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The Next Fifty Years In Space

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the wave-motion-gun dept.

Space 273

MarkWhittington writes "2007 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Space Age, agreed by most to have begun with the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik, on October 4th, 1957. While some are taking stock of the last fifty years of space exploration, noting what has been accomplished and, more importantly, what has not been accomplished, others are wondering what the next fifty years might bring."

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273 comments

Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 years (0, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463429)

We may well have landed a man on Mars 50 years from now, and will probably have put another man on the moon (and by "we," I *DON'T* mean NASA, BTW). But we will likely never have colonies on either.

At some point, people will get beyond the PR, dreams, and hype and realize that the resources required for such an effort FAR exceed any possible benefit. And, at that point, they will quietly back away. Then they will do exactly what NASA has done for the last 30 years: keep making big promises, keep funnelling money to contractors, keep offering grand visions--but delivering on NONE of them.

Lunar and Martian colonies are like personal jetpacks and lying cars: forever "in the future."

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (5, Funny)

mhannibal (1121487) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463447)

A lying car - like when it says the tank is full even though it's empty? Already got one of those...

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463479)

Forgot the "f" in "flying cars" obviously. But, for the record, I don't think we will have lying cars either.

...except for GM, of course.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (2, Funny)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463781)

"lying cars" already exist. Plenty of people have run into trouble when the navigation system in the car tells them a lie...

"Turn left now"

But there is no left.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (2, Funny)

JSchoeck (969798) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464395)

I can grasp the concept of "there is no spoon" alright.

But "there is no left" either? Oh my god!

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464131)

*** I don't think we will have lying cars either. ***

Obvioulsy you have not encountered one of the millions of vehicles that turn on Check Engine lights for no good reason.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

sqldr (838964) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463931)

It's evil KITT. Night rider's worst enemy.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (2, Insightful)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463503)

I assume you are referring to this part of the article:

the establishment of a private, interplanetary transportation industry, servicing both the Mars colony and asteroid mines.
I have to agree with you to some degree, I really cannot see colonies on any distant planets within 50 years, I'd be surprised if there is even a large, long term presence on the moon by that time.

I would say that in terms of costs, it is going to be politically unjustifiable to push forward these missions, more to the point I am fairly sure we are entering into a period of rather more upheaval on earth, politically, economically and ecologically. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see more work done in space, more opportunity to explore, but I just don't see the will to do so or even the suggestion of the rewards that would be possible by doing so.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (3, Insightful)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463623)

We have technologies that serve the same purpose as personal jetpacks and flying cars, generally safer and more economical. Personal jetpacks and flying cars are really exotic luxury items, so I don't think those are a good comparison.

Fusion energy might be a better example. It is something that would be of real value and something we have thrown a lot of money at. Other energy sources may become cheap and easy enough though where fusion is not as attractive.

I think the time scale required is beyond 50 years for space colonies, and it is hard to guess that far in the future. Could someone 50 years ago guess about computers today? Star Trek was guessing about computers a couple of hundred years in the future, but our current computers are already pretty close to their mark.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (2, Funny)

Riktov (632) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464477)

>>
Star Trek was guessing about computers a couple of hundred years in the future, but our current computers are already pretty close to their mark.
>>

Naah. The flashing checkerboard lights and MO-NO-TONE COM-PYU-TER VOICE alone will require another fifty years at least.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (2, Funny)

imgod2u (812837) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464857)

And yet...my computer can't realistically generate 3D images of people with flawless likeness. /I want my f'ing holodeck //Would never come out ///Guess what I'll be doing in there.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (3, Insightful)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463645)

realize that the resources required for such an effort FAR exceed any possible benefit.

At the moment. Some breakthroughs in technology could change this- such as a way to get off the planet at a significantly reduced cost. It really just takes a couple of shifts before the whole thing opens up to other opportunities. Really it's just one Big Idea that will lead to a chain reaction of the others.

Except we can change the launch costs. (5, Informative)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463673)

Use nuclear rockets, e.g. this one [nuclearspace.com] (the good tech stuff starts in section 7). With that, we can lift a thousand tons into orbit in a completely reusable and non-polluting craft that even eliminates not only its own nuclear waste but also waste generated on Earth.

Yes, I said non-polluting, because the exhaust is non-radioactive hydrogen. (Read the article before denouncing, please.) For in-system work, we could use Orion or variants, or even the nuclear salt-water rocket [washington.edu] . Those do have radioactive exhaust, but out in space that's not exactly a major problem. With that level of specific impulse [wikipedia.org] along with high thrust, the costs of developing space resources are drastically reduced.

Colonies on other planets may or may not be a good idea (though with a big enough space economy a moonbase becomes attractive). But mining asteroids and putting dangerous industries in space is a very nice idea once we're not bogged down with just chemical propellants.

Re:Except we can change the launch costs. (2, Informative)

Illserve (56215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464021)

Except we can change the launch costs

Err... the article refers to solutions starting from LEO. That's the easy part.

Getting the whole thing into orbit in the first place is the hard part, because the fuel has to lift itself out of the gravity well.

The space elevator is the answer to the *launch* cost problem, not nuclear power.

Re:Except we can change the launch costs. (0)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464655)

The space elevator is the answer to the *launch* cost problem, not nuclear power.
[cough]

A space elevator makes no economic sense. If by the answer to the launch cost problem you mean "government subsidy for ever". Then yes it might be, otherwise not.

 

Re:Except we can change the launch costs. (2, Insightful)

Illserve (56215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464935)

A space elevator makes no economic sense. If by the answer to the launch cost problem you mean "government subsidy for ever". Then yes it might be, otherwise not.

Care to explain for those of us who haven't done the math?

Last I heard it was an extremely economical approach.

Re:Except we can change the launch costs. (2, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464045)

Sure, the exhaust may not be radioactive, but there will be radioactive fallout if the rocket explodes during launch or has to be destroyed.

On a pure tech perspective, I'd love to have advanced rockets, but not until we can be damn sure they won't go kablooey and kill people downrange/downwind.

We have to get rid of the outer space treaty (2, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464067)

First and foremost, it has to go. Nothing is going to happen in space until that moment.

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

It essentially bans property in space and therefore there is little incentive to bother going there.
 

Re:We have to get rid of the outer space treaty (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464319)

The treaty also bans the militarization of space. Once the ultimate high ground is freed, it won't take 50 years for the first battles to be fought there...

Re:We have to get rid of the outer space treaty (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464445)

Yes. War is about ownership...

On the other hand we've had 30 years of stagnation.
 

Re:We have to get rid of the outer space treaty (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464391)

I think the treaty prevents a nation from staking a claim, but it doesn't prevent anybody from building a non-military base. It does prevent nations from sending up an unmanned lander and then claiming half the moon.

I think this is good in the respect that nations and companies can't be shut out. You can't own land, but you can occupy it and use it. If you don't want someone else using it, then you have to get there first and start using it yourself.

I'm not sure how it would apply to commercial operations by a private company, but you could always claim something like mining precious metals is scientific research like Japanese whale hunters do.

Re:We have to get rid of the outer space treaty (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464537)

You can't own land, but you can occupy it and use it. If you don't want someone else using it, then you have to get there first and start using it yourself.
But you don't own it, you have no right to stop them using it, whether you're there first or not.
 

Re:We have to get rid of the outer space treaty (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464995)

You stop them by using it first. If something is occupied, nobody can force you to move. The point is you can't "claim" anything. You use it or it's free game.

An analogy would be the open sea outside of territorial waters. You can put a underwater base and operation anywhere you want. A competitor could move in next door, but he can't make you move. If you want to occupy more of the sea bottom, then you just build a bigger base before he gets there.

Re:Except we can change the launch costs. (2, Insightful)

oni (41625) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464479)

you used the word nuclear, therefore I am going to have a reactionary emotional response and completely refuse to consider your proposal on its merits: OMFG YOU WANT TO BLOW UP MY CHILDREN WONT SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN THERE ARE PROBLEMS THAT WE NEED TO SOLVE RIGHT HERE ON EARTH AND YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT MAKING ALL OF EARTH A RADIOACTIVE WASTELAND OMFG OMFG NUCLEAR IS EVIL 3-MILE ISLAND WHEN WILL PEOPLE LIKE YOU LEARN WE CAN ONLY HAVE A SPACE PROGRAM WHEN EVERY LAST PROBLEM ON EARTH HAS BEEN SOLVED AND THERES NO MORE DISEASE AND THE LION LAYS DOWN WITH THE LAMB AND THEN WE CAN ONLY HAVE ROCKETS THAT ARE POWERED BY RAINBOWS AND HAPPY THOUGHTS AND NEVER EVER EVIL NUCLEAR ROCKETS THAT MURDER CHILDREN OMFG.

Re:Except we can change the launch costs. (2, Interesting)

Eponymous Bastard (1143615) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464559)

Nuclear rockets are a political can of worms, and I don't mean in the PR sense.

An Orion drive is basically a stockpile of nuclear bombs, and some radiation shielding. Can you imagine the world climate when nations can have ships with hundreds of nukes orbiting earth. Sure, it's not for war, but adaptations would be fairly trivial.

Orion died when nuclear non-proliferation treaties got going. It is a shame, but personally I think it's acceptable collateral damage to not have orbiting nuclear missile platforms.

Now the question is whether a nuclear rocket can be built that uses materials useless for nuclear weapons.

World will not be confined by your lack of vision (3, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463705)

>At some point, people will get beyond the PR, dreams, and hype and realize that the resources
>required for such an effort FAR exceed any possible benefit.

At some point, someone with a dream will harness the resources necessary to profit from the benefits that you cannot yet foresee.

Steve

Re:World will not be confined by your lack of visi (0, Flamebait)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464011)

Once people figure out how to profit from the Moon they'll be there like gophers in a golf course.

Oh, expense, we can't have huge expenses before realising a profit. Duh. Get back to your landscaping job and don't forget to pull all the weeks this time.

Maybe not, but there will be military bases. (3, Interesting)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463849)

Afterall it is the ultimate high ground.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (4, Funny)

sqldr (838964) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464099)

Ok, fact of the week:

The atmosphere on titan is so thick, and the gravity so weak, that humans could fly about by flapping wings attached to their arms.

I want to go to titan NOW!

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464101)

***But we will likely never have colonies on either. ***

Never is a long time.

I think a better projection is that we will never put viable colonies anywhere in space using current technologies. Not even in improved versions. Not economically feasible unless there are very, very high finacial or scientific returns to be realized from such a colony. Right now, there is no reason to believe that there will be.

But there will likely be other technologies developed in the next century. Maybe one of them will work out. When (if) the cost of getting a man or woman to the moon or Mars becomes comperable to today's cost of getting a man or woman to Antarctica, provisioning them, and getting them home, we'll see permanent colonies. When will that be? I haven't a clue.

For the short term, I'll settle for getting a few kilograms of rocks back from ten or twenty places in the solar system -- which is sort of probably within the limits of what we can do with current technology and doesn't require human assistance.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464161)

While agree that we won't have colonies in the next 50 years, you really shouldn't say "never." Assuming humans are still around hundreds of years from now and haven't suffered some major setback/die-off, we could be doing some amazing things.

-matthew

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (2, Interesting)

Duffy13 (1135411) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464255)

While colonies may be a bit extreme without the ability to terraform or some other method of self-sustainment for a significantly sized population, a moon and/or mars base as an operations center for mining the asteroid belt is a distinct possibility. Due to the lower gravity it would be far more economical to operate off of one of these opposed to earth or space stations in earth's orbit. The initial startup would be a huge amount (since we still need to launch the initial materials into space) but once you can build and launch craft from the moon/stations the costs would probably be worth it in the long run.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

Selfbain (624722) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464291)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6970031.stm [bbc.co.uk]

We can already make flying cars. The problem is you need a pilot's license to fly them higher than 10 feet.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

VagaStorm (691999) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464481)

Yeah, I still remember reading about em being a few years away in the mid/early nineties.... That company is basically the reason flyincars are considered up ther with cold fusion :p

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

Selfbain (624722) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464529)

Well, I'm not saying they're something that is likely to become common or profitable (or even a good idea) but they have made working prototypes which means we can in fact make flying cars.

And yet (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464361)

ppl are now taking vacations to space. You need to read some history. When the wright brothers invented the aeroplane, many swore that it would not matter that it would lead to nothing. Within 25 years, was the start of mail and cargo flying (like launching satellites) as well as exploratory flights for testing purposes. It was all spotty, and many companies went bankrupt. A few survived and went on to build big businesses. Boeing was creating aircrafts that were used in the 30's for an airlines (later to be called United). Within 50 years, came be the true beginning of passenger flying, which was followed by the golden ages of flight. We are now at 50 years of space, and looking at companies building rockets for PRIVATE flights. Not just for sale to a gov. Colonies on the moon will be funded by folks like Paul Allen, Elon Musk, and other far thinkers. It will not be those that are earth bound and think small or just about their niche (such as those that say space will never happen or say that it must be robotics or we need to focus on earth first).

I have no doubt that we will have a base on the moon within 15 years (barring war or a depression; though it may still happen). I suspect that we will be on mars within 25 years. This will come down to not just nationalistic pride, but access to future resources; LAND. China and American govs. will be shooting for the moon for a different reason, but in the end, all countries want to get to the moon quickly. The reason is that a very small amount of real estate offers "inexpensive" development, and that is the poles.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (3, Insightful)

VENONA (902751) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464399)

From TFA: "Thrown into that mix is the private sector, a factor that was never imagined in 1957." It certainly was imagined. Heinlein _The Man Who Sold the Moon_ in 1951, etc. The exploration of space has always been advocated by visionaries, and beset by nay-sayers.

You're describing the colonization of space in terms of return on investment. What you've said has been said by many others, for decades. History certainly doesn't justify this, as national prestige was what drove the original space race. The huge economic returns brought through miniaturization, materials, weather forecasting, etc., were largely serendipitous. Yet they've paid for every dime ever spent on space, many times over.

Nor do I think that a prediction based on ROI will be any more accurate in future than it's been in the past.

Available technologies (which could radically alter the I in ROI) do not remain fixed. What about the 'R'? I doubt that the desire for national prestige will disappear. It's also quite possible that we, as a species, might gain the ultimate R--survival. A couple of scenarios for that might include having a self-sustaining colony away from earth when some bio-weapon is used, whether by a nation, or a non-state actor. Or having enough experience doing industrial-scale things in space to deflect an asteroid or comet if necessary.

There are other arguments, but these will do to go on with.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (3, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464419)

As a "baby boomer" my life has basically spanned the "space/computer/indoor-toilet age", almost every boy at my primary school (in Australia) wanted to be an astronought at the time of the moon landings, it really was a "big deal" that stopped people in their tracks. The only recent event that compares is the 9/11 attacs, unfortunately they had the opposite "vibe". OTOH: Now I'm older I realise the "space race" was also a "missile race" and the "men to mars", "colonisation", "terraforming", ect comes from politicians hoping to "do what JFK did", but they can't because just like Beattle-mania it's already been done!

The only thing that will impress the general population in a "moon landing" kinda way will be the discovery of alien life/fossils, microsopoic bugs would stir some interest but wouldn't have that "in your face" impact since there is too much room for people to dismiss it with self-serving mumbo-jumbo.

"keep offering grand visions--but delivering on NONE of them."

Not all the "grand-visions" from NASA have been flops or pipe dreams, there have been plenty of long term scientific projects like the great-observatories, landsat, voyager, cassini, ect, ect, that have been enourmously fruitfull. IHMO the moon shots were a social phenomena that changed (for the better) the way we see the universe and ourselves. If nothing else the skills learned in building robotic craft for the moon shots have been refined and have produced scientific images of such popularity and "religious awe" that people display them on their walls, screensavers and t-shirts the world over. This is the standard you get when scientists are picking the projects, sure they may screw up metric/imperial occasionally but it's politicians and the military who waste billions planning/building space age cube farms in a feeble attempt to impress voters.

Re:Sorry, no colonies on Mars or the moon in 50 ye (1)

Riktov (632) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464691)

As a "baby boomer" my life has basically spanned the "space/computer/indoor-toilet age"...

Hello Bennett Brauer [geocities.com] !

Next 50 years (1)

servo335 (853111) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463445)

If private businesses are able to over take NASA we will see more progress then just a visit tot he moon!

Re:Next 50 years (2, Funny)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463541)

Yay, Disneyland IN SPACE!

Re:Next 50 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20464087)

o/~ We're whalers on the moon! o/~

Re:Next 50 years (1)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464297)

Yay, Disneyland IN SPACE!
Oh sure, I guess Space Mountain won't be a large attraction anymore. Instead "Earth Mountain" will try to replicate the effects of gravity.

Re:Next 50 years (2, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463929)

Obligatory Fight Club:

...when deep-space exploitation ramps up, it will probably be the megatonic corporations that discover all the new planets and map them. The IBM Stellar Sphere. The Philip Morris Galaxy. Planet Denny's. Every planet will take on the corporate identity of whoever rapes it first. Budweiser World

Re:Next 50 years (2, Insightful)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464317)

***If private businesses are able to over take NASA we will see more progress then just a visit tot he moon!***

A common fantasy, but it is just that, a fantasy.

In general, private businesses are effective when they have some realistic hope of making a profit. The few areas of space exploration where profit can be made -- e.g. communication satellites -- have plenty of private investment.

BTW, private investors have sometimes failed at things that would have worked. In the early 19th Century, the leaders in New York state repeatedly begged the New York financial community to fund a canal to the Great Lakes. No interest. Finally, the state built the Erie Canal themselves. It turned out to be wildly profitable even after they cut rates again and again. That canal was probably the primary force prior to the railroads a generation later in opening up the country West of the Applachians. And it fueled spectacular growth in upstate New York that turned places like Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo into major cities instead of rural county seats.

I am, by the way, no particular fan of NASA. My opinion is that they have egregiously mismanaged just about everything since Apollo. The current head -- Michael Griffin -- however looks to be a break with tradition. Maybe, he can put the place back on the tracks. He seems to be trying.

Re:Next 50 years (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464455)

No, what you would see is very specific resources being exploited, such as communication satellites, with very little exploration. Something like NASA is necessary to push the boundaries and do the things have no immediate (or even foreseeable) ROI, which is pretty much most of what NASA does.

What do you think is stopping businesses from doing what NASA does? I mean, besides the lack of economic incentive...

-matthew
 

Old News? (-1, Offtopic)

GodsBlood (1143061) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463457)

(looks at the calender) Oh shit, its an entire month early!

What the next 50 years will bring (3, Interesting)

Enlarged to Show Tex (911413) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463487)

From the USA: Nothing. They're headed back to the Dark Ages as the economy collapses. I wouldn't be surprised if the ISS ends up a big, expensive piece of space junk. From the Chinese: Unclear. Space exploration doesn't carry a whole lot of practical value for them. Unless the next 50 years brings a China v. India dickwaving contest, space advances in the next 50 years are quite unlikely.

Re:What the next 50 years will bring (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463521)

What makes you think that a national policy of running huge deficits and growing our national debt at an almost exponential rate will lead to insolvency for the U.S.? Surely the good times can never come crashing down, right? Right?

Re:What the next 50 years will bring (-1, Offtopic)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463665)

And people wonder why I don't care about cholesterol and things like that. If I'm lucky, a good swift heart attack will save me from years of agonizing cancer that I'm genetically pre-disposed to, and I'll be dead before we get too bad off.

Re:What the next 50 years will bring (1)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463951)

Buck up little camper! I've come up with a foolproof alternative to a speedy death when the endgame hits high gear: a new life under the sea!! [youtube.com]

Re:What the next 50 years will bring (1)

FlatLine84 (1084689) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463633)

I have a hard time believing the economy will keep going into the toilet... We had a huge boom of growth, now we have to have the down-turn. Growth will come again. You can't have one without the other. As far as the "space race" goes, it's utterly pointless, we need to sort out our priorities....

Re:What the next 50 years will bring (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463811)

Have you not seen Firefly? It was foretold that China and the US will team up in order to ditch this rock.

Re:What the next 50 years will bring (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463831)

Well this is probably accurate except for military deployments, which will quietly advance in space, undersea, wherever. If USA has not enough funds somebody else probably will fill up the void.

So till now human leave junk arms and probes in space. I'm afraid quantities are in that same order.

Missing Element of Anticipation (3, Interesting)

Double Entendre (1123719) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463547)

Interesting read, but it makes no mention of the anticipation from existing space projects and what they'll reveal in the next 50 years. As was recently stated in another article, Voyager 2 is still up and running while feeding back information over 12.5b km away (source: Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] ). The same is true for Voyager 1 - with it being expected to reach the heliopause by 2015.

I know there's still plenty to discover around here, but I find the possibility of discovery through those resilient probes much more fascinating than a space elevator. I just hope they can maintain power long enough to relay something back to us.

Commercialization is the key. (4, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463589)

Until space has a serious market among non-government-backed customers, it will be subject to the political whims of the "how can we spend money on space when we have problems on Earth?" constituency. As much as I love and support space exploration for the purposes of scientific and engineering R&D, feeding at the public trough is a the greatest single point of failure for the development of space. It does not matter whether it is tourism, materials synthesis in zero-G, mineral extraction n the moon/asteroids, or power generation. Creating an environment in which consumers and corporation gladly pay for the fruits of space travel will be the key to creating a truly stable, non-bureaucratic flow of funds and a thriving industry that depends more on proving economic value than on lobbying politicians.

Re:Commercialization is the key. (2, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464407)

I can't believe they rated this post as insightful.

"Serious market among non-government backed customers?"

Have you ever heard of satelites?

Do you know the HUGE industry that has developed for them.

We already have commercicilzed space.

The problem continues to be three fold:

Human body has serious failings for long term space travel (micro G/null G does horrible things to muscles and bones).

Huge cost to travel the first 100 km (A Space fountain can solve this problem, using today's technology, just highly vunerable to terrorism and cost is high, though doable by the US).

Large (but not huge) cost to bring things back to earth is scary. Again, a Space Fountain can solve this issue.

Solve the human living in micro-G/zero G environment and we could probably build a Space fountain and start the eage of exploration.

Re:Commercialization is the key. (1)

Selfbain (624722) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464463)

Launching an unmanned satellite that doesn't require life support or any of the other things that human life requires is cheap. Actual space travel where you have humans to keep alive is expensive and until recently had no reasonable expectation of profit.

Re:Commercialization is the key. (1, Troll)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464673)

That is what it actually boils down to, solve the whole gravity thing and then there will actually be a space age, with out tackling gravity we can only tinker about the edges. Private will not achieve more than government, it never has, it just spends lots of money advertising claims that it has, so it can suck up all the public funds it can get hold of. The current example of growing failures and corrupting everything that was handed over to private intrests only point to the reason why the public elected the government to look after those things in the first place.

So that whole tricky gravity drive thing is what needs to be the focus, shifting tons of cargo into space and not tons of fuel, after all, rockets are really, really, primitive technology.

Fifty years in space... (1)

Life700MB (930032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463631)


... and we all know what was the best momment of all: doing the right stuff [youtube.com] !

--
Great hosting [dreamhost.com] 200GB Storage, 2_TB_ bandwidth, php, mysql, ssh, $7.95

It's 2007 - Where are the flying cars?? (1)

VorlonFog (948943) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463643)

I hear this jokingly asked by plenty of friends. Of course, most people still can't handle earth-bound vehicles. Then again, we've still got Tang, mercury switches, and Teflon. It's not been a total loss.

Re:It's 2007 - Where are the flying cars?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20463809)

Astronauts are so lucky; I hear they get all the 'tang they can handle.

Predictions are Cheap (4, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463651)

In 1957, who could have predicted the next fifty years in space? Sputnik had not yet been launched [wikipedia.org] - the Space Race hadn't even begun.

On the other hand, who 40 years ago could have predicted where we are now? In 1967, the Space Race was a dead heat, the Mercury and Gemini programs in the U.S. were blazing successes, and the challenges of Apollo putting a man on the Moon (though formidable) seemed within our grasp. People were already talking of space stations, Moon colonization, and Mars exploration, certainly all within a generation. Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick were starting their collaboration for 2001: A Space Odyssey [wikipedia.org] .

My point is: predictions are cheap, and over a span of fifty years mean little. Things develop far too quickly for a 50-year prediction to carry much weight. Predicting the future of space means also predicting the future of technology - what will be possible in fifty years. It also means predicting the future of the geopolitical and economic landscapes. All of these different factors influence one another - predicting the future of one will mean predicting at least a portion of the others.

Re:Predictions are Cheap (4, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464561)

"In 1957, who could have predicted the next fifty years in space?"

Uh, Von Braun and most of his team back in the 40's when they were working on the V-2. They had plans for follow on generations of rockets to go in to orbit, the moon and Mars, plans they took to NASA and proceeded to build up through Apollo. They had a vision, they made it happen. If you want to be successful in hard things thats what it takes, a sound vision and a lot of hard work to attain it. Burt Ruttan is probably one of the few contemporaries with those qualities. Following your train of thought I don't think anything hard would ever be accomplished.

Don't think Von Braun envisioned the Space Shuttle in the 40's, I'm guessing if you showed him the idea he would have torn it apart, for no other reason than the huge amounts of dead weight you were lifting in to orbit for no particularly good reason. Not sure what he would have thought of ISS.....

Most science fiction writers are a little idealistic and thought we would stop killing each other in mostly pointless wars by now and join forces to fix our planet and move on to new ones. They were wrong. If we'd taken the half a trillion dollars we squandered in Iraq we would be well on our way to Mars, or to developing clean renewable energy sources. Unfortunately we are a deeply flawed species, and the intellectual gift we've been given is usually misguided and misdirected, especially when we elevate people to be our leaders who seem to have little or no intellect at all.

Re:Predictions are Cheap (2, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#20465045)

Von Braun and the other rocket scientists of the 40s were predicting the next 20-30 years in space. They were looking almost exclusively at the technological evolution - the most straightforward part, the part within their control. Von Braun was a savvy person in his own right, but he couldn't have predicted how the public's lack of enthusiasm after Apollo would stunt the technological evolution of space technology through 2000. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, no one could have predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, or how the end of the Cold War would affect space exploration. Von Braun could not, I think, have foreseen how computing technology would enable unmanned probes to accomplish so much of what human spaceflight hasn't.

People can make grandiose visions and strive towards them. I agree that this is what drives innovation. People should take risks to try and accomplish great things over the long haul. But don't expect to be able to predict what is going to happen 50 years from now - there is far too much that will influence it that hasn't even been conceived of yet - things that will aid you, thwart you, spur you and stifle you, closing off one path while opening another.

Optimistic (sadly) (2, Interesting)

bestinshow (985111) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463691)

What that article says may become true, but in 100 years time, not 50.

In 50 years time I expect a colony of up to 200 people on the moon. 10 by 2030, 40 by 2040, 100 by 2050 ... unless they get moon-side construction techniques down to a tee very quickly. By 2099 we'll probably be at the stage where the TV show Space 1999 thought we would be 8 years ago. Sad, eh?

Also I think space elevators will be like flying cars. They're a nice idea and concept, but not before 2057. 2107 maybe.

Space related research and exploration is a tiny proportion of money in comparison to military expenditure, and whilst it remains small things will be very very slow. Maybe the USA will get its arse in gear if China start having some successes, but by the time the cogs of political will have turned China will be at least 10 years ahead.

Probably 20ft tungsten rods (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463699)

...given all the recent murmurings of policy shifts, etc.

Future Planned Moon Missions (2, Informative)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463701)

Most of these endeavors from TFA may be pie-in-the-sky, literally; however, according to this article from the Economist the other week, [economist.com] the Goddard Space Flight Center has some serious plans for missions to the moon under direction of President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration. [whitehouse.gov] Going for the pie-in-the-sky plans may sound exciting and adventurous, but reality needs to set in eventually. Making gradual steps and acting when the technology is developed is the best plan to ensure safety and success in the space in the future.

Re:Future Planned Moon Missions (5, Insightful)

gerbalblaste (882682) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464047)

Screw safety and success, humanity has never gotten anywhere by waiting until it was safe and success was guaranteed. We are where we are now because people have put their balls to the wall and done things that were said to be impossible.

Re:Future Planned Moon Missions (1)

IckySplat (218140) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464991)

Amen brother!
The current trend of hyper safety crap is holding us back.
I'm not suggesting duct tapping "volunteers" to gunpowder rockets!
But every large scale engineering project comes with a costs in lives
Sky scrapers, dams hell people get killed making roads.

But space flight?

Oh no! can't do anything unless every single possible, improbable and
impossible safety concern has been double and triple checked.

Risky manned mission to mars? Count me in!
Might/probably get cancer as a result? Still count me in!
One way trip? Ummmm, Yup still count me in :)

Mumble, mutter, grumble, Kids these days :)

Could have been written 50 years ago... (1)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463713)

Fusion power, planetary settlements and the like were all "about 50 years away" then. The only "new" bits are terrorism being an issue (it only is now because we haven't had a real war for a while) and perhaps the public / private split.

The big question not asked? Whose flag flies beside those space elevators in the Pacific...

This may be somewhat negative but... (3, Insightful)

mykepredko (40154) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463791)

I think the only way space exploration will receive substantial funding is if energy can be provided from it more cost effectively than can be produced on earth. Part of this being successful is to develop a very heavy lifting capability.

This means that we must go away from a petroleum based economy to some form of fusion based economy - when I say "fusion", I mean either energy from the sun (in the form of O'Neill PowerSats) or from Moon based Helium-3.

In either case a large infrastructure would have to be created which would mean some kind of heavy lift capability (I remember a quote from one of the ISS project managers saying that it's hell trying to build a space station at 35,000 lb (the maximum payload capability of the shuttle) at a time). The heavy lift capability would have to be measured in millions of pounds (much more than the 200,000 lbs of the Saturn V).

In terms of how I see actually happening, I would expect a hybrid of the PowerSat solution and Helium-3 fueled power plants in that the Helium-3 would be sent to the PowerSats and the energy produced beamed down to the Earth. Somehow I don't see how it could ever be cost efficient if we are sending Mass back down (thinking of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress") and I would expect people to be unwilling to allow nuclear fuel to be dropped down through the atmosphere.

myke

Re:This may be somewhat negative but... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464567)

Energy production for the WHOLE Earth requires only several tonnes of He3 per year. It requires a trivial amount of fuel to decelerate from the Moon orbit.

And He3 is not radioactive.

Imagine if the World Trade Center... (5, Interesting)

miletus (552448) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463825)

... had been hit by a small asteroid instead of planes. We'd be halfway to Mars by now.

Re:Imagine if the World Trade Center... (2, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464051)

... had been hit by a small asteroid instead of planes. We'd be halfway to Mars by now.

Right after we rounded up all astronomers and astrophysicists and put them Gitmo for withholding information, never mind we didn't listen to one word while they were shouting "look out for that asteroid!" And then once we liberated the Moon we'd welcomed as liberators!

Hard to believe (4, Insightful)

Illserve (56215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463827)

This sounds a bit like the fanciful predictions made in the 50's about the moon colonies, flying cars and rocketpacks we'd have by 1990.

To begin, I doubt there are enough people at the top of earth's wealth pyramid to support the thriving tourist industry proposed to exist in 50 years. I think the costs of space travel will continue to remain, pardon the pun, astronomical, for quite a while. (I know, space elevators et al., but I think the spectre of guaranteeing Health and Safety will handicap this industry).

Furthermore, if there's one very important lesson to be learned in the last 20 years, is that rapid advances in space technology requires a very particular combination of scientific accumen and willingness to tolerate risk. The Apollo project had it, but noone has replicated the right mix since. We see the same stunted progress in other industries that are on the high end of the risk spectrum (airline travel, nuclear power).

This is much unlike advancement in the computer industry, to cite one example, which can race ahead at breakneck speed, because there isn't much of a human cost to screwing up.

Thus, I believe that it's a mistake to assume we will necessarily recreate that climate of rapid progress. I can easily imagine another 50 years of sending robotic probes that crash land half of the time (but work marvelously otherwise).

Meh. (3, Interesting)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463873)

So basically "moon colony" "mars colony" "manned exploration of titan" "space elevators" "many private space stations" and soon "robot -> another solar system."

A moon "colony" of 2000 scientists is probably the most likely prediction. I mean, we're supposed to start building a permanent moon base in 2020 and I could certainly see an antartica type multinational presence on that scale within 50 years. It'll be useful for telescope maintenance and probably other things. Maybe we'll have H-3 mining on the moon by then as well, though that is somewhat less predictable.

A mars colony I don't see happening in 50 years. I can see us re-building the moon base on mars, but not having it manned constantly. There just isn't a good reason to be there every day unless a terraforming process is underway. And since we haven't even been able to do a bio-dome on earth, yet, I'm a little bit iffy about having started preparations (even) for the complete teraforming of mars, within 50 years.

Manned exploration of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn could happen in the next 50 years, easily. But then... well certain people thought it would happen by 2001...

Space elevators. A most interesting concept. We seem to be relatively close to the material strength we'd need. Other challenges I can't see lasting 20 years if people are seriously interested. All the same, I give us a 50/50 chance of *ever* building a space elevator. (A sky hook seems a near certainty, even if just for the novelty, but not a space elevator for primary lifting). I'd say there's an even chance of finding a better way to lift sensitive cargo off the earth, and certainly a big slingshot makes more sense for cargo that can take the acceleration.

The vision of privately operated space stations drifting around the earth is nice. I can see a really expensive hotel happening in space in the next 50 years. Perhaps even with artificial gravity (via spinning, not some sci-fi magic) on part of it. I can also see a cluster of private science space stations. I don't really see more then a few private space stations for anything other then private science, though, in the foreseeable future.

As for sending a robot to another solar system in 50 years.... Well, hopefully we'll be *able* to. The problem is speed. Even with optimistic speeds it would probably take another hundred years to get any data back from the mission, even just to know if it worked. And then in the next hundred years someone could find a way to go faster then light and the entire mission would be pointless. (And yes, it is technically possible. Acceleration from less then light speed to greater then light speed takes infinite energy, but if you find a way to skip that acceleration you're good to go. I wouldn't go so far as to say it can't happen in the next 150 years.)

Answer: More out of control, useless spending (0)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463877)

I'll get beaten up for this, but the next 50 years in space will continue to be more of the same: I'll be stolen from more (through taxes), with more lost opportunities for people to work in a real market rather than a State-planned market that focuses on generating new technology for the war machine, rather than new technology that will actually solve some real problems. Yes, yes, some of NASA's discoveries over the years have been adapted for consumers or health or what-not, but this is more an accident than it is a regular reality.

I could care less which country gets to Mars first -- I don't believe in "us versus them." We're individuals, regardless of citizenship, and it is always "me versus everyone" until I am comfortable enough to be able to help others through charity, purchasing goods or services, or hopefully saving in a full-reserve bank so my money can be honestly loaned to those who can use it wisely. I don't need to venture to space, even though I'm a Sci-Fi geek. I'll look forward to McDevitt's next book and get my fantasies worked out there rather than in billions or trillions lost to government waste, bureaucracies, and preferential treatment for their elite friends.

Space is a waste UNTIL the market economy provides for it. Let the private industries battle it out competitively, with lessened regulations, than what we've had for the first 50 years.

Re:Answer: More out of control, useless spending (1)

mark_wilkins (687537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464083)

"Me vs. everyone."

You should probably be aware that there's a strong correlation between being well-connected with your community and having a longer life. Something to think about.

-- Mark

Re:Answer: More out of control, useless spending (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464533)

I don't doubt it, and I actually live it. I serve hundreds of churches and faith groups with my church printing [vipministry.com] ministry, and am active in my community as an anti-tax and anti-force advocate. People know be my name, and I'm the first to shell out a few bucks for a single mom who needs gas or groceries.

But I don't support the "them" mentality. Each person I deal with is an individual. I don't look at "the black folks" or "the Pentecostals" or "the drug addicts" because that is groupthink that causes harm to the individual's uniqueness.

Even when I am in my "community," I am still dealing with individuals. I live life through relationships of "you and I" verses "us and them."

We should measure from John Glenn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20463881)

who was the first man in Space in 1962!

We won the space race. The victors get to choose how things are measured and who is remembered. Why should anyone care about a load of technically retarded Russians? What have they ever done? We went to the moon, and they could never get there!

Re:We should measure from John Glenn! (1)

BiloxiGeek (872377) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464411)

Ehhhh! Wrong answer, thanks for playing. Johnny has a nice parting gift for you on your way out.

Glenn was the third man in space, second to orbit, first American to orbit.

Yuri Gagarin orbited April 12th, 1961
Alan Shepard achieved a suborbital flight on May 5th, 1961
John Glenn orbited on February 20th, 1962.

mod 0p (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20463969)

Jesus Up The Obvi.ous that there the project

Kim Stanley Robinson... (1)

oblonski (1077335) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463975)

Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars




--

"I got me no less than 5 mod points and I'm not afraid to use 'em. I'm a Moderator on the edge..."

The Next 50 Years in Space... (2, Insightful)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20463995)

...won't happen. We're almost out of many of our fossil fuels. Unless we find a sustainable way of getting "up there", we're going to be landbound for a while. I suspect the idiot Americans will start working on the nuclear air craft idea again. Why must business and lawyers interfere with EVERYTHING that could spell progress for us? We could have been so far ahead with the electric car (solar, rechargeable or fuel cell) if business didn't intervene to protect it's interests and try to squeeze every last dollar of profit out of fossil fuels. We could have had much better public mass transportation if the greedy heads of the auto industry didn't dismantle what once was (beautiful electric trolleys) to put down paved roads. Think about how much better off we'd be if all businesses actually paid attention to human considerations first: nature, natural approaches to health care starting with proper diets for everyone, renewable energy sources, and finally product built to last a long time instead of planned obsolescence and limited durability. My folks had a refrigerator from General Electric that they got in 1969 and it lasted until 1990. THAT is a perfect example of what a quality product's lifespan SHOULD be. Today, you can buy a fridge that has more bells and whistles, but it will die on you in seven years or less. You might be able to push ten years, but not without having some repair bills. The same thing should apply to big servers in IT. You SHOULD be able to buy a server today that will last 25 years for the capacity and applications you need. Those apps and the OS should be well supported within that 25 year period. THAT is a very realistic and responsible approach. THAT is something that vendors like Microfaust can't offer, but Linux based distros can. So, get with the program folks! Of course it won't happen. The money grubbing idiots of Amrican capitalism would just as soon burn their own children as fuel (which they are doing in Iraq) before they'd take any kind of financial hit. Our world is run by money addicts.

Re:The Next 50 Years in Space... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20464201)

*sniff* I smell a Communist.

Re:The Next 50 Years in Space... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20464743)

*sniff* I smell an American flag waving moron

Re:The Next 50 Years in Space... (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464299)

I second Eno2001's point. We were given a two trillion barrel gift of energy. We've pissed half of it away on crap like SUVs, Las Vegas, steak for breakfast, and 1800 mile Caesar Salads (as well as pesticides, fertiliser, electronic communications, and a variety of other useful things) and some of the useful things we've developed (modern medicine, dentistry, etc.) when combined with the discovery of germ theory and hygiene have now allowed our numbers to bloom like bacteria in a petri dish full of sugar and water.

We are completely and utterly fucked - I think the next 50 years is going to see an economic collapse of epic proportions as more and more people fight over less and lass oil. The noble niceties of space travel will go by the boards as the ruling classes scramble to prevent food riots and revolutions. I expect the first big shock between 2010 and 2014 as the easiest oil peaks out and skids down the Hubbert curve. After that, some time in the 2020s, the tar sand oil will peak and decline. The historical *total* peak of all petroleum liquids (when taken as an aggregate average) will be likely prove to have been sometime this year or perhaps last year, for the increases in Tar Sand oils won't offset the fact that nearly all the major producers are in decline, some dramatically collapsing (Mexico and North Sea) some flatlining and eroding (the Mid East, Venezuela) and some long past their prime and slowly dying (USA, Iran, etc.)

These numbers on this are easy to find. [dieoff.org]

Fusion would help a number of things, but so much of our infrastructure and materials are based in petroleum, that even Fusion may not be sustainable. I suspect it won't be, and furthermore, for all the cheerleading around Fusion, it's still decades away from workability *under present plans*, and should these plans fail, which they may, we'll still be (again) decades away from Fusion.

Solar power is good in a localised sense, but it won't generate the power soon enough to compensate, and what is every important: you can't eat electricity, but we DO eat petroleum (fertiliser and pesticides).

So, overall I think the space program is admirable, and I do think we need to send more robotic probes out there to continue our understanding of the universe, but the kind of "golly gosh jeekers" cheerleading for putting people in space is utterly retarded.

RS

Re:The Next 50 Years in Space... (0, Offtopic)

cowscows (103644) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464405)

Wow, it's impressive to see environmentalism, anti-capitalist sentiment, anit-americanism, and OS flame wars all crammed into one paragraph. Well done.

Re:The Next 50 Years in Space... (1)

Hasai (131313) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464865)

Goodness; if you'd replace "business" with "irresponsible government", and "Capitalism" with "Socialism" in most of that lovely rant, I'd agree with you wholeheartedly.

];)

Wouldn't it be wonderful (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464941)

If we were just much nicer to each other. Awwww, diddums.

The thing you've forgotten... No, scratch that, you're clearly about 12 years old... The thing you've never learned. Every human being on the planet is in direct competition with every other for status, resources and power.

 

Fifty more years of emphasizing the Wrong Stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20464037)

Prolly be another fifty years of spending oodles of dollars on pointless crap like growing crystals in "zero-G" or seeing how earthworms like weightlessness, while occasionally throwing a buck or two at the unmanned missions that produce the REAL science.

How I see the next 50 years in space shaping up... (4, Insightful)

Panaqqa (927615) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464089)

Based on what I read and what I know of the challenges involved, here's my guess as to a rough timeline for the next 50 years in space:

2010: Space shuttle retired
2014: New Orion vehicle mission to space station
2020: Moon landing by NASA
2027: Moon landing by China
2030: Privately owned shuttle equivalent
2031: Start construction of moon base
2035: Start construction of privately owned space station
2037: Manned Mars mission
2040: Permanent moon presence
2045: Construction of high earth orbit station
2050: "Space tug" type utility vehicle in use - first reusable vehicle permanently in space
2055: Permanent Mars presence proposed and reachable
2057: Testing of new drive types (ion perhaps) well underway

Looking beyond 2057 is futile. Perhaps even looking as far as 2057 is futile. I forget who it was that said this but perhaps it is apt: "The future is not only different from what we imagine, but different from what we CAN imagine."

One of two things, then one more (3, Funny)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464137)

Either:

Private space start ups will successfully sell and launch tourists then branch out into exploration projects intended to lead to colonization, or

Governments will allow them to develop to the point where it can let them think they're competing with Big Aerospace, offer them 10% of what it pays its corporate welfare favorite children, then have them merged and absorbed into those corporations to provide the equivalent of generic brand launch systems for resale to customers who couldn't otherwise afford it.

Then:

On the first weekend in October 2057 the last three living members of the National Association of Rocketry will meet up at the annual Homer Hickam And The Rocket Boys book signing and barbeque in Coalwood, West Virginia to fly some model rockets and brag about their massive knowledge of widely known (though incorrect) tricks for optimizing drag reduction and nostalgically misremembered trivia from space history, as all 200 citizens of Coalwood try to sell hamburgers and snow cones to the 15 tourists who've shown up to listen to the old farts and gawk at the Homer-shaped robot purchased with funds from the West Virginia Tourism Council, autographing paperback books and DVDs of "October Sky", while the Chinese Ministry of Smiling and Showing Off Our Glorious Technology for Public Relations Purposes launches a Soviet R-7 shaped Long March IX to orbit a Sputnik replica carrying a sample of Burt Rutan's ashes purchased on eBay from one of the 17 of trillionaire His Honorary Majesty Lord Sir Richard Branson's clones.

I intend to be one of those three.

Beginning From the Article (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464193)

"It is October 4th, 2057..."

And I'll be 87 years old :( - If I can make it.

I sure hope they come up with some nanotech to keep me around to see a manned mission to Titan.

Vaguely remember it (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464535)

And what I sensed in the adults was the paranoia of having this Russian thing overhead every hour. In contemporary parlance, a circling Orange Terror Alert that supported the Cold War. So Sputnik had a dark side in its cultural context.

as years go by, the need to probe Uranus goes up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20464585)

the more you know

commercial interests (2, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464915)

will be the mainstay. Someone will find commercial value in doing work off planet and from that point forward, permanent habitats will be self sustaining (in terms of population -- you'll still need imports from Earth to survive).

As for the next 50 years, I expect commercial access to low Earth orbit to be the limit achived by private enterprise. Of course, private companies provide the equipment for the future manned lunar launches. Given that they have the technology, a few corporations will be capable of sending people and supplies off world; but, they will be waiting for someone to come along with a viable business model to foot the bill for the launch vehicles, equipment, shelters, etc. Until then, it will remain goverment funded.

This is just one of those cases where, if you build the infrastructure, the people will follow; but, you have to build the infrastructure first. This is such a hard thing to do, governments are going to have to do it. Once there's a destination and some capacity to travel back and forth, business' will become interested in taking over different aspects. Once they're in, corporations will look for other ways to make money from the resources. Once they find ways to make money, they'll build out, hire people, etc. I wouldn't expect this to happen for 100-150 years.

Space: China, India, and Private Entrepreneurs (2, Insightful)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 6 years ago | (#20464933)

The European Union Canada, and US governments have basically turned into nanny states, more interested in the distribution of health-care dollars and the care and feeding of old people. You know, the people who vote the most.

Given that these governments are basically huge wealth-transfer pumps, taking from the producers and giving to the consumers, with no room for anything else, I expect nothing from them but decline.

India and China aren't burdened like this - yet, so I expect much of the work to come from them. I also expect more from private individuals like Jeff Bezos.

But from the ESA, or NASA, I expect nothing.
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