Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Space Is (Not) the Place, Says Professor

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the maybe-not-yet dept.

Space 376

snoop.daub writes "A while back, we discussed UCSD professor Tom Murphy's post about the limits on growth in energy use and economies. Partly in reaction to Slashdot's response (and my own writeup!), he's back with a new post arguing that space is not a solution to enable continued growth. There's a lot of good stuff in here about public misconceptions regarding the difficulty of space travel and the like; again definitely worth the read."

cancel ×

376 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Space is big (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756468)

Space is dark

It's hard to find

A place to park

Burma Shave

Re:Space is big (2)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756810)

UCSD Tritons

With Professors views

Need to Brighten

Burma Shave

Dear humans (1, Informative)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756490)

Please all die.

KTHXBAI,
-- Mr. Science

Re:Dear humans (0)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756858)

Most western countries will reach peak population within 50 years, and many of them will switch to negative growth. In some countries (China) the sex-ratio [wikipedia.org] will limit population growth. Famine and disease is still very common in many parts of the world, and Africa has to deal with HIV [wikipedia.org] on top of that.

"Mr. Nature" (along with "Mr. Human Nature") appears to have things well in hand.

Re:Dear humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757726)

Dear self flagellating halfwitted latte drinking smoked-salmon-socialist-poseurs.

Please all die.

KTHXBAI,
-- Mr. Science

Do the math, indeed! (2, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756538)

This guy is ridiculously illiterate. Do the math [mike-combs.com] , indeed!

The one area the US government was prohibited from competing with private sector companies in by the act that established NASA was satellite communications.

That relegated other areas of economic development of space to a communist model of government run services. It is no surprise, then, that the Soviets were more efficient in developing launch capabilities and indeed manned space presence -- they were professional communists: If their communist bureaucracies didn't function, they didn't eat. Contrast that with the US where government institutions can fail continually and the private sector can still provide the necessities. It is virtually guaranteed that once the vital national interests of the space race were realized by the Apollo Program, that NASA would degenerate into a far worse failure mode than the Soviet Union's space program. We are just now starting to enter the age of private launch services as a result.

To, in this context of communist domination of space launch services, point to the failure of space programs to develop the economic potential of space is tendentious to say the least. How many people had flown at the time the Kelly Act privatized air mail?

The math has been done and it is clear:

Habitats fabricated in free space can provide thousands of times more habitable surface area than Earth.

The only question is whether technological civilization should leave Earth to ecological remediation.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756610)

There's also the matter of whether experiments conducted in biodomes can successfully replicate in space. Getting there is one thing, staying there is another.

Then there's the matter of a safe living environment - respirated moisture has helped curious molds prosper in MIR and the ISS. It is possible some mutation of these spores could lead to health issues, so keeping a clean environment is not to be taken lightly. Waste would not be disposed of, but everything would need to be recycled - else the space community would continue to require supply runs from Earth.

Probably more realistic to consider colonizing the Moon or Mars.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (4, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756722)

Oddly enough, the Earth seems to have no problem dealing with recycling waste. All it needs is a goodly variety of fish, insects, bivalves, and other organisms (both micro and macro) to handle the responsibility.

The problem with Biodome experiments, and any living environment we construct artificially, is that we necessarily screw up and fail to include enough organisms to occupy all niches in the amount needed. The molds that popped up in MIR and the ISS happened because that was the precise sort of environment in which those molds happened to thrive, while other organisms that normally would keep them in balance by competing for resources weren't brought up.

tl;dr version - Fish peed in your drinking water. Get over it and bring along a fucking aquarium rather than trying to do everything with "space age technology." Resources would be better spent on developing and refining either artificial gravity or controlled spin gravity substitutes.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757326)

Mankind already lives in what is largely an artificial environment, especially if you live in a big city.

The original settlement of Buena Vista, Alta California (before the days of the 1849 gold rush) died out to the very last person because there was insufficient water resources to sustain the village. Yet today in that same place there are millions of people and generations of inhabitants of that same region. The difference is that technology has brought in the water and transportation links have been able to provide both the food and other resources for a major city of the world to exist in an otherwise hostile environment.

There has been a more or less permanent "outpost" of humanity living at the South Pole for a great many years, where the environment is even more hostile to human survival. Some of them even reply on Slashdot from time to time, so it would be interesting to see what their perspective on this whole thing would be like.

As you are kind of indicating, there is a whole lot to learn about "closed systems" environments that would be needed for a long-term stay on another planet or for that matter anywhere else besides the Earth. We've learned quite a bit over the past 50 years with regards to Antarctica as well as in dealing with the ISS. The technologies needed to establish a permanent "base", much less a self-sustaining colony on the Moon or Mars may very well be a century or two away, and I'm not going to completely dismiss the challenges needed for doing that.

The problem I have with the main article as presented in this Slashdot post is that the author is more or less giving up and saying we shouldn't even bother trying. I think something is lost from the soul when somebody tells you that, particularly when they are willing to try on their own dime and just want to be allowed the chance to see if it could be done or not. It is like telling a kid they can never be an astronaut when they grow up, or that that a small kid in America can never grow up to become the President. Sure, the odds may be stacked against them heavily, but why shoot down dreams? Sometimes even the act of simply trying is enough to make a difference somewhere even if that attempt fails miserably.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757442)

We sure shouldn't underestimate the task of trying to live in space - we may live in artificial environments, but the atmosphere and tiny organisms around us often protect us from harm - everything will have to be considered, from dandruff to farts.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757504)

That used to be a problem with UK cities during the 1700's. Entire families used to live in single rooms to the extent that everyone suffered respiratory illnesses.

It was a problem with high-rise blocks in the 1970's. Residents had been used to living in draughty Victorian houses. Moving to airtight concrete homes, it became impossible to keep the windows close, and the heat, while at the same time boiling food and airing wet clothes to dry.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756654)

Habitats fabricated in free space can provide thousands of times more habitable surface area than Earth.

Sure they can. At some impressive energy cost (remember the gravity well, it sucks pretty hard). It would be much easier to make floating / submerged habitats than ones in outer space.

Until you come up with essentially unlimited, cheap energy, space is not going to be the place for the huddled masses yearning to be free.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756724)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_mining

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

amirulbahr (1216502) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756774)

Or just plain old land based ones in the desert.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756794)

Until you come up with essentially unlimited, cheap energy, space is not going to be the place for the huddled masses yearning to be free.

Look up.

See that bright thing in the sky?

It's called 'The Sun'.

Once you're away from Earth, there's a fsckload of cheap energy just blasting out into space; not enough to support exponential growth forever, but enough to support vastly more people than currently exist. The hard part is getting off of Earth in the first place.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756940)

Then why did it take oil for us to achieve impressive technology? Hint, solar energy lets you grow trees and grass. That's it. Instead of replying with juvenile, facile tripe like "look up", why don't you do some fucking research and find out how things work in the real word. Hint, it ain't like Star Trek.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (2)

an unsound mind (1419599) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757294)

Hint hint: What is oil made out of?

Answer: Various hydrocarbons. Now, what are trees and grass made out of?

The "ooh" moment should strike about now. And to top it off, all you need for processing plants into effective fuel is... wait for it... energy. Which you can get from solar plants. We're far from being restricted to oil, it just happens to be cheap at the present time.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757580)

yes, it's called "cutting down forests and burning them". That should solve all problems, shouldn't it?

Re:Do the math, indeed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757064)

Solar panel factories feeding more energy for mining & building more solar panel factories = feedback loop = Profit !

Re:Do the math, indeed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757226)

Until you come up with essentially unlimited, cheap energy, space is not going to be the place for the huddled masses yearning to be free.

Look up.

See that bright thing in the sky?

It's called 'The Sun'.

Once you're away from Earth, there's a fsckload of cheap energy just blasting out into space; not enough to support exponential growth forever, but enough to support vastly more people than currently exist. The hard part is getting off of Earth in the first place.

That's the problem. It isn't about getting energy WHILE IN space, it's getting materials TO space. Getting those materials off Earth is what costs a metric fuck ton of energy. Just getting people off the planet to populate your space habitat will cost billiions and billions of dollars. Nevermind building the space habitat itself.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757290)

Actually, that's pretty easy. About 10% of the asteroids in the belt between here and Mars are mostly metal. The materials are already in space. The problem is not a lack of material or a lack of energy. The problem is a lack of motivation.

As I posted on Facebook the other day, when animals find their local habitat too constrained, they venture out into the wider world to seek a better one. So, too, must we as a species venture out among the stars if we are to thrive.

All the naysayers saying that the Earth can't handle the population don't get it. If we don't face evolutionary pressure to move out of our proverbial parents' house, we're never going to grow up as a species. It is precisely that adversity—that struggle to do more with limited resources—that is the force that drives the human race forward, and as such, it is no more something to be feared than life itself.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757444)

Could you convert a fsckload of energy into gigawatts, or something? My math sucks! ;^)

Re:Do the math, indeed! (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757740)

Could you convert a fsckload of energy into gigawatts, or something? My math sucks! ;^)

3.6x10^17 gigawatts. Give or take a couple percent.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (4, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756842)

Habitats fabricated in free space can provide thousands of times more habitable surface area than Earth.

Sure they can. At some impressive energy cost (remember the gravity well, it sucks pretty hard). It would be much easier to make floating / submerged habitats than ones in outer space.

Until you come up with essentially unlimited, cheap energy, space is not going to be the place for the huddled masses yearning to be free.

Only if you demand every gram of every habitat come from the Earth. There are plenty of materials just laying around on the surface of the Moon. Smelting them via mirrors during the long Lunar day should be easy, as well as building an escape velocity catapult to launch the materials into space.

Downside of course is if it's done by NASA, they won't let a gram of material off the face of the Moon, and no government in their right mind would allow a catapult on the Moon that has the potential to drop bigassed rocks & metal chunks weighing over 100 tons on Earth.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757462)

"no government in their right mind would allow a catapult on the Moon that has the potential to drop bigassed rocks & metal chunks weighing over 100 tons on Earth."

Didn't I read that somewhere? I'm sure I did. What was his name?

Re:Do the math, indeed! (2)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757654)

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Heinlein wrote it.
Mike directed the falling rocks.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757604)

How do you process the metals? How do you smelt it? How do you get the processing equipment onto the moon?

Re:Do the math, indeed! (2)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756898)

The energetics have been worked out since the 1970s and by the time the Space Shuttle was coming in insanely under advertised performance, the energetics were even further reduced.

You use solar thermal collectors to process nonterrestrial materials, primarily from the moon and secondarily from Earth approaching asteroids to bootstrap to the asteroid belt with a very small seed infrastructure lifted to the moon from earth [ssi.org] .

Re:Do the math, indeed! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757006)

Nuclear! It's safe, and it can withstand almost any disaster - human incompetence, too!

Re:Do the math, indeed! (3, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757028)

Habitats fabricated in free space can provide thousands of times more habitable surface area than Earth.

Sure they can. At some impressive energy cost (remember the gravity well, it sucks pretty hard). It would be much easier to make floating / submerged habitats than ones in outer space.

Until you come up with essentially unlimited, cheap energy, space is not going to be the place for the huddled masses yearning to be free.

It's too bad there isn't a massive effectively limitless energy source somewhere pretty near us in space. /sarcasm

Yes, getting to space is expensive now. The thing is, the actual energy cost to get into space is much less than you would think. Here [wikipedia.org] is an interesting comparison. At ~7.7km/s (escape velocity is ~11km/s) and 277 tonnes, the ISS has less orbital kinetic energy (orbital kinetic energy=1/2 gravitational) potential energy than that contained by the fuel in an Airbus A380. Only ~100 times that which the average car in the US used in 2000. A single decent power plant can produce that much energy in a day (actually, a 1000MW power plant will produce ~10 times that. In one day.)

The trouble is, rockets are not very efficient and extremely heavy. And expensive to build. And, well, you're launching yourself into space on a pile of burning extremely combustible material. If we can find a better way to get into space (space elevators would be awesome), going to space won't be a problem. A single power plant could lift an ISS into space every day (figuring ~10% efficiency). Yes, spaceflight could be the answer. Not terribly soon, but yes.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756690)

The private sector couldn't have done any of the Apollo missions or any other space flight capabilities at the time. No one company had the resources or the motive or develop any sort of space flight, let alone manned space flight.

We are now entering the age of private launch services as a result of cheaper technology and newer technology and the fact that the private sector has figured out how to make money on manned space flight.

In the beginning, Government was the only entity that had the ability and direction to create manned space flight: without Government there wouldn't have been any Moon missions or Space race. I think if Government was never involved, the private sector would be just beginning to get folks into the space now in 2011 or whenever Burt Rutan and gang gets folks in space - high atmosphere doesn't count as manned space flight.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756756)

The private sector couldn't have done any of the Apollo missions or any other space flight capabilities at the time. No one company had the resources or the motive or develop any sort of space flight, let alone manned space flight.

Exactly. Apollo was a great technical achievement for its time, but ultimately it was a huge boondoggle; no sane company would have spent that much money putting a few flags on the moon.

I think if Government was never involved, the private sector would be just beginning to get folks into the space now in 2011 or whenever Burt Rutan and gang gets folks in space

SpaceX will be putting people in space well before Rutan does; they've already proven the Dragon works.

My question is why you think it's so important that government sent some bureaucrats into space well before it made any financial sense? Would the world really have come to an end if people were only just now able to fly into orbit?

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756948)

My question is why you think it's so important that government sent some bureaucrats into space well before it made any financial sense? Would the world really have come to an end if people were only just now able to fly into orbit?

The same reason the government pays for basic scientific research instead of waiting till it's cheap enough for any company to do so. If not for NASA then we wouldn't be spending people into space right now private or not. The private ventures build on top of the initial research work done by the government. Hell, some are still getting funded by the government.

they've already proven the Dragon works.

So you're using a rocket being paid for by a government contract to supply a government funded space station as an example of pure private space travel?

Re:Do the math, indeed! (3, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757642)

*snip*

The same reason the taxpayer pays for basic scientific research instead of waiting till it's cheap enough for any company to do so. If not for NASA then we wouldn't be spending people into space right now private or not. The private ventures build on top of the initial research work done by the the taxpayer Hell, some are still getting funded by the taxpayer.

they've already proven the Dragon works.

So you're using a rocket being paid for by a taxpayer contract to supply a taxpayer funded space station as an example of pure private space travel?

Fixed that for you. Socialism, it just works better than the private sector sometimes. :)

Re:Do the math, indeed! (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757012)

It's important because

1: Our enemy was putting comms satellites and soon enough weapons in space, which made them look more powerful than us (for good reason), and beating them to the moon helped us keep our side of the war together enough to win it

2: The resulting economic growth and convenience (and lifesaving necessities for some) in return was well worth the investment, even if the American public was the only entity that could invest it

and

3: Because SpaceX, Rutan and the rest would be 50 years behind where they are now, without the 50 years the US government spent driving us all into space. A 50 year hurdle no private effort would ever invest in, until maybe 100-200 years from now. If we weren't all speaking Russian.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (3, Informative)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757314)

Remember that the space program also fueld the technology boom of the 60's and 70's. Who's to say if we would have invented the electronic computer in the 50's if we didn't need missles. Would the microchip have been invented? Even aircraft technology had to be advanced to help with the space program.

And of course think of the Bra's. Playtex was a major vendor of space suit technology, that eventually lead to new materials that now make boobies much more enticing.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (-1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757008)

Wrongo. When NASA was formed, they were granted a monopoly on space launches. This "the private sector couldn't do it" business is nothing but BS. There is NOTHING that private industry can't do, and I can guarantee you that if it had been private industry running Apollo, we would still be on the Moon to this day, and would likely be colonizing Mars AND the asteroids. In the six years since private spaceflight has been legalized, the private sector has done what it took the government 30 years to do, and now we have a private company about to launch a rocket line capable of sending a manned mission to Mars for less than the cost of a single shuttle mission.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757036)

This "the private sector couldn't do it" business is nothing but BS. There is NOTHING that private industry can't do, and I can guarantee you that if it had been private industry running Apollo, we would still be on the Moon to this day, and would likely be colonizing Mars AND the asteroids.

You're clinically insane, get help. No one would pay for any of that (the costs would have been insane for the energy alone) and so no private company would do it. Even now they're doing it either for government contracts or tourism.

Private companies don't spend fifty billion on high risk ventures, they do well by not being that stupid.

In the six years since private spaceflight has been legalized, the private sector has done what it took the government 30 years to do,

By taking advantage of all the work that has been done by the government for 40 years.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (-1, Troll)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757334)

Yes, yes, you state worshippers like to think that only the government can do the big things, yet here we are with a privately built heavy lift rocket capable of reaching Mars. You can blather on about how they "never could have done it" without NASA, but that is an unprovable, religious assertion.

"No-one would pay for that". What the fuck are you talking about? There are quintillions of dollars of mineral wealth up there! multiple private companies would have competed against each other until the price was low enough that they could do it with just a few big investors. You are doing nothing but talking out of your ass. You can take your nothing arguments and shove them up your ass while you watch the amazing progress coming down the pike that will rip your stupid, ugly face off.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757502)

With all respect to SpaceX, their rocket right now replicates what NASA did 55 years ago.

"No-one would pay for that". What the fuck are you talking about? There are quintillions of dollars of mineral wealth up there! multiple private companies would have competed against each other until the price was low enough that they could do it with just a few big investors."

There are even more quintillions of dollars in the Earth's mantle and nobody's stopping you from extracting them. Yet nobody is doing it.

Some things are just too hard.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757640)

You can blather on about how they "never could have done it" without NASA, but that is an unprovable, religious assertion.

Which differs from your Utopian view of us colonizing Mars by now if NASA hadn't existed how exactly?

What the fuck are you talking about? There are quintillions of dollars of mineral wealth up there! multiple private companies would have competed against each other until the price was low enough that they could do it with just a few big investors.

The cost of going into space has not decreased in some time, none of the private space corporations are making it much cheaper. Building rockets and fueling them doesn't magically get cheaper just cause you wish they did. Unlike you I can in fact read numbers.

Going into space is expensive and difficult even with modern technology. It was even more expensive and difficult 50 years ago.

No one invests tens of billions, more like hundreds of billions to be honest, in something that may give them some return on the money in 20 year. They'll spend it on something that will give them a return in three years.

You are doing nothing but talking out of your ass.

Kettle meet pot.

You can take your nothing arguments and shove them up your ass while you watch the amazing progress coming down the pike that will rip your stupid, ugly face off.

You're the one who started with insane assertions not me.

Interesting thing however is that I never said a word about the future only about your idiotic clinically insane views on "what ifs" about the past. Seek help before you kill someone, you seriously sound like you need it.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757706)

Just like the private sector has solved global warming, insider trading, poverty, hunger (people are starving, why doesn't the private sector do something?), renewable energy, international air travel, running sea ports, built interstate highway systems, pollution, auto safety, etc.

All of those required or require gov't intervention. See the Port Authority of NY/LA/NO etc. as example. Your local airport authority as another. etc.

You Free Market worshiping Adam Smith cultists[1] do not understand the complexities of the real world.

[1]who either never read the man or have no clue to what he said and the limits of his *case* studies.[2]
[2] Much like Jesus cultists.

Communism = famine (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756796)

If their communist bureaucracies didn't function, they didn't eat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin#Famines [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Period#Famine [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korean_famine [wikipedia.org]

It is virtually guaranteed that once the vital national interests of the space race were realized by the Apollo Program,

If by "vital national interests" you mean "rampant spending for the pure purpose of nationalism", then yes.

Re:Communism = famine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757702)

If their communist bureaucracies didn't function, they didn't eat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin#Famines [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Period#Famine [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korean_famine [wikipedia.org]

It is virtually guaranteed that once the vital national interests of the space race were realized by the Apollo Program,

If by "vital national interests" you mean "rampant spending for the pure purpose of nationalism", then yes.

To be fair, Russia had famines under the Tsar before the revolution. The same probably goes for China, the Chinese monarchy was pretty much fucked because of England - if it weren't for that Mao probably wouldn't have managed to rid the country of the monarchy.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756970)

Yes, anything the government does is "communist". If you're a Republican, and stupid - er, redundant.

And NASA's existence prohibited private companies from going into space, which is why only governments ever succeeded in doing it. Right? Because one of them was a Communist government. Though, despite what you say, the US space programme was more successful. And despite the fact that private interests have succeeded only through the vast and long public subsidy of space development.

Now NASA is "communist". You Republicans, er, "libertarians", are stupid.

Space Travel - where is everyone? (4, Interesting)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757044)

If expansion of a species into deep space is so easy, and the Drake equation valid, then where is everyone? Where are all of the alien species that should be visiting our planet? Why hasn't the first deep-space faring species colonised the entire universe? I mean, as soon as humans built boats, we spread out across the world and colonised every habitable continent and scrap of land. Why hasn't the same thing happened on an intergalactic level? The possibilities I see are:

1. We are the first intelligent species to evolve. Highly unlikely but possible.

2. Expansion of a species into deep space is not feasible in terms of energy and other resources. Every intelligent species that has evolved to this point has hit this constraint.

3. The Prime Directive. Seems unlikely - we can't get global agreement on borders and border controls, and yet alien governments manage to stop every single one of their citizens from visiting Earth? There are no rebellious alien youths? No Mathias Rusts? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Space Travel - where is everyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757276)

4. Getting out of the solar system and traveling to nearby stars that are light-years away is a far more daunting task than leaving a planet and colonizing large, nearby, resource rich celestial bodies.

Re:Space Travel - where is everyone? (4, Interesting)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757312)

The Drake equation has several unknown variables, and even if getting into space is easy, that doesn't mean you'd want to visit Earth. In fact, if you can build habitats to live in deep space (necessary to travel interstellar distances), visiting Earthlike planets is a low-value proposition: It'll take a lot of energy to get here, a lot more to land, a heck of a lot more to take off again, and more yet to leave. Versus staying in the Oort cloud, for instance, where you are likely to be able to find any material you'd be able to find on Earth, and get to it a lot easier. (If possibly in less concentrated chunks.) You'll also avoid any possibly-hostile natives. Only downside is the loss of solar energy, but if you are colonizing deep space anyway you aren't relying on that.

But back to the Drake equation: f(l) and f(i) are still complete unknowns. (Not to mention f(c) and L, the latter of which we don't even have one measurement of, although ours are already tapering off, so a 50 to 100 years might not be a bad estimate.) There's some indications that f(l) is probably moderately high, but I wouldn't be surprised if f(i) is under one thousandth of a percent. Intelligence is a great survival strategy - once you hit a certain level. Below that level, there's a wide gap where it doesn't appear to help all that much. Exactly why and how humans crossed that gap is an open question. It's quite possible that the universe is teaming with life - and not very much of it is intelligent as we define the term. Or that most of it is too advanced to leak emissions wastefully.

(And you can probably modify your possibility #1 to be 'Only current intelligent species within a few hundred light years.' Beyond that we'd be unlikely to be able to detect an intelligent species unless it was explicitly trying to contact us.)

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757054)

"This guy is ridiculously illiterate."

No, this guy is willfully ignorant. That's far harder to fix.

Citation? (4, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757230)

The math has been done and it is clear: Habitats fabricated in free space can provide thousands of times more habitable surface area than Earth.

Okay, I'll bite... if the math has been done and is clear, where is it? Obviously there is a lot of free space outside the Earth, but there is more to providing a habitable environment than unused volume; in fact, as far as I am aware nobody has ever claimed that it is a lack of unused landmass that is the constraint holding back continued expansion of the human population. A lack of energy, a lack of clean water, a lack of arable land, a lack of food, a lack of raw resources, a lack of medical care, these are all factors. But how is moving into space going to solve these problems? If we can't effectively harness solar energy on Earth, and we can't geo-engineer our deserts to grow crops, and we can't provide enough raw materials, clean water and medicine to our growing populations, then how are we supposed to solve the exact same problems in space - where everything is orders of magnitude more difficult?

The problems that we have supporting growing populations here on Earth are only a subset of the problems of doing the same in outer space. I don't see how solving these problems in the domain of space could ever be easier than solving the same problems in the domain of Earth. Yes, if these problems were all solved, and free space were the prevailing constraint, then space might be the answer, but we already have 510 million square kilometers of surface here on Earth, all of which could hypothetically be covered in 20km high skyscrapers, so we are a long way away from lack of free space being the dominant constraint on growth.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757412)

Uhhhh - I'm all for exploration and expansion into space. But, my primary focus is on colonization of other stellar bodies. Those who advocate for orbital habitats seem to forget that there are serious health issues involved with low gravity. Artificial gravity would impose severe structural requirements on those habitats. Yeah, it can be done, I'm sure - but putting habitats under the surface of the moon will likely be cheaper and safer. Similar habitats on Mars would be a lot safer yet.

Re:Do the math, indeed! (4, Interesting)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757456)

I saw practically no math in your link. I did see a lot of bullshit hand-waving, though.

I was going to recommend that you read Entering Space [amazon.com] by Robert Zubrin for education in what you believe is cheap and easy, but then I noticed your link had already done so. I liked the part where he dismissed the cost (and Zubrin's estimates) by already assuming a permanent lunar presence with a mass driver putting ore into earth orbit.

we need a stargate cheaper the space ships (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756558)

we need a stargate cheaper the space ships

Re:we need a stargate cheaper the space ships (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756692)

we need a ice cream cheaper the space ships

Re:we need a stargate cheaper the space ships (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756808)

First you need to deliver the Stargate let alone create them. In the case of the movie and TV series, Stargates were already in place and thus found.

Re:we need a stargate cheaper the space ships (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757142)

So we need to either dig in Gaza (or Antarctica) or work on tracking down any large artifacts found in either place that the government may be hiding?

For believers in eternal exponential growth: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756568)

If you believe in eternal exponential growth (for example, 1% a year or whatever you think is a "healthy" number), consider this: the cross-section of your light cone grows as the cube of time.

Good luck trying to stuff ANYTHING exponentially increasing into your cubically increasing sphere of influence, regardless of technology.

Re:For believers in eternal exponential growth: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756616)

So we can't stuff more than one thing in?

Re:For believers in eternal exponential growth: (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757030)

Pretty sure a cube is an exponent.

Re:For believers in eternal exponential growth: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757272)

My apologies for assuming that slashdotters knew the meaning of the term exponential growth [wikipedia.org] .

Big duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756576)

No need to read it when we already know what's going on here. Leftists rely on horror stories of scarcity and spoilage of finite resources for part of their power, so it's a no shit sherlock that they would try to discourage any looking beyond this world.

Re:Big duh. (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756878)

It's true. Remember that the so called "speed of light" was imposed by an atheist jew intellectual, and has since been propped up by an academic elitist cabal supported by big government's tax-and-spend agenda.

In fact, the entire enterprise of physics is inherently statist. It spends essentially all its time and resources imposing as many universal laws as possible. If only physics were deregulated, and the behavior of matter and energy left to the free market, those particles whose behavior is best adapted to the demands of the marketplace would outcompete less efficient matter and create a utopia.

Re:Big duh. (1)

an unsound mind (1419599) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757318)

They are Educated Stupid and they have no inkling to just how EVIL they think.

Interpretation of survey is questionable (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756608)

Approximately how far have humans traveled from the surface of the Earth in your lifetime? [e.g., since 1980 or so]

52% thought humans had been as far as the Moon since the 1980s, ... I can only guess that some students imagined the International Space Station as a remote outpost

That is a questionable interpretation. It would seem more plausible that the students simply get their decades mixed up and thought Apollo happened in the 80s rather than the 70s (last landing 1972?).

Re:Interpretation of survey is questionable (4, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756920)

The rest of the quote was hilarious though

20% thought we had been farther than the Moon. Some were indignant on learning the truth: “What do we use the space shuttle for, if not to go to the Moon?!” I can only guess that some students imagined the International Space Station as a remote outpost, certainly beyond the Moon, and likely strategically located next to a wormhole.

20% of physics students, at this university level, thought that humanity had traveled beyond the Moon? And some thought that we routinely use the shuttle to travel to the moon...

Re:Interpretation of survey is questionable (3, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756990)

The rest of the quote was hilarious though

20% thought we had been farther than the Moon. Some were indignant on learning the truth: “What do we use the space shuttle for, if not to go to the Moon?!” I can only guess that some students imagined the International Space Station as a remote outpost, certainly beyond the Moon, and likely strategically located next to a wormhole.

20% of physics students, at this university level, thought that humanity had traveled beyond the Moon? And some thought that we routinely use the shuttle to travel to the moon...

Well humanity has traveled "beyond" the moon, thats what happens as your orbit and pass over the far/dark side. Perhaps the physics students were being literal, X km above the lunar surface is X km "beyond" the moon for X > 0. :-)

Re:Interpretation of survey is questionable (1)

Jonner (189691) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757720)

Approximately how far have humans traveled from the surface of the Earth in your lifetime? [e.g., since 1980 or so]

52% thought humans had been as far as the Moon since the 1980s, ... I can only guess that some students imagined the International Space Station as a remote outpost

That is a questionable interpretation. It would seem more plausible that the students simply get their decades mixed up and thought Apollo happened in the 80s rather than the 70s (last landing 1972?).

Either interpretation implies an unacceptable level of ignorance. I learned about the Apollo program when I was very young (from a Richard Scarry book) but was never confused enough to think it was still going on.

Answering the wrong question (2)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756694)

Staying here, keeping it habitable, limiting our growing and being more efficient using resources and territory definately is cheaper (at least, for now) than going to space. But there could be situation where staying here will not be an option, and not having developed space by then will leave us as rich corpses.

The process so far of going into space, solving the hard problem of going up there and stay, had left us so far a bunch of great technologies that are very important in our current way of life. In the future, if we keep trying and solve the very hard problem of i.e. having self-sustainable space stations or terraforming other planets, we should develop things that surely will be very helpful to improve this planet, and we will have an option if shit happens down here.

Time passes, civilizations and cultures come and go with enough time, we know that we are able to try to do that now, but who knows what will come next, maybe will be easier, or maybe we will run out of time

Ramblings of a small mind... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756740)

This guy is a douche. He fails to understand how adaptable humans are. Whatever the circumstances, overpopulation, depletion of resources, humans will still find a way to survive. Pretty much all energy comes from the sun, which isn't exactly in danger of being depleted, rather it's a matter of effectively harnessing that energy. Stupid scientists always making doomsday predictions, we are always running out of energy a few decades from now, like peak oil etc... but it never happens. Too bad this douche won't be alive to be proven wrong. Sounds like he is certainly in for that "global warming" funding though.

Re:Ramblings of a small mind... (1)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756862)

I've been posting here for years and I still can't quite tell if some posts are flamebait or long winded trolls :S

Bogus comparison to ocean voyages (4, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756770)

If the ship sinks, and you have a life raft, you stand some chance of rescue. The ocean is vast, but it’s a two-dimensional vastness teeming with human activity

Since we are currently at the dawn of space travel and looking 500 years ahead, lets look 500 years into the past with respect to seafaring and their exploration and colonization of their new world. Seafarers of that day did not stand a chance if their vessel sunk, they did not have the survival equipment we have today, they did not have all the other traffic and human activity in the "area". Hell, if one of Columbus' ships had sunk at night the crew would probably have been doomed desperate sailing with two other ships.

500 years ago people could be found to make the voyage to the Americas despite the misery and risks of the voyage. Today there would probably no shortage of informed people to go on a physically and emotionally miserable, and a very risky, voyage to the moon or mars. Now consider 500 years from now. While the physics of a voyage to mars may be the same the technology available to address comfort and risk will be vastly improved. Even with relatively spartan amenities for exploration and colonization that will be no shortage of informed volunteers. A spartan existence certainly did not prevent colonization of and movement into the frontier of the americas.

Re:Bogus comparison to ocean voyages (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757496)

To the Americas?

Several hundred years ago, people tried for the Arctic, and Antarctic. Death was/is a statistical likelihood.

Even today, people regularly travel to places where death is common, if not expected. The stories of the people who have died on the way up/down on Everest are haunting.

The real issue with settling space is Earth's gravity well. This is an easy thing to solve, if we take advantage of atomic power. My biggest beef with the space program is the abandoning of Project Orion [google.com]

We're Not Ready (2)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756778)

When we can send an unmanned pod to Mars or Venus that will self-sufficiently create shelter, food, and the resources for continued expansion--then we will be ready.

Until then, we're just space tourists.

Re:We're Not Ready (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756928)

I don't think it'll take 500 years to get from where we are now to there.

Unless we give up now. This guy's prophecy is designed for self-fulfillment.

water suits (4, Insightful)

nten (709128) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757146)

I like the analogy of fish moving to land. They didn't build water domes, they didn't wear water suits, and they most certainly didn't modify the land to be more like the sea. The fish themselves changed. I am not proposing we wait for random mutations to make us capable of living in hard vacuum off of nothing but radiation and interstellar gas. I am proposing that we divorce our idea of what defines us as humanity from the animal homo sapiens sapiens, and work on ways to modify ourselves to be more adapted to our environment(s). Hairless apes are never going to thrive in space, but humanity might.

Re:water suits (2)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757338)

That is a really cool idea. If you can't bring the mountain to Mohammed, bring Mohammed to the mountain!

hamburgers in space (1)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756790)

"By contrast, a hamburger has never slammed into the side of the space shuttle in orbit"

Give it time, Richard Branson is looking to have tourists up there by the end of next year.

Space is More of a Question than an Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756830)

Here is the thing: it may be possible in the distant future to spread out to the end of the cosmos. The Earth was here a long time before we were, and thus it stands to reason, so long as we do not mess it up, it will be here long after we are gone. Thinking along such a timeline, it would be nice to expand out into the universe. Of course, it may make more sense to send genetic material to new worlds, rather than humans already encumbered with these bulky bodies. Insofar as terraforming is concerned, I agree that it may be difficult, but I do not see how it is impossible (and yes, there seems to be little mathematics in his argument about this). So, I think that along a long enough timeline, people will likely either go extinct or reach Mars. The only other possibility I see would be that the reason that we survive is because we finally kicked our habit of pushing every button that says, "DO NOT PUSH".

trick question (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756832)

The survey question is designed to trick students into answering incorrectly by including a spurious date 1980 after asking the question in brackets. That way the professor can consider himself superior to students when they get it wrong. The guy who says it is impossible has run out of ideas. Based on that alone his opinion should be ignored.

Re:trick question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757050)

The survey question is designed to trick students into answering incorrectly by including a spurious date 1980 after asking the question in brackets. That way the professor can consider himself superior to students when they get it wrong. The guy who says it is impossible has run out of ideas. Based on that alone his opinion should be ignored.

Everyone's OPINION should be ignored - especially if it has made it to media publishing of any form.

Innerspace? (1)

segedunum (883035) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756834)

Space is a endless junkyard of orbiting debris. Ahhh, but. Miniturisation Jack. That's he ticket. That's the edge that everyone's been looking for.

What's His Track Record? (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756850)

This guy's arguments in the article are a few shots in the dark, against the consensus expectation of human aspirations. But he's arguing from his soapbox as a scientist.

So, what has he predicted correctly? Not about lunar science, which is his field (and it's hard, which shows how exceptionally smart he is). But about economics, infrastructure development, or civilization.

Nothing? Oh. Who cares what he thinks about something where he's as likely to be an expert as the majority of Slashdotters posting in this thread?

Frontiers are always difficult (3)

Roogna (9643) | more than 2 years ago | (#37756852)

Honestly, while yes today it is highly impractical. That was true of all frontiers at one point or another. Once upon a time sailing from Europe to the Americas was considered a long, highly dangerous, expensive voyage. Now we have multiple flights back and forth daily. Time changes, and progress -does- march forward. Yes, the space shuttle is gone. On the other hand we have what, 3 companies? More? that look like they will have tourism ready space travel in my lifetime. When my grandparents were my age that entire idea would have been insane. The key is, we, as humanity, can't give up on every idea simply because it doesn't make sense -today-. A lot of those ideas will suddenly be worth every penny that was ever invested in them at some point in the future.

Re:Frontiers are always difficult (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757234)

Once upon a time sailing from Europe to the Americas was considered a long, highly dangerous, expensive voyage.

The difference is that with Americas it was only the journey that was dangerous and expensive, once you had arrived you had plenty of uncharted and fertile land at your hands and could make a self sustained living pretty easily. The problem with space is that the journey never ends, you never reach the point where you can just settle down and go kill some buffalo when you are hungry, you will always be incredible short on resources and reaching self sustainability will be extremely hard, if possible at all.

can't give up on every idea simply because it doesn't make sense -today-.

You shouldn't give up on it, but you should stay realistic. There is little point in trying to cross the Atlantic when all you have is a tiny inflatable boat.

Here's the problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37756974)

He's making too many arguments based on assumptions of growth and no knowledge of future technological developments. Assumptions which made in the past were way off the mark.

Set the wayback machine to 100 years ago and ask the most learned physicists at the time about population growth, energy growth, nuclear power, and space technology used in the 21st century. Yeah you'd get a lot of blank stares. It probably would sound like wacky sci-fi to those folks.

Those who predict the future are usually wrong.

what a stupid survey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757004)

i didnt go further than the first question which assumed all humans are born after 1980
and that we havent gone farther than the moon. hello, men have been in lunar orbit. that
is by definition, FARTHER than the moon.

yes, it is nitpicking. but hey, could you try to get accurate?

there are + and - thinkings always (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757018)

There are always two type of thinking : + and -

Who can think about 10000 years from now?

How long does the human beings live in Earth? And how long does life live in Earth?

On the other hand, do you really think when the sun burn out, life should just die with peace without a fight? Accepting the result without even a fight?

The club of Rome, the current negative thinking school about human, many people now think man is bad to environment, so does the climate change thinking.

There are no reason thinking human or live is evil, or bad to environment.

Writing off space is writing off humanity. (1)

GuyverX (162940) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757034)

We may never be able to make a viable colony off world. The moon is fairly pointless, Mars is hostile as hell, and our choices just get worse.

But sooner or later, we won't be able to stay here. We'll burn up too many resources. A pandemic we can't manage will come along. A larger proportion of the population decides science is evil, and technology is a physical manifestation of that. A big-freaking rock hits us. I dunno. But something will happen and all we are and all we have done will pass into dust. And the universe will go on, none-the-worse for our absence.

It's just, all I know, is that as horrible, small minded, hateful, and destructive as humanity is, we're also generous, creative, beautiful, and, as far as we can tell, unique in the universe. I think we're worth saving, some how.

I'm not saying that we're the only thing out here, I'm not saying we're better than any of a googleplex of theoretical aliens, I'm just saying we're the only thing in the universe we can know for damn sure is alive, aware, and capable of doing what we do, and damn it all, I think that's worth preserving.

And this is why you don't promote... (2, Funny)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757078)

...the right thing with false reasoning.

There is no economic reason to colonize space. In fact, there is no economic reason for anything other than killing all people and let the last remaining person to live the remainder of his life as the supposed owner of the world. Here is your perfect solution, the whole Earth population (1 person) acquiring maximum possible amount of all possible resources and products per time (whatever he can lay his eyes on). But this is why economists should shut up and go back to whoring to the aristocracy. Hey, look, Austrian School is unpopular again, you have some work to do!

Which frontier? (1)

ansak (80421) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757126)

Whether space is or is not eventually "The Place", one of Cringely's latest columns [cringely.com] on the "next frontier" is worth reading. He's been going on about the need for a new frontier to provide a direction in which mankind expand our expectations without entirely being guilty of exuberant over-optimism. The prequel article [cringely.com] is also worth reading.

To quote from somewhere in the middle (and I almost feel I should shout SPOILER ALERT! first):

What should that new frontier be? It almost doesn't matter as long as it is big enough to capture the fancy of hundreds of millions of people. Your ideas are just as good or better than mine. But since I have a couple favorites I'll throw them on the table. I think our next frontier should be a combination of additive manufacturing and autonomous flight.

The rest of the article does give one something to think about, if only to wonder what he's been smoking lately.

cheers...ank

Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757144)

We can probably make it to space, but we need a better way of getting up there before doing it as commercially as current cruise-lines on the sea.

In the meantime, the sea is probably a much better place to explore.

Government Space is the reason we are stuck (4, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757150)

(from the original article)

But I’ll just point out that the idea that we are no longer able to accomplish feats we once could do (like travel to the Moon) clashes with the prevailing narrative that we march forever forward. Not only can’t we get to the Moon at present, but the U.S. no longer has a space shuttle program—originally envisioned to make space travel as routine as air travel. And for that matter, I no longer have the option to purchase a ticket to fly trans-Atlantic at supersonic speeds on the Concorde. Narratives can break. I’ll leave it at that.

I agree that the ability to move out into the solar system has been sidetracked. It has been a bit of a problem and mankind has pulled back from what we could be doing in terms of getting things done in space. The apparent retrenchment in the ability to travel into space isn't really accurate in the least and this guy really misses what is going on.

The Apollo missions were a highly focused goal that really pushed the limits of the technology available at the time, perhaps even pushing that technology to its breaking point as the Apollo 13 missions demonstrated very clearly. At best those could be compared to weekend camping trips. We learned a whole bunch about how to live and work in space on those trips that we also learned how tough it would be to go.

That said, the problem here is that we have been depending on "the government" to get us into space on Manhattan Project type "big science" expeditions, where those programs could be cut and abused because of political whims, graft, and corruption. All of that has happened and more with NASA. Had the NASA budget kept pace with the federal budget from the mid-1960's to today, there most certainly would be at least an outpost on the Moon or elsewhere in the Solar System like the Amundsen-Scott Base at the South Pole. One of the first missions of the "Apollo Applications Program" that was cut was a manned mission to Venus [wikipedia.org] . A mission to Mars has been talked about since the Nixon administration. Getting "out there" has been in the cards, but the funding to make it happen hasn't been there primarily because the political will that got the Apollo program going ran out of steam.

Private spaceflight efforts, in other words private citizens trying to get into space on their own dime without subsidies from a government entity, has taken a long time to get going. There are established markets for commercial enterprises in space today, primarily concentrated at the moment in the form of telecommunications (including "satellite" television, mobile telephones, and other long-distance communication), navigation (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Compass, and others), remote sensing, cartography (Google Maps and others), and reconnaissance (both government and civilian). Add to that list is rapid point-to-point delivery and space tourism that is just beginning to open up. All of these are proven money-makers for those groups who wish to get involved with them and have also made life today much better because they exist as well.

Far from "we are never going to get into space", we are already there. We are just getting our toes out into the water, so to say, but the commercial development of space-based resources has steadily improved and now represents a multi-billion dollar industry. One of the hang-ups about getting more happening in space has been the cost of spaceflight. In other words, trying to find cheaper ways of getting stuff into space. When a 1 liter bottle of water costs $100,000 or more to send it into space, the economics of getting people into space for settlement simply don't work.

The fallacy in this article is the presumption that we simply can't get cheaper than $100,000/kg for putting stuff into space and that the cost of going into space is only going to go up. The reason that is currently the case is because the government, at least in America, has so screwed up the commercial market for launching vehicles that the price has been steadily going up faster than inflation over the past several decades. If you look at the major launch companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and ATK; they have all been gradually raising their prices over time in part because the government is willing to pay them those prices for the big government contracts.

What hasn't been said here is that commercial spaceflight projects and flights have all but stopped being purchased from American companies because they simply aren't even competitive with other countries, who are also largely running government-sponsored space programs of their own. Until recently, there hasn't been any sort of ability for a private individual to really enter the game. It isn't for a lack of people willing to try, but often the government doesn't want to give permission for private individuals to even make the attempt. Several who have posted here on Slashdot that I've argued with in the past have even supported such efforts and feel that no private individual should ever be permitted to leave this planet, even to the point of force of arms to prevent it from happening even if they could afford it on their own dime.

If you let private individuals who want to get the resources together on their own and would be willing to go into space, and if you let those people be able to exploit the resources which are in space to be able to keep those resources or be able to keep the profits from that kind of economic activity, I believe that mankind will be able to move off of this planet and they will be able to pay for this outward migration away from the Earth on their own dime without government resources being involved. For what governing of the "final frontier" is needed, it can be paid for from taxes and fees on this activity. Mankind will move on and go elsewhere, and get much, much further than 300 km above the surface of the Earth.

That said, and perhaps something that I will concede, there will never be more than a small fraction of the population of the Earth which will be able to leave this planet at once. There won't be a "mass exodus" of people traveling to Mars or Europa in hopes of being able to live somewhere else other than the Earth, but then again that isn't necessarily the point of colonization. We do need to be responsible stewards of our environment here on the Earth as the billions of people who will live on this planet in the future depend upon that. Then again, there are still millions of people living in Africa at what has been suggested is our ancestral home and they never left. When mankind left for Europe, and from Europe to the Americas, the vast majority of the people living in the original "homeland" remained. I don't see a move into space being any different, other than the rowdy and rebellious 1% of society who likes to live on the edge will be "out there" instead of here. Right now that 1% has a gun pointed to their heads and are being told they can't leave. That sounds like an exciting future I really want to live in.

Re:Government Space is the reason we are stuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757658)

We aren't animals that happen to be stuck on a random planet. We evolved to be exactly here. To paraphrase Dawkins, if an alien species examined our DNA they would find that it screams Earth. All the goldilocks conditions found here aren't just lucky for us.. they made us. So even if the costs of escaping the gravity well are overcome, where would we go? Whatever problem we were trying to escape would be far simpler to fix here to begin with. As I posted here a couple of years ago, how bad would things have to get on Earth before the Moon or Mars looked like a viable option? And how many people would actually be able to leave anyway? What about all the people that were left? You're really talking about expanding the reach of the human race. That wouldn't help anybody (effectively everybody) stuck on a dying Earth, and given our history on this planet it certainly wouldn't do much to 'help' whatever distant utopia our small group of colonists might stumble upon. Exploration is great, we can learn a lot and be inspired to make things better here. But humans can't leave Earth. We ARE Earth.

I Don't Think It Will Be So Hard (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757192)

Once we get there. Sure from here it looks impossible, and getting out of the gravity well is a huge pain in the ass. My view of Mars is why should I get out of one gravity well just to get stuck in another one? Once we have some manufacturing facilities in orbit or on the moon, I'd be surprised if we didn't start just tooling around the inner solar system with small solar sail spacecraft. Teenagers will probably build them for joyriding in the future. A lot of people might die before we get good at it, but that's always happened on our frontiers. Generally the reward has been "You get to live someplace that doesn't suck as much as here." There are probably already some places on earth where it sucks to live more than it would living in space, so now it's just a matter of creating the opportunities to get there.

This is why a Steady State Economy is inevitable (1)

echtertyp (1094605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757212)

There's been more and more discussion in Europe about the end of *quantitative* economic growth, the orthodox stuff we're used to hearing about as a policy goal, and a shift toward *qualitative* economic growth. The latter is the core idea behind "steady state economics", and it's the only economic model that makes sense long term. The basic idea is sustainable and steady rates of using resources on the planet we can't plan on ditching, and sustainable rates of dumping bad stuff into the planetary waste sinks for absorption. So imagine that every year humankind uses the same x units of iron and y units of hardwood, rather then consuming more and more. But the *utility* we get from that constant input keeps improving, because knowledge is infinite. It's a beautiful, elegant paradigm that makes more and more sense the more you look at the data. Good intro info at http://www.steadystate.org/ [steadystate.org]

It's called capitalism. (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757428)

I know it's a loaded word but I use it in the context of people owning capital good, things used for production not consumption. The first thing to realize is that growth is a function of what people value. If people are getting things they value more than in the past they are getting wealthier.

We don't use up iron even if we throw it in a dump. In the dump it is probrably at a higher concentration than in a mine. Also carbon seems like it is going to be the element of the next hundred years. Carbon structures will eventually replace metals in structures as the cost of metals increase and the carbon decreases. It looks like other carbon structures may replace some elements used in electronics.

We're a bunch of goddamn wimps. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37757214)

This is all ridiculous. The reason we aren't going to space is because we're a bunch of cowards--we insist that any mission have a ridiculously high safety expectation, complete with trip home.

We aren't going to even BEGIN to think about living anywhere outside our planet until someone driven enough to risk their life sits on top of a ton of explosives and fires themselves off to the stars with two middle fingers pointing back at the receding Earth.

This poor guys wife. (1, Funny)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757370)

Can imagine the crap she gets when she suggests maybe they should go on a cruise or buy a new car?

Space is not the place? (1)

biovoid (785377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757380)

Tell that to the dinosaurs.

Prattlings of a Pussy Professor (2, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37757438)

In my lifetime, mankind went from a single orbit of earth, to landing on the moon, having space stations orbiting earth, planetary and cometary and asteroidal probes. He equates the U.S. with mankind, ignoring that other nations are ramping up their space programs. He ignores that soon we will have the ability with genetic engineering to grow most everything we need on earth, with only solar input, freeing up nuclear fuels like thorium (of which we have centuries of supply) to be used to make hydrogen and oxygen for near term space travel as we master fusion for the longer term. We can make huge generational spaceships and habitats on the moon using solar power and then use the He3 to power them into space to get water and volatiles and metals from comets and asteroids. No vision, no courage, a wimp. The U.S. would have its population all mashed together on the eastern seaboard if our pioneer ancestor were like this psychological marshmallow.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

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

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