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the up sides of humanity's future in space

Posted by: csbp029 - Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:49 pm
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the up sides of humanity's future in space 
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Post the up sides of humanity's future in space   Posted on: Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:49 pm
I read an article in my local paper today about the last launch of Atlantis. It focused on the last fifty years of space exploration as a failure, and on the future of space travel as a frivolous waste. The writer based this view on the fact that shuttle technology hasn't advanced that much since it was invented. An astonishing number of people seem to share that opinion!

I think it's important to focus on why space exploration COULD succeed. The fact that we haven't managed to improve space technology drastically in fifty years says that something more basic is missing than elaborations of what's already been known to work. Ancient Greeks and Chinese were trying to figure out ways to fly long before it became possible. It wasn't until apparently unrelated scientific advancements occurred that we ended up with machines that could actually do what we'd envisioned for millenia. And modern airplanes resemble early notions of flying machines the way blue whales resemble clownfish. If we didn't give up on flying after thousands of years of failures, why should we give up on colonizing new planets when we've only just discovered it'll be possible one day? We're already out there. The only problem is that technology has advanced almost too fast. We're still working with the equivalent of hang gliders and we don't even realize it. When we figure out what the next phase is, then we'll be onto something.

I vote for looking into pop culture for inspiration. It's amazing how many things didn't exist until someone read about them in a sci-fi novel, or saw them on a TV show, and decided to try making them happen. People thought Jules Verne was ridiculous for writing about deep-sea exploration; then engineers started developing submarines based on his imaginary creations. Star Trek looked like total fantasy until we started developing things like personal computers, cell phones, Bluetooths, iPads, and automatic doors. William Gibson wrote about a worldwide cyber-network and inspired the creation of the Internet. So some of the inventions in Doctor Who might seem far-fetched, but I'd bet a lot of money that future generations will think of them as commonplace.


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Post Re: the up sides of humanity's future in space   Posted on: Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:33 am
As I see it, space exploration and the eventual colonisation of other planets must succeed in order for the human race to survive its infancy.

We are over populating this planet, our only options are to kill off half our population or expand outside our dear home.
Naturally people are afraid of the prospect of leaving, and many don't see it as worth while because they don't understand that we will destroy ourselves if we do not send some of our population elsewhere.

Colonisation of planets and the building of the crafts to get there could be the source of new break throughs in engineering technology and medical technology.
Think about all the issues with prolonged exposure to microgravity, lowered bone density and loss of muscle mass to name a few, if these can be solved can you imagine what else could be done for the medical field?

Going into space could herald cures to currently incurable diseases; it could result in prosthetic limbs that have much higher dexterity and are almost able to function on the same level as an organic limb. We could develop better cars, better planes, better communications systems.

We need to let Earth become the home waypoint as we extend our human reach to other planets.

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Post Re: the up sides of humanity's future in space   Posted on: Wed May 23, 2012 12:16 pm
Humanity has no future without expanding into space. None.
We are practically dead meat at the moment, it's just we don't know it yet.

I have no idea how to make that perfectly clear to everyone who still doubts that we should be spending money on these projects.

I am working on it though.

If more people knows about it, there will be more people willing to pay for the research and engineering that we need to do in order for us to survive and prosper out there.

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Post Re: the up sides of humanity's future in space   Posted on: Sat Jun 09, 2012 8:33 pm
It won't make an impact until there is a "clear and present danger" to motivate and hold people's attention. Too many immediate risks and challenges in peoples lives for them to seriously consider the remote and hypothetical threats.

It's the way it is. We can only hope we have enough time to be able to meander leisurely to a probably (hopefully?) inevitable off-Earth population, and the technologies that makes it possible.


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Post Re: the up sides of humanity's future in space   Posted on: Sun Jun 10, 2012 2:01 am
So do you think it might be worth to have a go at the problem and do it the other way around. :)

At the moment we are trying to sell space to people saying there are spin off technologies that they do benefit from already and will benefit from in the future.

Why don't we try and sell the masses something they do want now, and make it so that the spin off of it is going to be essential for our space activities.

Example:
food production:
We have a massive problem with our current farming practices. We are depleting the ecological systems that farming depend on and the governments are too slow to react and are way too shrot sighted to invest serious money into drastical improvements in practices and production.

Farming enterprises on small scale also lack vision, and we have the majority of the industry stuck doing practices that are at least 100 years out dated.

More efficient food production is not only crucial if we want to provide food for our bloated population, but also if we want to do it without completely wrecking the biosphere and destroying other pleasures we believe people should be able to enjoy. Things like tourism, healthy food, water, healthy environments to live in.

We have the choice of all of us going vegan, but it would require more land to be made available for cropping. Cropping itself has massive environmental impacts with requiring irrigation, and fertilisers to increase yealds. We are using around South America sized land mass for these kinds of activities. If we increased that we would need to use more water taken from rivers and ground water aquifers, or develop more drought resistant crops that can grow in areas we are doing grazing at the moment. We also use some of these crops as animal feed to make protein and fats out of. The alarming bit is that in south america itself the rainforests are being cut down for cropping to produce soy to be fed to animals so we can eat beef. Also for grazing land for beef. Most of it is eaten in those countries, but the biodiversity losses will be felt by everybody on the globe.

We utilise roughly the size of Africa for grazing where we turn grasses into protein, fats and sugars, using animals and the bioreactors in their stomachs. The process is highly inefficient because the animal itself needs to use up a significant portion of the available energy to just staying alive and feeding itself. Not to mention the environmental costs in terms of water usage, soil degradation and erosion, spread of exotic species, biodiversity losses because of land clearing etc...Serious issues and not much is being done.

A solution that we could use to increase agricultural production is to use bioreactors to turn the cellulose of plants /what herbivores with their internal bioreactors do/ into proteins, sugars and fats we can eat, cutting out the middle man the animal itself. We could machine graze the current grazing lands reducing the impact on the pasture, reducing water usage requirements, and increasing efficiency by having more control over when and how much we graze. We can also have more species rich pastures and healthier grassland ecosystems requiring less fertilizers and high energy inputs. /well in theory/

We know insects are way more efficient than vertebrates in terms of turning plant material into proteins because they don't need energy to heat their bodies. They also probably make big savings on having smaller less complex nervous systems as well. Their survival strategy is in large numbers instead of large body size, their requirements for "intelligence" is way lower, thus lower energy use.

Now imagine the savings if we utilise microbes for changing undigestable cellulose into digestable sugars, proteins, fats. We can utilise a wide range of microbes for the job, both procaryotes and eucaryotes, and we have the ability to insert and mix genes to tweak the products they would produce.

We can use the same technology to produce food utilising the oceans. We could have floating farms with filtration systems in place to make sure the nutrient rich solution for growing algae to be digested in our bioreactors doesn't contaminate the oceans. Well actually we don't want our macro and micronutrients to dissolve back into the ocean and be wasted anywy. We want them in our closed food chain. We could also create artificial reefs at the same time to help the fishing industry and help improve the health of the oceans. Fish is also quite healthy to eat, we all probably should eat more if we wanted to live long and productive lives.

And to move the whole thing off world we only need large fields of tubes of algae solution exposed to the sun with some amount of radiation protection. We then harvest the algae and produce our digestable food products from them using our tweaked reactors.

If we want to take the whole technology even further, we could introduce 3d printing and printing meatlike and vegetable like products in terms of texture and looks wouldn't be too hard either. This would be the star trek food replicator technology but within the physics we understand now.

The point is there is a clear benefit now of a technology we desperately need, BUT at the same time the same technology is extremely useful if you want to live offworld, and wouldn't really need much tweaking to make use of it off world.

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Post Re: the up sides of humanity's future in space   Posted on: Sun Jun 10, 2012 2:24 am
Except that people don't want to/won't eat algae cakes and vat grown meat. Look at the strong resistance to genetic-modified crops. It just won't fly from a commercial perspective, even if its the most efficient rational choice. Human beings aren't rational. They behave in their own individual interests, and those are often short-sighted and self-centered.

You might be able to get the few who choose to be astronauts to eat that, and adapt to the requirements of living in space, but its a big leap to expect the public at large to do the same. Some technologies don't spin-off very well.


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Post Re: the up sides of humanity's future in space   Posted on: Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:46 am
I know there is a problem with our perceptions. We will definitely need to change that. :)

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