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Thread: Will children born in 2012 likely see the first starship?

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    By that measure, Goddard didn't get much government funding for his early rocket work. I suspect that, without the impetus of ww2, we'd be working on sounding rockets, and jet aircraft would still be novel.
    Yes; I agree with that, but I'm walking a very fine line with this and I think it stems from another difference I see in spaceflight.

    Early rocket work was long before even Goddard. Other than Wan Hu there really wasn't a lot of work in getting astronauts into space until the government started working on it.

    So; whether it be government involvment or not, the funding, history, goals and technology are different enough to me to give me a sense that there are many differences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Given the will... but I see no signs of it.
    There was no sign of the political will to go to the Moon before 1960. (And no, I'm not directly comparing the difficulty of Lunar travel with interstellar travel, just that they both require public support.) Who can say what people will want in a generation, let alone centuries from now in a society whose details we can't even picture at present?
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2012-Sep-06 at 01:33 AM. Reason: spelling
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Rockets are used in space travel, but they are not in and of themselves space travel.
    Space travel, based on well known physics, was an extension of what we had been doing before, using tools that had been incrementally improved.


    But it wasn't an incremental evolution in the sense of log -> raft -> wooden ship -> iron clad.
    It was achieved with incremental improvements of technology, just like many other achievements.


    Given the will... but I see no signs of it.
    Weird. I sure do.


    Agreed. Unless physicists stumble on some form of hyperspace, we're staying in the solar system.
    I didn't say that. I think it will take a long time, and will be rare.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I didn't say that. I think it will take a long time, and will be rare.
    I agree. It would require a massive effort, but there's nothing physically impossible about it.

    Now here's a question-- will anyone born in 2012 live to see the first unmanned interstellar probe built?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I agree. It would require a massive effort, but there's nothing physically impossible about it.
    Something doesn't have to be physically impossible to not happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Something doesn't have to be physically impossible to not happen.
    No. But it means we don't need any new physics to do it, as some have suggested.
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    Some people like to argue economics when they say it can't happen. What they seem to not realize is that economics is what can make it happen. Once we start doing much of anything in space a whole lot of things become plausible.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    Some people like to argue economics when they say it can't happen. What they seem to not realize is that economics is what can make it happen. Once we start doing much of anything in space a whole lot of things become plausible.
    Yes. A space-based economy will be radically different from an Earth-based one, with vastly more resources accessible. It just requires longterm thinking to get that large initial investment-- something our current crop of TPTB seem to have lost at present. But who knows what future generations may bring.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Yes. A space-based economy will be radically different from an Earth-based one, with vastly more resources accessible. It just requires longterm thinking to get that large initial investment-- something our current crop of TPTB seem to have lost at present. But who knows what future generations may bring.
    "It just requires longterm thinking to get that large initial investment"

    Putting the word "just" in front of a more or less insurmountable obstacle doesn't make it any more surmountable. You might as well say, "There would be no more wars if people just learnt to tolerate each other and learnt to share."

    "But who knows what future generations may bring."

    Who indeed? But what's to make a sudden massive investment more likely to happen in (say) 50,000 years than now? If we haven't died out because of overpopulation and depleted resources and the near-inevitable use of weapons of mass destruction, and if we still have the resources to get into space at all, what sort of new impetus is going to motivate them that didn't motivate us?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    "It just requires longterm thinking to get that large initial investment"

    Putting the word "just" in front of a more or less insurmountable obstacle doesn't make it any more surmountable. You might as well say, "There would be no more wars if people just learnt to tolerate each other and learnt to share."

    "But who knows what future generations may bring."

    Who indeed? But what's to make a sudden massive investment more likely to happen in (say) 50,000 years than now? If we haven't died out because of overpopulation and depleted resources and the near-inevitable use of weapons of mass destruction, and if we still have the resources to get into space at all, what sort of new impetus is going to motivate them that didn't motivate us?
    Longterm projects have already happened. Things have been built that took many generations, huge amounts of capitol, and lost lives. This isn't some hypothetical thought process, it's one we know has existed since the neolithic age-- just not currently with regards to space travel. Calling something "insurmountable" when it isn't does not make it so.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Longterm projects have already happened. Things have been built that took many generations, huge amounts of capitol, and lost lives. This isn't some hypothetical thought process, it's one we know has existed since the neolithic age-- just not currently with regards to space travel. Calling something "insurmountable" when it isn't does not make it so.
    Perhaps you could give me an example or two?

    ETA I take it you're talking about pyramids, henges and cathedrals?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Yes. A space-based economy will be radically different from an Earth-based one, with vastly more resources accessible. It just requires longterm thinking to get that large initial investment--
    It helps if such thinking doesn't get called "science fiction." Any time someone talks about asteroid mining some nabob pops ups with the idea "that's more expensive than ground based" whatever and wants to kill the engineering needed to get the ball rolling. Spaceflight is hard--and will stay hard--that is no reason to stop. In the past engineering leaps came before scientific applications. Darwin's Beagle had many generations of sailing ships before it. Now science and engineering are hand in hand, so there are conflicts in resource management. Payload centric folks resent rocket centric folks and the battle ensues.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Perhaps you could give me an example or two?

    ETA I take it you're talking about pyramids, henges and cathedrals?
    Among other things, yes. Great wall of China, Easter Island heads, even today there are people who make longterm investments and think about benefits to their kids. They just aren't in the majority at present.

    Meanwhile you seem to be making some fairly extraordinary claims, that the problem of space industrialization is "insurmountable" and that this generation's attitudes towards it might somehow stay unchanged for 50,000 years. Can you offer any evidence at all for that?
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2012-Sep-08 at 07:51 PM.
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    Did you ever notice that when we send astronauts into space, we always try to get them back to earth?
    But a starship? Not coming back,see? Not gonna. Where is the upside of this extraordinary investment ???????????????
    And that is the big question. Return on investment. If you are going to ask questions, you need to get acquainted with such a phrase...... real soon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Did you ever notice that when we send astronauts into space, we always try to get them back to earth?
    But a starship? Not coming back,see? Not gonna. Where is the upside of this extraordinary investment ???????????????
    And that is the big question. Return on investment. If you are going to ask questions, you need to get acquainted with such a phrase...... real soon.
    What was the return on investment for WWII?

    The upside of a starship, or any form of transportation, is getting people to where they want want to go.

    And this is turning into another one of those threads. Same arguments, same inconclusive results. Nothing said that hasn't been repeated many, many times before.

    Since I have no desire to dance the same tango again, goodbye.
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    It turns that way when you have participants who think things through to possible conclusions. This is not television.
    Civilization isn't about to bankrupt itself to send 30 billion dollars worth of expensive stuff down a rathole, with 0.0000 % return on investment. This is a very foreign concept for dreamers who are facinated by star travel but cannot grasp the basic concepts asscotiated with such a basic premise. Would you take the gold in Fort Knox and secretly bury it in Death Valley and eliminate every person in the project just because you could? The answer is no. It is obvious to the most casual observer. It doen't make sense.
    There is no up side to such an endeavour. I have explained this to children who imediately saw the logic to what was explained.
    We wouldn't build a bonfire the size of the Texas A & M fire with thousand dollar bills now, would we? Just to wave goodbye at the burning money???? Or would you? Now, if we build a communications satelite which will handle 20,000 separate channels and put it into orbit , we have an expectation of being able to enjoy a life of commercial enterprise with that tool along with the other hardware in the bargain. We can look at the books and say " Yes, this will work and pay for itself in several years time."
    That is how real projects in the real world operate. We do collective scientific research with the expectation of scientific knowledge
    in return for that effort.
    These situations represent a return on investment. We get something tangible in return for what we pay in collectively.
    What you would send towards a distant star (of which you have no idea of the terminal circumstances ) will be a one-way trip,
    of several thousand years , which will either slam into that star or slide right past it for several thousand more years. And that is all.

    I welcome points of debate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Civilization isn't about to bankrupt itself to send 30 billion dollars worth of expensive stuff down a rathole, with 0.0000 % return on investment.
    I know several examples of civilisation (or rather countires) doing exactly that (only difference is way larger amount of money). No details, as this forum bans discussion on religion and politics.

    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Where is the upside of this extraordinary investment ??
    What is ROI of children (my point is in tooltip)?

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    Did your "examples" make sense ? What part of " waste money on something that won't be seen again" did you not understand?

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    I'm guessing you've seen the billion dollar gram. I can identify at least $10 trillion dollars there that have no appreciable return on investment. Money down black holes. So I doubt that civilisation would have to bankrupt itself. It's easy to set up a straw man with burying gold, but the fact is, even if you did that it wouldn't really have any effect on world finances, since it's all become notional value anyway. According to the US national debt clock total US debt is nearly $57 trillion. (noturl]www.usdebtclock.org[/noturl] - not linked coz it's a pig to load) and Britian owes nearly five times its GDP. This situation isn't going to change anytime soon, so what's wrong with a little philanthropic space travel ? Just developing the technologies will provide jobs, income and new science for use right here on the planet earth. Practising the techniques inside the solar system may lead to surprising material and scientific gains.

    Pooh poohing the idea just because you can't see a quick profit is a little short sighted IMHO.
    Last edited by headrush; 2012-Sep-09 at 04:44 PM. Reason: punctuation

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    That's like saying to your child..." You can't borrow that; it's for the races and doesn't grow on trees."
    There isn't anything in the argument for interstellar space travel that has any relationship to the real work of stewardship of this planet. It takes much for granted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Among other things, yes. Great wall of China, Easter Island heads, even today there are people who make longterm investments and think about benefits to their kids. They just aren't in the majority at present.
    It's actually an interesting question, and I'm not sure about the answer. There certainly are "projects" that have taken multiple generations, but I think in many cases they were sort of incremental projects. Like for example, the great wall of China was not launched with the idea that it would be ready in 200 years, and that it would take that long to do it. Rather, it was started with the idea of providing immediate benefit, and was gradually expanded to provide more and more benefit. A railroad system is like that, where each line takes a decade to complete, but the whole thing might well take centuries. But there is no master plan at the beginning that goes 200 years into the future. Are there historical projects like that, where people invested into something that they knew would provide a benefit in say two centuries?
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Where is the upside of this extraordinary investment ???????????????
    I'm sorry that your question mark key seems to have gotten stuck. But you really should fix that when it happens, because otherwise it looks like you're a hysterical debater, and it detracts from what you're trying to say.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Civilization isn't about to bankrupt itself to send 30 billion dollars worth of expensive stuff down a rathole, with 0.0000 % return on investment.
    OK, I know I said I was done with this thread, but I have to address this one.

    Starships will not be built at a time when they can "bankrupt a civilization". It will happen only after we have expanded into a space-based economy and have vastly more resources available.


    This is a very foreign concept for dreamers who are facinated by star travel but cannot grasp the basic concepts asscotiated with such a basic premise.
    Did it ever occur to you that maybe we do grasp the concept, and just disagree with it? Star travel is not going to be done for economic benefits (though developments in technology and industry necessary to build a starship would provide vast benefits to those who stay here). It will not be an investment. It will be done for reasons that you, with your profit-only, present-centric, Earth-centric arguments, may not be able to grasp.
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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    That's like saying to your child..." You can't borrow that; it's for the races and doesn't grow on trees."
    There isn't anything in the argument for interstellar space travel that has any relationship to the real work of stewardship of this planet. It takes much for granted.
    Assuming that the only reason we're here is stewardship of one planet takes much for granted.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    OK, I know I said I was done with this thread
    So are you staying around?

    You asked me a question in post 73, and I was planning on writing an answer, and I was hoping it would not be a retread of old ground, and I was hoping it would be a civilised, maybe even friendly, exchange of ideas, one where one of us - possibly you, possibly me, possibly someone else taking part - would think, "Hmm, I hadn't thought of it like that before." This, after all, is partly what this forum is for.

    Obviously there's no point if you're done here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    So are you staying around?

    You asked me a question in post 73, and I was planning on writing an answer, and I was hoping it would not be a retread of old ground, and I was hoping it would be a civilised, maybe even friendly, exchange of ideas, one where one of us - possibly you, possibly me, possibly someone else taking part - would think, "Hmm, I hadn't thought of it like that before." This, after all, is partly what this forum is for.

    Obviously there's no point if you're done here.
    Sorry for that. I am sticking around.
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    Hi Jens, Yes, the question mark keeps sticking around, and the pesky question just won't go away.
    Just curious: Where is the benefit of a product (an interstellar ship) which is tossed into the cosmos, never to be seen or heard from again ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Just curious: Where is the benefit of a product (an interstellar ship) which is tossed into the cosmos...
    As has been stated previously, it gets people where they want to go. That is the benefit-- accomplishing a task that enables one to achieve a goal.

    The benefit is for those who travel to another star, and those who want others to be able to travel to another star.

    Let's say someone wants to move to an island, and spend the rest of their life there. They spend a lot of money buying a boat. When they get to their destination, the boat sinks, they can't go back. But that doesn't matter, because they're already where they wanted to be. Was it a waste to get the boat? No, because it served its purpose.

    ...never to be seen or heard from again ?
    Do you think that a ship full of explorers sent to another star system would have nothing to say about it?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Sorry for that. I am sticking around.
    Thanks for that, Noclevername.

    Here's my take.

    The solar system is probably very rich in resources. If we invested in getting hold of those resources, Earth could be a wealthy little world. And in the course of getting out there, we'd start out as miners of the asteroids (and so on) but end up calling the solar system our home. Once we've done that, we'll start looking seriously at the stars.

    That's the vision. I've seen it in the SF of Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Stephen Baxter and others. And it was not just in fiction. I read books by the likes of Kenneth Gatland, and articles about O'Neill's L5 cylinders. It was all big and ambitious and exciting.

    But it doesn't seem that way to me now. (And keep in mind, I'm talking about how it seems to me; if I've missed out something major, by all means point it out.) These are the problems as I see it:

    1. Everything to do with space has proven to be much more difficult than we'd been led to believe, and generally not as good. Space stations were meant to be modules that fitted together like Lego, but that didn't happen - a real disappointment for those who were expecting that 2001 wheel. The Space Shuttle was supposed to provide a cheap and elegant form of space travel, but its tiles kept falling off and it needed those boosters and its ceiling was really low.

    2. Public enthusiasm for anything to do with space seems to have gone through the floor. I haven't tried this, but I'm guessing that if you asked random people to name the all-time big stories in space, their answers would probably be the Challenger disaster, the initial failure of the Hubble telescope (never mind that it subsequently proved a great success), Apollo 13 and the "fact" that the moon landings were shown to be a hoax. If you said, "Come on now, what about the successes?" they'd probably mention non-stick frying pans. The trouble here, I think, is that once people had seen one spacesuited man walking on a desert landscape, they'd seen 'em all (hence the poor ratings for Apollo 12), and once they'd learnt there are no green men or cities on Mars, all interest was lost. On the other hand, people are well aware that space travel is expensive.

    3. Every big/long-term project in history (and prehistory) that I can think of happened because of some or all of the following: it was an emergency (e.g. World War II, the Cold War), it didn't require the willing consent of the people (Stonehenge and the Pyramids, though we don't know this for sure), it was ordained by God (various cathedrals), it was useful before it was finished (Great Wall, Hadrian's Wall, Offa's Dyke). And in nearly every case development was incremental.

    So, whereas developments have usually been increments, advances in spaceflight have been order-of-magnitude leaps. Fireworks to low orbiting craft - difficult but doable, and maybe we'll see some companies like Virgin making a real go of it. Low orbit to lunar - a huge leap, which is why we haven't set foot there for 40 years. Lunar to nearest planetary - well over 100 times the distance, and even if it's not 100 times as difficult, it's still a lot more difficult. When it comes to actually mining an asteroid, the cost of the investment, and the sheer difficulty of actually doing it, compared with the possibility of failure to find anything, or the public's fear of it falling on their heads, makes it very unlikely to ever happen.

    There may come a time in the next 50,000 years (to return to my purely arbitrary figure) when a future Pharoah, immeasurably wealthy and long-lived, will decide, "Stuff popular opinion, we're going to mine the asteroid belt and build orbiting habitats." Or there may be a doomsday planet heading our way, and it's real this time, and getting out into the solar system is our only hope of survival. Or there may be some new form of viral education system that teaches everybody to appreciate astronomy, and suddenly billions of people will rise up and say, "Let's start building spacecraft!"

    But failing this (and frankly we probably need all three scenarios to take place at once), the world is no more likely to take on the undertaking in 2013 than it was in 2012, no more likely in 2014 than in 2013, and so on, whereas with each passing year we'll be less and less able to do it because of continually depleted resources. One day people will stop saying, "We should invest in space," and instead they'll be saying, "We should have invested in space."

    Finally, whereas I certainly don't think a colonised solar system means a starship is likely, I do think that failure to colonise the solar system means a starship is almost certainly not going to happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    1. Everything to do with space has proven to be much more difficult than we'd been led to believe, and generally not as good. Space stations were meant to be modules that fitted together like Lego, but that didn't happen - a real disappointment for those who were expecting that 2001 wheel. The Space Shuttle was supposed to provide a cheap and elegant form of space travel, but its tiles kept falling off and it needed those boosters and its ceiling was really low.
    The difference between what is possible and what actually gets accomplished can often seem disappointing, I feel the same way, but the problem there was one of overzealous advertising rather than any real flaws in the concepts. I'm not saying that anything to do with space will be easy. I'm just saying that it'll be worth the difficulties.

    The ISS cost billions for the same reason that the Shuttle wasn't a cheap and elegant form of space travel-- they were both political compromises. At present, there are several private companies working on both of theose problems, and showing amazing progress. Transhab units have been inflated in orbit and work just fine. The first private cargo rocket recently docked with the ISS with no problems. Companies all over the world are in the process of developing human-rated spaceflight. We're on the verge of an era of unprecedented access to orbit.



    2. Public enthusiasm for anything to do with space seems to have gone through the floor. I haven't tried this, but I'm guessing that if you asked random people to name the all-time big stories in space, their answers would probably be the Challenger disaster, the initial failure of the Hubble telescope (never mind that it subsequently proved a great success), Apollo 13 and the "fact" that the moon landings were shown to be a hoax. If you said, "Come on now, what about the successes?" they'd probably mention non-stick frying pans. The trouble here, I think, is that once people had seen one spacesuited man walking on a desert landscape, they'd seen 'em all (hence the poor ratings for Apollo 12), and once they'd learnt there are no green men or cities on Mars, all interest was lost. On the other hand, people are well aware that space travel is expensive.
    I live a few miles from a school named for Neil Armstrong. I doubt I'd get that response here were I to ask.

    I think you're letting pessimism get the better of you. Asking questions and then saying "I bet this is what people would say" is not a way to find things out. And even if you're right, this does not mean that space is viewed negatively everywhere. China, for example, would provide you with a very different set of answers.


    3. Every big/long-term project in history (and prehistory) that I can think of happened because of some or all of the following: it was an emergency (e.g. World War II, the Cold War), it didn't require the willing consent of the people (Stonehenge and the Pyramids, though we don't know this for sure), it was ordained by God (various cathedrals), it was useful before it was finished (Great Wall, Hadrian's Wall, Offa's Dyke). And in nearly every case development was incremental.

    So, whereas developments have usually been increments, advances in spaceflight have been order-of-magnitude leaps.
    Not really, no. They have been and currently are, incremental developments, but only the final product of that development gets on CNN.


    Low orbit to lunar - a huge leap, which is why we haven't set foot there for 40 years.
    Using the methods of the past, it is a huge leap. Using a ship assembled or refueled in LEO, it's a series of several smaller steps. Companies with access to LEO who want to go to the Moon, may use this method, perhaps even construct a permanent Earth-Moon ferry.


    Lunar to nearest planetary - well over 100 times the distance, and even if it's not 100 times as difficult, it's still a lot more difficult.
    True. But the difficulties are known and quantifiable. They can be compensated for.



    When it comes to actually mining an asteroid, the cost of the investment, and the sheer difficulty of actually doing it, compared with the possibility of failure to find anything, or the public's fear of it falling on their heads, makes it very unlikely to ever happen.
    That's assuming you try it all at once, full-scale. It will be done in stages-- first small sample return missions, then as the technology improves, extracting some useful materials in-situ as a proof-of-concept, then larger-scale development using NEOs in conveniently low-deltaV orbits. As companies that work in space develop, it will eventually become cheaper to provide materials for them from space than from Earth-- even if it's just rubble to act as a radiation shield.

    Ever is a very long time.



    There may come a time in the next 50,000 years (to return to my purely arbitrary figure) when a future Pharoah, immeasurably wealthy and long-lived, will decide, "Stuff popular opinion, we're going to mine the asteroid belt and build orbiting habitats." Or there may be a doomsday planet heading our way, and it's real this time, and getting out into the solar system is our only hope of survival. Or there may be some new form of viral education system that teaches everybody to appreciate astronomy, and suddenly billions of people will rise up and say, "Let's start building spacecraft!"

    God-Kings and worldwide uprising are not necessary. A few companies or a particularly dedicated billionaire or two, and time to grow are all that is required. It will, as I said, be done in increments.

    Start with LEO, then go to NEO, including the Moon. Next reach further out-- footprints on Mars, then a base, visit a few main Belt asteroids, further planets. Then start setting up bases there. Robots reach out to take samples and then to build bases, more in-situ materials used, eventually it becomes an industry, supplying the small but growing numbers living off-Earth. The first baby born in space, then more, then generations. Take a small population of people and machines, and reproduce/bootstrap for several generations. In time you have a civilization of people who have never set foot on Terra Firma and who need no longer rely on it for support. In much more time, they may come to outnumber those who live on Earth.



    But failing this (and frankly we probably need all three scenarios to take place at once), the world is no more likely to take on the undertaking in 2013 than it was in 2012, no more likely in 2014 than in 2013, and so on, whereas with each passing year we'll be less and less able to do it because of continually depleted resources. One day people will stop saying, "We should invest in space," and instead they'll be saying, "We should have invested in space."
    We are currently investing in space. The process began decades ago. It's been speeding up in recent years.


    I do think that failure to colonise the solar system means a starship is almost certainly not going to happen.
    Agreed.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2012-Sep-10 at 09:21 PM. Reason: minor clarifications
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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