Space Exploration

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  • Space Exploration
  • Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Having an argument on FB with my brother in law. I suggested we might all be much better off as a planet if we put space exploration on hold for a while whilst we figure out how to generate reliable cheap clean power.

    So I thought I would start it here too 🙂

    Premier Icon CHB
    Subscriber

    Our future is in the stars, we are a species that explores. Best do it now while energy is still (relatively) cheap.

    johndoh
    Member

    The two aren’t connected.

    It’s like saying we shouldn’t cure the common cold until we’ve solved the issue of drink driving.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Me, I don’t think the two are exclusive. Exploration is aspirational and inspirational, and helps drive tech- and you often discover interesting things while researching something different. It’s that old one light of science thing.

    CountZero
    Member

    This is a tired old argument that’s been going on since they put Sputnik up. There will always be those who can’t see the point.
    Exploration in the cause of pure knowledge is never pointless or wasted.

    Ho hum
    Member

    Those people and companies who get the lucrative contracts probably think that it is a good idea (for them),

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    I can well see the point of space exploration. It’s brilliant, and very worthy. I am absolutely not repeating the ‘what’s the point’ argument.

    Problem is, we have a really big problem here right now.

    The two aren’t connected

    Sadly there is only so much money to go around. So yes they are.

    johndoh
    Member

    Using that argument, what else would you stop funding?

    Free school meals for those on low incomes? Apprentice funding for small businesses? Free at the point of service healthcare?

    Its things like space exploration that develops the technology that solves a lot of the problems we have here on earth. Take clean energy as an example. Which energy company is going to invest the countless of trillions of pounds required to develop a clean limitless source of energy/power without any guarantees that it will be successful? It just won’t happen. It’s only in the development of technologies in the pursuit of knowledge that causes governments and other rich institutions to stump up the cash required. Look at the LHC as an example. No commercial venture is going to fund it, but the knowledge and technology that will come out of this project will (and probably already is) benefitting humankind.

    Unfortunately war has a similar effect of causing step changes in technologies that ultimately can benefit us.

    It’s inevitable that for the human race to continue we have to get off this planet eventually and travel to another, or live on some form of space station. Time is limited and we’ve a hell of a lot to invent before we can do it.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Jondoh – obviously not, because those things have real practical human benefit, and that is what I am arguing FOR.

    Wobbliscott, that is my point exactly. No company is going to fund fusion when there is still oil and gas to pump. So governments need to do it. But their budget is limited of course, so why nit put space on hold for a few decades?

    Premier Icon Riksbar
    Subscriber

    They are connected. But they aren’t exclusive. The solving world hunger is a bit more difficult though.

    As is getting the link to work 😳

    johndoh
    Member

    But Mol – how could you possibly know whether or not that exploration won’t be of massive benefit (directly or indirectly) the progress of the human race?

    butcher
    Member

    I think maybe it’s a little like the arts. It inspires creativity in people, gives them hope and ambitions, it lifts spirits.

    Not to mention how many great scientific discoveries and developments in new technology must come from the space industry.

    I’m all for it. It’s part of who we are and how we got to be where we are in the first place.

    Premier Icon zippykona
    Subscriber

    Let’s ask Frank.

    [video]http://youtu.be/kdMk_Zan2xM[/video]

    gwaelod
    Member

    Can we stop football until we’ve sorted out clean energy…

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    But Mol – how could you possibly know whether or not that exploration won’t be of massive benefit (directly or indirectly) the progress of the human race?

    I don’t. That’s why I think it’s good.

    But I think it’s unlikely to make much difference in the next 50 years. But in that time we could properly **** up Earth if we don’t pull our fingers out.

    Don’t misunderstand. I’m not arguing against space exploration. I’m just saying that RIGHT NOW the money could be better spent elsewhere.

    gwaelod
    Member

    I think the thesis implies there is currently a shortage of money holding back “clean energy”. What is the evidence for this…

    Premier Icon kimbers
    Subscriber

    space exploration has given us satellites, without which no mobile phones or the mobile internets, gps or STRAVA! etc etc

    there are many more less directly obvious ways space exploration has benefited mankind

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Well.. There’s ITER and.. Umm.. ..?

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    molgrips – Member

    Wobbliscott, that is my point exactly. No company is going to fund fusion when there is still oil and gas to pump. So governments need to do it. But their budget is limited of course, so why nit put space on hold for a few decades?

    You know what oil and gas is useless for? Space exploration/ industrialisation. Hey, you know what space industrialisation could be brilliant for? Power generation.

    There’s a hundred things we can cut before we have to cut space. Nasa’s budget is less than half a percent of the US federal budget. Meanwhile 20% of the mandatory budget and 50% of the discretionary budget goes on “defence”.

    maxtorque
    Member

    The issue with true “DEEP SPACE” exploration is that we are already at a technical hiatus regarding the speed at which we can travel across vast distances. Remote and somewhat autonomous exploration of our solar system has told us all we need to know about it, and we already know that no planets exist upon which human habitation could be anything other than a temporary outpost due to environmental limitations. However, the jump in technology required to get to even our nearest neighbouring solar system is so vast it’s currently not feasible.

    Yes, we should continue to explore our own solar system, using remote methods, and yes, we should maintain a near earth orbit human outpost in order to gather data and refine techniques for staying in space in the long term. But, the “where does man go next” question is still wide open

    samuri
    Member

    If we go out and explore and find a new world to colonise, we won’t need to find clean energy. We’ll just colonise and screw up another planet.

    CountZero
    Member

    Using that argument, what else would you stop funding?

    Well, the Americans could cut the funding to the NSA, and the duplicate efforts being set up by the US Army, Airforce, Navy, CIA…
    We could cancel HS2…

    Premier Icon JoeG
    Subscriber

    The internet and GPS were both developed for the US military! Civilian uses were an afterthought…

    Premier Icon kayak23
    Subscriber

    The internet and GPS were both developed for the US military! looking at funny cats and racing strangers.

    Ftfy. 😉

    I can see the obvious benefits in innovation that exploration brings, but it’s all generally self-serving, and the thought of us humans having access to more planets to utterly dominate and destroy for our own ends isn’t something I’d be keen to happen.

    It’s a bit like giving your kid a pet hamster to look after. You wouldn’t give them another hamster until they learned to look after the one they already had right?
    Umm….yeah, it’s a bit like the hamster thing… 😀

    retro83
    Member

    Exploration is in our nature.

    We were wanderers from the beginning. We knew every stand of tree for a hundred miles. When the fruits or nuts were ripe, we were there. We followed the herds in their annual migrations. We rejoiced in fresh meat. through stealth, feint, ambush, and main-force assault, a few of us cooperating accomplished what many of us, each hunting alone, could not. We depended on one another. Making it on our own was as ludicrous to imagine as was settling down.
    Working together, we protected our children from the lions and the hyenas. We taught them the skills they would need. And the tools. Then, as now, technology was the key to our survival.
    When the drought was prolonged, or when an unsettling chill lingered in the summer air, our group moved on—sometimes to unknown lands. We sought a better place. And when we couldn’t get on with the others in our little nomadic band, we left to find a more friendly bunch somewhere else. We could always begin again.
    For 99.9 percent of the time since our species came to be, we were hunters and foragers, wanderers on the savannahs and the steppes. There were no border guards then, no customs officials. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the Earth and the ocean and the sky—plus occasional grumpy neighbors.
    When the climate was congenial, though, when the food was plentiful, we were willing to stay put. Unadventurous. Overweight. Careless. In the last ten thousand years—an instant in our long history—we’ve abandoned the nomadic life. We’ve domesticated the plants and animals. Why chase the food when you can make it come to you?
    For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled. Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten. The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood. We invest far-off places with a certain romance. This appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival. Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game—none of them lasts forever. It is beyond our powers to predict the future. Catastrophic events have a way of sneaking up on us, of catching us unaware. Your own life, or your band’s, or even your species’ might be owed to a restless few—drawn, by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands and new worlds.
    Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, spoke for wanderers in all epochs and meridians: “I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas…”

    Carl Sagan, “Pale Blue Dot”

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    samuri – Member

    If we go out and explore and find a new world to colonise, we won’t need to find clean energy.

    Out of curiosity, how do you think we’re going to get to and colonise other worlds using anything but clean energy- really long fuel pipes?

    bikebouy
    Member

    Clearly this thread started out as a drunken poke in the ribs, but it’s a serious question.

    On one hand I totally love the idea of space exploration, growing up near Cape Canaveral blessed me with the experiance of watching rockets propel Man to the Moon and beyond, awsomnez, so awesome. However I have always been of the thinking that if we turned our knowledge and money inwards and but to use on this planet then I think we would be in a far better place than we are now. As much as I like the idea of the LHC, I do question where all the money and effort came from for a particle that seemingly didn’t exist, just theory, and yet now what will it bring us? Well a great deal of debt and a splodge on a computer monitor that could, or could not be, the HiggsBoson.

    So I question who has the overal say in these matters and to what end they will benefit Mankind.

    Good solid thread though which I rather like on here once in a while, don’t make a habit of it though 😉

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    a) Is there any doubt that clean reliable cheap energy is our one of our biggest issues?

    b) Does fusion need more money spending on it? I imagine so. Apart from that there seems to be an awful lot being done by small private startups. Is this the best model for such an important subject?

    Big issues for the human race, in my order of importance:

    1. Population explosion, leading to starvation and wars; affecting-
    2. Security of food production and supply; affected by-
    3. Climate change; partly driven by-
    4. Misuse of natural energy resources.

    We cannot fix any one of them on its own, as they are all inextrivably linked. But I think it unlikely that space exploration will help with any of them in anything like the sort of timescale we need.
    However, diverting some of our obscene defence spending into some of them will most likely make a significant difference.
    If we don’t sort this collection of problems out soon, then nature probably will. And that’ll be messy..

    Premier Icon seosamh77
    Subscriber

    UK defence spending 2011/12 somewhere in the region of £30-35 billion

    net spend for the UK space agency 2011/12 = £256 million.

    I know which one I’d cut.

    OK highlandman i’ll give it a go..

    1. population explosion is not actually an issue. Going forward the trend is for a slowdown of population increase as more countries come out of poverty and the numbers of kids per family is reducing. So potentially a non-issue in about 30 yrs or so when the world population is set to stabalise.

    2. Security of food production and supply is an issue right at the heart of space exploration. What are they going to eat on long interstellar space journey’s? We need to develop the technology to grown food in environments that are not ideal. So lots of genetically engineered stuff and technologies that can replicate the conditions on earth that plants and things need to grow.

    3. Climate change needs a whole host of technologies to enable us to increase our energy requirements whilst reducing the impact on the planet and not relying on resources that are limited. Again – an issue that goes right to the heart of intersellar travel.

    4. Misuse of natural resources – we’re in the process of tidying up our acts and recycling more stuff stuff and being far more efficient with the planets resources. There is a long way to go yet and this needs to be taken to a whole other level to enable interstellar travel. Remember the end of Back to the Future and the fusion device that generates the 1.21 Gigawatts of energy from a few Banaskins and some rubbish from the dustbin – well that’s feasible technology that someone somewhere is working on (the fusion reactor, not the time machine). Imagine what current problems that would solve in today’s world.

    So these things are completely implicit. The Planet Earth is just a very large space station and all the problems we face on the Earth are exactly the same as we will face in space. We just started out with a ready made space station, wheras for interstellar travel we will need to invent, engineer and build one. So clean and sustainable energy, secure food supplies, managing atmospheres and climate, doing more with less resources, reusing and recycling resources – they’re all problems that need to be solved if the Human Race is to continue and thrive, both on Earth and in space.

    Premier Icon Garry_Lager
    Subscriber

    Was just watching some space shuttle launches on youtube with my 5yo son today – amazingly inspirational.
    Unfortunately, it looks like the shuttle will be seen as a major mis-step. Design and implementation all wrong, with hindsight it has really sucked the momentum out of space travel since the 1970s. Seems like manned space travel has not really gotten out of low earth orbit for 30 years.
    Whether we should re-group and get serious about Mars, say; in an ideal world obv we should. The realpolitik of it though is a different story – Whitey on the moon and all that.

    The generation of science and technology from the space program is not a convincing argument IMO when you consider the opportunity cost. It’s produced a lot of stuff but it’s a crap way to fund science and engineering research. A pro-rata investment into normal science R&D would have dwarfed the output of space spin-offs.

    clubber
    Member

    Having an argument on FB with my brother in law. I suggested we might all be much better off as a planet if we put space exploration on hold for a while whilst we figure out how to generate reliable cheap clean power.

    We are not a planet. We are warring (whether hot or cold) factions. There is no ‘we’.

    ‘We’ will progress space travel as it suits us, us being the factions.

    My expectation is that China will have the funding and will to take the next steps which once the American people realise will start a new space race/cold war of sorts (though with commerce largely unaffected due to self interest on both side) where the space race will become of interest. Particularly so if something like Helium 3 on the moon for example became of interest for fusion.

    That said, China are probably 20+ years off significant manned space travel/habitation on the moon or Mars and efficient fusion is a way beyond that so I don’t see that much will change in the short term.

    Of course to take a really long term view, unless we destroy ourselves in nuclear flames, at some point in our future, we will populate other planets/moons. If that’s the case, there is potentially signifificant benefit to being the first to do it – possession being 9/10s and all that. Imagine a scenario where China get to the moon first and declare that they own it (or just parts where valuable resources are) or just control it and won’t let others land/mine/etc. Given how China are bankrolling so many countries, who’s going to really argue?

    At least, that’s what I reckon 🙂

    tacopowell
    Member

    Hows about we put invading other countries for natural resources on hold instead,
    Money saved on “Defense” diverted to the search for clean energy and Space exploration would have immense implications but of course there’s no profit to be made.

    grantway
    Member

    Just put an Aviation fuel station up there so they can re fill 😉

    Funding research, and what research to fund is a big topic.

    Your BiL has a point. When the energy and water run out, there will be wars like you can’t imagine. It’s a practical problem. It feels solvable too.

    But space exploration is needed to answer important philosophical problems about life/identity and the nature of the universe/existence. To a lot of people, this matters somewhat less.

    Nothing matters more to the masses than Sky sports, mind you!

    Premier Icon nuke
    Subscriber

    I say crack on with space exploration on the basis that from here on in I can’t see they’ll ever be a ‘good’ time where the earth has reached a stable equilibrium with regard resources/population/etc that it’ll be the ‘right’ time for space exploration.

    Clean cheap energy could improve the lives for millons/billons but I suspect the earths population would then increase ‘whilst the going was good’ until we reach a point where once again the available resources struggle to support the population…vicious loop

    mikey74
    Member

    The only thing holding back the development of clean energy is the oil companies, not NASA.

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