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Noclevername
2008-Oct-28, 03:50 PM
As humanity gets set to extend itself into space, there are two possible solutions to overcoming the inherent dangers of its deadly environment; to surround ourselves with a more amenable environment, or to modify ourselves to not need such protection. I've heard it speculated, even by some right here on this board, that we needen't bother building space habitats because "real soon now", we'll be able to alter ourselves to survive without them, to somehow make the problems of hukman adaptation to space (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_adaptation_to_space) go away. But what exactly do these methods imply?

Humans in space face several problems. Radiation, vacuum, weightlessness, and the need for life support; i.e., food, water, oxygen, and a livable temperature.

Space habitats are airtight pressure containers, usually with compartmentation of some description and some form of damage control such as hull patches, with airlocks, so vacuum becomes a manageable factor. These problems have been largely counted as solved since the earliest days of human space travel, or there wouldn't have been any human space travel.

Radiation is simply a matter of matter; the opacity of various substances to EM and ionizing radiation are known factors, confirmed experimentally by physicists around the world. A few meters' thichkness of Lunar regolith, asteroidal rubble, or water tankage will turn a hellstorm of radiation into a safe haven. During the increased danger of solar flares, a central shelter with incresed protective shielding may be used.

The best solution to weightlessness is simply to give the inhabitants weght, by spinning the habitat or sections thereof. The material strengths, structural designs and rates of spin per diameter needed for a station to have a 1-g spin, or a signifigant fraction thereof, have decades ago been worked out, reviewed and confirmed over and over again by thousands of engineers.

The colsed-cycle ecology is still a work in progress; but many factors are known, such as the nutritional, oxygen, and water needs of a human being, the precise amount of water and materials nedded for various food crops, how much CO2/O2 exchange is performed by specific plant species, various combinations of crops required to provide the necessary nutrition to keep a human population healthy, how to balance carbon and nitrogen cycles, etc. Temperature maintainence on a space habitat would be a matter of measuring solar input, and deploying thermal radiators and possibly sunshades. Means for doing so are also being studied extensively by engineers and have been used in numerous space stations and space vehicles for decades.

Now let's look at the other option:

Step One: Become a cyborg!

Step Two: ???

Step Three: Profit!

Every time I've tried to nail down the specifics of how one could be converted to a spacedweeling lifeform, I've gotten nothing but handwaving. How exactly would you prevent weightlessness from affecting anatomy and metabolism? Handwaving. How would you provide as much radiation shielding as several meters of regolith or a meter of aluminum? Wave, wave, wave. How would you provide energy and shed waste heat without having giant panels sticking out all over? Hi, yes, I see you too. And the kicker; How in the heck would you create a balanced closed-cycle ecosystem small enough to fit in a human body? Which would obviously be far more difficult than designing one for a space habitat? Oh boy with the handwaving. It's enough to give you carpal tunnel syndrome!

The ides for space habitats have been worked on for decades by many engineers and scientists, who have come out with specifiec, detailed plans and blueprints. Most of which are chock full of good, crunchy information like specific measurments, amounts of materials required and where to get them, how to process and manufacture the parts from said materials, even planting schedules for crops. The problems aren't all worked out, especially that of a longterm ecosystem, but the major details will only really be solveable with field experience in space itself. If we had the money, manpower and rocket power available, we could start building one today. Heck, we could have done so many years ago.

Does anyone actually have anything specific or concrete on how to make a Super Cyborg Space Survivor? Or is it just a palmful of digits fanning languidly at the air?...

tdvance
2008-Oct-28, 05:06 PM
yeah--live in a virtual reality machine while robots do the exploring and send the data back. Of course, the farther the robot goes, the more lag....

stutefish
2008-Oct-28, 05:53 PM
While I'm a staunch advocate of the guided human adaptation approach, right here in this forum, I don't think I've ever claimed the extravagant and ludicrous strawman noclevername presents in the OP.

I don't believe such capabilities as he describes--or even such capabilities as I describe--will be available "real soon now".

I do acknowledge that most of what I expect to come in the future is based on a general belief that technology will continue to advance in the future in the same way it has in the past, rather than a specific technical knowledge of this particular field and its near-term prospects. If noclevername wants to call this handwaving, then so be it.

But in fact I don't need to do much handwaving at all, regarding the OP, since I'm not really claiming what the OP attributes to hypothetical members of my camp.

ETA: Actually, re-reading this, I do need to do much handwaving. So be it.

Take radiation, for example. The OP demands shielding. But what about organisms with a higher tolerance for radiation damage, or a better recovery/repair rate? What about onboard DNA archives, from which known-good data can be accessed to repair damaged cells? This is handwaving, true, but once upon a time people handwaved about space stations, too. I think there's more than one way to approach the problem.

Nor do I claim that it's necessary to create a "balanced closed-cycle ecosystem small enough to fit in the human body". I'm not sure it's even possible, for one thing. But then again, what do we mean by "human body", in the context of space travel, a hundred, or a thousand years from now? Do we still mean something so thoroughly optimized for the terrestrial environment that it's utterly useless for any other? Or do we mean something optimized for the habitat it has chosen as its home and the home of its descendants to the nth generation?

What I expect is that over the near term, space stations will continue to be expensive, extravagant affairs, wasting huge amounts of resources trying to provide as much of a terrestrial environment as possible to organisms that cannot abide any other environment for any extended period of time.

Further along, if (when?) the urge for long-term space habitation and the technology to support it more closely converge, we will see both an increase in space-adapted morphologies, and an increase in the efficiency of space stations that are designed to support such organisms in the areas where their space-optimization is not complete (or possible).

Terrestrial humans shed. Any long-term space habitat will have to expend literally tons of mass and energy dealing with this. At some point, it might become practical (and will almost surely become technologically possible), to reduce or eliminate shedding entirely, and in turn reduce the amount of resources required to deal with shedding in a space station.

Humans have legs. These are supremely useful under acceleration, but a waste of metabolism in zero-g. Surely another set of arms would be better suited to many spacefaring scenarios. And a zero-g space station would require a lot less resources than a station that had to replicate 1 g for any significant number of personnel or over any significant period of time.

To me, it's not a question of solving the problem (human spacefaring) this way (space stations) or that (transhumanism). Rather, it's a question of solving the problem the best way possible. A lot of our spacefaring problems are profoundly biological. If the past performance of human ingenuity and scientific curiosity is any indicator--and I absolutely believe it is--then at some point in the future it will certainly make sense to solve these problems biologically, rather than mechanically.

formulaterp
2008-Oct-28, 07:15 PM
To me, it's not a question of solving the problem (human spacefaring) this way (space stations) or that (transhumanism). Rather, it's a question of solving the problem the best way possible. A lot of our spacefaring problems are profoundly biological. If the past performance of human ingenuity and scientific curiosity is any indicator--and I absolutely believe it is--then at some point in the future it will certainly make sense to solve these problems biologically, rather than mechanically.

So we have two choices:

1) Rotating habitats with improved air circulation and dust filters.

2) Turning ourselves into 4-armed lizard scale-covered freaks.

Maybe we should turn this into a poll.

stutefish
2008-Oct-28, 07:25 PM
So we have two choices:

1) Rotating habitats with improved air circulation and dust filters.

2) Turning ourselves into 4-armed lizard scale-covered freaks.

Maybe we should turn this into a poll.
Actually I imagine something based on the squid chassis would be even better.

But yeah, if you find the idea of altering human biology and morphology in order to better optimize it for non-terrestrial environments, then of course you're going to insist that as much of your budget as necessary be allocated to bringing as much of the earth as you can along on your space travels.

PraedSt
2008-Oct-28, 07:36 PM
I'm sort of positive about transhumanism, but reading about squids and four arms, I think I ought to point out that keeping our basic body form might be a good idea. At least for a few generations. I'm not sure I could fancy a squid... :)

stutefish
2008-Oct-28, 07:49 PM
Mind you, I'm not proposing that all of humanity should adopt this or that specific spacefaring morphology.

I'm proposing that future developments in biology and other fields may very well give those who desire it the option of a more efficient biological solution to certain spacefaring problems.

Obviously those who due to personal preference, lack of funds, or other factors prefer to remain earthbound or wish to retain their terrestrial optimization, would forgo such biological solutions.

If they remained earthbound, they'd live out their lives in the company of others similarly optimized for such a lifestyle. Squid-types would pretty rare (at least on land; and there might be more bear-types, or other even stranger morphs).

If they chose a life in space, under the conditions noclevername specifies, they will naturally spend a much greater proportion of their available funds and other resources on recreating an earthlike environment suited to their biological limitations; compared to those who opted instead for biological optimizations, a much cheaper and more efficient habitat, and a much larger proportion of their mission budget available for payload. (Of course, this assumes that their budget won't be broken by costly biological modification procedures. Obviously early efforts in this direction will be much less profitable than later efforts.)

PraedSt
2008-Oct-28, 08:22 PM
...and there might be more bear-types...

Now it's bears? :eek:
Come on stutefish...I'm only half joking, how do we solve the attraction problem? Artificial pregnancies I can accept, but how about the bit before? Seems we'll either have to have a boring existence, or have some more engineering done, in order to find paws and teeth attractive... :)

Ilya
2008-Oct-28, 08:35 PM
Now it's bears? :eek:
Come on stutefish...I'm only half joking, how do we solve the attraction problem? Artificial pregnancies I can accept, but how about the bit before? Seems we'll either have to have a boring existence, or have some more engineering done, in order to find paws and teeth attractive... :)

Bears may be a really bad example, but I personally know quite a few people would would LOVE to have some feline characteristics. Including tails.

Seriously, I suspect that cosmetic biomodifications will always be far more numerous and varied than functional ones. Look at a typical rave crowd, and imagine what would happen if they could actually grow muticolored fur, retractable claws*, elf ears, tails, and cat pupils.

* I suppose that is both cosmetic and functional

mugaliens
2008-Oct-28, 08:47 PM
Space beatle with transparent shell allows sunlight to fuel symbiotic algae which provides oxygen, gaseous pressure, and food. Maneuvering propulsion is achieved by combining exhaust methane with oxygen.

Shell is thick, and ablative, allowing for atmospheric reentry. Upon stabilization, exterior shell is shed, and the shell beneath are the beetle's wings, used for landing and subsequent locomotion.

Noclevername
2008-Oct-28, 09:01 PM
There's no straw-manning about it. Building space habitats require no advances in technology, only engineering refinements and adaptations of existing technology. Space-capable conversion of the human body would require lots of advances in lots of fields, and right now we don't even know for sure what fields such radical alterations would encompass.

Saying that a circumstance will come about just because "technology advances" is the very definition of handwaving. Many complex problems must be solved, many of which may in fact prove impossible to solve, before Space Man can become a reality. The reason radiation-tolerant species are so is mainly that they are simpler lifeforms whose cellular and tissue structures have less that can go wrong, and can survive with more things going wrong. We may be able to make ourselves a bit more rad-tolerant than H. Sapes are today, but not to the degree of a Tardigrade if we expect our brains to able to continue to function as well as they do now. Physics is physics, biology is biology, and you need to back up your claims of the possible with specific data, just like any other claims made here. Space habitats have had such data accrued and refined, and constantly checked and confirmed. If you can provide such a wealth of fact-based data and solid engineering proposals for Space Man, I'll be convinced.

stutefish
2008-Oct-28, 09:25 PM
Now it's bears? :eek:
Come on stutefish...I'm only half joking, how do we solve the attraction problem? Artificial pregnancies I can accept, but how about the bit before? Seems we'll either have to have a boring existence, or have some more engineering done, in order to find paws and teeth attractive... :)
I, for one, have no interest at all in the "furry" subculture. But it does exist, and by all accounts has already solved your problem--at least in principle.

But yeah, I imagine it'll be an interesting problem. I also imagine most of those who choose such forms will find themselves attracted to others who have done the same, or will--in the case of spacefarers--find themselves among others who have prioritized other pleasures above physical attraction.

PraedSt
2008-Oct-28, 09:28 PM
Look at a typical rave crowd, and imagine what would happen if they could actually grow muticolored fur, retractable claws*, elf ears, tails, and cat pupils.

Heh. So true. Wouldn't mind a pair of wings myself ;)
Still, you'd have to clear it with your partner first wouldn't you? Unless all changes were easily reversible, of course...


I also imagine most of those who choose such forms will find themselves attracted to others who have done the same
Yes, I think that'll have to be it...

stutefish
2008-Oct-28, 09:34 PM
There's no straw-manning about it. Building space habitats require no advances in technology, only engineering refinements and adaptations of existing technology. Space-capable conversion of the human body would require lots of advances in lots of fields, and right now we don't even know for sure what fields such radical alterations would encompass.

Saying that a circumstance will come about just because "technology advances" is the very definition of handwaving. Many complex problems must be solved, many of which may in fact prove impossible to solve, before Space Man can become a reality. The reason radiation-tolerant species are so is mainly that they are simpler lifeforms whose cellular and tissue structures have less that can go wrong, and can survive with more things going wrong. We may be able to make ourselves a bit more rad-tolerant than H. Sapes are today, but not to the degree of a Tardigrade if we expect our brains to able to continue to function as well as they do now. Physics is physics, biology is biology, and you need to back up your claims of the possible with specific data, just like any other claims made here. Space habitats have had such data accrued and refined, and constantly checked and confirmed. If you can provide such a wealth of fact-based data and solid engineering proposals for Space Man, I'll be convinced.

Everything you complain about here was once a valid complaint about heavier-than-air flight, or space stations, or open-heart surgery, or... And as such, I freely acknowledge that it's a valid complaint about "Space Man".

Heck, some of the engineering refinements going into our next-generation space craft and space stations were pure handwavium thirty years ago.

I'm not sure exactly what you're complaining about. Is it the very notion that human technology might actually advance beyond its current immediately-forseeable future? Is it some sort of ill-founded concern that I'm advocating an abandonment of current trends in spacefaring R&D, because I somehow unreasonably believe they're about to be obsoleted by advances in medical science?

Is it that you think I'm making a specific, rational claim for which I have no rational support? I'm not, you know. I'm obviously and openly speculating, and have no intention of making such a claim, which I know to be unsupported at the present time. I'd apologize for giving you the wrong impression, but I'm pretty confident I've done nothing of the kind. And this isn't Conspiracy Theories or ATM, so your insistence that I "back up my claims" is a bit strong. This subforum has always displayed a much greater tolerance for speculation, where hard data ends. Except in this case, and except for you. Why is that?

Noclevername
2008-Oct-28, 10:23 PM
Everything you complain about here was once a valid complaint about heavier-than-air flight, or space stations, or open-heart surgery, or... And as such, I freely acknowledge that it's a valid complaint about "Space Man".


And was likewise said about anti-gravity and FTL.



Heck, some of the engineering refinements going into our next-generation space craft and space stations were pure handwavium thirty years ago. Nope. They were based on existing and known physical properties, and had a solid mathematical and engineering grounding that went back much further than thirty years. More importantly, they were planned in detail by experts, and developed and tested for many years by engineers. How much research budget has been dedicated to making humans into suitless spacedwellers?



I'm not sure exactly what you're complaining about. Is it the very notion that human technology might actually advance beyond its current immediately-forseeable future? Is it some sort of ill-founded concern that I'm advocating an abandonment of current trends in spacefaring R&D, because I somehow unreasonably believe they're about to be obsoleted by advances in medical science?


You can believe the sky is underfoot and the ground overhead. But the current trends are well-founded for reasons that make both engineering and budget sense. There is absolutely no evidence that we are about to make a quantum leap in self-modification, much less the order of magnitude needed for personal space adaptation. This would require not just "about to be" advances in medical fields, but massive advances in many areas of science and technologies. Nothing ill-founded about calling impractical ideas impractical. Nothing reasonable about pie in the sky.



Is it that you think I'm making a specific, rational claim for which I have no rational support? I'm not, you know. Glad you can admit it. Not everyone can realize their claims aren't rational.


I'm obviously and openly speculating, and have no intention of making such a claim, which I know to be unsupported at the present time. I'd apologize for giving you the wrong impression, but I'm pretty confident I've done nothing of the kind. And this isn't Conspiracy Theories or ATM, so your insistence that I "back up my claims" is a bit strong. This subforum has always displayed a much greater tolerance for speculation, where hard data ends. Except in this case, and except for you. Why is that?

No, not "except for me". The rules of the forum are clear. I apologize if I've assumed your statements were literal. I simply assumed you'd meant exactly what you said.

EDIT: Oh, and as for your "strawman" assumption? Just because you personally haven't said it was "real soon now" don't assume no one on this board has. I have in fact heard such sentiments expressed before. So, sorry, no straw here, just examples from experience.

Noclevername
2008-Oct-28, 10:38 PM
Okay, now I'm curious; other than Stutefish, does anyone really find it that unreasonable to advocate the use of existing, proven, tried and true technologies over holding out for "it might be possible, maybe, someday"? Am I being a fuddy-duddy here?

BigDon
2008-Oct-28, 10:38 PM
This argument reminds me I wanted to post something about cows and milk in General Sci, see you guys there.

PraedSt
2008-Oct-28, 11:07 PM
Okay, now I'm curious; other than Stutefish, does anyone really find it that unreasonable to advocate the use of existing, proven, tried and true technologies over holding out for "it might be possible, maybe, someday"? Am I being a fuddy-duddy here?

No. But you're both right you know. Just arguing in different time frames. At the moment, our knowledge of the human body, biology and genetics, is in no way comparable to our knowledge of the physical sciences. Once we get to that stage, who knows? So using proven technologies is a must, but so is researching unproven ones. My ten cents...

stutefish
2008-Oct-28, 11:20 PM
Glad you can admit it. Not everyone can realize their claims aren't rational.
Except, of course, that I have explicitly NOT admitted it. I have, in fact, clearly stated that I'm making no such claim. If I were, I'd certainly admit it wasn't a rational claim. However, since I know a priori that it isn't rational, I don't make such a claim. I speculate. And I admit to speculating.



EDIT: Oh, and as for your "strawman" assumption? Just because you personally haven't said it was "real soon now" don't assume no one on this board has. I have in fact heard such sentiments expressed before. So, sorry, no straw here, just examples from experience.
Please, then, provide these examples of which you speak.


Okay, now I'm curious; other than Stutefish, does anyone really find it that unreasonable to advocate the use of existing, proven, tried and true technologies over holding out for "it might be possible, maybe, someday"? Am I being a fuddy-duddy here?
Oh, come on! Right here (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/80554-man-plus-f-minus.html#post1352837) I explicitly contradict your characterization. I explicitly state that I do NOT find it unreasonable to advocate the current trend in space station R&D. I would thank you kindly to stop misrepresenting my clearly-stated position to support your own argument. Straw man, indeed!

Ilya
2008-Oct-29, 02:55 PM
Okay, now I'm curious; other than Stutefish, does anyone really find it that unreasonable to advocate the use of existing, proven, tried and true technologies over holding out for "it might be possible, maybe, someday"? Am I being a fuddy-duddy here?
Actually, I find you (and JonClarke*) unreasonably optimistic. You want to solve all problems in space by throwing more mass and energy at it -- i.e. "tried and true technologies". Yes, it works... except beyond certain points the mass and energy requirements become absurd. I noticed that you never responded to this post (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/70331-what-killer-app-space-exploitation.html#post1177085) of mine which briefly describes how it happens. I agree that transhumanist methods of dealing with space environment are unproven, and may never happen. But if they do not, do not count on much human presence outside Inner Solar System. Cost of life support, in terms mass and energy, become prohibitive.

* Post edited - name changed

stutefish
2008-Oct-29, 05:06 PM
Thank you, Ilya. These are my sentiments exactly.

noclevername, what, exactly, is your complaint?

If it's that I'm a fool, please just say so and be done with it.

If it's a concern for speculative discussion that violates the forum rules, please use the report function and let the Mods deal with it.

If it's a distaste for speculating about the future of human space exploration, I draw your attention to the numerous active threads about factual, hard-science space exploration. There's plenty to satisfy your personal tastes, and no need for you to participate in--let alone start!--conversations you don't enjoy.

If it's a concern that we don't understand that we're speculating, point taken. We get it. Your work here is done.

If it's distress that we energetic and imaginitive thinkers aren't coming to your space station speculation party, perhaps you should consider a cordial invitation, rather than standing around on our lawn, yelling "your party sucks!"

Meanwhile, I'm going to keep right on speculating about the future of human space travel. I'm going to keep on pondering the several problems that must be solved, and the current state of the art in solutions. And I'm going to keep on taking note of advances in other areas, that continue to indicate the promise of alternate avenues of approach, and the possibility of better solutions down the road. And meanwhile, I'll continue to appreciate and applaud every small step we take into space, whether it be the Space Shuttle, or Orion, or the ISS, or the Shenzhou cluster, or yet another robotic probe, or yet another orbital telescope. To me, it's all good.

What about you?

Van Rijn
2008-Oct-29, 11:57 PM
So we have two choices:

1) Rotating habitats with improved air circulation and dust filters.

2) Turning ourselves into 4-armed lizard scale-covered freaks.

Maybe we should turn this into a poll.

Or other possibilities that don't try for a completely earthlike environment, and modify humans somewhat to handle the conditions better.

Van Rijn
2008-Oct-30, 12:16 AM
Actually, I find you (and Ronald Brak) unreasonably optimistic. You want to solve all problems in space by throwing more mass and energy at it -- i.e. "tried and true technologies". Yes, it works... except beyond certain points the mass and energy requirements become absurd. I noticed that you never responded to this post (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/70331-what-killer-app-space-exploitation.html#post1177085) of mine which briefly describes how it happens. I agree that transhumanist methods of dealing with space environment are unproven, and may never happen. But if they do not, do not count on much human presence outside Inner Solar System. Cost of life support, in terms mass and energy, become prohibitive.

My position is, I think, something of a middle ground. I think there will need to be some serious advances in technology before there can be a large off-world population. However, I don't think that will necessarily require "transhumanist" technologies, or heavy modifications to humans. But, it wouldn't surprise me to see some modifications made once people start living out there, initially things like greater radiation, low-gravity and breathing tolerances.

formulaterp
2008-Oct-30, 12:40 AM
I guess it comes down to deciding whether we adapt to the environment or change the environment to better suit us. For the first million years or so, we appeared to have chosen the former. An example are skin pigmentation variations between cultures at various latitudes on earth. But recently we seem to have followed the latter approach. Those stubborn Dutch keep building dikes and earthworks rather than simply growing gills.

Van Rijn
2008-Oct-30, 01:19 AM
I guess it comes down to deciding whether we adapt to the environment or change the environment to better suit us.


Keep in mind that we didn't decide to adapt to the environment. If we do modify ourselves, that will be a conscious decision. It also would be far different than just the changes that might come through evolution. We're unlikely, for example, to ever evolve avian style lungs, but we might design them into a modified body for the advantage in breathing efficiency.

Ronald Brak
2008-Oct-30, 02:46 AM
Actually, I find you (and Ronald Brak) unreasonably optimistic. You want to solve all problems in space by throwing more mass and energy at it -- i.e. "tried and true technologies". Yes, it works...

Well I was talking about what we could do if we wanted to, not necessarily what we should do. If we wanted to we could get people to mars and back or further with the technology we currently have with probably over a 90% chance of success. But the question of whether or not we should do that is another matter. It's not up to me, but if somehow I were in charge of NASA's budget, I wouldn't shoot anyone into space. At least not for a long time.

marsbug
2008-Oct-30, 02:37 PM
Actually, I find you (and Ronald Brak) unreasonably optimistic. You want to solve all problems in space by throwing more mass and energy at it -- i.e. "tried and true technologies". Yes, it works... except beyond certain points the mass and energy requirements become absurd..... I agree that transhumanist methods of dealing with space environment are unproven, and may never happen. But if they do not, do not count on much human presence outside Inner Solar System. Cost of life support, in terms mass and energy, become prohibitive.

I agree. I'd be very surprised if there'd been any major expansion beyond say, the moon, even a hundred years from now. And I imagine even that will be limited to some adventure tourism and a few science bases.


Okay, now I'm curious; other than Stutefish, does anyone really find it that unreasonable to advocate the use of existing, proven, tried and true technologies over holding out for "it might be possible, maybe, someday"? Am I being a fuddy-duddy here?

No it's perfectly reasonable to work with what we've got and plan with what we can realistically expect to have. But barring some pretty fundamental advances I think we'll (as in physical humans, not our probes) be staying inside the orbit of luna for a long time to come.

I wouldn't rule out the possibility of manned missions to mars, or even a small colony there, I just can't see us, as we are now, going far beyond that even with the 'ole rose tinteds on. Half the time I need the rose tinteds just to see that as a real possibility (which is appropriate I suppose):lol:

So, when I want to speculate about humanity going beyond that, hand waving and 'what we may have , someday' are all I have to work with in a discussion.

Noclevername
2008-Oct-30, 11:55 PM
Sorry for abandoning my own thread here, got stuff happening. Expect intermittent responses for a while. :(



Actually, I find you (and Ronald Brak) unreasonably optimistic. You want to solve all problems in space by throwing more mass and energy at it -- i.e. "tried and true technologies". Yes, it works... except beyond certain points the mass and energy requirements become absurd. I noticed that you never responded to this post (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/70331-what-killer-app-space-exploitation.html#post1177085) of mine which briefly describes how it happens. I agree that transhumanist methods of dealing with space environment are unproven, and may never happen. But if they do not, do not count on much human presence outside Inner Solar System. Cost of life support, in terms mass and energy, become prohibitive.

Nope, sorry, can't see it. The main thing you'd need is increased access to space, with all its nonstop solar energy and matter of every description in low gravity wells. All the needed materials and resources are there, it's been well researched, we just need to dedicate enough effort to providing access to it. The costs will drop drastically when Earth is no longer our one-stop shopping point for everything. And keep dropping as our extraction and processing methods in space improve.

Ronald Brak
2008-Oct-31, 12:07 AM
In my last comment I think I got confused about which thread I was posting in. I'll just state that compared to the average poster I always thought I was optimistic about our chances of improving on the meat filled, leather sack wrapped around sticks of calcium that we are. I'm also think I'm more optimistic about than the average poster about our ability to develop strong AI and machines that can pass the Turning test. I hypothesize that this might be because many posters spend all day working with machines and realize how stupid they are, where as I often spend all day working with people and realize how stupid we are.

ASEI
2008-Oct-31, 12:55 AM
I always thought a space station (populated with humans) was a cybernetic organism. To make it wearable, you'd have to shrink it down quite a bit smaller though.

As for biology - I think it's best not exposed to vacuum. It's easier to create the conditions within which biology can function, inside a shell of tough monolithic material/thermal control systems, than it is to try to implement those on the cell level. Cells are squishy and best kept between the freezing and boiling point of water (at whatever pressure applies) - they have to be because of what they do, what chemistry they operate with. I'd be very surprised to see them manage to function in hard vacuum with no other means of environmental control.

Since any "space adapted" lifeforms, assuming carbon-water chemistry, would have to have approximately the same equipment mass surrounding them to produce an environment within which any life functions, I don't see how it is an engineering enabler for space habitation so much as a quality-of-life thing.

Anything that your human-adaptations can do can also be done via external tanks of algae/other specialized engineered life.

Ilya
2008-Oct-31, 01:04 AM
Well I was talking about what we could do if we wanted to, not necessarily what we should do. If we wanted to we could get people to mars and back or further with the technology we currently have with probably over a 90% chance of success. But the question of whether or not we should do that is another matter. It's not up to me, but if somehow I were in charge of NASA's budget, I wouldn't shoot anyone into space. At least not for a long time.

Oops. Sorry, I meant JonClarke (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/70509-colonizing-ceres-why-its-better-alternative.html#post1179776), not Ronald Brak.

Ronald Brak
2008-Oct-31, 01:23 AM
Ah, I see. No wonder I got confused. No problem.

Ilya
2008-Oct-31, 12:41 PM
To reiterate a post I already made elsewhere (which Noclevername never responded to the first time around:

Nope, sorry, can't see it. The main thing you'd need is increased access to space, with all its nonstop solar energy and matter of every description in low gravity wells. All the needed materials and resources are there, it's been well researched, we just need to dedicate enough effort to providing access to it. The costs will drop drastically when Earth is no longer our one-stop shopping point for everything. And keep dropping as our extraction and processing methods in space improve.
Who is going to pay for it, and how? I am quite aware of the resources available in space, but how are they going to translate into colonization, as opposed to "oil rig model" -- people go into dangerous environment for a few weeks or months, collect a lot of money, then go home to Earth to their families? Which is much easier, and cheaper, hence more profitable (even though still incredibly difficult)? Experience in difficult places on Earth is not encouraging in that regard. Note that if access to space becomes cheaper, "oil rig model" will become proportionally cheaper, and remain much easier than colonization.

I will accept that space colonization in traditional/von Braunian sense is possible only when the first baby is born in the far more accessible and more benign environment of continental shelf. Until then, I think you are engaged in sheer fantasy.

Oh, and only if the said baby is born without underwater adaptations. Otherwise, it would vindicate me.

Ilya
2008-Oct-31, 12:49 PM
I think Bruce Sterling said it best (and notice that being a SF author, he has a financial stake in the following NOT being true!):


I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people settling the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live. It's ugly, it's inhospitable and there's no way to make it pay. Mars is just the same, really. We just romanticize it because it's so hard to reach.

On the other hand, there might really be some way to make living in the Gobi Desert pay. And if that were the case, and you really had communities making a nice cheerful go of daily life on arid, freezing, barren rock and sand, then a cultural transfer to Mars might make a certain sense.

marsbug
2008-Oct-31, 02:14 PM
I've always seen 'colonization' of the moon as having parralels with antartica: People go there, and some even live there for a short while. They do this for science, and for adventure, but as far as I know very few have ever tried to make a whole life there, and none have succeded.

The moon is a thousand times less hospitable than the antartic, and even if we can get baking O2 and hydrogen out of the soil and using it to make air and water to the point of a realistic technology, any moon base will still be at least as dependant on the earth as the antartic bases are on the rest of the world.

I'm fairly certain that at some point a small group will try to live on mars: there is water (ice) there to drink, and for oxygen, and from the phoenix results we may be able to grow food in the soil if we apply the proper warmth and atmosphere.
I imagine it as being more like one of the one way mission concepts discussed here sometimes; probably privately financed by some wealthy idealists, and done as a one off attempt to see if it can be done, or to fulfill a set of beliefs.

Life on a mars colony would be very hard work, and the trip will be dangeorus and very expensive.

Even a century from now I can imagine few people having the money to go, and just as few having the desire and will needed to make it work.

Ronald Brak
2008-Oct-31, 03:01 PM
There are currently nuts on earth who would go and live on the moon if it only cost a few million dollars. As technolgy improves the effect is basically to make things cheaper, we can do more with the fruits of one hour's work than we could in the past. Once technology advances far enough it will be possible to go on live on the moon for the equivilent of a few million dollars today and nuts will go and do it. Unless we've found a cure for nuttiness, but nuts probably wouldn't take it anyway because they're nuts.

marsbug
2008-Oct-31, 03:13 PM
To an extent I agree with Noclevername: as more flights to space become available the cost will come down.

I don't think it will ever come down enough to have large numbers of people living there permanently, but if a few ultra rich nuts want to try, or if fifty years from now one starts a moon hotel for people wanting to go hiking over lunar hills I certainly won't complain!

Hell, if had a few (tens of) million quid I'd buy myself two outfits; one EVA suit and one (stylish) straightjacket! I'd be close to eighty by then, so if one sixth g proves easier on my joints and I'm an ultra rich nut i might try to retire there.

Being hostile and not having self sustaining colonies hasn't stopped antartica having a healthy tourist industry, and science community. I don't see why the same shouldn't apply one day (perhaps one day fairly soon) to the moon. Perhaps one day even mars. But large numbers of ordinary folks living everyday lives all across the solar system? I just can't convince myself unless something radically changes.

PraedSt
2008-Oct-31, 03:15 PM
Unless we've found a cure for nuttiness, but nuts probably wouldn't take it anyway because they're nuts.

:)

Yukmay
2008-Nov-09, 11:37 PM
Maybe we should think of it this way: If the temporal aspects of artificial selection (can!) be removed then the outward spread of life through the universe can be sped up dramatically.

To look at it tentatively: Genetically modified crops and plants can ease the transition of man to mars, whether it be through terraforming or greenhouses. This is existing technology.

I also believe that there is far more profit in the realm of genetic engineering than that of habitat design. Any parent with money to spare would want their child to be smarter, taller, healthier, or stronger; not to mention the military applications. The social will is stronger for the development of specialized humans who are better suited to certain tasks then others. We've been doing it for millenia with livestock and beasts of burden. It's only a matter of time before its done on ourselves.

The only check I can foresee on the genetic modification of humans is the social stigma associated with it and I personally don't know how long the culture police can repress something which is so helpful for our species.

Vultur
2008-Nov-10, 01:43 AM
I don't think vacuum-living humans are anywhere in the foreseeable future, and significant changes creep me out massively. I can see, though, that humans could be adapted to need less oxygen (even now, Tibetans get along with significantly less than sea-level people) and handle higher CO2 levels, need less food, and maybe even hibernate. I'm not sure I'd want to try it though; human alteration would unavoidably lead to lots of babies stillborn or born horribly messed up, so I wouldn't consider it ethical.

Also, I don't think it will be needed. Once we get serious nuclear propulsion, the Solar System is ours. So far, we 've had two kinds of stations: one-piece (Skylab) and the current generation of modular space stations (Mir and ISS). Both are small, cramped, and fragile.

With the mass-moving ability we'll get from ion engines (already a tested technology), nuclear propulsion (unfortunately no major current work) and cheap launches to Earth orbit (which SpaceX etc. are working on), we can build much better space stations. Venus isn't very far on a solar-system scale, closer than Mars: a space station could float high in the Earth-normal temperature band of its
atmosphere using balloons. From there, terraforming could begin, if it were possible to engineer algae or cyanobacteria that could stand the sulfuric acid levels, or develop a non-biological means of sequestering CO2 (which Earth's climate change may force us to develop anyway).

Also, what about non-rocket propulsion? Solar sails and (maybe, someday) space elevators?

ASEI
2008-Nov-10, 02:13 AM
From there, terraforming could begin, Terraforming, IMO, is far more difficult than adaptation by either external or internal means.

As far as adaptation goes, external adaptation via hardware outside the body isn't all that different from adaptation due to wearable hardware (albeit a large difference in required miniaturization), so I really don't see why it is game changing. The environment that any biological organism would be living in is massively different than the space environment, and will require about the same level of hardware/power-plant/chemical-plant to create. About the only advantage I can see is substituting specialized micro-organisms for the synthesis and processing of organic molecules for traditional mechanical plants.

And with a specific level of miniturized (chemical/power)plant technology, does it matter if it is chugging away in the corner of an airdome or cave, or moving about with you in some sort of exoskeleton?

And the movement of equipment mass throughout the solar system is a problem that will have to be solved at a scale larger than today's launch capacity anyways, no matter if you have wearable hardware or not. With rockets, it is an engineering problem insensitive to electronics technology. It has to do with the specific energy that you can apply to the propellant jet, not the neat singularity-era computers you can mount on the dashboard.

The powerplant in the rocket engine and overcoming the specific energy problem of the gravity well we're stuck in - these appear to me to be far more important deciding factors in whether or not we'll make it into space.

Vultur
2008-Nov-10, 03:30 AM
I will accept that space colonization in traditional/von Braunian sense is possible only when the first baby is born in the far more accessible and more benign environment of continental shelf. Until then, I think you are engaged in sheer fantasy.
.

More accessible, but far less benign. The pressure differential is many atmospheres, not just one, and seawater is much more corrosive to equipment than vacuum.


As for the Gobi - the Gobi is colonized (though sparsely), and has been for thousands of years. In fact, supposedly "gobi" is a Mongolian word referring to a particular kind of land that is used for camels.

Ilya
2008-Nov-13, 06:44 PM
More accessible, but far less benign. The pressure differential is many atmospheres, not just one,

Not if you breath ambient pressure. Which can be done at continental shelf depths.

and seawater is much more corrosive to equipment than vacuum.

True, but largely solved problem.


As for the Gobi - the Gobi is colonized (though sparsely), and has been for thousands of years. In fact, supposedly "gobi" is a Mongolian word referring to a particular kind of land that is used for camels.
Depends on your definition of "desert" and "colonized". There are large parts of Gobi which people go across, but nobody lives permanently. And more importantly, no modern civilized people WANT to live there -- even if some, like paleontologists, have good reasons to spend time there. And Mars is just like Gobi, only much more hostile.

Noclevername
2010-Feb-03, 02:58 AM
Arise, my undead minion, ARISE!

*ahem* So, this was several months and at least 3 changes of meds ago, so I can barely remember what I wrote. Skimmed the thread, and basically what I recall is just being sick and tired of hearing arguments (not just here, from several sources)about how "we wouldn't need space stations" because we'd all become Super Space Cyborgs-- all of which descriptions basically boiled down to "internalize a spacesuit". So, to sum up and then drop forever;

# Space Man will still need to maintain and repair all those vaguely unspecified life-support systems, so he'd still need large-scale space industry.

# He'd still need to get around, so he'd need spacecraft, which means large pressure-tight containers and pumping systems, plumbing, heat radiators, propellant processing and storage, etc., and the large-scale industry to make those things. So, space stations or not, massive industrial effort will be required for any human presence in space.

#We already have spacesuits that go on the outside.

# By the time we can make personalized human-sized self sustaining ecosystems, terraforming will be a relative snap. And possibly vice-versa, but that's not guaranteed.

# Most people who want to go into space will probably not want to mutilate themselves to do so. They may also wish to go back and visit relatives, and making a dual-purpose body that can live in space and on Earth will be an order of magnitude harder.

# The massive technical effort needed to alter a body that radically will require much dangerous, life-threatening experimentation with human test subjects.

# Plus all the other arguments I'd previously given.

And finally, if anyone's still listening...

To clear up an apparent misconception, I have no objections to trans/post humanism or self-modification (I've undergone it myself, lens implants to replace coke-bottle glasses) and have no intrinsic objections to the idea of humans modified to live without space habitats. But it's one of those concepts filed under Awesome But Impractical; there are far easier, cheaper (in the long run) and safer ways already known to exist. Eventually, if and when the technology ever exists, someone will probably do it just to show it can be done. But they'd be stuck with the results, and most people won't bother when they can just go inside instead. It's certainly never, IMO, going to become common enough to replace space habitats or come anywhere near soon enough to pre-empt them.

Face it, we're going to have habs.