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Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 1:01 am

Sorry, I don't have a link, but I read this in a recent AW&ST issue. Seems a lunar mission would not be as "popular" as landing on a large, near Earth asteroid. Thus making a Mars mission possible sooner. The article was in the January 21 issue.

Just fantasizing here, but I would like to see a Lunar base, along with talk of a Hubble II launched by an Ares V. I'd also support a ISS on steroids if you will, also launched by a series of Ares V rockets.

I'll just have to cash a few stock options to make this happen.  laughing 
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Thorny
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 3:06 am

I think once we have the Ares/Orion/Altair architecture in place, we can go pretty much wherever we want in the inner solar system with only relatively modest upgrades, so complaining about "Asteroids, not Moon!" doesn't serve a particularly useful purpose. The same hardware can more or less do either one, so let's not get bogged down in a destination battle at this early stage, let's get Ares/Orion/Altair built and then fight it out about what to do next.

The moonbase is not part of the existing program anyway, it would follow in a Phase II (or Phase III.) The first part of the program is to resume lunar exploration with four astronauts for at least one week on the moon. A moonbase would be the likely successor, but there is no reason an asteroid expedition can't be mounted alongside or in lieu of a lunar expedition.
 
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Stitch
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 4:52 am

They shouldn't go to either place, or Mars. Spend the money on robotic missions, instead. I want orbiters around Neptune and Uranus and probes under the ice of Europa a lot more then I want some folks planting a flag on Mars or motoring around the lunar surface.
 
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kc135topboom
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 12:46 pm



Quoting Stitch (Reply 2):
They shouldn't go to either place, or Mars. Spend the money on robotic missions, instead. I want orbiters around Neptune and Uranus and probes under the ice of Europa a lot more then I want some folks planting a flag on Mars or motoring around the lunar surface.

Actually, this makes the most sense. Let's go were the water is, the moons Europa or Io.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:22 pm

The re-think of going back to the Moon has been underway for some time. I read an article at (IIRC) www.spaceflight.now on this in January as well. Longer-range planners are indeed talking about an asteroid mission, and then Mars, and simply by-passing the Moon. "Been there, done that."

What's also interesting is that the James Webb Space Telescope has been redesigned to include a CEV docking port, from which I conclude that NASA is thinking in terms of servicing it out at the L2 Lagrange point some time (I would think) in the 2020s.

Another idea to come out of this re-think is why bother building an enormous radio telescope on the Far Side at all ? For one thing, you have to land all the crap needed, then assemble it, etc. Putting the sucker out at L1, as an alternative, eliminates a couple of problems:

--no need to design components for shock of landing,
--no need to launch the mass of a lander, and
--no need for cable/satellite comm link to Earth

I agree robotic missions are way more cost effective, and that, as Stitch said, we should be looking for the water (Europa, Io, in particular). And underwater, independent intelligent probe that could report back periodically is an interesting challenge. However, regarding manned versus unmanned missions, one thing that can't be ignored is the vicarious journey we all take when another manned space flight takes off: we're there, every step of the way, in our own minds. That may not be the strongest argument in favour of manned missions, but I don't think you can deny that that aspect is very real.

It seems likely that Mars was pretty wet once. See recent Article
so I don't think we can ignore Mars either. It's easier to get to, technically, financially, and time-wise, and it may tell us definitively whether life has ever existed there. I don't think we should ignore that possibility.
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Thorny
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 3:11 pm



Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 3):
Actually, this makes the most sense. Let's go were the water is, the moons Europa or Io.

They're uninhabitable due to enormous radiation from Jupiter. Io is also far too dangerous for a manned landing, because of volcanic activity continually resurfacing the moon. Even unmanned landings there will be extremely risky.

Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 4):
Another idea to come out of this re-think is why bother building an enormous radio telescope on the Far Side at all ?

Because the moon itself is a big shield blocking all the radio noise from Earth, creating an extremely quiet environment for radio astronomy.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 4:31 pm



Quoting Thorny (Reply 5):

Because the moon itself is a big shield blocking all the radio noise from Earth, creating an extremely quiet environment for radio astronomy.

That's about the only advantage it offers, and there will be technical solutions to that by the time the thing is built.
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Blackprojects
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 8:55 pm

The Main reason NASA is going back to the Moon is the Helium 3 Pure form thats trapped in the Lunar soil that is required for the new type of Nuclear Fusion power plants that could be built if enough Helium3 was returned to Earth.

Why Helium3 you ask The Nuclear fusion teams around the world found that Hydrogen Fusion emits far to many Damaging Hi Engergy particles that rappidly eat into the walls of the fusion reactor.

Un-like Helium3 which generates far less Hi-Energy particles so the Fusion reactors can last a lot longer, The only problem is Helium3 is extreemly rare on Earth while it has been found that Lunar rocs returned from the Moon are loaded with Helium3 which has been deposited by Solar wind directly from the Sun.

So if we whant Clean Fusion power we need to goto the moon to get the Helium3.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 9:38 pm



Quoting BlackProjects (Reply 7):
So if we whant Clean Fusion power we need to goto the moon to get the Helium3.

It would be cheaper and easier IMHO to simply make the He-3 here.

Could you point me to an article regarding the problems with H-based fusion ? It's been a long time since I did any work on that topic. Thanks.
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TheSonntag
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 10:57 pm

I just hope that they will build the Ares V in the first place. Once they have it, it will be available for many interesting missions.

I am certain that we will see an US return to the moon before any other manned mission on other places will be seriously considered.

Whether Constellation will survive in US Congress is something different, of course. I cannot comment on that, but I hope that they will bring it underway so much soon that cancelling it would be more expensive than continuing...
 
TheSonntag
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 11:04 pm

Additonally, I do not understand why so many people dismiss the moon base idea. To me it seems a pretty logical step. We now know how humans react after long time in earth orbit, but we do not know how 1/6 th of gravity affects humans. Also the psychological effects of living several weeks or month on another place than the earth are largely unknown.

I think this knowledge will be required for a mission to Mars. Once Ares V is built, it can later be used for a manned Mars mission.

I think no matter what Nasa does, they must go ahead with what they plan. Way too many plans have been put out and quietly put away again. Where is the will to do something new?

The moon is so close, and 6 manned missions can hardly be enough to know all about it. And I would not want to send humans to a 2 year Mars mission without knowing how they can handle this, and Moon seems to be an ideal playground for it.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 09, 2008 11:05 pm



Quoting TheSonntag (Reply 9):
Whether Constellation will survive in US Congress is something different, of course. I cannot comment on that, but I hope that they will bring it underway so much soon that cancelling it would be more expensive than continuing...

Senator Obama has indicated that if he is elected, it's No Go. Mind you, the US fiscal position may be so desperate in a few years they may abandon manned space flight altogether.
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Stitch
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 10, 2008 12:00 am

I agree we need to be on the moon before we need to be on Mars, but I don't think we need to be on either place right now. The costs and the risks involved to send people to Mars is so great that I don't support doing it until we have a real reason to do so. So keep launching better and better probes to keep looking and building up our knowledge for now.
 
DfwRevolution
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 10, 2008 2:26 am



Quoting BlackProjects (Reply 7):
The Main reason NASA is going back to the Moon is the Helium 3 Pure form thats trapped in the Lunar soil that is required for the new type of Nuclear Fusion power plants that could be built if enough Helium3 was returned to Earth.

That is not a priority of the VSE.

Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 11):
Senator Obama has indicated that if he is elected, it's No Go.

Obama took all sorts of flak for those comments. His plan to divert funding from the Constellation Program to the Department of Education would likely have no measurable impact on the quality of public education, but would result in the U.S. making an extremely visible slide in leadership. It didn't take him long to back off his original statements.

Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 11):
Mind you, the US fiscal position may be so desperate in a few years they may abandon manned space flight altogether.

That is not even close to being true. With a GDP over $13 trillion dollars, there is no question the United States can pays its bills. It's not like the U.S. has never experienced a recession before. It isn't even the first time a recession has hit while a manned spaceflight program was at a critical point, the Space Shuttle was developed when the U.S. economy was in the absolute pits.

The costs of manned spaceflight are not significant to the U.S. federal budget, the results are too visible, and the benefits too great to individual members of Congress for it to be abandoned casually.

Quoting Stitch (Reply 12):
I agree we need to be on the moon before we need to be on Mars, but I don't think we need to be on either place right now. The costs and the risks involved to send people to Mars is so great that I don't support doing it until we have a real reason to do so. So keep launching better and better probes to keep looking and building up our knowledge for now.

I would like to know when anyone anticipates a "good" time for space exploration? We're never going to have cheaper and more reliable manned spacecraft unless we specifically fund their development. Unmanned probes will not help us overcome the barriers for effective manned spaceflight. Sending probes to planets well beyond our reach doesn't lead to new innovation, new industries, etc. If we don't plan on going there ourselves (sooner than later), we're just spending billions on screen savers and astrophysics dissertations.
 
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Stitch
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Ins

Mon Mar 10, 2008 2:56 am



Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 13):
I would like to know when anyone anticipates a "good" time for space exploration?

In my view, when the robotic probes have accumulated enough information to justify the more capable human ones being sent to follow-up.

We don't need to send humans to see if there was water on Mars or where it flowed or how recently. But once the probes have found that water was present and where it was and when it was and if that data means life was likely, then send the humans to see if it really did happen because they are more adaptable.
 
Thorny
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 10, 2008 3:52 am



Quoting Stitch (Reply 14):
In my view, when the robotic probes have accumulated enough information to justify the more capable human ones being sent to follow-up.

That is the current working plan. No one is talking about going to Mars in 2013. It will be 2030 at the absolute earliest. Between now and then we'll have Phoenix landing in May, MSL in 2010, at least one more Mars Scout in 2012-13, and then the Mars Sample Return Mission (probably in partnership with Europe) kicks in during the latter half of the next decade. Together with existing spacecraft and Europe's Exomars, that should fill in all the blanks needed for human exploration to commence.

In the meantime, we're building the manned infrastructure to allow that: the ISS to teach us how to operate huge, complex spacecraft for long periods of time and how humans can better handle the trip, Ares/Orion to give us the foundations of the Mars mission, and lunar exploration to get us back into the mindset of working beyond safe abort distances from Earth.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:33 am



Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 13):
Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 11):
Mind you, the US fiscal position may be so desperate in a few years they may abandon manned space flight altogether.

That is not even close to being true. With a GDP over $13 trillion dollars, there is no question the United States can pays its bills. It's not like the U.S. has never experienced a recession before. It isn't even the first time a recession has hit while a manned spaceflight program was at a critical point, the Space Shuttle was developed when the U.S. economy was in the absolute pits.

Apologies. I'm referring more to America's ability to finance its' debt, which will result in either a) big spike in interest rates, which will hammer the economy big time since so many Americans are in hock up to their eyeballs (as opposed to almost everyone else) or b) the dollar collapses on the world market -- again impacting the economy.

The global economy is more important now to America than at any time in its' history and will have bigger impacts than ever before. America is no longer an island economy, with most trade being internal.

But I do hope the space programme continues.
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Blackprojects
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Tue Mar 11, 2008 5:48 pm

Hi connies4ever

I watched a BBC TV science Program on The return to the Moon, In the US they are known as NOVA and it explained all the problems of Hydrogen Fusion against Helium3 fusion.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/prog...mes/horizon/broadband/tx/moonsale/

Also it seems from watching the program that a special kind of Helium 3 is required that is very hard top find down here on Earth Making it may well be possible as its possible to make almost anything.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Wed Mar 12, 2008 12:01 am

Hello Black -

Did a little reading of some older reports this afternoon (it was a slow day anyway) so I could refresh myself regarding fusion (did a little work on laser inertial confinement back around 1980).

OK, typically we're looking at a D-T (deuterium - tritium) reaction driving the fusion reaction, 'fusion ash' being He-4 and an energetic neutron. The neutron carries an energy of ~14 MeV and the He nucleus has a kinetic energy from recoil of about 3.5 MeV (millions of electron volts, sorry, no other way to describe it), for a total of ~17.5 MeV. This neutron is _very_ energetic and is of the type that could cause tissue damage if a person encountered a stream of them. Whether or not the neutron gets past the fusion chamber walls is another issue, but it would slowly cause activation of the chamber through n-p interactions. D-T reactions have high 'neutronicity' (% of energy released in neutrons) and so have highest potential to irradiate the container and/or cause biological problems. Ignition temps for this type of reaction are in the 100M deg C range.

He3-D reactions don't have some of the above problems. The reaction can go 3 three:
- about half of the reactions produce stable He4, a proton and a neutron, and yield about 12 MeV;
- a little less than half produce He4, deuterium, and yield around 14 MeV;
- a small fraction produces He4, also a proton and a neutron, but is a little more energetic at about 14.5 MeV.

The middle reaction has about zero neutronicity, so that makes it very attractive from an operational viewpoint, and even the mixture has a much lower neutronicity than the straightforward D-T reaction, so it wins on that count. The total fusion energy of the He3-D reactions is a little lower than D-T, so it loses on that count, although the difference is not huge.

The big problem with He3-D reactions is they have a significantly higher ignition temperature, IIRC at least double (due to higher electrstatic repulsion as the nuclei approach one another), and therefore a) require much tighter magnetic confinement, and b) need to operate at higher plasma temperatures and pressures, therefore requiring a much stronger vessel.

For the above reasons, and others which are fairly (OK, really) technical, I do not foresee He3-D style fusion reactors in my lifetime. I'm not even sure a working D-T fusion reactor will be ahcieved by the time they plant me.

Don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but those are the facts, ma'am.

Mods: I know this is way off thread topic, but I thought Black asked a decent question that needed a decent response.
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Blackprojects
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Wed Mar 12, 2008 6:11 pm

Hi Connies you have Just Spoken an Aliean Language to me as I watch interesting TV Programs but when it comes to the Interesting bits that make it Possible for tiny bits of Matter to get together and Prpduce Light Heat and Radiation I start turning into Squirrel Food very fast.

If it dosent come to pass that we have Fusion re-actoes popping up all over the place by the time im Pushing up the Daisees I whont be supprised as the Culham Labs http://www.fusion.org.uk/ have been trying to get Fusion to work for decades and still can not quite get it to work properly.
 
Flighty
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Wed Mar 12, 2008 7:24 pm



Quoting Stitch (Reply 14):
then send the humans to see if it really did happen because they are more adaptable.

Of course you are right. But on the other hand, a dead human is not very useful to anybody. Keeping humans alive makes the mission at least 5 times as expensive and complex. Maybe 50 times.

Plus, humans could "pollute" the environment there with their cells. what if we left one behind...

I am not sure we have the technology to have human planetary missions make any sense... too slow, dangerous, etc...

maybe in 30 years, but for now i don't see the point. Contrary to those who say we are standing still since Apollo, our technology has grown by leaps and bounds since 1969. But we still aren't ready for mars imo.
 
TheSonntag
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Ins

Wed Mar 12, 2008 9:56 pm



Quoting Flighty (Reply 20):
maybe in 30 years, but for now i don't see the point. Contrary to those who say we are standing still since Apollo, our technology has grown by leaps and bounds since 1969. But we still aren't ready for mars imo.

And that is why we should go to Moon instead. Just not "land, put flag, get rocks and fly back", but stay there for a longer period.

Another thing I think which should be investigated before sending someone to Mars is the fact of how humans adopt to 1/6th of gravity if they stay on such a surface for months. We know how it is to be one year around earth, but we do not know how it is to be on the Moon for longer periods of time. I think this is quite important, as well, because if we send humans to Mars, they will first live without gravity for months, then live for 1/3rd of gravity for some time, then live without gravity again, and then suddenly adapt to life on Earth again.

To me this sounds pretty challenging, and I think there is lot of potential to be taken from a manned moon landing before we move on.

Another thing, of course, is the fact that I was born in 1982. I want to see a moon mission in my lifetime. I am still fascinated by a Shuttle launch. A moon landing will be much more interesting.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:35 pm



Quoting BlackProjects (Reply 19):
Hi Connies you have Just Spoken an Aliean Language to me as I watch interesting TV Programs but when it comes to the Interesting bits that make it Possible for tiny bits of Matter to get together and Prpduce Light Heat and Radiation I start turning into Squirrel Food very fast.

Sorry about that, BlackProjects. It's pretty much unavoidable when discussing fusion. I tried to keep it basic.

When I started in this business, it was simply accepted that fusion would be a commercial reality within 20-30 years, i.e., it would be a reality now. The 'accepted wisdom' now is that it MIGHT be a reality by 2050 or so. Now _that's_ progress !

But on the general topic of deep(er) manned space flight, I don't see fusion being a player for a long time (in human terms) but fission can be a game-changer. If we can develop a nuclear propulsion system, (perhaps like VASIMIR - you can Google it, or simply mass acceleration using H2 slush as the reaction mass) then we have the potential to cut transit/wait times to periods where the crew is not going to a) go stir crazy, and b) not become possibly incapacitated due to cosmic rays, white cell depletion, bone mass loss, etc. In a situation like that, mars is very much within reach, as, potentially, would be Europa (Jupiter) and Enceladus (Saturn), and of course the asteroids.

That would be exciting !
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Blackprojects
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Thu Mar 13, 2008 1:29 am

Jupiter would not be my fave destination as its a bit iffy if your radiotion sheilding is not up to the job as you would end up with a NASTY Dose of Radiation Poisoning in a short amount of time.

Saturn could be quite fun although even saturn would be a risky venture.

Still some day in the futture some brave soles will venture out into the outer part of the Solar system I wish them well who ever they may be.
 
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Stitch
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Thu Mar 13, 2008 1:30 am



Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 22):
If we can develop a nuclear propulsion system, (perhaps like VASIMIR - you can Google it, or simply mass acceleration using H2 slush as the reaction mass) then we have the potential to cut transit/wait times to periods where the crew is not going to a) go stir crazy, and b) not become possibly incapacitated due to cosmic rays, white cell depletion, bone mass loss, etc.

Bring back Project Orion.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:09 am



Quoting Stitch (Reply 24):
Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 22):
If we can develop a nuclear propulsion system, (perhaps like VASIMIR - you can Google it, or simply mass acceleration using H2 slush as the reaction mass) then we have the potential to cut transit/wait times to periods where the crew is not going to a) go stir crazy, and b) not become possibly incapacitated due to cosmic rays, white cell depletion, bone mass loss, etc.

Bring back Project Orion.

Geez, Stitch, who's going to write the Environmental Impact Statement on that one ?  Big grin

Anyone who is interested in historical and current nuclear space propulsion-related info can look here Nuclear Space
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MCIGuy
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:39 am

Much as I want to see a moon base in my lifetime, I guess protecting our species from falling rocks is more important. Every time we land on a comet or asteroid it gives us more information on how to prevent impacts.
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Blackprojects
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Thu Mar 13, 2008 11:01 pm

I remember Orion Its Nuclear Propulsion The US tested some Nuclear Rocket Engines out in the Weapons effects range along way from the General public.

The Rockets worked but the Radiation was NO-NO in earths Atmosphere.

BBC FOUR made a program about the Project.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/mars-a-bomb.shtml

A youtube test video of an Orion Class Space ship model being tested.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQCrPNEsQaY&feature=related

[Edited 2008-03-13 16:05:46]
 
gigneil
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:39 am



Quoting Stitch (Reply 2):
I want orbiters around Neptune and Uranus and probes under the ice of Europa a lot more then I want some folks planting a flag on Mars or motoring around the lunar surface.

The thing is, we know how to terraform Mars. We could do it today if we wanted to spend the money.

Getting people living up there gives us a good base to get going on that. Plus...

Quoting BlackProjects (Reply 7):
The Main reason NASA is going back to the Moon is the Helium 3 Pure form thats trapped in the Lunar soil that is required for the new type of Nuclear Fusion power plants that could be built if enough Helium3 was returned to Earth.

It isn't just the He-3. The moon, unlike Mars, has basically all the same resources as earth. Mining operations on the moon could turn it into a completely self-sufficient world.

Mars, not so much, not today. Some of the near-Earth asteroids, however, yes.

NS
 
GDB
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:13 am

We were less prepared to go to the Moon in 1961, at JFK's announcement, than we are to get to Mars now.
But of course, no one is talking of a Manhattan Project style crash effort now, that was an anomaly, if a brilliant one.
The point is, where there is a will......
Had that will, due to the political situation, been there, NASA could have had men on Mars by 1986.

Since NASA has not gone beyond low Earth orbit with manned flight since 1972, I'd say that getting their deep space legs back is important, new technology or not, beyond Earth orbit is a serious challenge that needs to be re-leanrt and expanded.

When we go to Mars, it will almost certainly be for a Zubrin style stay of 300-350 days, so getting experience of extended periods of surface operations is important, the Moon is best placed for that.

Asteroid missions are a nice add on, if I were NASA I'd be marking the 100th anniversary of the comet atmospheric impact over Siberia, to make the point about the need for a programme of beyond Earth orbit flight.

The programmes Black Projects linked were excellent, I have to ask about the He-3 idea, if it IS not as good a potential for fusion, why do serious scientifically literate people propose it?
We know that Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt has an agenda for returning to the moon, but he is smart enough to know that if it is not all it's cracked up to be, he'd be damaging the very cause he supports.

As for project Orion, it is the best way to explore, in fact colonise where possible, the Solar System and do it in a generation.
But the world is not up to that is it? We cannot counternance the mass production of small nukes, even allowing for potential ones for Orion being much 'cleaner'.
Even Freeman Dyson addmitted that he'd even calulated that each Orion launch could, with improved bombs, add to the world radiation total to reduce the potential human deaths from ten people, to one, to a fraction of one.
He still could not support just one potential death, morally.
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 2:07 pm



Quoting GDB (Reply 29):
The programmes Black Projects linked were excellent, I have to ask about the He-3 idea, if it IS not as good a potential for fusion, why do serious scientifically literate people propose it?
We know that Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt has an agenda for returning to the moon, but he is smart enough to know that if it is not all it's cracked up to be, he'd be damaging the very cause he supports.

Lots of serious scientific people advocate going (either directly or merely in an evolutionary way) to He3-D type fusion systems. Yes, from the waste issue of activation of the containment, it's way more attractive than D-T. But with the electrostatic barrier being much higher using He3-D, you've got a much more serious hurdle to overcome simply to get the thing to ignite. We're having really serious issues with D-T right now, so from a practical p.o.v. it makes more sense to prove you can do the D-T style fusion system first, then start to worry about He3-D -- but I still think that would be a long way off. Geez, the magnetic confinement system would have to be simply MASSIVE -- and D-T confinement systems are massive enough currently.

As for the containment activation problem with D-T, we're handling fission spent fuel and low/mid-level waste (actually the bigger problem in nuclear power) right now, so over the next century or so I don't really see that as a showstopper.

As for the He3 'economy', I believe you'd need to be extracting, refining, packaging, and returning something like 6-7 tonnes/year from the moon to generate the equivalent amount of electricity the USA currently requires. To me that sounds like chewing up a lot of regolith since abundances are on the order of 0.01 ppm. And it also sounds like a lot of cargo hauling back to Earth.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
 
GDB
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Ins

Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:16 pm

Thanks for the illuminating reply Connies4ever, one vulnerability to doing a Moon Base, assuming we mean permanent manning, for activities beyond exploration such as mining, even with the much better hardware of the proposed new programme, is that it is still expensive to do regular trips there, back too with the products of any mining.

That said, NASA's new programme is good, without having to go with a lot of new, expensive, untried technology, for a much expanded human Lunar presence on a semi permanent basis.
Remembering Arthur C Clarke, we are not talking about a Clavius style set up as in 2001, rather something like a remote polar base.

You'd need some kind of space tug between Earth orbit and the Moon for a permanent base, how to power it for long term use in Earth-Lunar space?
As well as a totally re-useable Earth to orbit system, to link up with the tug.
The size and payload need not be large, if it is in very regular use.

NASA cannot afford to and should not do this, they should stick to exploration and initial set up, (exploration would not end with setting up a base either).
And NASA would be providing a return to Earth rescue capability for a permanent base.
Could a new, more ambitious, X-Prize style competition be the way to the tug system, to Earth orbit, then the orbit to Lunar surface and back?

[Edited 2008-03-23 10:29:48]
 
Thorny
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:18 pm



Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 30):
As for the He3 'economy', I believe you'd need to be extracting, refining, packaging, and returning something like 6-7 tonnes/year from the moon to generate the equivalent amount of electricity the USA currently requires. To me that sounds like chewing up a lot of regolith since abundances are on the order of 0.01 ppm. And it also sounds like a lot of cargo hauling back to Earth.

That's relative, though. The largest supertanker on the high seas carries 564,000 tons of oil.

6-7 tons (a typical Shuttle flight comes back with that much cargo) from the moon would be a spectacular bargain. A 2-ton capacity lunar freighter could handle that with four flights a year. Easily manageable, and the cost is a drop in the bucket compared to what we pay Saudi Arabia every year. Imagine most of the supertankers mothballed and/or scrapped and most drilling and coal miniing stopped. What kind of environmental impact would that make?

Why they hell aren't we Manhattan Project-ing this NOW?
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:40 pm



Quoting GDB (Reply 31):
That said, NASA's new programme is good, without having to go with a lot of new, expensive, untried technology, for a much expanded human Lunar presence on a semi pernament basis.
Remembering Arthur C Clarke, we are not talling about a Clavius style set up as in 2001, rather something like a remote polar base.

You'd need some kind of space tug between Earth orbit and the Moon for a pernament base, how to power it for long term use in Earth-Lunar space?
As well as a totally re-useable Earth to orbit system, to link up with the tug.
The size and payload need not be large, if it is in very regualar use.

Good points indeed, GDB. I agree the 1st lunar base will perforce be akin to a remote Arctic/Antarctic science station, with austere living conditions. Clavius Base was an awe-inspiring fantasy, though ! As for the tug, I think you can initially do it with storable chemicals, but eventually one needs to look at a nuclear powered Earth-Moon transport, perhaps unmanned.

Quoting Thorny (Reply 32):
Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 30):
As for the He3 'economy', I believe you'd need to be extracting, refining, packaging, and returning something like 6-7 tonnes/year from the moon to generate the equivalent amount of electricity the USA currently requires. To me that sounds like chewing up a lot of regolith since abundances are on the order of 0.01 ppm. And it also sounds like a lot of cargo hauling back to Earth.

That's relative, though. The largest supertanker on the high seas carries 564,000 tons of oil.

6-7 tons (a typical Shuttle flight comes back with that much cargo) from the moon would be a spectacular bargain. A 2-ton capacity lunar freighter could handle that with four flights a year. Easily manageable, and the cost is a drop in the bucket compared to what we pay Saudi Arabia every year. Imagine most of the supertankers mothballed and/or scrapped and most drilling and coal miniing stopped. What kind of environmental impact would that make?

Why they hell aren't we Manhattan Project-ing this NOW?

Thorny: the supertanker doesn't have to lift itself out of the gravity well - although that would be a great photo-op !  Big grin

Yes, a space tug that could bring 2-3 tonnes/year back would mean only a few flights. Don't forget that once this postulated He-3 economy starts, everyone will want it. That would mean demand going to 25-30 tonnes/year (based on US using about 25% of world's energy),and possibly more as India & China continue to ramp up their economies. There's no doubt that this would have a beneficial long-term effect on the environment, but it's hard to know exactly how much -- the new power stations, the support infrastructure, decomissioning the existing crap, all would have a footprint.

As for Manhattan Project, yes, it would be that type of effort. But to my thinking, this requires a national, or even global, commitment. And looking at the USA right now, I don't see too many people agreeing on anything. Let alone the rest of the world. But I agree with your point.
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connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:57 pm

Thorny -

Forgot to include in last post that, AFAICS, there is a large plurality of people in the USA who really believe the government is incapable of doing anything properly or effectively. A Manhattan-style program to kick-start the he-3 economy likely wouldn't pass the ballot test. I'd go so far as to say several states would adopt a California-style Initiative to block it.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
 
gigneil
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 6:48 pm



Quoting GDB (Reply 29):
When we go to Mars, it will almost certainly be for a Zubrin style stay of 300-350 days, so getting experience of extended periods of surface operations is important, the Moon is best placed for that.

I was reading the current reference mission just last night, its a few years old to be sure, but within NASA the talk remains a 180 day trip with 500 day stay.

Quoting GDB (Reply 31):

NASA cannot afford to and should not do this, they should stick to exploration and initial set up, (exploration would not end with setting up a base either).

I fully concur. Resource mining is, in this country, a commercial activity.

Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 33):
but eventually one needs to look at a nuclear powered Earth-Moon transport, perhaps unmanned.

I'd also not be opposed to a SEP type vessel, since most of our nuclear powered options that don't kill people would still be electrically driven and solar power isn't a horrible option. IDK how it would work in the concept of a tug.

NTP, nuclear thermal power, is also a good option. The more fun stuff is presently illegal due to the partial test ban treaty and there's all sorts of environmental concerns related to the use of pulse power anyhoo. That all being said, development of nuclear drive should be a top priority for both the US and ESA/Roscosmos teams.

NS
 
GDB
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:08 pm



Quoting Gigneil (Reply 35):
I was reading the current reference mission just last night, its a few years old to be sure, but within NASA the talk remains a 180 day trip with 500 day stay.

Thanks for correcting my faulty memory on the 'Zubrin' mission.
 
gigneil
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:32 pm

Zubrin's mission may well have been exactly the numbers you mentioned... the 180+500 is "Reference Design 3.0" which is certainly based on, but is not, Mars Direct.

For those of you in the US, or anywhere you might be able to get Discovery Channel branded content, set your TiVo-like device for "Mars Underground."

NS
 
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Stitch
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:48 pm



Quoting Gigneil (Reply 37):
For those of you in the US, or anywhere you might be able to get Discovery Channel branded content, set your TiVo-like device for "Mars Underground."

"Mars Rising" was also a very good recent series on the hurdles that face our first manned mission to the Red Planet.
 
Thorny
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 24, 2008 7:37 pm



Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 33):
Thorny: the supertanker doesn't have to lift itself out of the gravity well - although that would be a great photo-op !

Of course not, but they'd only have to lift perhaps 2 tons out of the lunar gravity field... 1/6 that of Earth's. This is totally feasible.

Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 33):
Yes, a space tug that could bring 2-3 tonnes/year back would mean only a few flights. Don't forget that once this postulated He-3 economy starts, everyone will want it. That would mean demand going to 25-30 tonnes/year (based on US using about 25% of world's energy),and possibly more as India & China continue to ramp up their economies.

That would be the best possible thing to happen to open up the space frontier. Once NASA (or hopefully a NASA/ESA/JAXA/RSA/CSA partnership) shows the way, the technology to mine and ship the He3 would be licensed to commercial organizations. They'd probably be lining up to get a piece of the pie.

Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 34):
Forgot to include in last post that, AFAICS, there is a large plurality of people in the USA who really believe the government is incapable of doing anything properly or effectively.

There always will be detractors, protesters, and those who believe they can do it better. But I strongly suspect the potential for drastically reducing pollution on Earth, combined with vastly reduced dependancy on the Middle Eastern oil kingdoms would totally overwhelm the "government will screw it up" naysayers.

Quoting Gigneil (Reply 35):
I fully concur. Resource mining is, in this country, a commercial activity.

Agreed. But someone needs to prove it is feasible first, and that is the job of government. Perhaps a multi-national lunar base from which commericial mining consortiums can operate?
 
cloudy
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Ins

Mon Mar 24, 2008 7:54 pm



Quoting Thorny (Reply 32):
Why they hell aren't we Manhattan Project-ing this NOW?

Because Helium 3 does not directly replace oil. Neither does deuterium. Or Wind power. Or plane ol' fission and hydro. Or anything we use to GENERATE electricity, for that matter. Unless you can find a way to run a vehicle engine with it. Hydrogen could replace oil. Or a much better battery could replace oil. The fact that oil already has potential energy when it is pumped from the ground is merely a useful bonus. The main reason oil is useful because it is portable and because you can burn as much or as little of it at a time to get as much or as little energy as you want. I don't see anyone making that claim for any kind of fusion. The "Mr. Fusion" device of "Back to the Future" is more fantasy then science fiction.

We don't have a real problem GENERATING electricity. Theres plenty of uranium in seawater. There's plenty of wind and sun, even if we eventually use up all the coal and natural gas. The main problems with GENERATING electricity are POLITICAL, not economic or environmental. People don't want wind farms or solar panels near them, and they have an irrational fear of fission power and its waste. If they get more afraid of global warming(whether that fear is rational or not) the public will abandon their obviously irrational fears. Once we are allowed to build nuke plants and recycle the waste sensibly(which we have known how to do for a long time) we will have all the electricity we need. We won't need to have fusion. You don't see many smart people spending THEIR OWN money on fusion anyway. Most of it comes from governments looking to continue bureaucratic empires, and/or maintain thermonuclear arsenals without testing.

What are smart people spending their own money on? Look at where the venture capital goes, and where the big auto and energy companies are spending their money. There ain't any fusion strartups. The smart money goes to things like hydrogen. Better batteries. Superconductors. These things TRANSPORT and STORE electricity in better ways. Once you can transport and store electricity as easily as you can oil, you can replace oil. It doesn't matter where the energy originally comes from. Existing solutions can GENERATE electricity for the foreseeable future.

IN SHORT....Controlled fusion is an expensive, high risk solution to a non-problem. The REAL problem is in energy STORAGE and TRANSPORT. This means practical fusion is not the holy grail. A room temperature superconductor is. Or a battery with even half the energy density of gasoline. Give the world better batteries and superconductors and it will make you rich - and deservedly so, for such advances benefit both the environment and the economy.

AS FOR SPACE SETTLEMENT......If there was any real demand for people living on the moon or Mars, we would see more people living in Antarctica. There are more resources there. It is much cheaper to extract them and return them to settled regions. You can actually breath the air. Even so, the only outposts there are there for scientific and political purposes only - not for resource extraction or settlement. If there are ever colonies beyond low Earth orbit in our lifetime, it will be for political reasons only. Or because of some weid development no one can foresee(Ruins of a lost civilization on Mars, A perfect superconductor found on the moon, etc.). Sorry Folks. I'd like to believe otherwise, and did for a long time. But from what I've seen, the only informed people who believe in near-term space settlement believe it because they want to, not because there's any evidence for it.
 
Thorny
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 24, 2008 8:50 pm



Quoting Cloudy (Reply 40):
The main reason oil is useful because it is portable and because you can burn as much or as little of it at a time to get as much or as little energy as you want. I don't see anyone making that claim for any kind of fusion.

I fully agree with you on the need for improved energy storage and transmission technology. It is coming, slowly but surely. But this does not ease our electrical production needs whatsoever (the increasing demand for electricity in the U.S. alone is swamping the increased production through new alternative energy plants, and improved storage would be only a drop in the proverbial bucket.) A combination of improved storage and environmentally friendly energy production are what is needed. No one is suggesting a "Westinghouse Personal Fusion Reactor" in every car. But a hydrogen-powered car is a strong possibility... if hydrogen production can be made efficient (it currently requires huge amounts of electricity to get hydrogen from water.) So some fusion plants could become hydrogen production facilities.

Quoting Cloudy (Reply 40):
It doesn't matter where the energy originally comes from. Existing solutions can GENERATE electricity for the foreseeable future.

Really? All the alternative energy systems coming online in the U.S. are simply augmenting existing electrical production, not replacing it, helping (but only a little) to meet ever-increasing demand, not taking the load off more environmentally unfriendly production. Which means none are doing anything to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, or the increasing pressure to begin drilling in environmentally or politically sensitive areas (ANWR or off the Florida beaches, for example.) And very little is being done to make the existing coal and oil plants more environmentally-friendly, aside from lip-service and some feel-good projects highlighted in TV commercials.

And that is just in the U.S. Most of the demand for new electricity production is happening in China and the third world. China is adding a new coal plant, with little or no concern for their environmental implications, almost weekly. How much longer can the Earth sustain this kind of environmentally damaging growth? Existing technology is not feasible in the third world without some major paradigm shift... they simply can't afford the oil today, nevermind what oil will cost in 10 or 20 years. Which means if we don't do something, and soon, we are condemning the third world to endless poverty, famine, and disease (the difference between safe and unsafe water, for example, is power.) But technology, such as fusion, to free the North America, Europe, and the Far East from the grip of oil and coal would free up those resources for the third world, giving them time to build their economies until they can take part in the new energy production technologies.

Nuclear fission is politically unacceptable today, and the probability of that changing approaches zero. New hydro plants are almost as politically impossible. Wind and solar simply can never be efficient enough to replace existing coal and oil plants on a one-for-one basis and the scale needed to replace them would horrify the masses. Fusion is probably the only realistic alternative, if it can be made to work.

Quoting Cloudy (Reply 40):
AS FOR SPACE SETTLEMENT......If there was any real demand for people living on the moon or Mars, we would see more people living in Antarctica.

There isn't. Working in space, or on the moon, is not the same as settling there. The first lunar bases will probably be very much like the Antarctic stations. No one lives there permanently, but many work there for months at a time. But it will actually be easier to get home from the Moon than from Antarctica in the dead of winter.
 
gigneil
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:36 pm



Quoting Thorny (Reply 39):
Perhaps a multi-national lunar base from which commericial mining consortiums can operate?

I fully believe that all space exploration should be multinational. (United Earth Space Agency, anyone that remembers the first few TOS episodes before the Federation, despite Enterprise clearly changing that bit of history)

Unfortunately, nationalist pride is really one of the only drivers beyond geek interest.

Quoting Thorny (Reply 41):
No one is suggesting a "Westinghouse Personal Fusion Reactor" in every car.

I will suggest it, if you'd like.



Quoting Thorny (Reply 41):
Nuclear fission is politically unacceptable today, and the probability of that changing approaches zero.

Ah, but it isn't. The NRC is about to hand out licenses for about 20 new reactors. They are requiring standardized and modular approaches, but new construction will happen in 2008.

NS
 
connies4ever
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:48 pm



Quoting Thorny (Reply 41):
I fully agree with you on the need for improved energy storage and transmission technology. It is coming, slowly but surely. But this does not ease our electrical production needs whatsoever (the increasing demand for electricity in the U.S. alone is swamping the increased production through new alternative energy plants, and improved storage would be only a drop in the proverbial bucket.) A combination of improved storage and environmentally friendly energy production are what is needed. No one is suggesting a "Westinghouse Personal Fusion Reactor" in every car. But a hydrogen-powered car is a strong possibility... if hydrogen production can be made efficient (it currently requires huge amounts of electricity to get hydrogen from water.) So some fusion plants could become hydrogen production facilities.

Actually, a problem that is equally as big as _generating_ the electricity is __delivering_ it (reliably). America, and to a somewhat lesser extent Canada, have been woeful in investing in their grids. Hence the several massive blackouts in recent years. It is simply economically unacceptable. Why does Canada have less of a problem ? Most power generation companies are provincial utilities, with less need to show shareholders quick returns over 3-5 years. Not to say we can't do better, we can.

Quoting Thorny (Reply 41):
Nuclear fission is politically unacceptable today, and the probability of that changing approaches zero. New hydro plants are almost as politically impossible. Wind and solar simply can never be efficient enough to replace existing coal and oil plants on a one-for-one basis and the scale needed to replace them would horrify the masses. Fusion is probably the only realistic alternative, if it can be made to work.

If you go visit the good people of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I think you'll find towns falling over themselves in the race to get Dominion Energy to site their next 2 units in their district. And Dominion WILL build. For a while we all up here thought they would buy CANDU, but I think in the end there was the sense that the NRC would take WAY too long to certify the design, since it's so different than American reactors of any design. Oh well, maybe one day.

But I think the opposition is really turning around to (at worst) a grudging admission that nuclear is a necessity.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
 
Thorny
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Tue Mar 25, 2008 2:11 am



Quoting Gigneil (Reply 42):
(United Earth Space Agency, anyone that remembers the first few TOS episodes before the Federation, despite Enterprise clearly changing that bit of history)

Actually Enterprise did mention UESPA several times. (You left out the P for "Probe" in UESPA) It was not the same thing as Starfleet, though. UESPA seems to be the successor to NASA, while Starfleet is the world's Navy. UESPA was particularly prominent in the flashback episode about the first Warp 6 testflight ("First Flight".)

Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 43):
If you go visit the good people of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I think you'll find towns falling over themselves in the race to get Dominion Energy to site their next 2 units in their district. And Dominion WILL build.

I just don't see it ever getting past the hordes of protesters, lawsuits, and chicken-littles who will emerge when the first serious work starts happening. I could be wrong, but... I'm not.
 
cloudy
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Ins

Tue Mar 25, 2008 4:19 pm



Quoting Thorny (Reply 41):
And that is just in the U.S. Most of the demand for new electricity production is happening in China and the third world. China is adding a new coal plant, with little or no concern for their environmental implications, almost weekly. How much longer can the Earth sustain this kind of environmentally damaging growth?



Quoting Thorny (Reply 44):
I just don't see it ever getting past the hordes of protesters, lawsuits, and chicken-littles who will emerge when the first serious work starts happening. I could be wrong, but... I'm not.

If its a choice between accepting nukes and environmental disaster, people will accept the nukes. Millions may have to die from China's coal fired plants. If global warming is really as big a deal as the alarmists say it is, we may see even more devastation as coastal regions flood. But accept them they will....for there is simply no other way. Countries such as France that are lacking in other means accepted them long ago. We are seeing moves in this direction, as others have mentioned. I suspect that whatever happens, within a couple decades, fission facilities will provoke little more NIMBY opposition than any other form of power generation. There is only one way to seriously cut their CO2 production without replacing oil - and that is fission.
If we had more practical ways of storage and transmission, wind + solar + hydro would be more than adequate but I suspect this will take too long to be relevant to our current problems. I strongly suspect that no matter how much money is poured into it, Fusion will not be ready in time. It may not be better then fusion even if it is. For a thousandfold lower cost, we could run a massive public education effort on fission. A rational public attitude towards fission = no more problem in generating energy. Energy would get more expensive at first, and economic growth may slow somewhat. But there would be no global disaster - unless the worst of the global warming scaremongers are right.

And did you know that countries actually get cleaner as they get richer, after a certain point? China's problem is reaching that point. The reason they build the coal plants is that they can be built quickly enough to accommodate their economic growth. Cleaner options take longer. They are planning much cleaner coal plants, and are building nukes, etc. as well. By the time their per capita GDP is as big as ours China will be a much cleaner country - unless they take a path different from that of every other country in the world that has succeeded in building a rich, modern economy.

As for the scientists supporting fusion - take a look at who they work for. Its government agencies, mostly. Take a look at their 401k plans, if they let you. I doubt you will find many of them putting any of their own money towards it. Not too many fusion scientists or lobbyists work for private corporations, or environmental organizations. People in oil companies and Greenpeace, etc. disagree on many things. But they do seem to agree that fusion is a poor bet. The greenies don't give it any publicity. The corporate types don't put money in it. Where does the real money go? Batteries. Conductors. Hydrogen. If you want to spend a "Manhattan Project" sized sum - that is where to spend it. Better yet, don't spend the money on big government but offer it in the form of X-Prize style prizes.

Much of what passes for controlled fusion research is really used to get data for the simulators nations use to replace nuclear testing. The famed Z-Machine is one example of this. Were it not for nuclear stockpile preservation, it would never be funded, and deservedly so. Some of the scientists involved hype the energy aspect. I might believe the same in their place. It is easier to work hard if you think you are saving the world than saving the bomb. It makes better PR also.

Make a big government program to give us practical fusion and you will have a boondogle. Guaranteed. The most likely outcome would be some technical success with little practical relevance worthy of the cost- something like the International Space Station or the Concorde. Even that is optimistic considering how much money and talent have gone to efforts trying to do the same thing, for very little payback compared to what has been achieved in other fields. Manhattan project style spending + government management can work if technical success is all that is required and there is no free market to deal with - as was the case with the bomb. Such efforts don't do well when going after immediately practical stuff, particularly if you want the resulting technology to be cheap and clean.

IN SHORT.....If a government mounted a herculean effort to get practical fusion through some sort of "Manhattan Project" most of the money would be wasted. Even were the effort to succeed, there is no guarantee that it would be better then fission either in an economic or environmental sense - because lets face it, modern fission reactors are pretty darn good. Especially with recycled fuel. Our money would be better spent on prizes to encourage work on better means of energy storage and transport.

Sorry for the long, repetitive post. As Mark Twain said "I wrote you a long letter because I did't have the time to
make it short"  Smile
 
cloudy
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:01 pm



Quoting Thorny (Reply 41):
And very little is being done to make the existing coal and oil plants more environmentally-friendly, aside from lip-service and some feel-good projects highlighted in TV commercials.

This is not the case. There are all sorts of "clean coal" efforts at the DOE, including efforts to sequester CO2 away from the atmosphere. In pollutants other than CO2, today's coal power plants in the US are much, much cleaner than earlier generations. As time has passed, older plants have been improved by scrubbers and by using lower-sulfer coal. My hometown is already building two new coal generators, not because of new demand, but to replace older units that won't meet future clean air standards. This is not a televised photo op exception, by the way. It is the norm across the country. That being said, Coal is still by far and away the least environmentally friendly way to light a light bulb.

As for oil power plants - we don't produce a significant amount of grid electricity from oil. Maybe 1-2%. Even wind will be bigger soon. Most new generating capacity built in the last 10-20 years has come in the form of natural gas turbines. These emit CO2, but negligble ammounts of other other pollutants. It produces a lot less CO2 than coal. It is the cleanest fossil fuel. For these reasons, natural gas is more politically acceptable than coal plants. It is also expensive and in theory, at least (even if the abiological hydrocarbon theory is correct) nonrenewable. The US is having to import more and more of it as time goes on, at least.

Unfortunately, there is plenty of coal to last for thousands of years even at consumption rates much higher than we have at present. So it will remain an attractive option for developing countries such as China. But the more rich China becomes, the more its people will demand cleaner air and the more money they will have to meet tougher standards. That is why countries become CLEANER as the get RICHER, after a certain point is past, even with inherently dirty technology such as coal combustion. The transition will be tricky and there will be increasing pollution in China for some time to come. But since they are starting from a higher tech level then the US did when it industrialized, they will have cleaner technologies such as fission and hydro(witness the three gorges dam) to ease the tough early and dirtier times.

IN SHORT.....The US has made a lot of progress in generating electricity, even with pretty rotten tech such as coal. Nobody is standing still. The big problems are political - the technical and economic problems involved in GENERATING (as opposed to storing and distributing) energy have largely been solved - not by massive government programs but by the free market guided by sensible regulations. This is despite our irrational fear of nuclear power, and all the power of the NIMBY'S. I have similar optimism for China, provided that not too much of the needed capital is wasted complying with political mandates and paying for government programs.
 
GDB
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RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Ins

Tue Mar 25, 2008 7:21 pm

I myself don't have a problem with politically or nationalistic inspired space exploration, though of course I'm glad that the Cold War conflict that started it, is over, which itself came out of WW2.
(Of course my parents NOT being killed by V-2 rockets might have influenced this view! Then again, I'd not be here to write this either).
However, is it the case that most great explorations on Earth had the same motivation? My history here is sketchy, but I doubt Columbus set off just for the sake of pure exploration.
Or most of the others.

Then look at 15th Century China, they reigned back what could have been a major exploration effort, the result was others stepped into the gap.
Hopefully the NASA planning now, after being set the task in 2004, will mean that Apollo 17 in 1972 will not be a 20th century repeat of China's error.
And NASA is heavily engaged in co-operation with friendly nations too.

[Edited 2008-03-25 12:23:45]
 
TheSonntag
Posts: 4328
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 7:23 pm

RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Instead

Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:14 pm

I think it will always be a combination of factors. Power and prestige is important and needed, and it is good to "sell" a project to the institution which has to pay for it. But this does not mean there can be more about it.

Of course, the moon landing was intended as a prestige stunt for the US. Thats the way it was sold to Congress. But idealistic reasons also played a role.

It still works like that today. Have idealistic ideas, and sell it by over emphasizing the benefits for the public. Unless you are grossly overestimating so that everybody gets it, you win this way...
 
connies4ever
Posts: 3393
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 10:54 pm

RE: Lunar Base Maybe Delayed, Asteroid Landing Ins

Tue Mar 25, 2008 11:13 pm



Quoting Thorny (Reply 41):
Nuclear fission is politically unacceptable today, and the probability of that changing approaches zero. New hydro plants are almost as politically impossible. Wind and solar simply can never be efficient enough to replace existing coal and oil plants on a one-for-one basis and the scale needed to replace them would horrify the masses. Fusion is probably the only realistic alternative, if it can be made to work.

This is only a snippet of an article, but worth a quick look.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

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