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View Full Version : Moving into space.



Damburger
2005-Mar-15, 04:01 PM
Humanities efforts to expand into the cosmos have been fairly rubbish for the past 10 years. We went to the moon. Woo. Then we stopped going to the moon because people decided that making consumerist crap and fighting wars were better ways to spend money.

How are we to move away from Earth then, in large numbers and permanantly?

I've been formulating some basic ideas. Here goes:

1) The nearest resource in space is the Moon, and its damn hard to get to with our LEO-orientated technology. Carefully moving an asteroid into a lower orbit around Earth would provide a source of materials for space colonisation that would not require so much effort to get to. This isn't nearly as hard as it sounds: We already know how to land on rocky asteroids, and such bodies would only require a little push to create a large change in their course over the periods of time such a mission would take. Given the efforts that have been invested in finding ways to deflect asteroids away from us, we should be able to figure out a simple way of deflecting them towards us.

2) People need to provide services in space. There are a few I've thought of:

* Enriching/processing nuclear fuel. Sending up read-to-use fuel rods is generally considered a Really Bad Idea, so why not send up raw materials and convert them to fuel in a nice high orbit?

* Life support. With an ample supply of power from the fuel rods I just mentioned, Large scale oxygen recycling could eliminate the need to have the stuff shipped from earth. Furthermore, if you operate a system where people give you their CO2 and you give them Oxygen back, you might be able to use the carbon for some other process (hey, don't nuclear reactors use carbon to moderate the neutrons....)

* Manufacturing big things.

If you think this is stupid, as manufacturing in space is always going to be more expensive than manufacturing on earth, consider that not everything is suitable for that. Things made in space are not subject to the stresses of launch nor the size constraints of rockets. If someone wanted a rotating space station for artificial gravity for example, it would require some very long beams which would be impractical to launch on rockets. Fragile solar sails might also be better created in space.

If you can pursue such things then you can justify spending a lot more on space, whilst at the same time lowering the costs for others attempting to get into space. Hopefully this would lead to a positive feedback effect.

Any thoughts?

DoktorGreg
2005-Mar-15, 06:03 PM
Well first off, I dont think you can escape socital problems by "running away". The source of those problems (resource allocation) is still going to be there in space. Even moreso because peoples needs in space, or an on earth colony, are going to be much much more significant.

Air quality in any close system like this is going to be a huge issue. I dont think it is possible to over emphasize that. No only do you need to add oxygen, but you also need to "scrub" the air of contaminants. On a other worldly colony the problem would be somewhat mitigated, as gravity can be used to help the filtering process. In orbit it is almost overwhelming. The main contaminent is going to be co2. This requires soda lime to filter it out. Soda lime is a product of eons of time and biological processes in the ocean depositing it in sedemantary layers. Otherwise, it only exists on earth. Basically unless a replacement for soda lime can be found, an off world colony is simply not possible.

Next issue is hydrocarbons. As far as I can tell human civilization requires the consumption of hydrocarbons. Just about every product now made absolutely requires their use. Therefore any potential colony site will have hydrocarbons in massive quantities. Titan anyone? Anyhow, orbital colonies are out. A colony has to be able to live off the land, and orbit doesnt even have that. It only offers the bleak emptiness of vacuum. However I do see some (minimal) potential here for living off of materials in the oort cloud, but as of yet we know next to nothing about this region of space.

Manufacturing... As if consumerism is the solution to our earthly problems...IMO, technology will need to advance to a point that space engineering more resembles Monster Garage then it does NASA engineering. Oddly this is one area that I see massive potential. It is my opinion that robotic manufacturing technology is in its infancy and will only start to mature (become automaton) over the next 20 to 30 years. The current tool shop will give up its table saw, drill press and lathe to be replaced by cnc machines. Later the construction work crew will be replaced by a series of cut, pick and place robots, that build a house with minimal human interaction. Consumer products will be extruded by home applicances. Need a new coffee pot? Simply bring the plans up and have the consumer products appliance print one out. Once the robotics are at that level here on earth, then we can reconsider the challenges of living in space.

In the end, I dont think humans will ever live in space as a result of sheer will. That is, they choose to live in space so they do. Human will live in space because of survival. That is, humans will have made earth so inhospitable that living on another planet is not a big effort. Living on another planet may be desirable as all the resources of earth are exhausted. The environment on Earth is more hostile than the environment on the Moon, or Mars.

As far as I can tell, the arc of human history is this. No one ever does anything because they want to. Choice is an illusion, a coping mechanism. Ultimately, people do things because they have to.

Damburger
2005-Mar-15, 06:26 PM
Well first off, I dont think you can escape socital problems by "running away". The source of those problems (resource allocation) is still going to be there in space. Even moreso because peoples needs in space, or an on earth colony, are going to be much much more significant.


The hostility of the environment will encourage cooperation, hopefully. Furthermore, the resources of the solar system in general are far greater than the resources of Earth alone. In the end, its worth it.



Air quality in any close system like this is going to be a huge issue. I dont think it is possible to over emphasize that. No only do you need to add oxygen, but you also need to "scrub" the air of contaminants. On a other worldly colony the problem would be somewhat mitigated, as gravity can be used to help the filtering process. In orbit it is almost overwhelming. The main contaminent is going to be co2. This requires soda lime to filter it out. Soda lime is a product of eons of time and biological processes in the ocean depositing it in sedemantary layers. Otherwise, it only exists on earth. Basically unless a replacement for soda lime can be found, an off world colony is simply not possible.


Soda lime is a mixture of various hydroxides, yes? Surely then when it is used up it will still containt the metals which can be extracted by electrolysis? After that it is simply a matter of reacting the metal with water to get back to the original product. If you are running a station with a nuclear reactor this sounds like a killer app.



Next issue is hydrocarbons. As far as I can tell human civilization requires the consumption of hydrocarbons. Just about every product now made absolutely requires their use. Therefore any potential colony site will have hydrocarbons in massive quantities. Titan anyone? Anyhow, orbital colonies are out. A colony has to be able to live off the land, and orbit doesnt even have that. It only offers the bleak emptiness of vacuum. However I do see some (minimal) potential here for living off of materials in the oort cloud, but as of yet we know next to nothing about this region of space.


As I said in my OP, one good idea would be to bring a suitably mineral rich asteroid close to earth to give us some land to work with. Hydrocarbons would be an issue, but given that in the next 100 years we are going to have to figure out how to live without them in any event, we may as well get it figured out now.



Manufacturing... As if consumerism is the solution to our earthly problems...IMO, technology will need to advance to a point that space engineering more resembles Monster Garage then it does NASA engineering. Oddly this is one area that I see massive potential. It is my opinion that robotic manufacturing technology is in its infancy and will only start to mature (become automaton) over the next 20 to 30 years. The current tool shop will give up its table saw, drill press and lathe to be replaced by cnc machines. Later the construction work crew will be replaced by a series of cut, pick and place robots, that build a house with minimal human interaction. Consumer products will be extruded by home applicances. Need a new coffee pot? Simply bring the plans up and have the consumer products appliance print one out. Once the robotics are at that level here on earth, then we can reconsider the challenges of living in space.


Having humans make things in space gives humans a way to get into space. If item X is needed up there and for whatever reason cannot be launched from the surface, a group can justify the massive expense of going into space by charging for this item. The items I'm thinking of aren't consumer items, they are things like large structural components and nuclear fuels.



In the end, I dont think humans will ever live in space as a result of sheer will. That is, they choose to live in space so they do. Human will live in space because of survival. That is, humans will have made earth so inhospitable that living on another planet is not a big effort. Living on another planet may be desirable as all the resources of earth are exhausted. The environment on Earth is more hostile than the environment on the Moon, or Mars.

As far as I can tell, the arc of human history is this. No one ever does anything because they want to. Choice is an illusion, a coping mechanism. Ultimately, people do things because they have to.

I disagree. Space offers something that simply cannot be found here on Earth: Freedom. Political power on Earth is do deeply entrenched that there is little chance of any significant social change, ever. New societies cannot form under this condition so human progress is only possible outside the reach of Earth.

eburacum45
2005-Mar-15, 10:21 PM
In the end, I dont think humans will ever live in space as a result of sheer will. That is, they choose to live in space so they do. Human will live in space because of survival. That is, humans will have made earth so inhospitable that living on another planet is not a big effort. Living on another planet may be desirable as all the resources of earth are exhausted. The environment on Earth is more hostile than the environment on the Moon, or Mars.

Even if we make the atmosphere of Earth unbreathable through excess carbon dioxide or any other pollutant it will still remain the most hospitable planet in the Solar System. Here there is water, oxygen, and all the elements required for life; even a polluted Earth would be more habitable than the airless moons, or Mars, or red hot Venus...

DoktorGreg
2005-Mar-15, 11:41 PM
In the end, I dont think humans will ever live in space as a result of sheer will. That is, they choose to live in space so they do. Human will live in space because of survival. That is, humans will have made earth so inhospitable that living on another planet is not a big effort. Living on another planet may be desirable as all the resources of earth are exhausted. The environment on Earth is more hostile than the environment on the Moon, or Mars.

Even if we make the atmosphere of Earth unbreathable through excess carbon dioxide or any other pollutant it will still remain the most hospitable planet in the Solar System. Here there is water, oxygen, and all the elements required for life; even a polluted Earth would be more habitable than the airless moons, or Mars, or red hot Venus...

I try not to limit my imagination that way. Yes, of the poisons/toxins that we know about it is hard to imagine an Earth so polluted that Mars or the Moon look better. However the things or possibilites we know about are not the real danger. Arthur C Clarks industrial accidents come to mind.

Anyhow, I wasnt speaking in short time periods of 100-200 years, I am thinking a 1000 years out. Grey goo and Ice-9 type events. A super virus developed in a biological warfare lab. Basically anything that makes the Earth environment more hostile than Mars or the moon.

Anyhow, no one knows for certain if co2 emission will result in a runaway green house gas effect, which the Earth might be as hostile as Venus. I would give that possibility an extremely small chance, but I dont think anyone can dismiss it. In that case, Mars and the Moon look really appealing.

kenneth rodman
2005-Mar-18, 11:48 AM
just an idea about what could be manufactured in space: Ballberrings. Only in space could you make a perfect ballberring.

TravisM
2005-Mar-18, 12:12 PM
There's high concentrations of sillicates and titanium and other such metals on the moon...

publiusr
2005-Mar-18, 06:55 PM
Good place for nuclear waste--and large power plants. I would only allow genetic mods to be done off-world--if it were up to me.

That would cause the pharma-billionaire companies to fund space more. With ISS being a moon/mars ship simulatior, now is the time to talk about LARGE orbital facilities. lofted by the same big vehicles needed for Space Based lasers and moon ships.

mopc
2005-Mar-19, 10:18 PM
Read "Mining the Sky" and "Moon Rush".... just read them... it answers most of these questions on how to move into space, and mainly, why.