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Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present

Posted by: Troubadour - Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:00 pm
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Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present 
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Post Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:00 pm
I've been doing some number-crunching on the record of manned spaceflight since its inception into the present, and I've generated some illuminating (and rather disheartening) charts. This one shows that on average only about 3 more manned missions occur per year today than when we began:

Image

Long-term downward trends in humans in space:

Image[/url]

Total collapse of distance capability following Apollo:

Image

Stagnation after the slight post-Apollo recovery in distance:

Image

Drastic decline in spaceflight duration maxima:

Image

Under-utilization of manned space capacity:

Image

I give detailed explanations of the findings and methodology in the FAQ & Statistics page on my blog, Horizon. As I note in the description, there are literally conference tables with greater capacity than the highest number of people who've ever been in space at any one time. This needs to change, quickly - preferably yesterday.

A note about the charts: They're not graphs - they simply connect discrete datapoints occurring on the vertical grid lines, so the point is to show trends rather than outliers. Significant fluctuations occur on a year-to-year basis that are smoothed over by the 5-year-interval datapoints.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:32 am
Nice post!

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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:41 pm
In the same theme from xkcd

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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:22 pm
Very good. Thanks for sharing.

Really hope that number will increase... but its hard to be optimistic these days.


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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Wed May 02, 2012 4:44 pm
Mchl wrote:
In the same theme from xkcd


Thanks - an even more poignant demonstration of my point. We absolutely have to keep the personal experience of another world alive and growing. To let it fall out of existence would be the beginning of a Dark Age.

SteveXE wrote:
Very good. Thanks for sharing.

Really hope that number will increase... but its hard to be optimistic these days.


I find that optimism comes along with effort. I'm making an effort in my own small way, exploring options, and talking to people about what kind of organization could bring diverse interests together to finally get things back on track.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Wed May 02, 2012 6:07 pm
It's rather worrying that we might end up with having no-one alive who's ever walked on another planetary body... one small step for a man, one giant leap backwards for mankind.

Is there not, like, so way we can bypass the rest of the world? Something like a nuclear boom-boom drive assembled in secret, using thermonuclear bombs that are homemade?


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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Wed May 02, 2012 8:25 pm
Terraformer wrote:
Is there not, like, so way we can bypass the rest of the world? Something like a nuclear boom-boom drive assembled in secret, using thermonuclear bombs that are homemade?


Not that i would wish to be seen encouraging such a venture but along the lines of you might think that but i could not possibly comment here is a link i might just accidentally leave lying a round :wink: :twisted:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/12/sea-ba ... clear.html

Tho considering the issues of refining fissionable materials and how it upsets the neighbours, With the recent advances in laser based fusion it might be easier to assemble an array of solid state lasers and a small lump of lithium six deuterium hydride but i say this on a don't try this at home but an abandoned mine in the middle of a desert might do basis. :wink: :twisted:

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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Thu May 03, 2012 7:37 am
I wouldn't worry too much. Building a high-performance chemical rocket engine is very, very difficult already; building a nuclear one would be pretty much impossible for any amateur effort. A home-built nuclear bomb might be possible, but only if the FBI gave you the materials like they do with many other "terrorists", otherwise where would you get enough fuel? And then it would be way too powerful to drive a rocket, or the rocket would be way too big and you'd need way too many bombs to get to orbit. In short, the only thing I'd be worried about is CYA politicians and military-industrial lobbyist spending even more on their ghost chase and dragging our economies further down into the black hole.

About the numbers, I'm not sure that this is a very useful visualisation. The numbers alone don't say much about the reasons behind them, and there have only been a handful of human spaceflight programmes in the first place: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Shuttle, Spacelab, ISS on the US side, and Vostok, Voskhod, Soyuz, Salyut, Mir, ISS on the Russian side (and recently a few Chinese launches). All born of the Cold War, which is over now. If you want human spaceflight to continue into the future, you have to reinvent the reasons for going into space, not try to revive the 1950's.

Edit: forgot Spacelab on the US side. Wikipedia has a list of human spaceflights with some graphs.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Tue May 08, 2012 6:16 pm
That's because government has been running the space industry.

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Post Re: Hard Data on Manned Spaceflight 1961-Present   Posted on: Tue May 08, 2012 8:55 pm
Terraformer wrote:
It's rather worrying that we might end up with having no-one alive who's ever walked on another planetary body... one small step for a man, one giant leap backwards for mankind.


I think China will probably repeat our performance and maybe go a little further just for prestige, but I doubt the way they do things has any greater staying power than ours did. There is reason to hope US commercial capability will continue to grow, but also plenty of reason to doubt. A grim future is possible - one where walking on another world is associated only with an authoritarian state before finally being forgotten once that state inevitably loses interest.

Terraformer wrote:
Is there not, like, so way we can bypass the rest of the world?


Our best hope right now is SpaceX, but a lot of work and both technical and political hurdles remain in their way. This decade will be the proving ground for whether they can conquer low-Earth orbit, and the next will be about going beyond. If had my 'druthers' I would put the whole US manned space program under their control and just let them run wild - they have the tools, the talent, and more importantly, the vision - far beyond their peers. As it is, I shudder to think of the obstacles they're going to face.

Terraformer wrote:
Something like a nuclear boom-boom drive assembled in secret, using thermonuclear bombs that are homemade?


Not necessary - the chief barrier is cost per kg to orbit, and a number of reasonably well-funded companies are pursuing the kind of reusability with the potential to address that, especially SpaceX. However, once in orbit, nuclear-powered VASIMR would be a lot of help getting to Mars and points beyond. This will be a challenge given the regulatory hurdles to launching nuclear material - even NASA space probes can just barely get over it, and most likely in the future they won't bother, which means the solar system beyond Jupiter is cut off (New Horizons was likely the last such US probe).

Lourens wrote:
About the numbers, I'm not sure that this is a very useful visualisation. The numbers alone don't say much about the reasons behind them, and there have only been a handful of human spaceflight programmes in the first place: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Shuttle, Spacelab, ISS on the US side, and Vostok, Voskhod, Soyuz, Salyut, Mir, ISS on the Russian side (and recently a few Chinese launches).


I go into the reasons behind them in the treatise on my blog I'd created the charts to back up, and I mostly agree with your conclusions - it was the collapse of political support for the Cold War. However, the reasons are kind of secondary to the simple fact that public manned spaceflight is failing or has failed, and the gains from the program were not substantially reinvested in advancing the capability. They were simply allowed to languish and become zombie contractor programs.

Lourens wrote:
If you want human spaceflight to continue into the future, you have to reinvent the reasons for going into space, not try to revive the 1950's.


The fundamental (i.e., rational) reasons are the same they've always been (read question 1 on the FAQ & Statistics page of my blog), but the political reasons are not. The failure to recognize that, and to build a more stable political footing for a capability that is utterly necessary for mankind, is part of the general failure.

Edit: forgot Spacelab on the US side. Wikipedia has a list of human spaceflights with some graphs.[/quote]

SuperShuki wrote:
That's because government has been running the space industry.


To an extent, but the private sector hasn't done any better thus far. In fact, they've done worse - much lower flight rates, prices that keep going up, and a whole lot of services that just never materialize (I'm looking at you, Virgin Galactic) despite having significant financial backing. And that's only since the private sector started putting any money at all into these ventures - for decades industry just sat around soaking up public money and not reinvesting any of it into pursuing private capabilities. The failure is general and systemic, across government and business.

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