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Obama Transition Team Examining Space Solar Power

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the gerry-o'neill-smiles-down dept.

Space 275

DynaSoar writes "President-elect Obama's transition team has published for public comment a white paper entitled Space Solar Power (SSP) — A Solution for Energy Independence & Climate Change. The paper was prepared and submitted by the Space Frontier Foundation and other citizen space advocates, and calls for the new Administration to make development of Space Solar Power a national priority. The SSP white paper was among the first ten released by the Obama transition team. It is the first and only space-related white paper released by the team to date. With 145 comments thus far, it is already among the top five most-discussed of the 20-some white papers on Change.gov."

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275 comments

How? (3, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186525)

And how exactly do they plan on getting the panels/mirrors/whatever up there [slashdot.org] ?

Re:How? (5, Insightful)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186539)

Outsource to the EU, Russians, or the Chinese?

Re:How? (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186583)

I thought Obama's plan was to keep the jobs and technology home based. After all, outsourcing doesn't do much to create jobs.

he's either going to have to do this with NASA and keep their funding up or it's just more banter from a politician.

Re:How? (4, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186695)

Obama doesn't want to kill NASA, Obama wanted to streamline a few of NASA's pipe dreams Like returning to the moon or manned mars missions. Things that have little practical value in the next 5 years. a return trip to the moon would only be for historical reasons and maybe to bring back a few more moon rocks.

Who needs exploration, anyway? (4, Insightful)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186761)

Yeah, and a trip to the west coast after the Lewis and Clark expedition would only have been for historical reasons and maybe bring back a few more notes.

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (5, Insightful)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186865)

Exploration most certainly does have value.

That said, expensive exploration, without the means to capitalize on it, when the economy is in trouble and we're trying to cut our energy use probably doesn't have a whole lot.

Nothing wrong with sending more landers, probes, etc to mars, the moon, wherever else we can get em. It's expensive, but it's potentially valuable. Sending a person somewhere just to say you've sent them somewhere is really rather silly.

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (1, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186957)

"Yeah, and a trip to the west coast after the Lewis and Clark expedition would only have been for historical reasons and maybe bring back a few more notes."

We can send robots instead of meat puppets at less cost and no risk to personnel, whose loss would endanger programs that are much more valuable to mankind than a few dead astronauts. We need to develop machines to do our exploration and our work because humans are delicate, weak, and high-maintenance, so send unmanned missions for a few decades and get good at it.

I'm fine with lunar missions, but not with expensive tourists when sending robots is a more worthy goal. Exploiting space should be done using unmanned systems while humans do the design and enjoy the benefits without personal risk. Catering to meat tourists SLOWS development life cycles (Space Shuttle, anyone?) and is a drag on science.

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26187157)

did you just call us meat puppets?

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26187569)

No, he called astronauts meat puppets.

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (1)

Dutchy Wutchy (547108) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187273)

Solely relying on robots for exploration will breed a society with little to no desire to ever send humans into space. After all, if robots can do practically everything humans can do, what is the point in ever taking the risk of sending "meat puppets"?

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (2, Insightful)

Your.Master (1088569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187487)

Why is this inherently a problem?

Look, I think manned space exploration is cool and all too. But if there's a reason to send humans into space, then we will have a desire. And if they don't, then this society we breed is immensely practical and correct, which is an improvement over today's society :).

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (2, Insightful)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187513)

Very silly logical fallacy called the slippery slope. You ignore that if there became a viable reason to send humans up there, we still would. Sending them up there to try and force us to continue sending them up there is silly.

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187529)

Not true, we've been sending Robots to Mars for years now and we still pine for a manned mission.

Re:Who needs exploration, anyway? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186989)

Yeah, and a trip to the west coast after the Lewis and Clark expedition would only have been for historical reasons and maybe bring back a few more notes.

What kind of fucking moron compares a trip to the moon to a trip across country? If only we could all just live in your fantasy world where analogies can force equivocations into reality. Until then, try getting to the moon on a team of horses, dumbass.

Re:How? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186843)

Landing on the Moon is not a pipe dream, we've done it. Going to Mars is not a pipe dream, it's a plausable extension of the capabilities we have today. Both of these can be done for reasonable cost, and in the process spur innovation and boost our national prestige. Given the fact that we appear to be in a national malaise, the latter should not be considered trivial.

The pipe dream here is solar space power. It's an absurd concept that will never be profitable compared to Earth-based utilities. Even the supposed "military applications" like beaming power into remote battlefields is bogus.

Re:How? (1)

ghyspran (971653) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187173)

The pipe dream here is solar space power. It's an absurd concept that will never be profitable compared to Earth-based utilities.

I wouldn't say that. It may be a concept that will never be profitable in our lifetimes, but I'd hesitate to say it will never be profitable. When we've already colonized the moon, Venus, and Mars, our power needs very well may exceed the ability of the planets to support, and that's when we move to a Class II civilization. Of course, since we are far from even a Class I civilization, you are definitely correct that attempting to use the sun to provide us with our power needs is a pipe dream at this time.

Re:How? (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186965)

When it comes down to it just about everything NASA has ever done outside of contributions to satellite technology has "little practical value" to us today. But those of us who can see the forest in spite of the trees knows where the value of all these other "pipe dreams" lies.

And I always thought that the new moon missions were to focus on a permanent colony. I think that's a little bit better than "bring back a few more moon rocks."

Re:How? (2, Insightful)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187519)

If the permanent colony is as useful as the ISS, I'd sooner not have it.

Re:How? (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187005)

Personally I vote for putting something really cool in L4 or L5, like a space telescope or some sort of communication relay.

Re:How? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186973)

Outsourcing was bad for America BEFORE the election, he's already been elected now. Try to keep up.

Re:How? - I'll tell you how (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186549)

As usual, just throw money at NASA and ignore it when it doesn't work since it's really pork.

Re:How? - I'll tell you how (3, Funny)

tysonedwards (969693) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186847)

At least with NASA, you can watch your money disappear into thin air.

Re:How? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186561)

That might've mattered if either rocket design were actually legitimate. It happens the guy Bush appointed doodled some shit on the back of a napkin when he first got in, and magically that's what they've wasted money on so far to the exclusion of more reliable and more sound designs. Ho hum.. eh?

Re:How? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186575)

[citation needed]

Re:How? (5, Informative)

J05H (5625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186977)

No cite needed. Fact: the 2000-era OSP/Orbital Space Plane project was going to provide a capsule or small spaceplane atop EELV.

the VSE said nothing about "Build a heavy lift rocket" - it did say to open the Solar System to human economic sphere. Mike Griffin took Bush's VSE and created ESAS plan from it - this became the Ares/Constellation projects. While Orion (the capsule) is an OK idea, the fact that NASA is trying to field yet another medium-lift rocket is a terrible idea. The obvious part of the problem - no payload should be designed to fly exclusively on one rocket. Even more short-sighted is fielding a giant new HLV that will also have exactly one customer - and it will still be mostly flying propellant - the actual hardware is light enough for ELVs. Instead of building the payloads and helping to build the existing market for medium-class launch while focusing on the mission (go to Moon, go to Mars, make conditions for homesteading/mining, etc) they have focused and stumbled on the first mile of the problem.

This goes back to Griffin's recent "Your not qualified" statements - he only sees the engineering aspect and is apparently blind to economic, historical and political forces. Apollo on Steroids is hide-bound not muscle-bound.

On SSP - SSP will require putting thousands of tons of hardware in orbit regardless of specific tech choices. Boeing proposed an "Ultra Heavy Lift" booster in the 1970s called LEO - 250tons to orbit. It can be done in arbitrarily large chunks but has also been proposed on the other end by Dr. Hoyt of Tethers Unlimited as a single payload of 25t flown on EELV. Beamed power can be demonstrated on an in-space scale first (w/ huge market potential) and later on Earth. The DoD has looked into an all-electric future with SSP, Gerard O'Neill proposed basing the entire space economy on beamed power as well. The basic tech has been demonstrated in the lab and recently between two Hawai'i islands.

Beamed power can be one of the most environmentally benign forms of energy production. It produces a microwave equivalent of 2X sunlight strength on the target rectennae and is tuned to be transparent to water, producing little to none atmospheric heating. Developed as GEO power plants they could provide baseline power to cities. Digital phase-array antennae may provide dynamic control and non-photovoltaics may be the better solution for generation (solar-dynamic/sterling). SSP is one technology that offers tremendous potential.

Re:How? (3, Interesting)

meza (414214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186621)

Well stuff has been put up in space before. No biggie. What I'm wondering is how they plan to get the energy back down here.

Any one have links to actual engineering proposals of how Space Solar Power would work and its benefits? Seems to me like "space" is not one of them, there is plenty of desert and whatnot to put solar cells in here on earth with much less maintenance cost and of course the possibility of running wires to get the energy to wherever it is actually needed.

Re:How? (3, Informative)

Socguy (933973) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186665)

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

Beam the energy in the form of microwaves to rectennas on the ground.

Numbers? (3, Informative)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187025)

Well, I can't find any really great numbers, but heres what I have:

According to the article from the Economist linked below 1.3 GW of solar energy pass through every square kilometer of space (presumably this is near Earth).

According to Wikipedia, nuclear power plants on earth had a total capacity of 366 GW in late 2005.

So by some rough calculations, assuming 100% efficient panels we would need ~280 square kilometers of solar panels in space just to gather as much energy as we can currently produce with nuclear power.

Today, even highly experimental solar cells don't reach 50% efficiency. So 2 * 280 = 560.

Now I can't find any good numbers on the efficiency of this "beaming" energy back to earth, but I'm going to throw out that 10% would be generous, its probably way less. But assuming 10%, 10 * 560 = 5600 square kilometers of solar cells in space just to get as much useful power as we get from our dismal nuclear setup today.

And thats not to mention the size of antennas you would need on either end to beam that power, or the safety issues involved (you think windmills or low frequency submarine radios kill a lot of birds, how about a 3.6 TW microwave beam?)

Re:Numbers? (2, Informative)

StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187183)

You don't use panels 'directly'. You use thin film mylar/reflective surfaces and focus a beam to ( some central generator station ). The ( ) are because there are plenty of ways to take a concentrated beam of sunlight and turn it into energy.

I agree with the paper ( as much of it as I've read ) in that 'this WILL happen someday'. But it won't be anytime soon. Worth looking into? Ehhhh. Dunno. I'd love to see it. Personally I think researching it to be a better use of NASA's bucks than a moon shot.

But I also agree with the 'Really? Beaming all this power to central locations won't be dangerous? Come again?' aspect. I read somewhere that you aren't supposed to watch your food cook in a microwave, as there is enough stray radiation ( the technical term for light, not being a kook ) to potentially increase the likelihood of cataracts. E.g. the shielding on the microwave door isn't perfect.

I speak as one that has a BS in aerospace, and really really really wants to see us move into space. But I cannot condone spending money on this as a VIABLE source of energy for the next decade. I would HIGHLY ENCOURAGE investments in space power for *research* purposes.

Re:Numbers? (1)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187593)

I love the idea of beaming power down from space to earth to provide us with electric power. Here are a few problems;

1. For a power source to remain stationary over North America would require a solar array in geostationary orbit (Clarke orbit or Clarke Belt) where we have commercial satellite systems. It is irrelevant to worry about collisions with geostationary satellites as the Clarke belt is approximately 165,000 miles long. The distance from earth is approximately 22,236 miles from earth.

For a closer orbiting solar array it will move across the sky very similar to other satellite systems. Some of the problems with this type of orbit is the significantly higher probability of a collision with existing satellites that would just tear through a solar array (assuming the array is some sort of high-tech solar producing fabric imprinted on mylar. This would degrade solar performance but would usually "kill" or incapacitate the impactor (satellite). Also, being closer to earth, the influences of the planetary geomagnetic forces will damage, short-out or degrade solar system performance over time until performance drops to a few percentage of the initial system capabilities.

2. There are two currently known alternatives for power transfer from space to earth. Microwave energy or space-based laser systems. Since microwave systems are RF systems we need to account for free space losses over distance. This is the same calculation used on terrestrial radio systems. Simplified, the calculation is;

loss = 40+20*Log(r) where r is the distance in kilometers.

What this translates to (roughly) is that around 1:150th of the power sent by the Clarke Orbit solar array would make it to the ground. This does not account for atmospheric losses, alignment issues or the increased losses when the solar array is not directly overhead.

This assumes we can make a very large dish (100 meters across). For a 3.6 Terawatt solar array we would receive around 24 Gigawatts of energy. The rest of the power would be absorbed by the ionosphere, polarization losses, diffraction, and atmospheric heating.

3. Another alternatives would be to use a series of lasers to send the power to earth. Currently our largest CW (continuous wave) lasers can beam about 1 MW of power. (this is a building sized laser). The theoretical power efficiency of a laser may approach 75%, the rest is wasted as heat, RF energy and unrecoverable losses at the laser). To move a Terawatt of power from a solar array would take around 1 million, 1 million watt lasers, all based in space, at a distance where we currently cannot reach with a space shuttle.

Talk about death rays in space. If there was a mis-alignment we could cook big swaths of the earth with a stray laser beam (sort of like standing in a giant microwave oven). These would also generate a significant amount of localized heating and we would need to convert the heat back into electricity (some sort of super solar cell from an old James Bond movie) or some type of Sterling engine operating at the limits of Carnot efficiency.

3. A giant extension cord, this would make copper even more expensive and lead to the removal of millions of miles of wire from people's homes. Heck, if we can string a power cord to the Clarke orbit, let's go with a superconducting space elevator.

I believe that the technological progress to achieve this level of space based solar power system would make the entire NASA budget pale by comparison. Unless we are willing to spend trillions of dollars we will not see a return for decades to come.

Re:How? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186667)

Sure, we have put stuff in space... But we usually had a rocket or a shuttle handy to do that. This thing won't launch powered by hopes and dreams. One of your siblings mentioned outsourcing the launch, but that seems like a stop-gap measure without long-term sustainability.

Re:How? (2, Informative)

Terminal Saint (668751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186679)

The concept has been kicking around for years. It generally calls for getting the power back down via microwaves.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_satellite/ [wikipedia.org]

Re:How? (1)

meza (414214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186845)

That's what I thought. The question is what the efficiency of that would be. I guess even micro waves at some optimal frequency has some absorbency in the atmosphere. Even on earth power transfer is not without loss. And I haven't heard anyone proposing to start using micro waves instead of electrical wires.

The only reason I can come to think of for putting solar cells in space would be higher power concentration per area. Thus requiring less amount of solar cells (assuming now that the price of the solar cells or land area is the dominant cost factor). According to the wikipedia article the power per area is only ten to eight times higher then on earth surface. But there would be so many other factors making this system more expensive than solar cells on earth. Even if the sunlight power was 100 times more in space than here you would have to make very optimistic calculations for this to "fly".

Re:How? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26187069)

They're going to use the power of hope.

Now stop using this public forum to be a racist, hate mongering, smear merchant. How dare you.

Hallelujah! (1)

ichbineinneuben (1065378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186535)

I can hear Handel's Messiah playing as I dance around the room, and it has nothing to do with Christmas. Let's get orbital!

Re:Hallelujah! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186559)

Not "Thus Spake Zarathustra?"

Re:Hallelujah! (1)

ichbineinneuben (1065378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186595)

...that may be next on the playlist...

Life imitates art (4, Funny)

mind21_98 (18647) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186571)

Doesn't this remind you of the microwave power plants in SimCity? To me, it does. :)

Re:Life imitates art (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186631)

I see two ways of doing this: The Simcity way, or using a very large mirror to direct light down to the solar panels.
Would the either method be able to burn through cloud cover?

Re:Life imitates art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26187383)

A big reflector definitely could.

Re:Life imitates art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186781)

The anime "Gundam 00" had a pretty cool implementation of space solar power. Basically, a ring of solar panels encircled the earth, tethered to terra firma via an orbital elevator. I imagine this is how they transferred the energy. This is pretty cool because, at once, it will serve all the planet's energy needs while also serving as a sort of international space station.

Re:Life imitates art (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186885)

Actually it reminds me of the Orbital Power Transmitter in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri/Alien Crossfire. (Speaking of which, anyone have a comprehensive list of Alpha Centauri-Civilization series equivalents? I mean, I can get formers/settlers, doctor/entertainer, talent/happy citizen and stuff like that, but I mean a list of all the technologies, weapons, secret projects, etc.)

Anyway, I guess the main challenge is beaming the power down to earth without frying someone's nuts off.

While at the same time planning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186589)

Monsanto domination of the Department of Agriculture.

Pie in the sky (5, Insightful)

yog (19073) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186593)

I'm sorry to say, this SSP white paper is simply that--a piece of paper with a pie-in-the-sky proposal that is unlikely to get funded to the same extent as fusion energy by the DOE.

Since it's a space-based project, it should really be funded and organized by NASA, which after all knows something about orbital solar arrays, while the DOE is merely an umbrella bureaucracy without a clear mission. Jimmy Carter set it up, as I recall, and during the laissez-faire Republican administrations as well as the Clinton years, it has been primarily a custodian for regulating fission reactors and funding some research projects.

There is so much potential for reaping energy savings on land, without having to resort to dangerous space flights and risky, massive construction projects in orbit, that it's amazing that this proposal is even being looked at by the transition team. I suspect this is fake news.

Don't get me wrong--I'm a total space nut, and I want to see us spending a trillion a year on space, and spread our civilization out to the planets before we blow this one away.

But when we can reap significant energy savings merely by painting the rooftops white of most government buildings, when we drive cars that have half or one third the fuel efficiency they could have, when we live in uninsulated buildings--it's ridiculous to proclaim that an SSP would solve our energy problems.

We should definitely build orbital facilities that would include solar arrays, perhaps to house dangerous manufacturing operations and to do zero-grav research, but this is not the most persuasive white paper that they are going to look at, I suspect.

Re:Pie in the sky (3, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186795)

I'm sorry to say, this SSP white paper is simply that--a piece of paper with a pie-in-the-sky proposal that is unlikely to get funded to the same extent as fusion energy by the DOE.

I almost added some similar editorializing to the submission, but opted to leave it as it was. I'm also very skeptical of the proposal itself. However, I find the interest in it as compared to the other proposals on change.gov to be encouraging. This is especially so since Obama was at first hardly pro-space. Their interest in this proposal is another step away from that stance. And I believe Obama's team still to be capable of being influenced and directed to better things. This proposal is too far off, but it makes a good focus point for choosing a more positive direction. O'Neill's ideas were similarly distant, but they persist as well developed starting points.

Re:Pie in the sky (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186923)

From here on getting things done in space will require a twenty to thirty year outlook. Unmanned exploration can get away with that by being cheap, but manned programmes need constant political support and it is hard to get that for more than ten years at a time.

Re:Pie in the sky (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187159)

when we drive cars that have half or one third the fuel efficiency they could have,

Gasoline engines are more efficient now than they were in the 70s however due to the increased weight that many vehicles possess the resulting MPG is less. When you put a 400HP engine in a crossover utility vehicle (XUV) weighing almost 2 tons you tend to not get that great of gas mileage however the efficiency is still there as far as I know (I'm not an engine builder).

Yeah, the economic math doesn't work (5, Insightful)

IdahoEv (195056) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187167)

There is so much potential for reaping energy savings on land, without having to resort to dangerous space flights and risky, massive construction projects in orbit, that it's amazing that this proposal is even being looked at by the transition team.

I'm also a space nut, and I agree with you completely. A simple look at cost/benefit, even back-of-the envelope, makes it entirely clear how silly orbital solar is.

1) Benefits - how much energy can an orbital solar array produce, relative to the same size solar array on Earth? About twice as much - it's lit for 24 instead of 12 hours. (plus benefit of always-perpendicular incident radiation, but minus losses in conversion & transmission.) Ultimately, ~2x power from the same array.

2) Costs - how much does it cost to put that solar array in orbit, and build the microwave transmission system, relative to the same size solar array on Earth? Answer: an awful lot more than 2x. More like 100x.

Paying 100x cost for 2x the power generation is not anyone's idea of good economics. End of story.

It's just so much cheaper to simply build twice the arrays on the ground, even if you have to build huge power storage facilities or around-the-world ultra-high-voltage power lines to funnel energy to the night side of the planet.

Maybe in 100 years we'll have a developed space industry that can build them, up there, on the cheap. But certainly not any time soon.

 

Re:Yeah, the economic math doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26187375)

Your math is off. Remember, lots of sunlight is reflected when passing through the atmosphere. A high intensity focused microwave transmitter could be significantly more efficient when transmitting energy through the atmosphere.

NOBODY wants to reduce consumption (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187653)

There is so much potential for reaping energy savings on land, without having to resort to dangerous space flights and risky, massive construction projects in orbit ...
  when we can reap significant energy savings merely by painting the rooftops white of most government buildings, when we drive cars that have half or one third the fuel efficiency they could have, when we live in uninsulated buildings--it's ridiculous to proclaim that an SSP would solve our energy problems.

If it's so simple and cheap to reduce consumption, then tell me why nobody is doing it? Do you really believe people are so stupid and lazy that they wouldn't paint rooftops white if it would result in significant savings?

When you say our cars are "less efficient" you really mean they consume more fuel than smaller cars would. And that's the really big point everybody forgets when talking about energy efficiency: people want to live in comfort. An SUV is more comfortable than a small car. Air conditioning is more comfortable than natural air circulation. Our whole industrial civilization is about comfort, letting people have better lives with less effort.

Sort of a dictatorship, I don't see how anybody could get significant savings in energy consumption today. People will always choose to live in the best condition their income allows, if they have the money to buy an SUV, very few people will opt for a small car instead.

So...the ultimate global warrming? (1)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186599)

Isn't BHO opposed to that?

lols (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186609)

How about we hear the truth from politicians, then we can talk about change.

Nonterrestrial materials (4, Informative)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186645)

Interestingly it was Gerard O'Neill who argued in the 1970's for solar power satellites constructed from lunar material and, as part of that argument predicted the industrialization of China would lead to increased CO2 emissions from coal burning that would mandate radical restructuring of global energy technology. It may be too late now to pursue nonterrestrial material SPS since the baby boomer generation, raised and educated to pioneer space from childhood, was denied that opportunity by --- well that is the question of the millennium if not the epoch isn't it? There are almost as many answers to that question as there are religions.

there was an obvious direction in place subsequent to the space race (remember the Apollo program?) that would have been followed through to space industrialization had the launch service industry enjoyed the same protection from government competition that the satellite industry enjoyed:

* (c) Private enterprise; access; competition

In order to facilitate this development and to provide for the widest possible participation by private enterprise, United States participation in the global system shall be in the form of a private corporation, subject to appropriate governmental regulation. It is the intent of Congress that all authorized users shall have nondiscriminatory access to the system; that maximum competition be maintained in the provision of equipment and services utilized by the system; that the corporation created under this chapter be so organized and operated as to maintain and strengthen competition in the provision of communications services to the public; and that the activities of the corporation created under this chapter and of the persons or companies participating in the ownership of the corporation shall be consistent with the Federal antitrust laws.

http://www.presageinc.com/contents/experience/satellitereform/contents/briefingbook/technology/1962act.pdf [presageinc.com]

It wasn't until 1990, when a coalition of grassroots groups across the country lobbied hard for 3 years, that similar legislation got passed for launch services.

http://www.geocities.com/jim_bowery/testimny.htm [geocities.com]

The fact that Malthusian paradigm didn't follow the Club of Rome model doesn't change the reality of the Malthusian paradigm given a fundamentally limited biosphere undergoing its largest extinction event in 60 million years. The Club of Rome merely added academic fashion to the urgency of the Malthusian situation still facing the biosphere. The 1970s was the right time to start the drive for space industrialization based on a private launch service industry. It didn't happen, the pioneering culture that founded the US is being replaced by government policy with less pioneering cultures and now we're all facing some increasingly obvious difficulties -- not just pioneer American stock -- and not just humans.

The cost of getting silicon into space from the lunar surface would be orders of magnitude less than launching from earth due not only to the much shallower gravity well but also due to the absence of atmosphere.

No beanstalk needed.

At worst a Dyneema Rotovator would be needed but probably not even that.

First, the bulk of the materials are manufactured in space from lunar raw material transported to orbital facilities so you don't need to land those facilities on the lunar surface, and you don't have to worry about g-loading the raw materials you are sending to the orbital facilities.

Second, you don't manufacture everything in space -- only bulky materials like solar cells, reflectors, structural members and perhaps klystrons. Only residual materials (raw and manufactured) are of terrestrial origin.

Third, the facility you do put on the lunar surface is there primarily to transport raw materials off the surface, and that facility can be made partially self replicating (as can the orbital facility) under telepresence monitoring with a partial autonomy of basic functions.

The system design as of 1980 would have a doubling time of 90 days. Those numbers and other answers to your questions are in:

O'Neill, Gerard K.; Driggers, G.; and O'Leary, B.: New Routes to Manufacturing in Space. Astronautics and Aeronautics, vol. 18, October 1980, pp. 46-51.

Re:Nonterrestrial materials (1)

randall_burns (108052) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186813)

Perhaps no lunar beanstalk is needed, but any kind of non-conventional launch system from the moon to lower earth orbit will be much easier than going from the surface of the earth to lower earth orbit. I expect we'll see a variety of activity in that area once the powers that be start to realize just how high the stakes are here.

Re:Nonterrestrial materials (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187207)

True, and I presume that by "lower earth orbit" you don't mean "low earth orbit", but that geostationary orbit is lower than lunar orbit. What you say is particularly true of geostationary orbit, where solar collection is more continuous.

Re:Nonterrestrial materials (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186875)

Then we should have continued on from Apollo. Build a small base and a reliable transportation system. The Saturn V was too expensive and the program had to stop.

Doing it that way adds at least 20 years to the timeline. But if you want to build anything big it has to be made either on the moon or on a near earth asteroid.

The fact is that nobody is going to build large scale SPS in the next hundred years.

But I can believe orbiting mirrors to keep solar power plants working at night. Mirrors can be made extremely light and once delivered to LEO they could fly themselves up to a high orbit.

Apollo was the wrong paradigm (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187195)

Please review my statements about private launch services and the difference in policy with the prohabition of NASA from competing in communications satellites. Apollo was simply the wrong paradigm -- it was technosocialist. If there is one thing that socialism fails at miserably it is investement risk management of pioneering technologies.

The need for WPA style programs isn't sufficient to discipline government bureaucracies the way they were with the Manhattan and the Apollo program. There has to be a genuine threat of the political leaders holding office being humiliated in a way that they can't make excuses for. That doesn't mean they inherited a horrible economic situation and can't make it work -- that is "excusable".

From The Economist (5, Interesting)

airfabio (6375) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186669)

Recent space solar power article from The Economist

http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12673299 [economist.com]

Re:From The Economist (1)

leerpm (570963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186839)

Mod-up. It's a great article. SSP is a ways off from being economical viable for domestic/mass-consumer use, there are other applications (i.e. military) where the current cost/kWh is higher and SSP is more feasible in the short-term.

Re:From The Economist (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186953)

Nice read. Makes quite a bit more sense the TFA.

Re:From The Economist (1)

a.ameri (665846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187427)

Excellent read. Full of information, with lots of insightful details. The Economist never disappoints, it's an awesome publication.

The fact that it publishes the content of its print edition online, one day BEFORE the print edition is delivered, and it has still been able to massively increase its subscriber numbers (doubled in the past 3 years), just shows to prove that even in this age of Internet, when everyone else in the newspaper industry is complaining about falling revenues, good journalism has its place, and will always be valued.

Here's the full story (2, Informative)

purdueduck (1410995) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186709)

The link is just a one page overview and doesn't really tell you much. The idea in a nutshell: "The basic idea is very straightforward: place very large solar arrays into continuously and intensely sunlit Earth orbit (1,366 watts/m2) , collect gigawatts of electrical energy, electromagnetically beam it to Earth, and receive it on the surface for use either as baseload power via direct connection to the existing electrical grid, conversion into manufactured synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, or as lowâintensity broadcast power beamed directly to consumers." That's from National Security Space Officeâ(TM)s Advanced Concepts Office's report you can read it here: http://www.acq.osd.mil/nsso/solar/SBSPInterimAssesment0.1.pdf [osd.mil]

Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (4, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186717)

Perversely, my articulate question submitted to change.gov, asking when and whether we could expect to see sustainable off-planet colonization receive some significant priority, was virtually ignored. It was even "modded down" by some people.

If we're gonna talk about exploiting solar energy in space, we should be talking about colonizing space in the same breath. If nothing else, the technical challenges of transferring that energy from space down through a thick atmosphere to the surface of the Earth should warrant a discussion of just moving us all closer to the source in the first place.

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186913)

I've often wondered if Governments are afraid to colonize space what with the history of colonies on Earth.

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187017)

The likely scenarios and consequences have been pretty thoroughly explored in science fiction, haven't they? All too often, the theorized results haven't been good for the centrists and control freaks, have they?

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187001)

If nothing else, the technical challenges of transferring that energy from space down through a thick atmosphere to the surface of the Earth should warrant a discussion of just moving us all closer to the source in the first place.

Given that the technical challenge is all but non-existent - why does that warrant such a discussion? (Or, "Even though your question was articulate, it is obvious that it was nonsensical".)

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187061)

If you perceive that technical challenge to be non-existent, perhaps you'll need to explain how and why. Some of us apparently aren't as expert on the topic as you are. After perusing your blog, I can clearly see that you attempt to tackle much bigger social and technical issues than I do, so I need the benefit of your highly specialized experience and knowledge of this topic.

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (2, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187015)

If nothing else, the technical challenges of transferring that energy from space down through a thick atmosphere to the surface of the Earth should warrant a discussion of just moving us all closer to the source in the first place.

This problem is the most straightforward one. There are two holes in the spectrum normally blocked by the Earth's atmosphere, one in the microwave range and the other in light (infared, I think). Both are easy to transmit and convert back into electricity.

The problem that isn't so straightforward is getting launch costs cheap enough to make it competitive with other solutions. Which ends up being exactly the same problem that colonization needs to solve, so there's no reason why research into one won't help the other.

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187093)

I wouldn't want to be the unfortunate bird or jetliner that happens to wander into the path of such a concentrated beam of radiation, regardless what particular wavelength in the spectrum it occupies!

BTWnot blocked".

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187475)

Why? SimCity was just a game looking for an additional disaster scenario. They're forms of non-ionizing radiation. In the case of the microwaves, they're too spread out to warm up the air by more than a few degrees. They're meant to be captured by rectennas spread over farm fields and still allow crops to be grown underneath. I haven't studied the laser proposals as in-depth, but it would be a very thin beam.

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187027)

If nothing else, the technical challenges of transferring that energy from space down through a thick atmosphere to the surface of the Earth should warrant a discussion of just moving us all closer to the source in the first place.

Moving a significant fraction of the Earth population into space isn't going to happen unless we find a way to get essentially unlimited energy on Earth. And if there's plenty of energy on Earth, why move more than a few colonists?

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187119)

We had almost unlimited energy, didn't we? Perhaps we should have been more focused on investing that energy to give us better long-term returns, rather than borrowing against it to buy the energy equivalent of cars and 52-inch plasma TVs?

I think it's still feasible, but we need to be focused in a way that would be truly historic for the species.

Re:Space solar but not sustainable colonization? (1)

J05H (5625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187385)

Colonization and other industrial activities can evolve from SSP if done as public-private enterprise. Enable sSP to create a much larger launch market - the govt. can enable businesses to build, fly and operate SSP. Flight frequency is the #1 determinant of cost-of-launch. Hundreds of SSP component launches per year would open up space access to vastly more organizations and individuals, hence enabling settlement and development.

The best thing the govt. can do is create an open environment for making this happen - NASA should not be in the power-station business any more than it should be in the rocket-launching business - they should be doing R&D and daring exploration with people and robots. Let the professionals handle the transportation. NASA could already have been assembling the lunar stack if they had gone the sort of route outlined.

The problem with calling for space colonization now is one of economics and infrastructure - everybody knows it's further in the future than something like space tourism or SSP. Anyone that studies space settlements issues will understand that we are 2+ decades minimum away from having the necessary infrastructure for any scale of colonization. Projects such as Bigelow Aerospace's line of commercial station modules need to be available for it to happen, there is a lot of other hardware needed. SSP would be a powerful enabler to help that happen.

Two clear choices (0, Troll)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186811)

We have two clear choices which will determine the direction humanity takes.

The first alternative, which currently is very popular in a stealthy kind of way, is to reduce. Cut back on the emission of pollutants, reduce energy usage, have a "smaller footprint" on Planet Earth. This requires a smaller population and however we get there, it isn't going to be nice. My favority scenario (although rather unrealistic) is people marching into gas chambers while watched over by the Eco-Troops. I'd say a nuclear war is far more likely. Possibly intentionally triggered by the environmentalist movement as a way to "reduce" all at once.

The other alternative is to being exploiting resources from off-planet. Mine the moon. Mine the asteroids. Collect hydrocarbons from the atmosphere of Jupiter. And, absoutely, collect energy from the Sun directly in space. The problem is that right now, we may have actually dug ourselves into a "reduce, reuse, recycle" trap that we can't get out of. How does the US Government explain that in order to ensure an abundant lifestyle for everyone it is necessary to cut back on entitlement programs? How do we tell the welfare class that it is time to get to work to earn their bread instead of subsisting on the dole? The answer is pretty clear - Americans do not wish to be told that. The election of Mr. Obama should have made that pretty clear to everyone.

Talk about a "two chickens in every pot" kind of candidate!

OK, so which do you think is more likely to happen? A "sustainable" lifestyle is perfectly possible - sustainable in the sense where natual processes recycle wastes as fast or faster than they are created. The planet was in that condition in around 1850 and not since then. Unfortunately, even with some advanced technology, we going to be limited to around 200 million people. Total. Not in the US, but everywhere. That is larger than the population was in 1850 by a good measure, but we should be able to manage it with better technology. That means we have around 6 billion "excess lives" right now and the longer we wait to make the "sustainable" decision the worse it is going to get.

To put this in perspective, if somehow starting 1 Jan 2009 we started killing a million people a day it would take 20 years to get to a sustainable population. That is a 97% reduction. It means that out of every 100 people you know 3 would be left and you might not be one of them. I doubt any Western civilian is prepared to accept this sort of "sustainable" environment but every time you use the phrase "sustainable" that is what it means. We can't have a "sustainable economy" with 6 billion people. At least not without obtaining off-planet resources.

Today the technology is within our grasp. It is entirely possible to send humans to the moon, set up a camp there and mine it for raw materials and resources needed on Earth and in Earth orbit. It is entirely possible to send a mission to Jupiter to collect hydrocarbons from the atmosphere. It would take a long time to do this, but it could be done today. In 10 years, if all of the Western government persue a course of entitlements, handouts, bailouts and compassionate care we will not have the money, time or resources to mount a mission to the Moon, much less Jupiter. Our decendents can look up in the sky and see the limitless resources that could have been ours for the taking while they, with there constrained "reduced" lifestyle, continue to eek out an existance in the future.

We aren't getting rescued by God or other civilizations. We have to decide for ourselves, and we had better do it soon, or the decision will be made for us.

Re:Two clear choices (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186951)

The world population in 1850 was 1.2 billion. The estimated world population at year 1 AD was 200 million. I think you have some sound points, but your numbers are off by quite a bit, and thus the drama would also be more limited. (And I think fusion or "local" [Earth surface/orbit] solar power are far more feasible than massive transport of hydrocarbons from the outer solar system. The only commodity worth taking from there is water and hydrogen, avoiding the Earth gravity well.)

Re:Two clear choices (1)

Teratogen2k (1329481) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186991)

A "sustainable" lifestyle is perfectly possible - sustainable in the sense where natual processes recycle wastes as fast or faster than they are created. The planet was in that condition in around 1850 and not since then. Unfortunately, even with some advanced technology, we going to be limited to around 200 million people. Total. Not in the US, but everywhere. That is larger than the population was in 1850 by a good measure, but we should be able to manage it with better technology. That means we have around 6 billion "excess lives" right now and the longer we wait to make the "sustainable" decision the worse it is going to get.

The population of the planet in 1850 [wikipedia.org] was significantly more than 200 million. It was actually closer to 1.2 billion. [about.com]

That means we would only need to kill 4.8 billion to create a sustainable population. Assuming that is, we agree on your premise that the last time the Earth was at a sustainable population was 1850.

Re:Two clear choices (1)

aDSF762 (865834) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186997)

I love your comment but a 97% reduction in population world wide, can't we just give everyone a hybrid... ...and "smug" our way though the new millennium. ;)

Re:Two clear choices (2, Insightful)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187393)

That you received +5 Insightful for your post is staggering.

My favority scenario (although rather unrealistic) is people marching into gas chambers while watched over by the Eco-Troops.

This is your favorite? Seriously? How very insightful that you are able to pick your favorite way for billions of people to die!

I find it intriguing that you think these potential futures are 'choices'. As if the collective of Humanity is actually going to do anything without being forced to do it! Name one thing Humanity has done as a whole that was a 'choice'.

It's as if you think that we had a choice going from your purported 200million limit to where the population is today. What, was everyone going to just up and stop fucking? I don't think so.

BTW, you are dangerously out of touch if you think the world cannot support more than 200 million people.

Re:Two clear choices (1)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187461)

you go first

rube would be proud. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26186927)

this wacky idea of harnessing solar energy seem rather rube goldberg-ish. if you read the original concept paper [permanent.com] you would know there are flywheels and giant vacuum tubes on this thing. aside from that, the ultraprecision for positioning this monstrosity is beyond anything humans have ever done. no worries though, when a giant beam of radiation accidentally hits the wrong place, im sure the people wont mind being irradiated.

in short, this idea is insane.

Re:rube would be proud. (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186987)

as opposed to lighting fire to rocks to create heat to boil water to create steam to turn turbines to move magnets to pull electrons to power capacitors (which are sometimes flywheels) to store extra power for peak times is so much worse than putting a flywheel in space.

Re:rube would be proud. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187229)

I suppose you think a microwave oven irradiates your food, too. Planes already fly through the beams emitted by radar installations all the time, and nobody even notices the heating effect caused by that. Does anybody have actual figures on the energy density of the beam used for space-based power, and how long it would have to remain on target to produce real health effects?

Energy from space - a bad idea in the long run. (0)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26186971)

So...to combat global climate change, we're going to setup some new approach that draws even *more* energy that would otherwise pass the earth by, and beam it down into the atmosphere.

Am I missing something? No matter what, that energy goes somewhere, and most uses of electricity generate heat...there would have to be some kind of sustainable way of storing the energy in some safe manner. Otherwise, we're basically like the kid with a magnifying glass...except instead of frying an ant, he's burning a hole in his own head.

Re:Energy from space - a bad idea in the long run. (1)

DrEasy (559739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187365)

I don't know, maybe if the Space Panel is deployed as some sort of Giant Mirror it can also cool off some uninhabited areas to contribute to global cooling.

I mean we are already exposed to all that solar energy, it's just that we aren't using it. With this proposal we would get closer to the source to harvest it more efficiently, and at the same time we could deflect it from areas where it's being wasted. The total energy received from the sun by the planet would be constant, or even negative, but here we would be making good use of some portion of it.

The problem is power control (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26187059)

If you could (and I suspect you can) collect large amounts of energy in space, the energy must be concentrated and beamed back to a small area on the planet.

Now what happens when a pebble hits the transmitter? Especially if it hits a thruster or control system? The beam can do much damage until it is shut off or re-aimed, and you can't exactly call the repairman and have him drive over to fix it. It takes a spaceship, which we currenly launch what? - once a month? Less? So this beam could become then a wonderful wandering death beam oscillating all over the landscape, unless we are lucky and it powers itself down for some reason.

Designers of this need to read some science fiction where lovely lurid stories about such things abound. When going into space becomes commonplace, this is less of an issue. For now it means building multiply redundant failsafes and praying that some space junk doesn't knock out just the wrong ones and that we have thought of every possible failure mode.

If we could concentrate the energy into bricks somehow and drop them, this might change too; perhaps make antimatter in space and drop it in suitable containers and hope they don't turn into superatomic bombs (as EE Smith used to call them).

Re:The problem is power control (2, Informative)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187523)

Get caught up on the technology. They fixed that one a long time ago. Simply put, the ground station emits a pilot beam. Go study the topic, and you'll see that it's 1970's technology.

If Reagan had started the ball rolling, we'd have stations online now.

This Planet (1)

Barryke (772876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187215)

It says "this planet"

Nuclear power technology cannot be safely shared with most of the countries on this
planet because of proliferation concerns.

how refreshing!

I am so relieved ! (0, Flamebait)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187235)

now that Obama and his team are on the job all kinds of things are going to be solved - next week maybe they will get cold fusion working and finally find the cure for male pattern baldness... Maybe he will put Al Gore on the team and start working on the next Internet...

Why bother with space solar power? (3, Insightful)

Khyber (864651) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187281)

We haven't even come close to getting terra-based solar power up and going as a mainstream energy alternative. Let's work on the ground before we put things in the air, gentlemen.

Re:Why bother with space solar power? (4, Insightful)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187457)

WHY?

The sun NEVER SETS in GEO.

and once you build the infrastructure to build/service the constellation of satellites, you have the infrastructure to go to the Moon, Mars, Titan and anywhere else you care to go.

This technology simply is the killer-application which will drive American domination of the Universe.

And if it ain't us, it'll be the Chinese. Your choice.

Re:Why bother with space solar power? (2, Interesting)

modestmelody (1220424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187521)

Though this is more about pie-in-the-sky this would be cool and inspiring stuff, practically, our best options right now are solar thermal power.

Concentrated solar power uses no new materials-- glass, steel, mirrors, steam turbines, water, and occasionally fancy salts that we've already invented. It's one of the only renewable alternatives that doesn't want any money for research, just help getting some of the start up money to use materials we already have and make here in the US to build up these plants. Though they're not price-competitive yet, most research suggests that once enough capacity is built, economy of scale will kick in and it'll be competitive with fossil fuel costs within five years.

Talk about the ability to prime pump a market.

Plus, concentrated solar works naturally with usage peaks and can be used for desalinization/purification of water which is great considering regions where there is little rain/cloud coverage is ideal.

Two things need to happen-- we need to build more terrestrial solar capacity, both concentrated thermal and photovoltaic, and more importantly, we need to construct better power infrastructure so we can deliver energy from high solar density areas (which are typically desolate and therefore don't have the power pumping capacity some areas have) across far distances.

Two birds with one stone? (1)

DrEasy (559739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187341)

I don't know much about these things, but wouldn't it be possible to combine the Space Solar Power idea with the Large Mirror in Space idea to reduce global warming (or even initiate global cooling)? Or is this already been considered?

Man I really hate scribd (1)

epall (632054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187355)

I understand that Adobe's Acrobat Reader leaves something to be desired, but why do the rest of us have to put up with the crap that is iPaper??

other discussions on change.gov (0, Offtopic)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187363)

He's also talking about extending human life to 200 years. The guy's a genious. The plan involves releasing $700 billion to a new life extension department headed by Hank Paulson.

Gundam 00 (1)

BobSixtyFour (967533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187367)

As seen on Gundam 00, clearly the future is lead by a ring of solar panels around the earth!

Pipe dreams, in the sky (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26187413)

I am a retired physicist/space scientist who researched this subject in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. While it is true that a huge amount of energy passes by and intercepts this planet, it was and remains too dangerous to try to get it down here for us to use.

The idea was shelved back then for the simple reason that the number of launches needed to build the orbital facilities would completely destroy the ozone layer. (EVERY launch does damage to the upper atmosphere.) Funny, but the textbook of reference material about that is "missing from shelves" as of the 1st Bush administration.

Yet another analysis showed that the reflectance of that much material up there would make the darkest night roughly equal to the full moon at mid-twilight.

Better to solve our problems right here.

Re:Pipe dreams, in the sky (1)

afxgrin (208686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187635)

Dr. Dickinson? :-)

Space Frontier Foundation (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187633)

A few lifetimes ago, I worked with Rick Tumlinson. Let me the first to say that anything he's put his hands into has a 100% chance of never happening. He's a nice enough fellow, but too all over the place to ever actually make anything turn into reality.

I've never figured out *how* that foundation gets any money. I used to think that Rick was knocking over parking meters to meet the bills.

But to be fair, he's still around, so maybe I'm totally wrong about him, but, I've heard him sing that easy access to space is right around the corner, and how we're all about to be rich, and that was more than 15 years ago.

Very little about space travel has changed during that time, other than the ISS and SpaceShipOne, two projects he had zero to do with.

Two words: (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26187655)

Project Orion.

No, not the pansy thing using chemicals - the original where you blow yourself into space using nuclear bombs and pusher plates. No other way you'll ever get enough materials up there, not even enough to start a mining operation if you kicked a passing asteroid into high orbit. For that matter, there's no other way we can possibly establish a meaningful presence in space absent major breakthroughs in materials science and/or theoretical physics.

By "meaningful," I mean space stations with at least hundreds of people on them. Bases on other planets. In short, something that will survive the planet-depopulating fuckup that's going to happen sooner or later and have enough genetic diversity to continue.
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