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Space Exploration

  1. Dec 26, 2008 #1
    I was having a discussion with one of my professors the other week about human exploration of space. He said that the only reason for continued manned exploration and settlements on other planets would be if we were to find signs of life on another planet like Mars.
    I disagree, I believe that even with no signs of extra-terrestrial life we should continue to push out into space. I guess I believe that exploration is reason in itself to explore and that it is a Manifest Destiny for a new age that we do explore and eventually settle in and outside of our solar system.
    Just wanted to see what everyone else thought about this.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2008 #2
    Humankind's only way to survive is definitely to settle everywhere in the universe. But before we do that, god help us clean up the mess we made on our own planet. I think that humankind doesn't have the sufficient technology for interplanetary/interstellar travel because we are basically not mature enough to take control over other planets without causing damage to them (yet). These kinda go hand-in-hand, historically (except the atomic bomb)
     
  4. Dec 27, 2008 #3
    No. Basically, there's no profit to be made. If some of the companies involved in space technology R&D could see some serious moolah in interplanetary exploration/habitation, Im sure something would come up. Im sure people are creative and smart enough to come up with a feasible idea, but who would back it?
     
  5. Dec 27, 2008 #4
    A nice article about it

    Here was my personal take on space exploration:

    I was reading this and started thinking. If there is any reason to make a serious push into space, this is it. Maybe it won't make the population start declining, but it would help to slow down its rate of growth by moving as many people as possible to off-world colonies.

    Also we can use the resources from other worlds to help support the rest of the population on Earth. Running low on platinum for your fuel cells/catalytic converters/whatever? No problem, I was reading somewhere there was more platinum on just one asteroid (in the asteroid belt) than has ever been mined in the history of the world. Running low on natural gas? No problem, there are whole oceans of it on Triton. We as a people could accomplish many great things with the resources of an entire solar system at our disposal.

    It is really something we should have done decades ago, but we didn't. We didn't because of an apathetic public who just didn't care. We never would have gone to the moon (or maybe even space) to begin with if it wasn't for the Soviets expressing interest in going there. Then after the first few moon landings no one cared about it anymore. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US had an amazing opportunity to focus on scientific discovery and developing the infrastructure for a permanent human presence in space (the ISS is peanuts compared to what we could have achieved if we tried). But unfortunately, it didn't do this and squandered its resources persueing global dominance. The US is now spending about $1 trillion on it's military establishment (counting all military related spending that are not on the "official" pentagon budget). But now with record budget deficits and an enormous debt, I think that window of opportunity has closed. It's a shame we did not expend such resources more wisely. This is not completely NASA's fault since it is chained to an electorate that cares more about driving their monstrous SUV's and which celebrities are sleeping together than the future of humanity (after all, if it did then why drive SUV's around the city?) We could have done better than we did.

    Bottom line: We dropped the ball boys and girls.
     
  6. Dec 27, 2008 #5
    none of those things you mentioned require humans to be along for the ride. Except for the population relief, which has no chance of working because there are way more people being born than could be sent into space.
     
  7. Dec 27, 2008 #6
    Actually quite a few of them do. For example, mining in the asteroid belt. While it is probable that the actual mining would be done by remote controlled robots, the controller needs to be nearby. Why? Because the signal lag from Earth to the asteroid belt is much too great for that to be practical, much less efficient. Plus machines need to be maintained. It would be much faster if there were trained techs onsite who could perform whatever maintenance the bots need, instead of having to ship them all the way back to Earth.

    And besides, there still are the fields of zero-g construction and zero/low g research. On top of that there still is the up and coming area of space tourism. Let's say we want to build a hotel in orbit. Ok, so we would need engineers from many fields to actually design it, scientists and materials engineers to research ways to improve on what we have (particularly in terms of what materials we use, but that is long term), people to actually build it (in space), staff to take care of the customers, janitorial staff, technicians for maintenance work, and since long term nuclear is the most sensible power source (solar panels add way too much surface area) we would also need nuclear engineers to maintain the stations reactor and more scientists to design better and more efficient power plants. Now all of that just for one hotel, what about other things too? A space based economy = jobs for a great many people up and down the payscale.
     
  8. Dec 27, 2008 #7
    I'm pretty much ignorant on a lot of this stuff, but I have a question or two. Seeing as how interstellar space is pretty huge... is it even feasible that we could GET to other habitable terrestrial planets EVER?

    I read somewhere that the closest star to the sun is something like 4 lightyears away from our solar system... I suppose that becomes a rather short distance if we can figure out how to allow human beings to travel close to the speed of light, but really, is that even feasible by any stretch of the imagination? Then you've got the problem of the vast majority of those stars (probably) having solely inhospitable planets orbiting them and it could take generations to transport people from A to B and back again with an unprecedented level of mortal danger as far as pioneering goes.

    Once you find a terrestrial planet you've got a whole lot of things to worry about... gravitational pull, atmospheric composition, heat etc.. We've evolved for this one planet and with such a small pool of planets to choose from providing we find them because most planets in the universe (galaxy, even) are too far away to get there in a lifetime or a million even traveling at light speed which is known (thought, as we may still get some new information... but sending humans anywhere at those speeds seems like it would be difficult to say the least) to be impossible.

    Is "Star Wars" purely fantasy? When the earth dies are we completely screwed? Sounds like it to me. I don't see anyone coming up with a feasible idea ever, not taking into account any number of apocalyptic events leading up to that point. Yet I'd like to so if anyone can correct me that'd be awesome.

    I know I'm getting WAY ahead but to be honest I find stopping at mining the asteroid belt a little boring. :tongue:
     
  9. Dec 27, 2008 #8
    While I was referring to intra solar system stuff, eventually we will develop FTL sooner or later
     
  10. Dec 27, 2008 #9
    I don't think we'll ever have faster than light spaceships. With good old General Relativity we don't need to though. As long as you don't care about the people you leave behind.
     
  11. Dec 27, 2008 #10
    There's one of those apocalypse scenarios I wasn't taking into account. The only problem I have with that is that article has a lot of "If it's possible to do this, we might be able to do that..." type of stuff. Does shrinking and expanding dimensions of space-time have any sort of 'foundation' to build on in modern science or...?

    Then again I suppose if any of you could tell me exactly how to do all this we'd be on our way to the next galaxy by now.
     
  12. Dec 27, 2008 #11
    none of the FTL theories have any basis in "could be done" they all are just "aren't forbidden" by known laws.
     
  13. Dec 27, 2008 #12
    The warp drive would not be restricted by relativity.


    source


    Ten years ago it was believed that warp drive was theoretically impossible and impractical. Now it is just impractical. Progress.
     
  14. Dec 27, 2008 #13
    Hmm... based on what you've given me "we will develop FTL travel sooner or later" seems like an extremely bold statement. Of course no one can know for sure but just about every facet of everything that has to do with it is "highly theoretical". Isn't "highly theoretical" or "hypothetical" (which I'm seeing more of) just another way of saying "we're just guessing/speculating wildly"?
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2008
  15. Dec 27, 2008 #14
    This FTL technology is obviously a far ways off, but what about technology that is available sooner rather than later. I am reading this interesting book about Project Orion in the 1950s where they were planning realistic and practical trips within our solar system. I think before we even think about FTL travel we have to ditch chemical rockets for a more efficient way of space travel. Once we have a practical way of getting large labs into space we will be able to experiment and refine our technologies eventually leading to FTL travel
     
  16. Dec 27, 2008 #15
    There are a lot of reasons why we will explore space. And we don't need any of them to do it. When it becomes practical for common folk, people will do it because they can.
     
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