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The Reason

Posted by: spacecowboy - Mon Sep 26, 2005 2:21 am
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Post    Posted on: Tue Sep 27, 2005 1:14 pm
When I say all our needs can be met with robotic craft, I am not talking about exploring. I am talking about immediate return on investment. So far the only space activity that supplies an immediate return on investment is communication satellites. Unfortunately, most of the world's population, and a large part of the US population do not care at all about exploration or science for it's own sake. And they don't want their tax dollars spent against their wishes on what they consider a total waste of money. And they vote for the politicians who hold NASA's purse strings.
The sad truth is the we have no immediate need to go into space. If we did, we would be there in a heartbeat because the resources of the world would be applied to the task. As it is, space exploration is just a luxury and those interested in it better have lots of money because it is very expensive.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Sep 27, 2005 3:59 pm
campbelp2002 wrote:
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.


I wasn't trying to indicate that a parallel for Columbus was already extant in the space exploration context. I was merely attempting to demonstrate that even an enterprise designed specifcally for profit can easily fail when it is predicated on new technology, and even such failures can be watershed events in the history of human exploration.

And I would contend that nobody has made any money in space launch period, if you remove any and all artificial state funding in the form of exorbitant launch contracts, subsidies, tax exemptions, etc.

In an open, free-market model, I don't think that space launch has yet been done profitably, but I sure hope Musk or Branson breaks that paradigm.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Sep 27, 2005 6:41 pm
Man, I think we've just about figured everything out. I take exception on the asteroid mining though, I think that could be very profitable if launch costs can be reduced. Exotic metals are going to be in high demand if we ever switch over to a hydrogen economy, palladium in particular.

But think about this. Airlines are much the same as the space industry. They are more practical of course, but even they are in trouble. Now what happens when the world's oil supply starts to shrink like it's predicted to do, sometime in the next ten years or so? Airlines are going to go down. And I think the space industry, which is even more of a luxury, is going to fare much worse. There aren't going to be lots of rich patrons, unless you go to Saudi Arabia (and they won't be interested in space rockets). I hope the oil crunch doesn't do in space exploration. I think if we tranfer to a hydrogen economy space access will be even more practical, but the transfer phase is going to *stink*.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Sep 27, 2005 9:24 pm
Quote:
Now what happens when the world's oil supply starts to shrink like it's predicted to do, sometime in the next ten years or so? Airlines are going to go down. And I think the space industry, which is even more of a luxury, is going to fare much worse.


According to AAA, motorists alone just in California (OK, admittedly the #1 driving state) burned FORTY FIVE MILLION gallons of gasoline EVERY DAY of 2004. http://www.aaa-calif.com/WESTWAYS/0704/PUMP.ASP
... that means that the real world cost of all that automobile propellant is about 150 million dollars each and every day. When gasoline quadruples in price, that number tops half a billion, of course, but guess what? CALIFORNIANS WILL STILL DRIVE. Less, perhaps, than now, but an awful lot.

In any case, compared to the figures we get from numerous threads here and from other sources like this one: http://www.colonyfund.com/Reading/paper ... n_leo.html we can see that when kerosene quadruples in price, the material cost of an orbital space launch will increase by perhaps 10%

Basically, young Skywalker, most of the engineers on this board salivate/fantasize/dream about the day when a shortage of hydrocarbons means that spaceflight will become substantially more expensive, because that would indicate that a mountain of other expensive hurdles have been successfully overcome. In the interim, fuel cost remains one of the smallest issues facing the space launch industry. Making it one of the biggest would be quite a coup.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Sep 27, 2005 10:52 pm
i don't know how familiar you all are with historiography, but probably the crucial reason for going to space in my opinion (other than all the other ones) is due to an idea outlined in Frederick Jackson Turner's "frontier thesis" that was written around the turn of the century, as the last uninhabited portions of earth were finishing being filled with humanity. basically, it says that the presence of a frontier is crucial in society because it allows an outlet for those dissatisfied (by that i mean like point-of-revolution dissatisfied, not just pissed at the status quo) persons which is neither violent nor self-destructive. admittedly, the destruction of order he was predicting around then didn't happen, but really in the modern world there are very few true outlets for the massively discontented. so opening a space frontier not only gives you tons of resource and science advantages, but it also just so happens to give you more epheremal social and psychological benefits. also, i happen to be of the belief that spaceflight is somehow crucial in achieving human transcendence, but that's really complex and would take a long time to get into.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:57 am
Terra: I'm a long-standing believer in the same idea, although I didn't hear it from Turner; I elaborated on some things that Sagan said in Plale Blue Dot.

SawSS1Jun21: I might just accept that. The only problem is that it's more like Ericsson taking off for Vinland whilst already having a GPS map of the place, including good agricultural land and where the nasty natives are located. In other words, our astronomers are purty smart fellas, so we already know what's on each of these rocks: certainly (and regrettably) nothing worth going for. There's no natural resources there that we don't already have here -- unless you count Davy Crockett's "elbow room".......... <points back at Terra's post>

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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 5:04 am
...


Last edited by whonos on Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 6:50 am
I'm not sure mining Helium 3 on the moon is viable, from what I've read you need to process hundreds of tons of regolith to get a kilogram of He3.

Aside from the problems associated with setting up mining on that scale, nearly all the He3 is in the top couple of metres (most of that on the surface) and nobody is going to let a company tear up huge areas of the Moon's surface and leave scars that could be seen from Earth.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:06 am
The point in reality is that it is impossible to judge if something is worth to go for it or if it is not. The reason is that it is a subjective thing - human psyche is acting here.

Another point is the coal example - this would be worth (!) an additional thread in the Financial Barrier section. There are economical differences between shipping coal, carrying coal by airplane and carry coal by a space vehicle from other planets to Earth or any destinaed planet.

Aerospace Engieering in this context is work on infrastructure which can be used by thos who subjectivel and by their psyches consider it worth to be used. ...



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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:45 pm
I'm no expert on those asteroids, but if they do have tons of platium-group metals, they ought to be profitable. Robotic extraction and processing would have to be developed, but I think that's doable. Alternatively, you could use a small tug to bring the objects down to LEO and load them into a re-entry capsule for processing on earth. Any idea what kind of delta-V you'd need for the average NEA? That would be a major determinant of cost of mining, unless in-situ propellant production could be accomplished on the asteroids. If that were possible, you'd only have a one-time cost to put the tug out to the asteroids, and then the recurring cost of lofting a recovery capsule for each asteroid, but presumably that would be worth the cost of the asteroid's metal content.

Maybe I'm getting off-topic with this, I don't know. The calculations of that sort really do belong in the Financial section, don't they? My reason for space exploration is "just for the heck of it!" I don't believe in any of that stuff about saving the human race, or even having a frontier, although you might say that my impulse is driven by the need for a wild place to explore, and that would probably be correct.

I don't think we need a "united front" sort of reason. The only reason you'd need such is if you were trying to justify the government using ppl's money for space exlporation when the ppl didn't want it to. And if we're all about just going b/c we want to, and being financed by ppl with the same drive, we don't need an ulterior motive, so to speak.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 3:13 pm
Cowboy:

But everyone TOLD Ericssen that there was nothing worth going for, and he felt that he would rather find out firsthand. Meaning, perhaps, that he went for his own selfish reasons... but that is kinda my point. The "enthusiasts" whom are the first to go never make profit, only sometimes do decent science, and even more rarely turn out some kind of discovery, but it is that very unprofitable foolishness which makes everything that follows possible.

Had you informed the small-town 1930s resident peering over the fabric edge of the front seat of a stearman that the technology would eventually evolve into five-hundred passenger metal planes that traveled 600 mph, he either would not have cared or would have thought you were crazy. He paid his two bucks to have fun, dammit, and that's what he was doing. The future of the species or industry didn't factor into his choice, it was purely personal.

And I'll wager that on a daily basis, the folks at JPL wish that they could get a Mark 1 Human Eyeball on those rovers, because sure they know a lot now, but the whole year-plus that those rovers have been working will be re-written in the first two or three weeks of Buck and Flash stomping around the red landscape.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 4:39 pm
Right you are. Spirit and Opp' have been calledd successes, when--if you were to offer 200 billion bomb-disposal units for the NYPD--they would laugh at you and say "It's nice, but we get by with ours just fine--plus we don't have a robot that can do all of a UXB man's job."

If you were to replace Bob Bakker and other dino hunters with those two golf carts--they wouldn't find dino bone #1.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 4:55 pm
LukeSkywalker wrote:
I don't think we need a "united front" sort of reason. The only reason you'd need such is if you were trying to justify the government using ppl's money for space exlporation when the ppl didn't want it to. And if we're all about just going b/c we want to, and being financed by ppl with the same drive, we don't need an ulterior motive, so to speak.
Exactly! If Burt Rutan wants to build SS1 and Paul Allen wants to pay for it, the rest of the world can enjoy it or ignore it. It the US government wants to pay for SS1 then there have to be congressional hearings and political fighting and the majority of the country has to be behind it and it has to be a need and not just "awesomely cool".


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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 29, 2005 5:10 pm
whonos wrote:
we don't exactly have unlimited amounts of platinum group metals, nor do we have helium-3.
No material, not platinum group metals, not diamonds, not helium-3, is expensive enough to make it cheaper to get from space.
Yet.
So there is no need to go to space.
Yet.
If space access can be made cheap enough, that could change. But that hasn’t happened.
Yet.
The task is to make space access cheap enough while it is still not needed. Then it’s cheapness will make it a necessity. It is entirely possibly that this will never happen. Ever. Or it may happen in the next 10 years. We just don't know.
Yet.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Sep 30, 2005 7:52 pm
Peter: that last post I actually fully agreed with. "Snick" go all the pieces... I think that's something I can run with.

Oh, and as to mining: here is a document that I've used once in an English paper a couple of years ago -- it could be a work of genius, it could be complete crap. I don't know, but it's reasonably interesting. Makes a lot of assumptions.

Okay, now if the French would just get that reactor built so guys like me can figure out how to build a shipboard fusion drive...... :twisted:

Mars in a week, anyone?

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