QantasA332
Topic Author
Posts: 1473
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 5:47 pm

The Future Of Space Exploration...

Wed May 12, 2004 4:50 pm

I suppose I'll kick off the first new space topic...

As the topic suggests, where do you see space exploration going? Do you think re-usable, small space vehicles (e.g. those the X-prize is for) are the future? Should/will Mars become the focus of upcoming manned space endeavours, or does the moon still hold something? Any other comments?

Cheers,
QantasA332
 
Ikarus
Posts: 3396
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2001 10:18 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Thu May 13, 2004 11:17 pm

I recommend David Ashford's book "Spaceflight Revolution" for some opinions.

Essentially, space tourism could offer a good opportunity to kickstart a different type of spaceflight. The XPrize will end up producing a handful of vehicles that can fly to space for a few minutes and return, at a cost of $100,000 per passenger. That's still a small niche market, but if people are iwlling to spend $20,000,000 and 6 months of intense training to go to space for a weekend, some will be willing to fork out the cash for a few minutes. Also, some of the vehicles are designed to carry microsatellites as payloads, which will have their own propulsion and the capacity to propel themselves into a stable orbit. Especially spy satellites could be launched at ultra-short notice and to fly above current conflict areas. So military use may provide a second market.

Once these companies become profitable, it's likely they will be seen as more credible by investors, and they should be able to finance growth, and new designs. Orbital reusable space planes would be a big step ahead, and it has been argues that within 15 years, given adequate commitment and investment, the price for an entire weekend in a space hotel could drop to $20,000. This would mean that space tourism would compete with luxury holidays like cruise ships (and replace the novelty value of Concorde flights) - a market estimated to be more than big enough to support a healthy space tourism industry.

If space tourism indeed turns out to promote technological advancements, space exploration will be facilitated. The key benefit will be cheaper access to orbital space. That has follow-up benefits (for instance, a craft capable of flying to Mars would most likely have to be constructed in space. Cheap access to orbit will reduce the cost of such a venture. Similarly, expertise in dealing with prolonged stays in orbit would be very beneficial for Mars-exploring astronauts). I don't think Mars will be a short-term goal, but in the long term, it's a feasible project. If water is found, and algae are deposited, it may be possible to transform the atmosphere from predominantly carbon dioxide to something rich in oxygen, giving humans a second base to spread to. But that's ultra-far off (centuries or more).

Personally, I believe the prime objectives of space agencies should be to replace Hubble with something even better (and KEEP it in place at least until the replacement is proven to work!!!), and to do research. The construction of space shuttles should no longer be left to the government, they should contract it out to the lowest bidder - the entire thing, not just components.

Regards

Ikarus
 
QantasA332
Topic Author
Posts: 1473
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 5:47 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Mon May 17, 2004 7:04 am

Sorry, I hadn't noticed that someone replied! Very good insight and ideas, and I'll definitely check that book out...

Cheers,
QantasA332
 
lehpron
Posts: 6846
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2001 3:42 am

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Tue May 18, 2004 5:59 am

Dude, I'm sorry, I'm like so pesimistic with regards to this. I've only gotten that way in the last 5 years too. We as humans are capable of so much yet ironically, we postpone space expoloration due to problems at home. i.e. bureacracy.

In terms of short term, we should'nt be spending money to go to the Moon or Mars, we should finish the ISS and replace the Space Shuttle. Those should be priority, don't know why they are not.

In the long term, we should teraform Mars, and move there cuz you know nobody is gonna 'save the planet' even by then. By then we should have antimatter travel and warping technologies (provided we were convinced about terrorists on other planets...)

Heck I know how to make an Antimatter...wait no I shouldn't talk about that.  Wink/being sarcastic
The meaning of life is curiosity; we were put on this planet to explore opportunities.
 
cloudy
Posts: 1613
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2002 3:23 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Fri May 21, 2004 3:53 pm

In near earth orbit, human spaceflight depends on the progress of private interests in making space tourism available. Any other real (rather than government-created) market for human space flight depends on this happening first - because it is the only market big enough to drive costs down.

Outside of near earth orbit - human spaceflight depends on the progress of the Chinese space program. Real European, US or Russian efforts to go back to the moon or beyond will not happen unless the Chinese threaten to do it first. It all depends on competition and national pride, because that is the only reason for sending humans beyond earth orbit that could be seen to justify its current costs. This activity does have a scientific payoff. However, I am not aware of anyone who will say with a straight face that this payoff is worth its current cost - because that much money could pay for A LOT of other science on Earth or on robotic spacecraft.

There is only one way I can see that the Chinese space program will not drive developments. That is if private interests invest in space tourism and so RADICALLY lower the cost of sending and maintaining humans in space. Not only must they be able to do this, they must be able to do it in such a way as to be competitive with rapidly growing robotic space-flight capabilities. Only then will human spaceflight be a serious option for companies, people, or countries looking for something other than a boost to the ego.

.........To guard against misunderstanding..... I am not saying that human spaceflight has no scientific or practical value, I am just saying that its scientific and practical benefits come nowhere close to justifying its cost (yet). I don't mean to minimize what those who have given up their lives and efforts for our Space Program have achieved little. Nor do I intend to slam the intangible motives for human spaceflight - national pride, etc. Landing on the moon may have helped win the cold war - it was a great advertisement for freedom. But lets not kid ourselves and say it was worth it from a scientific or economic perspective... Ignoring reality in this way makes the road to true sustainable human spaceflight harder IMHO.....

IN SHORT....The only reason human spaceflight is done now at all is for its own sake, mostly. It has no real purpose to justify its cost yet. In that situation the ones most willing to push others to compete (Probably the Chinese) dictates how fast things develop. But hopefully the cost of human spaceflight will go down far enough so that it will be worth doing for reasons other than simply to say we are doing it. There may be all kinds of plans and speeches, but unless the Chinese or the private market make it possible, nothing of substance will be done. Its a gloomy picture but it is reality.
 
MD-90
Posts: 7836
Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2000 12:45 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Fri May 21, 2004 4:16 pm

 
jwenting
Posts: 9973
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2001 10:12 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Fri May 21, 2004 8:21 pm

The future should be colonisation of space (starting with the moon and earth orbit, but expanding towards other planets with the end goal of reaching the stars).

My fear is though that such is not feasible in a democratic society as all that counts in such a society is the impact any program has on the outcome of the next election.
As programs like I advocate will take decades to reach fruition and cost money in the short term they are highly unlikely to be funded by politicians in a democratic society or by companies that have to answer to their shareholders every year or so.

Therefore I see space exploration dying out unless and until a large non-democratic country can put the resources required together to invest in such a project.
At the moment the only country with the required resources is the PRC and they have recently announced they're scaling back their manned space program...
I wish I were flying
 
Ikarus
Posts: 3396
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2001 10:18 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Sat May 22, 2004 2:55 am

we should finish the ISS and replace the Space Shuttle

Well, now that the ISS is partial and in space, we might as well finish it, I guess. But it was one of the worst things to happen to space exploration in decades - a giant black hole sucking up money, at the cost of poor quality research (optimum: 4 small space stations, at a cost of $1 billion each, on a variety of orbits. ISS: £100 billion for a large, single-orbit station. That means a lot of the research undertaken is sub-optimal).
And the shuttle.... according to many experts it never was a good or safe design. I doubt NASA would be capable of replacing it with one if they didn't get it right the first time round.

Landing on the moon may have helped win the cold war - it was a great advertisement for freedom.

Actually, it was nothing more than te most expensive advert ever filmed. Not sure that an advert helped to win any wars, not even a cold one.

That is if private interests invest in space tourism and so RADICALLY lower the cost of sending and maintaining humans in space. Not only must they be able to do this, they must be able to do it in such a way as to be competitive with rapidly growing robotic space-flight capabilities.
According to the book I quoted above, the cost of flying a human to space should be reducable to $5000, roughly the same cost as sending someone to Antarctica. The book argues that space research is still in its infancy because of the enormous costs, and that lowering the price would exponentially increase the research, and benefits from it.

The future should be colonisation of space (starting with the moon and earth orbit
Hell no! The moon? What benefit is there in a colony on the moon? It does not have an atmosphere, is too small to have one, and any colony there would take the form of a big bubble of metal parked on a rock. Honestly, I can't see a single benefit.

Mars - well, that is a place where the atmosphere could possibly be transformed. I see the point of not having all one's eggs in one basket, and the survival of the species is perhaps more assured if it spans across two planets instead of just one, but as there is no immediate threat, I don't see any immediate need to work towards it. It's a faraway goal, but not a very important one. Let's try and save this planet first, otherwise humanity could easily turn into something like the species in "Independence Day" - space locusts.

Regards

Ikarus
 
jwenting
Posts: 9973
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2001 10:12 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Sat May 22, 2004 3:27 am

I see the moon as a stepping stone to the stars, a place from which to cheaply launch spacecraft.
I also see the moon as a potentially massive source of raw materials to build those spacecraft.

As to far reaching goals, indeed.
Saving this planet is a nice and noble goal, but as long as the population of the third world keeps exploding there is no saving it without expansion into space for both resource production and living space.
Nothing against the third world but that's a massive population base that's unable to currently or ever support itself.
The population of the developed world is hardly growing at all, in fact without immigration from third world countries many countries in Europe or North America (plus parts of Asia) would be seeing a declining population.

As it is the population growth will lead to inevitable world war about scarce natural resources, a war that will make WW2 and WW1 pale in comparison.
The only possible way to avoid that is to colonise space.

But even that is short term thinking (few hundred years at most).
In a few billion years if not sooner the sun will die. Unless we do everything in our power to leave the solar system before then we will die with it.

As I see this as a goal that will take massive resources as well as massive changes in human interaction and knowledge, we need to start preparing for those changes now.
If we don't expand manned spaceflight we may loose it altogether and revert to the state of being we had in the 15th century when people looked to the heavens in fear and angst on the sight of a comet or meteor.
I wish I were flying
 
Alessandro
Posts: 4962
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2001 3:13 am

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Sun May 23, 2004 12:06 am

I love to see an spacebase on the moon and a space plane that fly between an spacestation in low orbit and the moon.
From New Yorqatar to Califarbia...
 
AFHokie
Posts: 220
Joined: Mon May 17, 2004 3:29 am

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Sun May 23, 2004 9:13 pm

I'd love to see human's spend more time/effort reaching out into space, but I think that all things considered, until it is economically viable on a commercial level, we won't be going much further anytime soon.
 
jwenting
Posts: 9973
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2001 10:12 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Sun May 23, 2004 11:16 pm

unless we keep doing it we'll never expand our expertise to where it's cheap...

Paper studies are all nice but without going there for real they'll never get past the waste paper basket of the next politician with an agenda...
I wish I were flying
 
MD-90
Posts: 7836
Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2000 12:45 pm

RE: The Future Of Space Exploration...

Mon May 24, 2004 9:39 pm

After reading Zubrin's book I say forget the moon (with the possible exception of a space telescope or something on the dark side). Humans to Mars and robots to the interesting places, like Europa.

Low earth orbit should belong to the tourists.

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