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Thread: Why space exploration? Will a human moon/mars mission be realised within 30 years?

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    Why space exploration? Will a human moon/mars mission be realised within 30 years?

    We explore space since the first Sputnik circled the earth and sent people in space since the first mission of Gagarin.
    We explored the solar system, landed robotic missions on the Moon, Mars, Venus and other celesteal objects, have a manned space station orbiting earth and even managed to land humans on the Moon and safely return them.

    Currently though for the past 40 years no new missions outside of earth orbit have been accomplished, and even when plans have been made to return to the moon and perhaps later go to mars, it seems that these missions might be procrasted.

    Anyway, the real issue is, why do we need to sent people in space and land them on the moon and other planets anyhow. Exploration of space is much more cost effective when done by robotic missions. Are the tremendous costs of sending humans with extensive life equipment into orbit to have them land on other celesteal bodies and safely return them to earth worth the costs and risks?

    Actually, what need is there to send people to the moon or mars. What task is there to perform that can not be done with a robotic mission? The only time people were sent on such a mission (the apollo program) was urged only by the circumstances that the US wanted to win the spacerace to show their superiority in that field. It was for the prestige, there were no scientific or economical reasons to perform such an expensive mission.

    My guess is that - unless there is some economic benefit from it - no new human missions to send people to the surface of other celesteal bodies will be undertaken for the foreseeable time. This is not to argue that such kind of missions will never be undertaken, but I see no urgent reason why we will undertake such a expensive mission in the next few decades. Conditions might change. If China is committing to it's goal to prepare for a moon mission and execute it, it is likely that the US is forced to compete there too. But otherwise, there is no urgent need to perform such a costy mission.

    What is your guess? What urgent reasons are there in fact to organize a mission to land humans on the moon or mars? How could such missions ever be economical viable?

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    I agree with you. There is simply no obvious (or even non-obvious) justification for such mission at present.
    Quote Originally Posted by heusdens View Post
    If China is committing to it's goal to prepare for a moon mission and execute it, it is likely that the US is forced to compete there too. But otherwise, there is no urgent need to perform such a costy mission.
    I would re-phrase this a bit. If China is committing to it's goal to prepare for a moon mission and execute it, it is likely that the US will feel that national pride demands to compete there too. Whatever China does, it won't force US to do anything; US might force itself though. If China is stupid enough to put manned military base on the Moon (the boogaboo many American space cadets bring up), it could be counteracted with small unmanned missiles at a fraction of the cost.

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    The only time people were sent on such a mission (the apollo program) was urged only by the circumstances that the US wanted to win the spacerace to show their superiority in that field. It was for the prestige, there were no scientific or economical reasons to perform such an expensive mission.
    As much as it may be true that the primary motive for Apollo was political rather than scientific, the actual scientific return from the Apollo missions was vastly more than any robotic mission series could have accomplished in the same time. The ability of people to walk or drive out to intended sites and make real-time decisions on the spot, and to drive in core samples, set up experimental packages, and pick up rocks several inches across vastly exceeds anything that could be done with a rover. The Russian autmoated sample return missions returned three orders of magnitude less material, and much less variety of material, than the Apollo missions did. The Mars rovers currently exceeding all expectations by being still operational years after they were sent still took years to cover between them the same distance that the Apollo 17 crew covered in three days.

    So yes, robotic probes can do a lot for our space exploration programs, but the added expense of sending humans on-site also results in added returns.

    There is also a very human elemtn to it. Consider this: is there a place in the world you would really like to see? Some eastern European country? The Antarctic wildrness? The Everglades? Would you rather look at pictures online or pay the extra money and go out there and see it all with your own eyes?

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    even the people that operate the Mars rovers say that a single person in the same location could do a lot more science in a week than the rovers have done in 6 years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by novaderrik View Post
    even the people that operate the Mars rovers say that a single person in the same location could do a lot more science in a week than the rovers have done in 6 years.
    I'd never thought I'd agree with you here, but yes, you're right. It's a hermit approach, and I'd volunteer myself, if there were no other alternative. Fortunately, alternative presentative 29 years ago. Get on with it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by heusdens View Post
    What is your guess? What urgent reasons are there in fact to organize a mission to land humans on the moon or mars? How could such missions ever be economical viable?
    First, consider the following facts:

    1. Russia is planning to retire the Soyuz infrastructure by 2020. The replacement system, PPTS, has been explicitly specified to be capable of cislunar flight. The specification did not include a lander, but then, the lander is a relatively easy part.

    2. The Japanese want to set a permanent robotic outpost by 2020. The fact that it is going to be precursor mission for humans has been stated explicitly.

    3. The U.S. wanted to go to the Moon, now it apparently does not, but it still is building both the heavy lift and the Orion capsule.

    4. The China is vocal about going to the Moon. Apparently they are also working on a heavy lift. (You can do a Moon mission without heavy lift, but heavy lift just makes things easier).

    That means that the needed equipment is being built. Which, in turn, means that the lunar missions will become feasible after 2020 -- by different actors.

    Consider the next fact. Several Moon-mapping missions have been conducted starting in mid-1990s. Robotic landers are planned for the 2010-2020 timeframe. These mapping missions were interesting. Rhetorical question: why would you underwrite mission to do high resolution mapping of the mineral resources on the moon, if you had no plans to exploit them?

    What is really interesting is not that someone is planning a moon mission. It's that everyone has suddenly started being interested in detailed mineral composition of the Moon and everyone is building hardware. This race is not spectacular (in fact, any suggestion of the race is loudly denied) but the pattern is very clear.

    As for the economy -- there is no way these missions can be economical today. But we have to consider some trends:

    1. Modern civilization need rare earth elements. The demand is going up, but so are the prices. It is conceivable that at some point the exploitation of lunar mineral resources could become economical, particularly if we factor in the following points.

    2. 21st century wars will be resource wars (in fact, a convincing case can be made that it is already the case, but I won't go there to avoid discussing politics). The cost of war is externalized from the market price of the resource in question, but it doesn't disappear. Now: if a mineral resource could be secured and exploited on the Moon for a price comparable to that of conducting a military operation needed to secure access to this resource on Earth, then suddenly space based mining becomes feasible (not really economical, but feasible). In fact, looking at the numbers I'd say we're almost there.

    3. Modern civilization requires an increasing amount of satellite-based services. Cheap space architectures, have been proposed based on lunar propellant. If one party managed to secure access to this propellant, it would have a clear advantage in providing launch services to stationary orbit.

    4. If lunar resources are seen as usable, then the threat of one party monopolizing the access to it is enough for the others to finance the missions on the grounds of national security. Example: let us assume, that the best spot for permanent lunar facility is at the Shackleton crater. A party which lands there first would not only have clear advantage, but would be also capable of denying others access (either through diplomatic or military means). Essentially, whoever owns Shackleton owns the Moon along with all the resources. Even if the exploitation of lunar resources was 100 years in the future, the threat of someone monopolizing it now is enough to take action.

    5. Lunar water. This is a game changer. Moon bases were proposed all the time from 1950s and every time the projected costs were astronomical -- because of the requirement to send water from Earth. If you can use lunar water then the operational costs drop sharply.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilya View Post
    If China is stupid enough to put manned military base on the Moon (the boogaboo many American space cadets bring up), it could be counteracted with small unmanned missiles at a fraction of the cost.
    Please provide evidence for this assertion. My opinion is that nuking a moon base would be pretty difficult, for the following reasons:

    1. The flight time is 3 days. It logically follows that a lunar military base would have to be a command&control facility, not a missile base. But, in case of a nuclear war, a C&C facility which could survive for three days would be invaluable. The war would probably end by the time anyway.

    2. Launching a nuke at the moon would require using a special launcher. Unless such silo-based launcher was developed (i.e. basing on an existing ICBM), something like Atlas-Centaur would have to be used. It would be trivial to nuke the launch pads before the mission could be scrambled.

    3. Moon escape velocity is 2.3 km/s -- it follows that the terminal velocity of the warhead would be in 2-3 km/s range. This is comparable to a fast anti-ship missile. So an effective anti-missile system like AEGIS/Phalanx is not impossible (it is outside the capabilities of current systems by a factor of 2 at most).

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    2. Launching a nuke at the moon would require using a special launcher. Unless such silo-based launcher was developed (i.e. basing on an existing ICBM), something like Atlas-Centaur would have to be used. It would be trivial to nuke the launch pads before the mission could be scrambled.
    Should China put a C&C (or any other military) facility on the Moon, the process would take years, possibly decades. I assume that in such case US would not sit on its thumbs, and would develop either a dedicated silo-based launcher, or a constellation of satellites hanging in lunar LaGrange points, ready to accelerate toward Chinese moon base. Either would cost a fraction of manned moon base.

    Also who said anything about nukes? Kinetic energy penetrators would be quite sufficient. How deep do expect that hypothetical C&C base to be buried?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    1. Modern civilization need rare earth elements. The demand is going up, but so are the prices. It is conceivable that at some point the exploitation of lunar mineral resources could become economical, particularly if we factor in the following points.
    Moon is MUCH poorer in rare-earth elements than Earth is. For some elements, particularly platinum-group metals, asteroid mining might (just barely) make sense. Moon, no.
    2. 21st century wars will be resource wars (in fact, a convincing case can be made that it is already the case, but I won't go there to avoid discussing politics). The cost of war is externalized from the market price of the resource in question, but it doesn't disappear. Now: if a mineral resource could be secured and exploited on the Moon for a price comparable to that of conducting a military operation needed to secure access to this resource on Earth, then suddenly space based mining becomes feasible (not really economical, but feasible). In fact, looking at the numbers I'd say we're almost there.
    See above. There is simply nothing on the Moon worth that much.
    3. Modern civilization requires an increasing amount of satellite-based services. Cheap space architectures, have been proposed based on lunar propellant. If one party managed to secure access to this propellant, it would have a clear advantage in providing launch services to stationary orbit.
    Do you mean delivering hydrogen and oxygen from lunar poles to LEO, and using it to boost satellites to GEO? Answer three questions then:

    How many launches will it take before initial investment in lunar ice mining breaks even?

    How many GEO satellite Earth needs? (Hint: these satellites, like all others, are getting smaller and provide more services per kg. Moore's Law)

    How many satellites can even be in GEO before collisions become a danger?
    4. If lunar resources are seen as usable, then the threat of one party monopolizing the access to it is enough for the others to finance the missions on the grounds of national security. Example: let us assume, that the best spot for permanent lunar facility is at the Shackleton crater. A party which lands there first would not only have clear advantage, but would be also capable of denying others access (either through diplomatic or military means). Essentially, whoever owns Shackleton owns the Moon along with all the resources. Even if the exploitation of lunar resources was 100 years in the future, the threat of someone monopolizing it now is enough to take action.
    Very, very big if. So far no evidence it is the case -- or will be. Again, with (some) asteroids I can buy that. With Moon, no.
    5. Lunar water. This is a game changer. Moon bases were proposed all the time from 1950s and every time the projected costs were astronomical -- because of the requirement to send water from Earth. If you can use lunar water then the operational costs drop sharply.
    Only if there are operations to supply with water. All the ice on lunar poles is still an economic sink unless there is a serious economic gain somewhere else on the Moon. Of which I do not see any.

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    I agree that in a way, we have been too successful for our own good. When was the last time any person decended to the bottom of the Marianas trench? I know it's been many decades. It simply isn't worth the risk when a robot can do the same. There is a slightly different issue with Mars because of the time lag in receiving signals. I would like to see the US send a mission to Mars, but I don't see it happening in my lifetime. The cost is way too high, requiring funding over multiple administrations. A president would need to champion the project fully aware that someone else will be in office when the landing occurs. One person can do a lot of science, but the question is whether the money spent keeping that astronaut alive could have been better spent with a combination of unmanned research and funding of (possibly unrelated) terrestrial science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    1. Modern civilization need rare earth elements. The demand is going up, but so are the prices. It is conceivable that at some point the exploitation of lunar mineral resources could become economical, particularly if we factor in the following points.
    No, it is not conceiviable in any predictable future. Do you know how costly would be space mining? Do you know that if pure cocaine would lie on surface on Moon ready to gather in bags (astronaut have to just pick up), it would currently be STILL unprofitable?

    Forget about profitable space mining. Maybe in 100 years, after significant breakthroughs in space proplusion, infrastructure and general lowering of cost of going up.

    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    nuking a moon base
    Where he said this would be nuke?

    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    1. The flight time is 3 days.
    Why you say it? Because this is how much people traveled to the Moon? Please...

    Anyway it (attacking Chinese lunar base with missile) would be not probable, but for very different reasons (like chinese military base not existing in first place). In sum, you seem to not know what you speak about.

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    In terms of getting to the moon, New Horizons covered the distance in less than eight hours. Apollo took about 2.5 days because it had to slow down (and carry the fuel to do so). The Saturn V could have gotten them there much faster, but they would have left a splot.

    Eight and a half hours. Must learn to type.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander View Post
    In terms of getting to the moon, New Horizons covered the distance in less than eight hours. Apollo took about 2.5 days because it had to slow down (and carry the fuel to do so). The Saturn V could have gotten them there much faster, but they would have left a splot.
    And given the premises of this (very hypothetical) discussion, "splot" is exactly what US military would want.

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    Quote Originally Posted by novaderrik View Post
    even the people that operate the Mars rovers say that a single person in the same location could do a lot more science in a week than the rovers have done in 6 years.
    Yes. But we can't do a human mission as of yet, and it would cost at least a 100 times more. Having the data take more time, isn't that bad I guess.

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    In addition to my argument, for the sake of argument, let's presume that at some point in time a permanent settlement of human beings is set up on the moon, and that we want that settlement to be economical independend, which means either they produce everything they need themselves, or pay for that by buying goods on earth which are traded against raw or produced materials on the moon. And also in the long term, the initial costs of the moon base itself (including interest) need to be paid back.

    I think if you make realistic cost calculations, this whole idea is just silly and a waste of money.

    More over. Even it it would become cost effective one day, we would for sure expect then that human settlements on the south pole and on the ocean floors would be cost effective more soon. But there aren't plans to set up larger bases there, in fact also these nearby bases (where you have already oxygen and/or water and other materials and relative cheaper transport costs) are not being built.

    [ and please note: about a 1/3 of usable land mass is currently under threat or already desertified, we could spent a fraction of the money for a moon settlement to make those areas habitable again and use the solar energy for renewable energy. ]

    So I think this whole moon or mars permant settlement idea is just a fantasy, and not becoming a reality any time soon.

    The only (long time) necessity to do such a thing I guess is if we are nearing a moment in our history that earth becomes inhabitable (for example when the sun becomes a red star). Then we need to make progress in being able to inhabit other celesteal bodies and ultimate find another planet. But for that I guess we have millions of years time.

    The big question then is: why did former president Bush make plans then to return to the moon and go to mars?

    Rumour says, bush wasn't informed, there isn't any oil there......

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    Additional note: current estimates is that before the USA can land again on the moon, they are already financially bankrupt (in the technical sense, they already are). Having the current economy run on steroids (by lowering interest rates, the equivalent of dope) just means that the whole system is going to break down any day soon. The "only way out" for the system is the military option, by stealing other countries resources....

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    Quote Originally Posted by heusdens View Post

    More over. Even it it would become cost effective one day, we would for sure expect then that human settlements on the south pole and on the ocean floors would be cost effective more soon. But there aren't plans to set up larger bases there, in fact also these nearby bases (where you have already oxygen and/or water and other materials and relative cheaper transport costs) are not being built.
    There are significant environmental and ecological reasons not to expand human habitation in those areas. Consider the consequences in the current time of deforestation to make way for agriculture and mining. One of the attractions of the moon and Mars is, as fas as we know, neither has an ecosystem to damage. There are plans for In Situ Resource Utilization(ISRU) to support a moonbase and recent discoveries pointing to large quantities of water on the moon would make that somewhat easier. it wouldn't be quick or cheap but you could make a moonbase or Mars base self sustaining and there are technologies aimed at reducing the costs of lifting materials from Earth to orbit in development that could make the whole project simpler. I doubt however that such a base would ever pay back its costs in the business sense of the word but in a century or two who knows?


    The big question then is: why did former president Bush make plans then to return to the moon and go to mars?
    Well every president for the last thirty years has promised a return to the moon/Mars mission so you can't really single out Bush.

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    We have been in Antarctica for a rather long time and what is the export of this continent ? Knowledge and nothing more , Antarctica is nowhere near to become economically independent. But we still send people there and it not so cheap. So I don't see why we cannot do the same with the moon.

  19. 2010-Aug-03, 08:15 PM

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    I thought of Moon to be useful for building large Spaceships, Satellites and Orbital stations. Because of low gravity it would be easier to build them and launch them in space. It looks safer than building in orbit because the astro-worker won't fly off in the vastness of the orbit in case accident, but just fall on the ground which would be less fatal because of less gravity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by galacsi View Post
    We have been in Antarctica for a rather long time and what is the export of this continent ? Knowledge and nothing more , Antarctica is nowhere near to become economically independent. But we still send people there and it not so cheap. So I don't see why we cannot do the same with the moon.
    1. Costs considerable factor of money more.
    2. Won't be economically viable. If Antarctica can't, with considerable less effort, how could the Moon?
    3. What knowledge do we need to gain from the moon? An astronomical observatorium, perhaps. But what else?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
    There are significant environmental and ecological reasons not to expand human habitation in those areas. Consider the consequences in the current time of deforestation to make way for agriculture and mining. One of the attractions of the moon and Mars is, as fas as we know, neither has an ecosystem to damage. There are plans for In Situ Resource Utilization(ISRU) to support a moonbase and recent discoveries pointing to large quantities of water on the moon would make that somewhat easier. it wouldn't be quick or cheap but you could make a moonbase or Mars base self sustaining and there are technologies aimed at reducing the costs of lifting materials from Earth to orbit in development that could make the whole project simpler. I doubt however that such a base would ever pay back its costs in the business sense of the word but in a century or two who knows?
    IMHO it would be far better to for example re-utilize the desserts on earth with some already available technology, to extend living space for the human species (population still grows, we need more land to grow food), then going to the moon. A surface the size of france covered with solar power stations suffices to cover all energy needs of the entire world.

    I don't see a point in setting up either a moon or mars base. It never (i.e. not within a time frame of let's say 30 years) pays back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    First, consider the following facts:

    1. Russia is planning to retire the Soyuz infrastructure by 2020. The replacement system, PPTS, has been explicitly specified to be capable of cislunar flight. The specification did not include a lander, but then, the lander is a relatively easy part.

    2. The Japanese want to set a permanent robotic outpost by 2020. The fact that it is going to be precursor mission for humans has been stated explicitly.

    3. The U.S. wanted to go to the Moon, now it apparently does not, but it still is building both the heavy lift and the Orion capsule.

    4. The China is vocal about going to the Moon. Apparently they are also working on a heavy lift. (You can do a Moon mission without heavy lift, but heavy lift just makes things easier).

    That means that the needed equipment is being built. Which, in turn, means that the lunar missions will become feasible after 2020 -- by different actors.

    Consider the next fact. Several Moon-mapping missions have been conducted starting in mid-1990s. Robotic landers are planned for the 2010-2020 timeframe. These mapping missions were interesting. Rhetorical question: why would you underwrite mission to do high resolution mapping of the mineral resources on the moon, if you had no plans to exploit them?

    What is really interesting is not that someone is planning a moon mission. It's that everyone has suddenly started being interested in detailed mineral composition of the Moon and everyone is building hardware. This race is not spectacular (in fact, any suggestion of the race is loudly denied) but the pattern is very clear.

    As for the economy -- there is no way these missions can be economical today. But we have to consider some trends:

    1. Modern civilization need rare earth elements. The demand is going up, but so are the prices. It is conceivable that at some point the exploitation of lunar mineral resources could become economical, particularly if we factor in the following points.

    2. 21st century wars will be resource wars (in fact, a convincing case can be made that it is already the case, but I won't go there to avoid discussing politics). The cost of war is externalized from the market price of the resource in question, but it doesn't disappear. Now: if a mineral resource could be secured and exploited on the Moon for a price comparable to that of conducting a military operation needed to secure access to this resource on Earth, then suddenly space based mining becomes feasible (not really economical, but feasible). In fact, looking at the numbers I'd say we're almost there.

    3. Modern civilization requires an increasing amount of satellite-based services. Cheap space architectures, have been proposed based on lunar propellant. If one party managed to secure access to this propellant, it would have a clear advantage in providing launch services to stationary orbit.

    4. If lunar resources are seen as usable, then the threat of one party monopolizing the access to it is enough for the others to finance the missions on the grounds of national security. Example: let us assume, that the best spot for permanent lunar facility is at the Shackleton crater. A party which lands there first would not only have clear advantage, but would be also capable of denying others access (either through diplomatic or military means). Essentially, whoever owns Shackleton owns the Moon along with all the resources. Even if the exploitation of lunar resources was 100 years in the future, the threat of someone monopolizing it now is enough to take action.

    5. Lunar water. This is a game changer. Moon bases were proposed all the time from 1950s and every time the projected costs were astronomical -- because of the requirement to send water from Earth. If you can use lunar water then the operational costs drop sharply.
    I know about these plans of course, just can't figure out what makes them economically viable. Because one does it, the other does it too?
    There STILL needs to be a good economic reason for it to do it, else it is just a waste of money, better spent on serving the real human needs (we have some, resource scarcity & overpopulation, for instance, for that problems a moon or mars base offer no solution).

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    And my main and additional point is: wouldn't we be doing wiser to find and develop the right technological solutions for managing our resources in such a way that we can re-use them (renewable energy and less wasting of raw materials by constantly recycling them, redesigning things all over so that we create an economy without waste) and controlling the population (by mainly fighting the causes of overpopulation, which is underdevelopment - poor people tend to have more children as many die at young age and are needed as pension - when living standards, education and healthcare are on a higher lever, the rapid population growth in underdevloped countries will slow down and come to a halt).

    This to me seems more cost-efficient, and more on-target, solving the real problems, instead of evading the problem by seeking for new planets/moons to excavate. It would not help if population growth is not under control but growing exponentially. Same as the bacteria which double in quantity every 10 minutes and have almost used 1 bottle, when that one is gone the next 10 minutes they need 2 bottles, then 4 bottles, and so on, so another moon or mars does not help for that, is just shifting the problem forwards by a few decades, and then we will run into it again.

    And don't tell me that in such a small time frame we are ready for colonizing the galaxy. That happens only in Star Trek.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
    Well every president for the last thirty years has promised a return to the moon/Mars mission so you can't really single out Bush.
    That was of course only a humurous note.

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    Quote Originally Posted by heusdens View Post
    And my main and additional point is: wouldn't we be doing wiser to find and develop the right technological solutions for managing our resources in such a way that we can re-use them (renewable energy and less wasting of raw materials by constantly recycling them, redesigning things all over so that we create an economy without waste) and controlling the population (by mainly fighting the causes of overpopulation, which is underdevelopment - poor people tend to have more children as many die at young age and are needed as pension - when living standards, education and healthcare are on a higher lever, the rapid population growth in underdevloped countries will slow down and come to a halt).

    This to me seems more cost-efficient, and more on-target, solving the real problems, instead of evading the problem by seeking for new planets/moons to excavate. It would not help if population growth is not under control but growing exponentially. Same as the bacteria which double in quantity every 10 minutes and have almost used 1 bottle, when that one is gone the next 10 minutes they need 2 bottles, then 4 bottles, and so on, so another moon or mars does not help for that, is just shifting the problem forwards by a few decades, and then we will run into it again.

    And don't tell me that in such a small time frame we are ready for colonizing the galaxy. That happens only in Star Trek.
    Pardon me if I'm reading this incorrectly but stripped down to it's essentials your argument is that we should take the money that's being spent on space exploration and use it to fix our problems on earth. if that is correct then it's an argument that's been advanced many times and the response is essentially that the space budget, even of the USA, is minute compared to defence or social spending, if you really want to fix the worlds problems best to look elsewhere for the money.
    On some of the specifics in your posts. Programs to build large solar and wind farms are already well underway as commercial enterprises, and often with government assistance, and again, plenty of other places to get more money if people and politicians really want to prioritize such things.
    You seem to imagine the ocean depths, Antarctica, and the worlds deserts are just bare spaces that can be bulldozed with impunity. These places hold complex ecosystems the destruction of which could have far reaching consequences.
    And leaving that aside to use the desert for agriculture consumes vast amounts of water, and that's not a matter of theory, such farming does take place, here's a snippet from Wikipedia on the Imperial Valley with some salient points highlighted:

    Although this region is in the Colorado Desert section of the Sonoran Desert, with high temperatures and low average rainfall of three inches (seventy-five mm) per year, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to irrigation, which is supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. Thousands of acres of prime farmland have transformed the desert into one of the most productive farming regions in California with an annual crop production of over $1 billion. Agriculture is the largest industry in the Imperial Valley and accounts for 48% of all employment. An environmental cost is that, south of the canal, the Colorado River no longer flows at all for much of the year.
    A vast system of canals, check dams, and pipelines carry the water all over the valley, a system which forms the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID. The water distribution system includes over 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canal and with 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of pipeline. The number of canal and pipeline branches number roughly over a hundred. Imported water and a long growing season allow two crop cycles each year, and the Imperial Valley is a major source of winter fruits and vegetables, cotton, and grain for U.S. and international markets. Alfalfa is another major crop produced in the Imperial Valley. The agricultural lands are served by a constructed agricultural drain system, which conveys surface runoff and subsurface drainage from fields to the Salton Sea, which is a designated repository for agricultural runoff, with environmental considerations not yet solved.
    Imagine trying to do that where there are no convenient freshwater sources you can tap into. Frankly I think a self sustaining moonbase would probably be easier and less expensive...
    Last edited by Garrison; 2010-Aug-03 at 10:46 PM. Reason: spelling and tags

  27. #26
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    There is more government money spent on "renewable" energy like windmills and solar panels than what is spent on space already. the difference is at least an order of magnitude if not more.
    Solar and wind is useless for providing all the energy we need to even begin to contemplate turning desserts into farmland unless nature has already provided all the fresh water needed. Not to mention that these big solar plants are going to be wasting millions of tons of water just to stay clean enough to function.


    Now to address your straw man Antarctica. Antarctica is not exploited because there are treaties saying that nobody is allowed to do so. Destroying the unique science opportunities Antarctica represents trough industrialization is considered stupid, And i definitely agree with that. And so do the world leaders thankfully. Antarctica is left pristine by choice. There are several companies that would love to defile it for fun and profit if given half a chance.

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    The biggest reason for manned exploration of space is the long-term survival of the species.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peledre View Post
    The biggest reason for manned exploration of space is the long-term survival of the species.
    Maybe in a philisophical way, but I'd like to see funding approvals for space related activities with "survival" as anything but a footnote.

    So; we are spending our hard earned money for something that's not going to happen for how long? Who's to say that the current efforts in exploration, science, technology, and political interests won't result in that ability by the time it happens?

  30. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by heusdens View Post
    1. Costs considerable factor of money more.
    2. Won't be economically viable. If Antarctica can't, with considerable less effort, how could the Moon?
    3. What knowledge do we need to gain from the moon? An astronomical observatorium, perhaps. But what else?
    We can find some answers to many questions :

    1. How the Earth and the solar system has been born
    2. What is the origin of the moon , Understand its geology and discover many new phenomena we could not think by advance.
    3. trace the history of the sun and the solar system by analysing the poles deposit (very important if you think of the climate studies) (And the same could be done on Mars)
    4. Search for bits of Earth expelled from our planet by ancient asteroid hits. Or Martian meteorites .
    5. We could build some telescopes we cannot build on Earth because of the atmosphere or in space becase they are too big. Like low frequencies radio-telescopes

    And from a more technical point of view , we can liearn to live in an hostile place , we can learn really how to recycle water , oxygen , and how to build a stable or pseudo stable artificial ecology.

    I see plenty of profit for the human race. Now I understand the price must not be too big , but if we can lower imake the acces to LEO must cheaper , it can be done. So GO SKYLON GO !
    Last edited by galacsi; 2010-Aug-04 at 07:53 PM. Reason: add "or"

  31. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by galacsi View Post

    I see plenty of profit for the human race. Now I understand the price must not be too big , but if we can lower imake the acces to LEO must cheaper , it can be done. So GO SKYLON GO !
    My view is that one big factor in why we haven't done more since Apollo is that lowering the cost of space access hasn't really been a priority of agencies like NASA, it's only really in the last few years that companies like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have set out to challenge that model, and hopeful within the next decade Reaction Engines will join that list with a first flight.

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