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AZgazer
2004-May-02, 12:02 AM
I am curious as to what is keeping us from manned deep space exploration? I am not interested in budgetary restraints, more the technological end of it.

The reason I ask is I spent a few nights about 5 years ago looking at the skies with a retired professor and a very serious amatuer astronomer. This topic was discussed at length with the biggest obstacle stated being radiation exposure over time, with muscle atrophy being second. The prof said he had collegues who were working on advanced ceramics that could solve this problem.

So my question is, is radiation exposure the main hurdle? and if so are ceramics the answer and how close to implementation are we? If radiation is not the biggest hold back, what is?

Glom
2004-May-02, 12:09 AM
With these ceramics, I think ambient radiation isn't too much of a problem. I believe solar particle events are more of a concern.

Ut
2004-May-02, 01:00 AM
Oh, and insanity. For me, anyway, you'd have to have one heck of a Nintendo to keep me entertained for all those years. Especially if NASA's going to be chemically supressing various bits.

Patrator
2004-May-02, 01:12 AM
Oh, and insanity. For me, anyway, you'd have to have one heck of a Nintendo to keep me entertained for all those years. Especially if NASA's going to be chemically supressing various bits.

i.e. Propulsion Technology.

somerandomguy
2004-May-02, 01:39 AM
Oh, and insanity. For me, anyway, you'd have to have one heck of a Nintendo to keep me entertained for all those years. Especially if NASA's going to be chemically supressing various bits.

That would make a great sci-fi novel:

A group of explorers is sent into deep space in a last-ditch effort to stave off human extinction. To keep them sane, everyone is plugged into a robust, ultra-realistic "Matrix"-like simulator for the duration of the trip. Trouble is, as the thousands of years go by, everyone forgets they're plugged into the system, and when they finally arrive at the target system, they end up a self-contained, useless hulk, orbiting what would be an ideal planet for colonization, circling eternally because no one knows how to unplug the video game ...

Then one day one of the natives of the new planet finds the ship and shuts off the system, and is hailed by half of the explorers as some kind of savior, but cursed by the other half as the destroyer of the universe.

Has that been written? Seems like it has .... :-k

Squink
2004-May-02, 02:11 AM
Has that been written? Seems like it has .... :-k Several times. I found Phillip K. Dick's take on it in www.dvara.net/HK/IHope.rtf+dick+%22i+hope+i+shall+arrive+soon%22&hl =en&ie=UTF-8]I (http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:HV6E89InALwJ:[url) Hope I shall Arrive Soon[/url] particularly disturbing:
After takeoff the ship routinely monitored the condition of the sixty people sleeping in its cryonic tanks. One malfunction showed, that of person nine. His EEG revealed brain activity.

******, the ship said to itself.

**Complex homeostatic devices locked into circuit feed, and the ship contacted person nine.

**"You are slightly awake," the ship said, utilizing the psychotronic route; there was no point in rousing person nine to full consciousness--after all, the flight would last a decade.

PeterFab
2004-May-02, 06:25 AM
Has that been written? Seems like it has .... :-k

Poul Anderson wrote a short story, 'The Saturn Game', where the astronauts on a mission to Saturn spent much of the time in a VR fantasy setting.
It gave them some serious problems dealing with reality.

eburacum45
2004-May-02, 07:03 AM
Well the answer is to concentrate on virtual scenarios which are based around the destination world, and the procedures which will have to be performed when they get there.

We will have plenty of time to develop such programmes, as deep space exploration is many many decades away.

I don't imagine that long distance manned missions will occur until faster, more powerful and safer ships have been developed; the development of the outersolar system is a hundred years away or more. If a support infrastructure can be set up in orbit and on the Moon a lot of the logistical problems will be made easier.

One danger is that the VR programs could become so real that no-one will want to bother to go to Mars or Jupiter when it is simpler to stay at home and travel there in virch.

Chip
2004-May-02, 08:30 AM
Propulsion Technology.

Agreed. I'd also want long term environmental maintenance and some sort of artificial gravity. I think we have the technology even today for all this, but propulsion systems would be the most difficult. Some sort of very-close-to-light-speed travel would be extremely difficult but very cool, in fact essential. There are several threads here that have talked about types of propulsion systems.

I'm not into the "Matrix" so VR entertainment for long space voyages is of little interest to me. Start with a committed crew that has plenty to do and regular routines. Humans are very adaptable, and you'd want very adaptable people on board.

DreadCthulhu
2004-May-02, 11:41 PM
The biggest thing keeping us from deep space is that we need a much cheaper way to get stuff into orbit, or at least establish large scale space manufacturing. Propulsion technology also needs to be refined -chemical rockets just won't cut it, you are going to need nuclear engines or some other energy dense power source. With that, you can bring enough mass for radiation shielding; you can also build you ship big enough to have a spinning section for pseudo-gravity.

I think the psychological aspects are overplayed; submariners can handle very isolated and confined spaces for months at a time, I don't think space travel would be all that different. Just make sure to take along lots of movies & video games.

AZgazer
2004-May-02, 11:54 PM
Thanks for the responses so far. So propulsion would seem to be the winner of biggest obstalce. This has been a curiosity of mine for some time and I appreciate the fresh views. :D

daver
2004-May-03, 05:32 PM
Thanks for the responses so far. So propulsion would seem to be the winner of biggest obstalce. This has been a curiosity of mine for some time and I appreciate the fresh views. :D

Just to reiterate: given better propulsion you could have

1. Spin gravity.
2. More mass for shielding.
3. Quicker trips.
4. Bigger ships (a couple hundred people on a ship would solve most of the psychological problems).

Or, to put it another way, "there is no such thing as ineffective brute force, just insufficient brute force."

Swift
2004-May-03, 06:11 PM
I don't know that we can dismiss life support. Can we construct closed life support systems that will work months to years, without resupply from Earth? The ISS gets re-supplied on a regular basis, that would be harder with a Mars or deeper mission. This would get even harder for a bigger ship.

SciFi Chick
2004-May-03, 06:33 PM
I don't know that we can dismiss life support. Can we construct closed life support systems that will work months to years, without resupply from Earth? The ISS gets re-supplied on a regular basis, that would be harder with a Mars or deeper mission. This would get even harder for a bigger ship.

What type of supplies?

AZgazer
2004-May-03, 06:35 PM
The size/weight of the reactor seems to be the main problem. Object strikes and sealability/breather systems seem to be other concerns often mentioned.

Why not assemble an aircraft carrier sized craft in space? To me that would seem to solve the reactor problem, also if we're making it that big couldn't we make it sturdy enough to survive some debri? As far a sealability I wouldn't think this to be much of an issue. We have tunnels running miles under water, datalines crossing oceans... or are those technologies not applicable to space? A larger craft could also house 500 people so it didn't seem like the world's worse car trip ever. A dense greenhouse for recycling air would be possible. One last thought wouldn't that also enable us to launch/control surface vehicles much better? OK, I lied one more... I see the size and being able to have some engineering/manufacturing/repair personnel as an absolute bonus that can't be over looked.

I guess my thoughts on making this happen are, smaller isn't always better. The budget to make it happen would of course be astronomical and that can't be ignored. (Sorry, couldn't help myself) :cry:

(edited for spelling & clarity)

TheGalaxyTrio
2004-May-03, 06:36 PM
(a couple hundred people on a ship would solve most of the psychological problems)

Heh heh. Sorry, but I think I might put that one in the "famous last words" file. :)

Brady Yoon
2004-May-03, 07:29 PM
This has probably been said before, but I think it's the time. Space travel takes so long; no one wants to be out in space for half their whole life.

Kaptain K
2004-May-03, 08:26 PM
This has probably been said before, but I think it's the time. Space travel takes so long; no one wants to be out in space for half their whole life.
Nobody? Speak for yourself!

daver
2004-May-03, 08:42 PM
(a couple hundred people on a ship would solve most of the psychological problems)

Heh heh. Sorry, but I think I might put that one in the "famous last words" file. :)

OK, but people have spent their entire lives within social structures that size. Actually, until relatively recently that was on the large size of social groups. There has to be some means of controlling the malcontents, but again, there's nothing new here.

Kaptain K
2004-May-03, 08:49 PM
... There has to be some means of controlling the malcontents...
Space 'em! :o

AZgazer
2004-May-03, 08:52 PM
... There has to be some means of controlling the malcontents...
Space 'em! :o

Talk about "chillin" out while you're punished!

eburacum45
2004-May-03, 08:53 PM
Thirty people has been calculated to be the number of people in a palaeolithic 'band' or small tribe; you might decide to have a ship's complement around that figure.

That was the number I put on board my fictional ship headed for Neptune;
http://www.orionsarm.com/stories/Cantaloupe_Terrain.html

of course things did not run smoothly...

Emspak
2004-May-03, 09:01 PM
Maybe the problem is simple: there isn't any reason to be there in space.

Everywhere else people have moved to there was a reason to go beyond scientific curiosity. Either environments were a problem at home or there was something to do where they went -- like better hunting grounds, or better fields, or a more easily defendable position from other people.

Space doesn't offer much of these things.

When there is a reason to go there, then people might be more interested in the capital investment to be made. Otherwise you aren't offering much. Drawing paralells with Colombus is not quite right, I think -- he and Magellan and all those other guys were after wealth they could take, not knowledge (though the latter was nice to have as well). Exploration for science's sake is very 19th and 20th century. (Hopefully it will be something we do a lot of in th 21st as well).

A better analogy might be deserts. There are a lot of reasons to visit te area around Las Vegas, but it took the provision of cheap power and water at huge public expense to make the place a viable city, and the invention of the jet plane as well. And the city exists becuase tourists want to gamble buy sex, essentially.

Unless you can offer something similar in space, I don't see it taking off as a destination, much as I would like to go.

AZgazer
2004-May-03, 09:09 PM
I was hoping the fact that we have finite physical space for living, fuel & food sources etc... on earch would compel someone to take a look before it becomes a real issue.

Oh, the pictures and knowledge gained as well would make a nice bonus IMHO. :) I'll sign up even if it's just to change the lightbulbs. \:D/

daver
2004-May-03, 09:34 PM
I was hoping the fact that we have finite physical space for living...

I've trimmed the resources bit, but space as expansion room for excess population has been pretty thoroughly discredited (if you like to play with calculators, you could figure out how long at the given population growth rate it would take for the mass of humanity to equal the mass of the solar system, or the galaxy, or the universe).

AZgazer
2004-May-03, 09:49 PM
My thoughts concerning population wasn't necessarily a global relocation, but more of an expansion. Why live in the city when you can live in the country kind of thing.

Also if we had a new place to populate even if it meant a small portion of Earth was relocated, wouldn't that reduce the strains on the other finite resources, therefore increasing the amount of time Humans could sustain life on Earth?

I also think there would be more of a problem with moving as many people who wanted to leave than having a lack of volunteers.

daver
2004-May-03, 10:05 PM
My thoughts concerning population wasn't necessarily a global relocation, but more of an expansion. Why live in the city when you can live in the country kind of thing.

Also if we had a new place to populate even if it meant a small portion of Earth was relocated, wouldn't that reduce the strains on the other finite resources, therefore increasing the amount of time Humans could sustain life on Earth?

How long would it take for the remaining population on earth to expand into the vacated space?


I also think there would be more of a problem with moving as many people who wanted to leave than having a lack of volunteers.
Yep. The only way colonization as a way to relieve population pressure would work would be an approach like C. M. Kornbluth's in "The Marching Morons". A star gate (like the one in Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky) might be a short-term solution.

AZgazer
2004-May-03, 11:22 PM
[quote=AZgazer]My thoughts concerning population wasn't necessarily a global relocation, but more of an expansion. Why live in the city when you can live in the country kind of thing.

Also if we had a new place to populate even if it meant a small portion of Earth was relocated, wouldn't that reduce the strains on the other finite resources, therefore increasing the amount of time Humans could sustain life on Earth?

How long would it take for the remaining population on earth to expand into the vacated space?
[quote]


As much as I would love to attempt to answer that question, I can't with any amount of accuracy. :cry: There are too many variables that cause problems (for me mathmatically at least, not saying it's impossible). The main ones would be life expectancies/reproductive rates varying across the globe, also food growing areas pose a problem.

For the model are we using 1st world or 3rd world rates? People don't mind building up, but the amount of living space varies greatly among cultures. The amount of food growing area also fluxes depending on how high/dense people are willing to live before it's unacceptable.

daver
2004-May-03, 11:55 PM
As much as I would love to attempt to answer that question, I can't with any amount of accuracy.

For most reasonable emmigration rates, the answer is that it takes an insignificant amount of time to make up the difference. Emmigration may make for an improved life for the emmigrants, but it doesn't do an awful lot for the ones that stay behind.