't get argued against nearly enough, such as the Cultural Revolution, the second US invasion of Iraq, Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler, Alan Greenspan's dropping the cost of borrowing to nothing.

If you have the resources to do something yourself, without outside help, then you don't really need to worry about questions, but don't expect anyone else to care much. If someone wants to go to space, I'm all for letting them, as long as they pay for it.

Re:Easier to be Against Things (1)

jcgf (688310) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378048)

While I am not personally a "professional skeptic",


Every assertion should be questioned repeatedly and mercilessly

That's how I would define a "professional skeptic". Or did you mean that you don't get paid? Meaning you are an "amateur skeptic" as I am an "amateur radio operator"?

Re:Easier to be Against Things (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378338)

Mod points always run out too early.

This isn't true in politics only - it's always harder to create than destroy.

Terrorism won't inspire your kids? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377202)

There are all sorts of uses for math and science when it comes to stopping terrorism or spying on your neighbors.

Key Difference (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377226)

As we enter a new "Space Nexus" like we did after Apollo, now is a critical time to let your representatives know how you feel about space exploration, and yet no-one has anything to say.
I can't listen to the podcast as I'm at work but I think the key difference now is that people are, on average, more informed about how difficult the logistics are of space travel ... and also about the risks that come with that. On top of that most of us have witnessed the Challenger and Colombia incidents.

That's not to say that early flight didn't have its fair share of mishaps and deaths but I think it's getting to the point where the only advocates I see for space are those who want it turned over to the private sector. The private sector is a good answer when it's too complicated/expensive/morally questionable for a government.

It's become pretty clear that travel or tourism has been given to the private sector (as I believe the Russians have given that up) while 'exploration' and 'colonization' are probably still the government's responsibility.

I'm all for exploration and research-y type things in space but I'm not so sure about colonization or travel yet. I used to be very pro-colonizing other planets after reading a lot of Carl Sagan but now if I were to write my representatives it would be asking them to save Earth first then think about colonization and travel.

Re:Key Difference (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377500)

On top of that most of us have witnessed the Challenger and Colombia incidents.

Apollo 1 didn't stop us...why should Columbia and Challenger?

Re:Key Difference (0)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377684)

Apollo was the generation of The Duke... this is the generation of Kevin Bacon.

We don't even let kids play dodge ball in school anymore, then we wonder why we're losing wars.

Frankly, I think America has become pussified, and it happened by design.

Re:Key Difference (2, Insightful)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378062)

More importantly it was the generation of Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Anzio and Normandy.

They knew what sacrifice was.

Re:Key Difference (4, Informative)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378260)

Precisely. We lost more people landing on D-Day than we have in 5 years in Iraq. Vastly more.

It was also during Vietnam. I suspect that most people figured that 3 astronauts dying for the cause of advancing human knowledge and reach was worth a lot more than what more people were dying for in indochina.

It's all about perspective. The fact is that we now handle people with kid gloves until they're 30, and then some. No risk is acceptable anymore, which is why we haven't really had anything to show for it in so long.

Where there congressional hearings after the Apollo 1 fire? I don't know -- but they sure dragged out after Columbia, as if Congress can fix an engineering problem. They can't even fix the voting system (not that they'd want to...).

It's tragic, really. Fear over every little thing. "Oh noes!! dirty bombs!!" -- take an iodide tablet and shut up. People would get more radiation exposure flying across country, but just try and convince them of it...

If we as a society are no longer willing to take risks, then we just have to accept that we are not going to get anymore huge payoffs.

Personally, I'm not willing to accept it.

Re:Key Difference (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378640)

Perhaps part of the trouble of modern war is that it preferentially kills the brave (and foolish). The more modern wars you have, the less people left who are happy to accept conscription.

So for having these "great" wars in the first place, we are left with all the cautious people, all the rear echelon/ draft dodgers who thought that copping a bullet storming some beach in Europe or Asia for the sake of someone you've never met, or worse, an ideology - was a generally bad idea. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

An energy crisis is liable to bring a more callous attitude towards life and death. It might even select for longer-term, sustainable thinking. Here's hoping.

Re:Key Difference (1)

pdwalker (113292) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377670)

...but now if I were to write my representatives it would be asking them to save Earth first then think about colonization and travel.
If you truly are serious about wanting to save the earth, then going into space is the best way to do it.

The the riches from energy and resources alone will do more to alleviate any problems here on Earth than anything you could possibly even attempt on Earth itself.

Re:Key Difference (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378078)

The amount of resources, time, and energy we would have to expend to maintain a sustainable biosphere on earth are several orders of magnitude less that it would take to travel to a distant planet and establish a whole new biosphere from scratch in an environment that doesn't even possess a survivable atmosphere.

canidates stances (5, Informative)

OrochimaruVoldemort (1248060) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377256)

Hillary: enhance American leadership in space, including:
Pursuing an ambitious 21st century Space Exploration Program, by implementing a balanced strategy of robust human spaceflight, expanded robotic spaceflight, and enhanced space science activities.
Developing a comprehensive space-based Earth Sciences agenda, Promoting American leadership in aeronautics by reversing funding cuts to NASA's and FAA's aeronautics R&D budget.

Barack: Obama's early education and K-12 plan package costs about $18 billion per year. He will maintain fiscal responsibility and prevent any increase in the deficit by offsetting cuts and revenue sources in other parts of the government. The early education plan will be paid for by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years

McCain: When asked about their candidates' positions on the moon-Mars project, a spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) did not respond.

All of this can be found at Space dot com [space.com] .

Re:canidates stances (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377766)

Hillary Clinton would promise chocolate milk the in the water fountains if it got her elected. Whether she has any intention of actually ever delivering on such bold promises is HIGHLY suspect. And it's a moot point anyway, now. Her campaign is already floating dead in space.

Re:canidates stances (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377810)

Wow. That's the first thing Hilary has said that I like.

Of course, whether or not this is yet another one of her statments where she was just saying what the crowd wanted to hear and probably has no plans to follow through is another matter entirely.

McCain's spokesperson probably didn't respond because she probably didn't know for certain. I would be willing to bet he's going to try and at least see it through on a normal schedule, since Bush had been pushing it. Could be wrong though.

Re:canidates stances (2, Insightful)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377984)

I'm a huge space geek and it's a life-long dream of mine to get into space.

However, even under the assumption that Clinton is telling the complete truth and has every intention of keeping those promises I still prefer Obama's position. Simply because space exploration is not something that is going to directly affect me and the quality of my life and those that I love. Not in the next 4 years anyway.

As a parent I am, however, keenly interested in the quality of early education. I am also interested in taxes, the economy, health care, law and all of those things that actually directly affect how I live on a day to day basis.

I am dreamer and I want to get to space badly. But I also want a higher quality of life for myself and my loved ones. Space exploration is not going to accomplish that in the near future.

Disclaimer - I'm not even American so you can disregard everything that I just said as being completely irrelevant. However, I am a Canadian who does business in the US so if it's worth anything your country's political affairs do affect me. If I could vote in both countries I would, but I would need a residence in the US for a certain number of years to apply for dual-citizenship.

Re:canidates stances (2, Interesting)

Sciros (986030) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377824)

Hillary: pro (for now)
Obama: against
McCain: mysterious

I'm not one to really take any positivie promises from politicians at face value prior to an election, so the only response I take seriously there is Obama's... and I can't say I'm happy with it :-/

Re:canidates stances (1)

lubricated (49106) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378632)

I wouldn't call Hillary pro, unless she doesn't just spit out bullshit, but also actually proposes how she intends to pay for it.

Re:canidates stances (3, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378276)

That's what worries me so much about Obama. He's going to encourage kids to go into Math and Science by .... cutting the premier science program that our government is funding.

On the University level we are seeing good students avoid Math and Science careers LIKE THE PLAGUE. Obama's efforts in education will all be for naught as the good students all go into medicine or law (there can never be enough lawyers right?) Students RIGHT NOW think there will be nothing to do with a career in math or science, when they see Obama cutting the biggest government science and technology program there is American kids will continue to RUN AWAY from math and science, no matter how much money is poured into education.

We have lost our vision and spirit of adventure/exploration. I'm becoming more and more convinced that we're just going to sit here on Earth until our times up. Fermi was wrong, there may be all kinds of intelligent life in the galaxy, but if they're as shortsighted as we seem to be its very likely that they just sat on their ass and stopped exploring until they died out.

Re:canidates stances (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23378642)

So who was the fourth "Major candidate"? If TFA is by some Ron Paul fantasy-land kook then the required grain of salt will be much larger (should I ever choose to listen to it.)

The Planetary Society (4, Informative)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377268)

There is an advocacy group for space exploration.

http://www.planetary.org/home/ [planetary.org]

The Planetary Society has excellent programs and pushes for further exploration of space.

If you are really interested, join. I really had an interest in the solar sail to propel probes into deep space.

Big science - don't have to go to space. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377288)

I can think of 2 big science issues.

1) Fusion.
    1a) The unintended effects of fusion on the biosphere and how to fix 'em.
2) The study of biology.
    2a) What man does not know about the the effects of what your grandparents/parents did and how you became a human is only being hinted at. What we do not know about the chemistry from conception to birth is only, again, hinted at with what research has been done.

Fusion would be the next 'energy source upgrade' (that or the theorized zero point) and being able to 'upgrade' or 'fix' humans sure sounds a whole heck of a lot bigger than a rocket.

Re:Big science - don't have to go to space. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377708)

To cast it in cliched literary terms this is the difference between male-female, West-East thinking. One looking outwards projecting fear or conquest, the other being inward looking and nurturing.

Right now I think the human race needs a major dose of the Eastern philosophy. Space can wait. it isn't going anywhere. All the problems we need to sort out are right here on Earth. Energy, sustainability (especially agriculture), medicine , population control, leadership quality (stop war crazed psychopaths gaining control).

People confuse space exploration with Earthly exploration. Pioneering explorers came back with new plants, new minerals, made contact with other races (and usually wiped them out). But space isn't like that. Start Trek has addled our understanding. Space costs a bloody fortune to launch a few kilograms into orbit. It's mostly of interest to insane military types who get all moist at the thought of putting weapons there, and apart from spinoff technology it can yield little of value until we have already fusion energy sources.

Re:Big science - don't have to go to space. (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378034)

Why do people always think solving problems on Earth means you have to ignore space? We are a huge country, and an even bigger planet, with lots of resources. We have enough brainpower and enough resources to take on Earthly problems while still putting more effort into exploring space. Trying to find a cure for cancer does not mean we have to stop trying to find a cure for AIDs.

Our problem has never been lack of resources, it's poor allocation of those resources.

Re:Big science - don't have to go to space. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378450)

The "other" energy source upgrade in these parts would be some sort of deep drilling for geothermal. Some sort of "singularity engine" black hole deal is also theoretically possible. But zero-point energy is ridiculous.


Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377302)

Please, that 2nd link. If we get a space advocate, can we at least get one who writes in NORMAL PARAGRAPHS???

"all four major presidential candidates" (1, Informative)

Gigiya (1022729) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377350)

Who is the fourth?

Re:"all four major presidential candidates" (1)

OrochimaruVoldemort (1248060) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377368)

has to be ron paul

Re:"all four major presidential candidates" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377442)

With all due respect to the libertarian nut-freaks, Ron Paul isn't "major" by a long way; he's a fringe candidate.

Re:"all four major presidential candidates" (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377412)

Probably either Ron Paul or Al Gore, depending on if your wingnut has right- or left-handed threads.

(Honestly don't know, though... technically there's any number of independents this could refer to...)

and don't 4get... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377458)

ralph nadir, always the low-point of any campaign;-)

Re:"all four major presidential candidates" (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377488)

There isn't a fourth. The OP is a nut of some sort, or has a silly agenda.

"3 major candidates + Ron Paul" (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377588)

TFSummary is misleading, TFArticle says the 3 major candidates plus Ron Paul.

Re:"all four major presidential candidates" (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378180)

Ralph Nader...?

At this point he has my vote just based on the disgust I feel for either of the Dems and McCain.

Maybe we should declare war on it. (3, Funny)

Gldm (600518) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377374)

That seems to be the way to get lots of funding these days. At least if we declared The War on Space we'd be sure to find weapons of mass destruction. There are nuclear fusion reactions all over the place in space, they don't even try to hide em!

Me, I'm to busy worrying about if I can find another job, if I can ever afford a place to live, if I'll ever have the "special" right to marry my husband like we did in his country, if riots will break out when gas hits $10/gal next year...

Wha? (-1, Flamebait)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377378)

Well Bush pushed space exploration fairly hard. I would expect that a Dem in the White House won't have time for it. They'll be busy spending money "for the children." It will be hard to justify spending money on space exploration when you campaign on platform of a Chicken Little economy if you don't win.

Re:Wha? (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377580)

Well Bush pushed space exploration fairly hard. I would expect that a Dem in the White House won't have time for it. They'll be busy spending money "for the children." It will be hard to justify spending money on space exploration when you campaign on platform of a Chicken Little economy if you don't win.
I suspect you are right, the Democratics won't spend money on Space programs, but for the wrong reason. Not because they are spending money on the Children, but because there is no money to spend. We've have and are continuing to dump a lot of money into Iraq, and even if the next regime withdraws from Iraq, it'll still cost a fortune to get out. That money has to come from somewhere after all....

Re:Wha? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377962)

Yes, Bush pushed hard for space exploration, if by "pushing hard" you mean "gave it a lot of lip service but didn't actually increase the budget."

Re:Wha? (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378168)

Shhhh....you'll upset the idiots.

Republicans are the Party of Science. Democrats are the party of whining about science.

Yes, the four major presidential candidates! (4, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377392)

(1) Barack Obama
(2) Hillary Clinton
(3) John Mccain
(4) Cowboy Neil


Re:Yes, the four major presidential candidates! (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377628)

I was just going to comment on that. I don't think Nader is running this year.

Space is unimportant (0, Flamebait)

japandegreeinit (1028618) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377438)

With so much going on terrestrially, there is no room for something as wasteful as space exploration. So far it has not fed the hungry, housed the homeless, or created peace for warring nations. Space exploration is a waste of time until we get things right down here, plain and simple. The space race was only important to the development of ICBM's. That is it! Face it, you are never going to find that alien girlfriend you want. Let the hate mail begin...

Re:Space is unimportant (4, Informative)

vrai (521708) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377644)

We will never get things right down here because no two people can agree on what is "right". Using your reasoning we should therefore cease all technological development until a consensus is reached on what needs "fixing". Better we use our finite resources to further Man's knowledge of the universe than waste them on a pipe dream of global unity and happiness.

Starvation, deprivation and warfare are a old as humanity. We will never be fully rid of them, short of killing all but one person and hoping they're not schizophrenic.

Re:Space is unimportant (1, Insightful)

japandegreeinit (1028618) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378166)

This is not flamebait, this is simple logic. Studying blackholes takes away billions that could be used on finding new eco-friendly energy sources. The billions wasted on finding water on Mars could be spent on purifying water in Africa. Calling this flamebait is simply a copout not being able to argue the counter position logically. Space exploration is a waste of real resources that are needed here. What does having a better understanding of the universe get us, nothing. By the way, you are the only person I have heard of who thinks that we cannot get two people to agree on feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or trying to spread peace. But then hey, everyone has the right to an opinion. Just so we sure on that, that right did not come from space exploration, but an exploration here on earth.

Re:Space is unimportant (4, Insightful)

Rycross (836649) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378638)

Studying blackholes takes away billions that could be used on finding new eco-friendly energy sources. The billions wasted on finding water on Mars could be spent on purifying water in Africa.

Throwing money at a problem doesn't necessarily fix it faster or even fix it at all. Africa's problems haven't been fixed by throwing money at it. Their problems are mostly political and somewhat aggravated by our trade and economic policies in the first world. I haven't seen any evidence or reasoning that throwing NASA's budget at the problem would help.

Eco-friendly energy had been traditionally killed by the NIMBY problem, politics, and cost-effective technology. Now that the technology has improved and the environment is being put in greater focus, we're starting to see more of a push towards greener technology. I don't see how applying NASA's budget towards this could have helped, especially since NASA is one of the very few organizations left with blue-skies research programs, which are needed for more forward-thinking developments.

Again, more money does not mean more improvement. Look up the "Law of Diminishing Returns," or maybe take a course in economics.

Space exploration is a waste of real resources that are needed here. What does having a better understanding of the universe get us, nothing.

A better understanding of the universe is what drives scientific and technological development. I personally think GPS and satellite communication is pretty darn useful. The problem with blue-skies research is that you never know if you're going to run into dead-ends or come across the next big breakthrough. I'm guessing there were plenty of people who didn't see the value in quantum physics research, but its certainly been a great boon to mankind.

By the way, you are the only person I have heard of who thinks that we cannot get two people to agree on feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or trying to spread peace.

Yeah people agree if you simplify the question to the point of ridiculousness. Now ask those two people how they would like to go about feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or spreading peace. I'm pretty sure they'll have very different opinions on the matter. You have some people who like to focus on handouts, and other people who would rather focus on "teach a man to fish" methods like the OLPC.

But then hey, everyone has the right to an opinion. Just so we sure on that, that right did not come from space exploration, but an exploration here on earth.

I don't see how the two are mutually exclusive. Well, I guess it is if you have an overly simplistic, zero-sum view of the world. Luckily a lot of people don't have that problem.

Or would you like to provide evidence that the few billion we put into space research would make a real dent at any of the worlds problems (which are, again, mostly political)? As it is now, your argument is entirely emotion-based.

Pointless. Why bother? (5, Interesting)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377456)

Cancel NASA, and stop space exploration. It's a big waste of time/money. Military needs can be handled by military budgets.

NASA, the U.S. populace, and the world in general have no real interest in propulsion systems capable of realistically lifting large payloads into space economically. We've done everything we can in space with the toy payloads we currently lift, and the only real economic sectors which benefit from continued exploration is orbital satellites, something which NASA handles very poorly (i.e. expensively).

Until someone has the balls to restart Project Orion [wikipedia.org] , I don't see why we should even bother. The technology to put cities in orbit, not to mention on other planets, is readily available and understood. And cheap (on a per kilo basis). So why are we still playing chemical rockets?

It's a waste of time. The silly little experiments done on the ISS are pointless. Until someone invents a drive that can lift 100s (or thousands, or millions) of tons into orbit (or beyond) economically, we should stop bothering and try and let private enterprise come up with something.

The turn away from Project Orion in 1963 represented the end of man's technological development when it came to interplanetary space travel, and commercial space utilization. We dropped the reigns, and walked away (as a race). The current efforts at space travel are a gimmick and a waste of taxpayer dollars, and will continue to be unless we are willing to switch from chemical to nuclear propulsion. That's the truth of the matter.

Re:Pointless. Why bother? (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377690)

Until someone has the balls to restart Project Orion [wikipedia.org] , I don't see why we should even bother.
But, but, think of the environmental impact.... Orion would have irradiated a path through space from the beginning to the end of the mission... And then our [mutant] children would be stuck with the irradiated mess to clean up - think of mother earth! (um... I mean... Father Solar system!)

Re:Pointless. Why bother? (1)

Dr.M0rph3us (1256296) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378186)

Until someone has the balls to restart Project Orion, I don't see why we should even bother.
One of the reasons the project was banned was the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (from your link):

The vehicle and its test program would violate the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 as currently written, which prohibited all nuclear detonations except those which were conducted underground, both as an attempt to slow the arms race and to limit the amount of radiation in the atmosphere caused by nuclear detonations. There was an effort by the US government to put an exception into the 1963 treaty to allow for the use of nuclear propulsion for spaceflight, but Soviet fears about military applications kept the exception out of the treaty.
...not to mention the environmental issues (also from your link):

But the main unsolved problem for a launch from the surface of the Earth is nuclear fallout. [...] The United States Government concurred and decided that because of the danger to human life and the danger to electronic systems on the ground (from electromagnetic pulse) to shelve the project.

The turn away from Project Orion in 1963 represented the end of man's technological development
I wouldn't percieve this as a walk away, but rather a reconsideration of the risks involved in space exploration. We can't just blow nuclear bombs to push payload into space :| The most economical method to bring multiton payloads into space is to fabricate them right there. Sure, it will be hard at first to develop and implement the technology required for space manufacturing, but this will pay off in time. The asteroid belt is a great place to begin, since it has huge ammounts of metal (plus silicates, possibly carbon polymers and also water in form of permafrost - see http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-258994/asteroid [britannica.com] ).

GNAA Penis Rocket To The Moon Project (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377462)

How many times do we have to tell you? We are accepting donations to build a penis rocket to go to the moon with gay niggers and plant a goatse flag!

http://www.gnaa.us/penis-rocket-to-the-moon.html [www.gnaa.us]

Join the black house revolution!

Prioritizing Near-Term Benefits (5, Insightful)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377464)

As much as I would love the idea of Space Exploration, I'd trade away the budget for serious efforts on Climate Change, since a number of the things we might learn in Space will be irrelevant if we don't solve Climate Change so that we survive at all.

Then again, if we were going to make a near-term intensive effort to establish a permanent self-sustaining base off-planet, I'd be all for it even with Climate Change dollars. It would seem prudent both as a backup/insurance plan in case we mess up this planet (eliminating some of the "single point of failure" problem we have looming now) and also as a way of gaining data about how to live in inhospitable places (like the Earth is on track to be). Just about any dollars spent on how to manage atmospheres, grow food in artificially controlled ways, etc. seems money well spent. I think the key to making Space palatable for the nearterm is to keep the expenses targeted to those with direct applicability.

I've recently started to shift my views on the ethics of Terraforming Mars, as Earth's habitability hangs in the balance, and to start to question the ethics of not doing so. It would be fun to discover Life there, but if the price is preserving a few potential microbes there at the expense of possibly losing valuable data that could help to preserve our own planet, that seems a steep and selfish price. Mars is a resource, not to be exploited commercially (which is somewhat how we got into the Climate Change mess), but that might be used strategically. So is the Moon, for that matter, to the extent we can make anything useful of that.

Sadly, I doubt that either Space or Climate will get attention. Instead, we'll get gas tax holidays so we can keep burning oil until we're like Venus and can't even see the sky.

Re:Prioritizing Near-Term Benefits (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377514)

I slammed a gay nigger instead of reading your post, he came hard into my ass I felt it splash my prostate

Maybe we should just Open Source it? (3, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377504)

Seriously -- the Government isn't taking it seriously, and just like immigration that leaves an opening for citizens who recognize a problem, and a lack of response, to do something about it themselves.

Like in Jules Verene's "From the Earth to the Moon" -- open the project up to subscription, so to speak. seek donations from individuals, as well as from large donors, organizations and governments world wide.

Release all of the schematics and source code, take submissions from volunteers but try and maintain a budget high enough to ensure that high-quality engineers can be maintained on staff and that hard devices can actually get built.

Turn a manned mission to Mars into a world-wide, grass-roots endeavor. We all have a stake in getting off this rock and its clear that the powers that be aren't going to actually bother.

I have some experience in non-profit management and fund raising. Anyone want to help start an Open Space Foundation?

Re:Maybe we should just Open Source it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377556)

maybe we are not meant to leave this rock, maybe we were confined here for a reason, look around at how shitty the human race really is on a global scale.

How about this? Screw it. (0, Troll)

bogie (31020) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377506)

Worry about the launching and repair of Satellites and that's it. When everyone has Health Insurance and a living wage then we can talk about it. Deal with our present problems before we worry about the future.

Re:How about this? Screw it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23378644)

Most of our present problems stem from the fact that we don't worry enough about the future.

the Candidates are facing Bigger Problems. (3, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377536)

Oil production peaked in 2005. [photobucket.com] The USA decided stealing oil was a better idea than buying it, so they invaded Iraq, [pulitzer.org] and that took 112 billion barrels off the market [bbc.co.uk] , so as it comes on tap, the plateau of production would remain longer.

In the meantime, the current administration let the nutty banking policies developed under Clinton's watch to http://www.usa-foreclosure.com/">fester and metasticise, and now the country's technically insolvent. [federalreserve.gov]

As a consequence, I think putting people in space is going to be seriously backburnered, and I would humbly submit that the majority of people who will ever be in space have already gone.

I'm not happy about that - I would love to go put bases on the moon to harvest He3 [technologyreview.com] and do all that kind of groovy stuff, but I think we shot our wad, and pissed away the resources on crap like highways for Cadillac Escalades [netcarshow.com] and useless cities like Las Vegas [bigfoto.com] . We had our chance, and we blew it.


Four candidates (1)

autophile (640621) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377596)

Well, to be fair, the submitter was probably thinking about Clinton (who thinks economists are elitist), Paul (who wants sick poor people to stop contributing to the economy), McCain (who wants to solve a religious civil war with guns), and Obama (...). So really, only one candidate :D

Re:Four candidates (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378374)

How does Ron Paul want sick poor people to stop contributing to the economy? He just wants them off social welfare so they don't drag the rest of the economy down. Which is a negative contribution. So he wants them to doubly contribute. Get better and get working. Only Ron Paul has a plan to REDUCE the rising cost of health care, and he should know. He's a doctor. The rest will wither perpetuate the status quo, or increase the cost of health care by getting the government involved. That won't help anyone, rich, sick or poor.

How High? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23377648)

the submitter is probably high.

I most certainly am not high. I... wait, whoa... what was I just saying?

space, the final frontier (5, Insightful)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377652)

as a nerd, space exploration really excites me.

But the rational part of my brain tells me that manned space exploration is of little value, scientifically. We can send probes and rovers to all kids of places that humans can't really get to. it also helps that with robots, there is no moral dilemma when you send them on a one way trip.

I don't understand why there are only a small number of probes heading into space, I would love to see experiments with different kinds of propulsion, send probes out with ion drives, solar sales, try out the eventually catch up to, and pass voyager.

how many moons does Saturn have? we should have probes orbiting each of them by now.

of course, data from probes don't inspire children as much as watching grainy footage of people stepping onto extraterrestrial soil, which is why we need to have a manned space program.

but manned space flight is pitiful.

the ISS is a joke. we should have a huge, rotating '2001 a space odyssey' style station up there by now.

last time i checked, the replacement for the shuttle is a step back to the Apollo style capsule.

make space a place people want to go to, and put a system in place where the best and brightest, (rather than the richest) get to go.

Re:space, the final frontier (2, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378008)

The original astronauts were all fighter pilots (with engineerign degrees) who got to wear Omega Speedmaster watches and drive free Corvettes.

In fact, the original astronauts were a lot like James Bond.

I was at the NASM last week to check out that UAV exhibit and there were some astronauts there doing a talk about the ISS. It was a bunch of crap from some chunky, balding scientists about how much fun it is to play with your food in 0g.


Bring back the seat-of-your-pants, high-adventure space program and people will be totally into it. Columbus didn't cross the Atlantic to see if whipped cream worked the same in America as it did in Europe -- he did it for fortune and the fame that comes with just getting somewhere before anyone else.

Do the stupid science experiments later. If you want the funding and the future scientist corps to get there, you have to get people interested first. Fat bald guys in blue jump suits are not the way to inspire a generation.

Re:space, the final frontier (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378104)

"there is no moral dilemma when you send them on a one way trip."

Food for thought: when you're spending 1B (number pulled out of my rear) to send a single probe to mars when there are children dying of starvation here at home you might be able to find some moral dilemmas. If you chose to look for them.

Re:space, the final frontier (1)

retupmoca (932711) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378138)

Actually, what I'd like is a little toy spaceship!!
That's what slashdot said at the bottom of the page, so that's what we need.

Re:space, the final frontier (1)

Gud (78635) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378150)

To many NASA == "White collar welfare program" but that is too strong, many of the things that are done in space are good. The bad things in IMHO are ISS (waste of money for no good reason) and "Mission to Mars" (a joke)

The dollars/euros/rubles should be spent on basic research, global climate monitoring, long range simple probes, better launch capability.

NASA for budgeting reasons designs new programs to be cheap to launch but expensive to operate as it is easier to get funding for existing programs than new ones, it this issue was addressed
then the cost of each NASA mission could be reduced. Unfortunately this is not in the interest of the politicians or the contractors that benefit from the man hungry operation centers.

Re:space, the final frontier (2, Informative)

rfunches (800928) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378508)

last time i checked, the replacement for the shuttle is a step back to the Apollo style capsule.

My understanding is that the implied "step forward" called the Space Shuttle prevented manned exploration outside Earth's orbit. If you're so much in favor of manned space exploration, why are you bashing our best, most viable method to reach the Moon or Mars?

At least we are not sort of Meta-Advocates (1)

paratiritis (1282164) | more than 5 years ago | (#23377692)

Like Mr Zsidisin, who is advocating the existence of more advocates. It is probably a sign of stagnation in any field when discussion shifts from ways to achieve more progress, to ways to attract more people to the cause.

I am a space enthusiast, but I largely agree with the space critic above, who wants to shift space to the private sector. I think NASA's role should be reduced, with projects shifting to private companies and eventually NASA becoming the FAA of space

Projects that should be pursued right now are things like private companies putting men in true orbit (that will probably make money by opening up true space tourism) and perhaps sending unmanned probes to other planets to get concrete quantifiable knowledge by organizing prizes like the X-Prize [xprize.org] (completed), and the Google Lunar X PRIZE [googlelunarxprize.org] (just starting).

Do these things well, get results, and the advocates will come. Old astronauts calling in, and hoping future presidents will give money doesn't do half as much. And then you wonder where have the advocates gone...

Space critic (0, Troll)

J.R. Random (801334) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378126)

When we're running budget deficits of half a trillion dollars a year it is outrageous to be planning a manned mission to Mars. As for the moon, we've been there and done that (conspiracy theories notwithstanding). Zero out the whole manned space program, keep the satellite and unmanned probe programs going at a modest level, and give the taxpayer a break. If a manned space program had to be funded soley by manned space program enthusiasts there would be a whole lot fewer of those enthusiasts.

Advocate != Government Advocate (1)

rijrunner (263757) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378128)

It may be that times have passed the political parties and politicians behind.

    The space advocates are now looking at private sector and have a more DIY attitude. The technological barriers of entry have been greatly reduced to the point where there are multiple competing private ventures that are likely to succeed.

    I think a lot of space advocates are disillusioned with governmental programs. The US and NASA does not do well with large scale programs. After the mess that was ISS, NASA had a fairly reasonable development path into space under O'Keefe. But, when Griffin came in, he ditched that approach and technology and instead went with the Stick and Orion, which bears a striking resemblance to the worst aspects of the Shuttle and ISS development paths.

    Quite honestly, the US government just needs to allow room for private enterprise at this time. The FAA made some needed changes to their licensing of launch vehicles, which is what is really opening the door for private ventures. The technology requirements for space access are moving a lot closer to what can be handled by smaller companies.

    I might look for a government policy for environmental protection. I might look to the government for a policy covering mining. But, I really don't expect the government to pay for the mining operations. Give some guidelines and provide oversight.

A human backup plan (4, Interesting)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#23378210)

I'd like to see some questions asked, and some answers. I think that humans need some form of contingency plan that does not consist purely of holes drilled in mountains. As such, we should be moving in this direction in a long-term fashion - the end goal being a self-sufficient and growing colony somewhere that is not earth. So here are some questions.

Given budgets of different sizes, what can realistically be achieved? Hence, what brings us the best bang for buck? What are the most likely approaches?

Is it possible to turn space exploration, colonization and the like into a positive feedback loop that generates more of the same? (i.e. is there a valid business model somewhere? What are the best chances for building some sort of self-sufficient colony up there somewhere, even if populated by self-replicating robots?)

What type of government is most likely to fund this for as long as it takes? If not, what sort is necessary? As much as possible should be open-sourced to prevent research being wasted forever.

What necessary technologies can we anticipate that make it much cheaper to just wait a while longer (e.g. computer hardware, robotics, solar panels, etc)?

Is there any utility in being able to put something city-sized into space via Project Orion? Ten people dead due to cancer is nothing compared to most yearly road deaths. But again, only if there is utility in that approach. Maybe self-replicating robots can do the same thing for less cost but just taking longer to ramp up.

In the end, I think that there are two issues:
1. How do we build a self-sufficient system (at first, probably sans humans) capable of growing - i.e. net energy positive, net resource positive, growing at some sort of exponential rate, even if slowly?
2. What are the minimum requirements in terms of energy/unit time and resources/human, radiation shielding etc for humans to survive and reproduce in some sort of closed-loop system bar energy?

The key is the self-sufficiency. We have finite energy on this earth, but a lot of time and brainpower to do basic research. If we can set something up such that we only have to get it working once and after that it takes care of itself, we have won. If we can figure out how to do everything completely closed-loop bar energy (which can be gotten from solar), we have won. (Water and oxygen should be able to be transported in one big shot via Project Orion provided that it is fully recycled after it arrives.)

Somewhere there needs to be a checklist and someone going down the list until all those bugs are squashed. I suspect that with a lot of it, we don't even need to go to space, it can be done cheaply on earth. Not too glamorous, extremely hard, but all necessary. It probably needs a good movie or two to convince the public though.

They're too busy reading A.T.S! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23378456)

Anyone who's a space advocate already knows that NASA is the scientific equivalent of "The Hills". It's basically a fake TV reality show and all the good stuff is currently hidden by the U.S. Government (and on the far side of the moon!)
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  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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