Author Topic: What is the objective of Human Space Exploration?  (Read 63645 times)

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: What is the objective of Human Space Exploration?
« Reply #240 on: 01/11/2010 01:50 AM »
"In my opinion, the barrier to entry for a lunar outpost is low enough for the top four or five world economies."  Intuitively, I agree with this, but it is not easily provable, and not easily estimable.  It is more or less agreed here and there that the gross money is probably available given the sums we spend on war, but this is not likely to change, unless a grass roots effort for changing our priorities could be successfully implemented.

I wonder if the space community is contemptuous of political activity.

I think that's an interesting notion about opening up some of the new designs to the public domain.  Increasing the Orion crew as you suggest doesn't seem feasible without a lot of documentation, which you would have to provide.  One thing seems certain; if Orion is pricey now, doubling its crew component ain't gonna make it less expensive.

Backing up to the idea of reducing launch costs.  There's nothing available from space just yet, so there's a lot of proof needed for the argument of increasing profit to carry weight.  Reducing launch costs increases the profit of space tourism right out of the chute.  More tourists means more income from this source.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline jimgagnon

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Re: What is the objective of Human Space Exploration?
« Reply #241 on: 01/11/2010 02:17 AM »
"In my opinion, the barrier to entry for a lunar outpost is low enough for the top four or five world economies."  Intuitively, I agree with this, but it is not easily provable, and not easily estimable.  It is more or less agreed here and there that the gross money is probably available given the sums we spend on war, but this is not likely to change, unless a grass roots effort for changing our priorities could be successfully implemented.

I wonder if the space community is contemptuous of political activity.

I think that's an interesting notion about opening up some of the new designs to the public domain.  Increasing the Orion crew as you suggest doesn't seem feasible without a lot of documentation, which you would have to provide.  One thing seems certain; if Orion is pricey now, doubling its crew component ain't gonna make it less expensive.

Backing up to the idea of reducing launch costs.  There's nothing available from space just yet, so there's a lot of proof needed for the argument of increasing profit to carry weight.  Reducing launch costs increases the profit of space tourism right out of the chute.  More tourists means more income from this source.

Grass roots or geopolitical realpolitik. That or an alien invasion. All I know that if nothing changes then colonization is centuries away, when it doesn't need to be.

The thing about open-sourced Orions is that you'll find others will accept lower safety margins and the like than America will. Lot's of reasons why: non-tort societies, human life considered less valuable, different notions of personal space, etc. Also, you would see Orions extended in novel fashions that we're not considering: volume increases, re-entryless capsules, etc. Don't know about you, but I would ride in a body bag with an oxygen and water feed, waste line, and a screen to watch the show if it meant getting a ride to orbit.

Lower launch costs really help, but they aren't the barrier. And the problem is chicken and egg: world launch volume is abysmally low, so there's no compelling reason to mass produce. No mass production, no economies of scale, thus expensive launchers. If we could trigger an extended space race, one that lasted a couple of decades, then the incentive would be there to use mass production and also to really innovate on our launch technologies. If you're lifting a 1000 tonnes of machines and materiel a year, there's some real economic pressure to find radical ways to do it cheaper.
« Last Edit: 01/11/2010 03:06 AM by Andy USA »

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: What is the objective of Human Space Exploration?
« Reply #242 on: 01/11/2010 01:35 PM »
I keep suggesting that a grass roots effort here in America is the pre-requisite to changing our national attitudes to HSF, which would then begin to fix some of the political inequities which seem to be deeply buried in our system, and which would result in...

On the face of it, an open sourced program would have many benefits, novelty being one of them.  Nevertheless, your list is completely inadequate, and I think it is wrong, for the following reasons, among others. Take the idea of a lesser valuation of life, which could be a sideways mention of China and India, or some of our Islamic "neighbors".  Step into Tienamen Square and shout "Falun Gong!" at the top of your lungs, and see what happens.  Or, select an eight year old girl from the cages in Bombay. Or select the most advanced mine sweeping techniques at the bazaar.

Those values do have a place these days in those societies, as do Darwinian economics.  A lot of energy goes into the training of a taikonaut; they are certainly people of high value, and will not be riding in any body bags.  Perhaps their capsules will not have a USB outlet for their pirated ipods, but that is more a reflection of the extent of American wealth and leisure:

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Space/story?id=3484420&page=1

That American children take this wealth and leisure for granted has implications about our will to develop HSF in the future, and merits discussion in its own right.  This grass roots effort I'm talking about depends on our children for its realization, if the adults would only see the light I'm trying to shine.

I would say there's scant evidence for a substantial difference of opinion about the value of taiko-, cosmo-, or astronauts.  Check out the Chinese food options:

http://popsci.typepad.com/popsci/2007/07/eat-like-a-taik.html

Further, your personal "body-bag" example can lead only to yet another substantiation of Godwin's law.  It is easy to type, unlikely to actually be offered as a choice, prone to a rabid verbal defense, would prove nothing even as a thought experiment, and is extremely detrimental to your credibility.

Launch costs, even without a change in the business as usual preference of our governing officials, is plenty barrier enough.  It is also a chicken and egg scenario, similar to a Gordian knot and also similar to the scientific problems associated with the arrival of the species.  The politicians keep mandating the same old same old, and expect different results, to no avail.

Also, what's Andy editing your post all about?
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline jimgagnon

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Re: What is the objective of Human Space Exploration?
« Reply #243 on: 01/11/2010 03:21 PM »
The body bag reference was meant to be what I personally would go through to get to orbit and was not meant to offend, nor to suggest that the Chinese would be shoving their Taikionauts in them. However, if space colonization does ever take place, I believe that we will go through a phase of immigrant ships where people are packed in as tightly as possible. It's happened before, and I'm sure there will be people motivated enough to go through with it to reach a promised new world.

You might find this page of Chinese space posters interesting:
  http://www.iisg.nl/landsberger/csp.html

The modern posters are towards the bottom. One of the problems we have here in the west is that the Chinese language is a pretty effective barrier to English google searches. The Taikionaut veneration is real, though I'll admit that some of it is for propaganda purposes.

I didn't mean for the personal space reference to say anything about any particular race. However, different cultures design machines with a different set of goals -- I think that's pretty clear. Personal space preferences do vary around the world, not just in India and China. I feel that our American preferences can't help but influence the designers of our spacecraft, and that we would be both surprised and amused at the different trade-offs others would make. An open source Orion would not only help economies of scale on Orion manufacturing, but might teach us a thing or two about ourselves.

As far as carrying American values into space, that's one of the reasons why I'm pushing for a legal federation of space faring nations now. As it stands today, American spending accounts for almost half of the global spending on outer space; we have the best technology and capability. That won't always be true, and as the world grows in its relative strength of space technology, we're going to find that we have an ever decreasing ability to dictate the terms of life in outer space. We really care about issues of representative democracy, free speech and freedom of religion -- now is our best chance to ensure those are bedrock founding principles of any future form of space government. If we wait too long, we won't be able to dictate the terms as effectively as we can today.

Offline danw

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Re: What is the objective of Human Space Exploration?
« Reply #244 on: 01/11/2010 10:32 PM »
Lower launch costs really help, but they aren't the barrier. And the problem is chicken and egg: world launch volume is abysmally low, so there's no compelling reason to mass produce. No mass production, no economies of scale, thus expensive launchers.

If the objective of human spaceflight is to allow significant numbers of people to fly in space, then it must be made practical and productive, and therefore its cost must be reduced. Any significant reduction in cost will open spaceflight to new markets. Operational costs are related more closely to design than to economies of scale. Expendable launch vehicles and even airliners are largely hand-assembled. Indeed the total Constellation mission cost will be about the same as that of the Shuttle. The most effective way to reduce cost would be to build a generation of unmanned reusables first; manned systems are much more costly.

Actual flight experience with these unmanned but reusable prototypes would quickly establish the operational costs of various design concepts and provide the verification data to assure safety. The current approach of man-rating the vehicle on paper first requires larger margins (like the 1.4 load factor, which has never saved anyone's life) because we want to feel safer in the face of uncertainty. A better approach is to actually fly the mission and establish certainty without risking lives.

 The first step is to provide funding for new reusable technologies, i.e. advanced composite fabrication for structures and cryogenic tankage, aerodymanics & controls for autonomous entry and landing, variable-expansion spike-nozzle engines.

Conversely, providing government customers to try to build volume while contractors seek greater efficiency with internal resources will be relatively ineffective in reducing cost because contractors will have little incentive to economize for government customers (as we see in the EELV program), little real improvement in efficiency to be gained by simply producing more ELVs of a conventional design, and little opportunity for real R&D if the funding is consumed by operations. Rushing new technology into service without adequate and separately funded R&D will likely leave serious technical issues in the design (X-33 or Shuttle).
« Last Edit: 01/11/2010 10:49 PM by danw »

Offline E.P. Grondine

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Re: What is the objective of Human Space Exploration?
« Reply #245 on: 01/12/2010 03:51 PM »
Hello. First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Chris, and I am a long-time space-fan who has followed the US's space program with increasing frustration over the past few years. I have been lurking on this forum for the past 11 months and finally decided to start participating.

From watching all the (sometimes lively) discussions about the future of US HSF on this forum and others, it struck me that the real problem is not deciding which launcher to use, which exploration path or destination or even time-frame to chose, it's not money nor even getting Joe Sixpack and John Taxpayer to support HSF. Even the HSF vs UMSF argument isn't quite cutting it, although it is getting closer. I believe the real problem today is that there is no consensus, nor even vision about where Space Exploration should ultimately lead to.

A very good example for this lack of consensus (for those who have the time to weed through it) is the following (hijacked) thread on Space Politics:
http://www.spacepolitics.com/2009/11/06/flexible-paths-flexible-deadlines/

As you can see, no agreement on our ultimate goals in space. Exploration? Settlement? Exploitation of resources?

Without a clear-cut longterm goal, HSF will never garner general support and runs the risk of eventually being cancelled. I'd like to illustrate this with a few historical examples, some of which were also brought up on the thread mentioned above:

Apollo (Pre-Apollo 11) had a clear-cut, easily understandable goal: Beat the Soviets to the Moon. Post Apollo-11 had no objective (there were plenty of studies but no goal). Result: Program termination.

Christopher Columbus had a clear goal: Gain access to the riches of India and China without being dependent on the Ottoman Empire's goodwill. Although he failed at this, his expedition was never in danger of cancellation, because the powers-that-be could identify, understand and support this goal. In contrast, the much larger Ming Chinese exploration effort of a few decades before had no real goal (other than tracking down a fugitive rebel) and was eventually canceled after a power-shift in the Ming court.

The European settlers of the American continent also had clear goals: Get as far away as possible from religious or political persecution in an overpopulated Europe. In contrast, in our time, there has never been any real interest in large-scale settlement of Northern Siberia or Northern Canada, despite the vast space and resources available, because there was no pressure to get away from (Canada) or no getting away from the Czar/Soviets (Siberia). Maybe this will change in the coming decades thanks to Global Warming and Overpopulation.

So I decided start to a new thread which will address the question of what you think should be the official long-term goal of space exploration and why. Some examples could be:
1) Expanding human presence across multiple worlds (the "colonization" argument)
2) Gaining access to new resources to sustain human growth on Earth
3) Exploration for exploration's sake (the "it's our destiny to explore" argument)

OR anything else you like and think is a convincing goal.

Personally, I don't think human colonization of space is possible without first significantly changing the human body to better adapt it to conditions on other worlds. I don't believe it's our destiny to explore (Ming China being the perfect counter-example). This leaves resource-gathering as a possible long-term goal; a rather weak one, I admit. Therefore, I would be happy if someone had a more convincing long-term goal for me.

Chris K, a space fan from Switzerland

Chris, you've left off of your list dealing with the impact hazard - both large and small impactors. Given that the hazard is real and dealing with it will require space technologies, I don't know why you did this.


« Last Edit: 01/12/2010 03:57 PM by E.P. Grondine »

Online Robotbeat

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Re: What is the objective of Human Space Exploration?
« Reply #246 on: 01/12/2010 06:02 PM »
...

Chris, you've left off of your list dealing with the impact hazard - both large and small impactors. Given that the hazard is real and dealing with it will require space technologies, I don't know why you did this.

Agreed. This is the nearest-term existential improvement that can be accomplished with space technologies. Space-based resource utilization, whether it be mining or power generation, require a huge scale to make any effect and in all likelihood won't be needed for a few generations at least and can be duplicated using Earth technology on anything but the largest of scales (and even then, there are some alternatives). Space tourism shouldn't be funded by a government, so is not relevant to most discussions regarding space program funding levels. Space colonization is very, very far off and requires even larger scale than mining or power generation for any worthwhile effect.

Space impact hazards, on the other hand, are a problem TODAY. TODAY some random city could be essentially nuked by a small(ish) asteroid. And the scale of the problem threatens our very existence, potentially far beyond the scale of even a full nuclear war, although such an event is quite unlikely in the next thousand years. A civilization-ending event IS quite probable, though, and the probability can be measured by looking down (at the distribution of craters) or up (by counting the near-Earth objects and comets, etc), so it isn't a theoretical catastrophic event. It's something that we know will eventually occur and has occurred in the past to great effect (changing the course of evolution, nuking Siberia a century ago).

The nice thing about this is that even a small investment, like an orbital observatory, can make an appreciable difference in helping protect us. Sample return missions, placing beacons, and even human missions to asteroids can all help increase our understanding of the threat and help us mitigate it. Another feature is that it requires a very large scale to completely eliminate this threat (including the capability to intercept and divert comets), so it can be a very long-term target for space program funding as well as a short-term target.

So, I concur that the impact hazard is a very important purpose for space exploration, since it is much more concrete, is relevant to all levels of budget and time scales, and has lots of evidence to back it up. At the very least, studying asteroids (and NEOs in general) allows us to better predict and prepare for the next impact, while a very large space program can basically eliminate this existential threat to complex life on Earth over the long term. Not only that, but it will allow us to examine the other, more abstract purposes of human space exploration along the way. More than likely, we'll find a new objective that no one has yet thought of in the next few millenia.
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