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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Exploding totem poles



NASA's new Orion spacecraft just completed a successful test. I wish I was more excited about it. The space program was pretty cool when I was a kid. The Mercury, Gemini, and then Apollo programs were very exciting for a kid growing up. The Space Shuttle was supposed to make space travel cheap, safe, and ordinary. It did none of those things. That's government for you.

The world has the International Space Station, but we have to hitch a ride with the Russians. They are still flying what's basically upgraded 60s technology.

To be fair, the Orion spacecraft looks pretty much like an upgraded Apollo spacecraft. We are still sitting men on top of exploding totem poles to shoot them into space. It's disappointing that we are back to using rockets. The military has a secret space program that flies what looks like a scaled down space shuttle. Currently it's an unmanned platform, but who knows what it's capabilities really are? However, even if they could launch men, the craft is tiny.

I wonder if people like John Michael Greer are correct claiming that we will never truly be a space faring race. He makes some pretty solid arguments against it. The vast majority of scientific accomplishments rest on a foundation of cheap energy. Once the nonrenewable resources are used up, we'll have to drastically scale back our ambitions.

Now I'd like to argue with Mr. Greer. My heart wants to soar to the stars, but my mind suspects he might be right. The fact that we've slipped back to using Apollo type craft gives some strength to his argument.

The human race is still doing interesting science in space. The Europeans have just landed a robotic spacecraft on an asteroid after all. Commercial satellites for communication, mapping, and navigation will have value for years to come, but those services are being supplied using very mature technology.

Humans may never leave this little dirt ball in space and that would be tragic. Humans have always pressed on to new frontiers. It's clear now that current and planned spacecraft will only be able to carry a select few out of our gravity well, and they won't be able to leave the solar neighborhood.

Space exploration is going to need some serious breakthroughs to change all that. For the good of the human race I hope we do. Wouldn't it be great if space travel could once again capture the imagination of little boys and girls?

-Sixbears

14 comments:

  1. The breakthrough would be Clarks elevator.what we lack is commitment to build it.In the late 1800we laid trans Atlantic cables today we should be able to run one to a geo synchronis orbit.A cable lift to space..

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    1. We may already have the technology do it, but we lack the vision. Once you leave the gravity well you are halfway to anywhere.

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  2. Sad that we must start from scratch for just an upscale Apollo. Let alone the retooling to make a modern day Saturn 5 equivalent.
    Real shame that we might run out of resources to build the equipment necessary for retrieving the infinite resources out there....

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    1. It's raining soup out there and we have no bowl to catch it.

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  3. Politics has killed the dream we all had as kids. I still have all the newspapers from the moon landing. Remember the excitement? !! It was the greatest achievement of mankind. The rest of the world was just as enthralled as we were back then.

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    1. It was a time of wonder and limitless possibilities.

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  4. Where can man go? Mars, after many years and enormous expense, could be transformed into a habitable place, maybe. Maybe one of Jupiter's or Saturn's moons? It would take years to reach our closest star other than the sun and there are no habitable planets around it. The distances to anyplace habitable is just too great. It would take many, many years to reach a new place to live.

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    1. One would think we'd take better care of the place we have since the other options need so much work.

      I did read a recent article about building floating cities in the atmosphere of Venus that looked interesting.

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    2. Since Venus is much closer to the sun than we are, I would hope those cities will be well air conditioned. . .

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    3. In a floating city temp and pressure would be good. Of course, the atmosphere is acid, so that's an issue.

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  5. they can spend lotsa money in weapons development or on wars that really benifit nobody

    and yet can't build a decent moonbase or solve the homeless problem

    whatta world..... nutty as hell

    Wildflower

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    1. I bet the money spent on two useless wars would have given us some nice space toys.

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  6. I find the Archdruid's arguments why we CAN'T become a space-faring race to be fairly shaky. Fossil fuels have made our excursions off-world much easier, but there is no compelling reason why we couldn't if we really wanted to. But that is the big IF. His arguments that future generations just won't feel it's worth the effort are far more cogent.

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    1. I don't think we can do it the way we've been doing it. I'm open to good arguments that would make my childhood dreams come true. :)

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