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The Reason

Posted by: spacecowboy - Mon Sep 26, 2005 2:21 am
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The Reason 
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Post The Reason   Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 2:21 am
Okay, it seems that all the topics in the Cafe keep coming back to this one question: why, exactly do we need to go into space at all? This is, also, a question that I've personally been struggling with for some time. Why do I need to work in my chosen field? Why should I care?

We can say we need to go to save humanity, but that doesn't carry much weight: we've survived for the past few thousand years, why worry about it? Our society works on much too short of an attention-span cycle to care about indefinite possibilities. And don't just point at civilization in general and say, "well, they SHOULD care, but they don't, so it's not my problem -- I'm just working for their own good." We need an actual answer that can be preached in the streets, screamed from rooftops, and -- by far the most important -- marketed to the masses.

We can speak of the infinite resources in space, but why should we care about those, when we've got pretty much everything we need here? What, exactly, do we need a few hundred tons of platinum-group metals for?

We can also mention the possibilities of spin-off technologies in every field of engineering and basic science. Again, it's too indefinite for anybody to care about: "So you're saying that, given a few billion dollars and an indefinite period of time, you might be able to make something that might have some economic value? No way, man."

We also say things like, "those who know just do and are under no obligation to explain it to anybody." Unfortunately, that's completely unsatisfactory.

Anybody got any suggestions?

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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 7:35 am
Spacecowboy,

I don't have a reason for the masses for you. I only have what I tell my folks here at the shop.

I'm going.
If you want go come along I'm happy to share the journey.

That's all I have for you. We're had hundreds of volunteers over the decades (we started in 1977) and no two have EVER had the same reason for wanting to walk down this road.

JP
www.jpaerospace.com


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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 7:42 am
I've never been a big fan of manned spaceflight that is funded by the government. However, I don't believe we should actively restrict private individuals and companies from going into space. The main danger in my mind is that we might get drowned in restrictions which pretty much ensures that only government can go into space. It's not that way right now necessarily, but I think we must be on guard for the potential. I think it's safe to say a lot of people, particularly governments, around the globe will not welcome the possibility of others colonizing extraterrestrial real-estate. So to summarize, I don't think the question should so much revolve around why we should go into space, but why we shouldn't restrict people from going into space.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:46 am
What about

- challenge
- adventure
- fascination
- curiosity and inquisitiveness
- chances
- conquest
- attractiveness of the secrets hiiden in the darkness of space
- myths and mythologies
- the feeling to be the children of universe
- interest
- ...

as deeper and driving reasons?



Dipl.-Volkswirt (bdvb) augustin (Political Economist)


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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:01 pm
All the stuff about another biosphere to save the human race is a fantasy. The best place BY FAR is Earth. Now if we had interstellar capability then maybe there would be some nice places, but I bet they are all already occupied.
Resources? maybe some unmanned missions for specific purposes, like the communication satellites we have now, but mining bulk material for use on Earth? Get real! That would be like delivering coal by air freight!
So if we can't (yet) make it to the stars and resources are not worth it, why go to the planets?
In a word, because it is awesomely cool! That is why space tourism will be the savior of manned space flight.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 2:27 pm
to attack klingons?

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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 4:43 pm
campbelp2002 wrote:
All the stuff about another biosphere to save the human race is a fantasy. The best place BY FAR is Earth.

Agreed.

campbelp2002 wrote:
Now if we had interstellar capability then maybe there would be some nice places, but I bet they are all already occupied.

I certainly hope so.

campbelp2002 wrote:
Resources? maybe some unmanned missions for specific purposes, like the communication satellites we have now, but mining bulk material for use on Earth? Get real! That would be like delivering coal by air freight!

Pretty much.

campbelp2002 wrote:
So if we can't (yet) make it to the stars and resources are not worth it, why go to the planets?

<drum roll, please!>

campbelp2002 wrote:
In a word, because it is awesomely cool!

...Uh, that's two words, but I'll forgive you. :P

campbelp2002 wrote:
That is why space tourism will be the savior of manned space flight.

So basically, the only answer I've gotten so far is "for the hell of it". I agree that there's nothing I'd rather do, but does that really justify the costs?

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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 5:37 pm
Space is a playground anyone can play in who has the right toys. While not everyone has the toys at the moment the prospect for getting them are pretty good when looked at on a country sized budget.

As long as no one starts fights in the plaground by bringing along things that are dangerous or does something stupid to upset everyone then we can all have a good time away from the problems on earth and maybe learn a few things about our playmates that help us understand one another a bit better.

So if we all learn to play nicely together in space there might be some hope for us when we get back down to earth.

:)

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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 6:05 pm
There was a fellow once, named Leif...

He had a boat, a big one. Now these were frightfully expensive things to have in those times, you had to be nobility, or a warloard, or some kind of upper-echelon prick, and he must have been one of them because he had a boat. Hell, I think he may have had a few boats.

Now these boats were for sailing up and down the coast and pillaging, oops I mean TRADING, with the neighbors, and if you wanted a real exiting adventure you could always brave the north sea and visit those crazy Anglos or Celts. But that's what those boats were for and thats why they were built and there was no reason why anyone would want to do anything else with them, and what in the name of Thor would constitute a sensible reason to put into the great sea beyond Angle-land because there had to be monsters or something equally hideous out there anyway.

There was a fellow once, named Christopher. Now he was a smart guy and he had done the math and he was convinced that he was living on a ball of mud, not a slab; and he figured that a ball being round and all meant that he could get valuable goods from the Orient without taking the long way 'round and make a load of bread on the scheme, since nobody else had figured it out yet. But Chris was sort of a geek and a maps-and-sextants guy and not real wealthy or powerful, and he needed some ships and oceangoing vessels were prohibitively expensive items and you had to be insanely wealthy or royalty or something like that and anyone whom had a stake in such a carefully piled stack of lumber certainly would not agree to sending it on some fool's errand over the edge of the earth. But Chris found a rich monarch who thought it might be worth the chance...

Point being, the first folks always have to be the ones who do it "because we can" or "because it is there" or "for the adventure" and they will expend huge amounts of resources on it; sometimes thier own and sometimes the state's, but it will be hideously unprofitable for a considerable length of time. These people are an essential part of the human equation and they are necessary so that the technology, be it trans-oceanic navigation or interplanetary human travel, actually becomes a reality. Once that piece of the puzzle is in place, the next one will be only a matter of time; eventually some real certifiable individual and his entourage will decide "well, I've had about enough of this bigotry/foolishness/taxation/politics/whatever and I'd rather get used to a dusty red landscape than tolerate another minute of it."

That moment is what this is all about. Mars will never be an earth-like biosphere, but it will be permanent home to homo sapiens someday. We are not going to live long enough to witness it, I expect, but eventually the human stain will spread to most of the rocks in this neighborhood. And if you don't think that it is central to the survival of the species, then you should review your biology and philosphy lessons.

In the mean time, there was once this fellow named Burt...

and another guy called Elon...


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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 7:43 pm
1 word
"passion"
thats y, the human need, the void that needs filling

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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 9:00 pm
Hi SawSS1Jun21,

I agree with your Viking analogy. We have some space vehicles and use them near shore (LEO) and they could be adapted to go farther (the Moon or Mars). But it breaks down if farther means another star.

But I can't agree with the Columbus analogy. Columbus was planning to go where many had gone before, the east Indies, he just wanted a different route. And there was big money already being made by other people who were already going there, the Portuguese. In space, nobody else is going there (the Moon or Mars), the routes are already well known and there is no profit (yet).


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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 9:18 pm
spacecowboy wrote:
So basically, the only answer I've gotten so far is "for the hell of it". I agree that there's nothing I'd rather do, but does that really justify the costs?
It does not justify the government spending the money of people who don't care about it but it does justify people spending their own money to go themselves.

As I see it, technological advancement and economic growth have advanced to the point where wealthy individuals can now realistically consider space flight. Space craft will never be as cheap as airplanes, but over time all technology will get cheaper and all people will get richer until space flight is relatively common. But it will never be as common as air travel just like air travel is not as common as ground travel.

Automobiles and airplanes were once the play things of rich individuals (well, private airplanes sort of still are, although I owned a couple in my time), and space craft will probably start out that way too. And I predict they will ultimately become common but still occupy a position above airplanes in the transportation difficulty continuum. That is space craft will always be more expensive and less available to individuals than airplanes just like airplanes are now more expensive and less available to individuals than cars. And starships will (eventually, I hope) occupy the next level up from that.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Sep 26, 2005 9:34 pm
Hey Pete,

I used the Columbus example because it was a profit-motivated venture involving an unknown risk that was financed by the state, and was a commercial failure... yet is considered by many to be a pivotal chapter in maritime history.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Sep 27, 2005 1:37 am
Yeah, lots of people use Columbus that way, but it doesn't hold water. Others had already made money in the far east before Columbus tried. Nobody has made money in manned space flight yet. Even the passengers the Russians sent up did not make a profit. They merely defrayed some of the cost. The only current needs in space are easily met with unmanned craft like communications, weather monitoring, navigation and spying. Manned space flight is just a luxury right now.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Sep 27, 2005 8:44 am
If we want to find out whats out there I dont think we have a choice sending robots just wont cut it.

To people who say that robotic explorers can achieve the same results as a manned mission really only have to look at the current batch of robots to see how untrue that statement is. While rovers like the one being tested at Ames shortly (see link) are all very impressive compared to a man (or woman:-lets not be sexist here) are pretty inadequate.

Even the highly successful Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity dont seem that great when you consider an astronaut could have covered the same distances in a day. Whats more an astronaut walking or driving across the Martian surface would be able to investigate something instantly without numerous software patches or gangs of engineers clustered around images on a computer screen for weeks on end. How many robotic missions would you have to send to get the same information that a couple of astronauts could gain over a year on the surface?

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=17896

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