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What are we waiting for to get into space?

  1. Oct 7, 2008 #1
    Hi, why does everyone act as if we had unlimited time? Mankind is overdue, it's just a matter of time until a comet hits earth or other unexpected things happen. In the meantime, scientists are making efforts to find earthlike exoplanets. And with all the respect for their work and achievements, where is the point in eventually finding such a planet one day, when it's several hunderd lightyears away?
    I'm not afraid of being extinced in my lifetime, but I wonder why mankind appears so little ambitious making it into space.
    Why are we sending one rover after another to mars, instead of sending some bacterial cultures and see how they perform and how eligible they appear for the purpose of terraforming.

    I'm approaching this a little naive, of course, but the point stays the same: Why are things going so slowly?
     
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  3. Oct 7, 2008 #2

    cristo

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    Do you realise how expensive it is to send things into space, let alone actually land on Mars? What is the points sending 'bacterial cultures' if we don't know enough about the planet itself to know whether such cultures would survive?
     
  4. Oct 7, 2008 #3
    Yes, I realize how expensive missions to mars are.

    We know enough about the planet to have bacteria survive in a sealed environment, which can subsequently be gradually exposed to the environment.

    If you are in doubt about how much we know about the planet you may consider Mars - Wikipedia. There is not much to know beyond atmospheric and lighting conditions in order to determine whether a species (plants, bacteria) can survive. We know enough about mars to dare such attemps a long time already.

    Spending billions on rovers to examine the mineral composition of the surface is just one part of the whole package which is necessary to turn Mars into the next earth. It will have to happen sooner or later. Acting reluctant to simply try things out is not the way to go. Yes, money is the decisive issue, but there is enough money in the world to fund these missions. You just have to set your preferences in the right order.

    If we manage to take a first step into space once, we will have plenty of time for other things such as finding exoplanets and observing astronomy in the subsequent future.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2008
  5. Oct 7, 2008 #4

    Astronuc

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    Unlimited funds. Notice how beaten down the financial markets are these days. $trillions of potential simply gone.

    Basically priorities of various societies and lack of leadership.

    We have the technology, but then it seems easier to invest in war and other silly diversions, IMO.
     
  6. Oct 7, 2008 #5

    Mk

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    Also, NASA has been running things for a while. When you start to see privatization, you start to see development.
     
  7. Oct 7, 2008 #6

    Astronuc

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    One likely will not because of the expense. There is no clear profit or return on investment for space exploration. That's why the government vis-a-vis NASA runs the space program.

    Just review what it costs to put 1 kg into orbit around the earth, then multiply that by the mass of people and the infrastructure needed for life support and transportation. In addition, life support will be needed at the final destination.
     
  8. Oct 7, 2008 #7
  9. Oct 7, 2008 #8

    Evo

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    I see the private sector doing it on an extremely limited basis, either to say they did it (just for fun, the press, etc...), or in the hopes of making money, for example to take "tourists" up, maybe if it becomes possible/feasable to do something on the moon.

    I don't see the private sector getting involved in interplanetary travel, at least not until long after a government has spent billions determining whether there is anything that can be commercially exploited.
     
  10. Oct 7, 2008 #9
    I'm just confused why it's taking so long to go back to the Moon. 2020 is their projected date? I mean, that's super for me because I'll be out of grad school with a Ph.D. and begging NASA to let me be an astronaut, but if we did it in 1969 (and no arguments here, we did), what's taking so long to go back?
     
  11. Oct 7, 2008 #10

    Evo

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    We only did it back then because we were in a race with the Russians.
     
  12. Oct 7, 2008 #11
    Don't assume that. Mankind may be egoistic today, but there will come a day when average Joe's mentality will have changed. I, of course, don't dare to guess when this will be or what events will be necessary to trigger such a change of mind, but I'm sure there will be that day when a crucial majority got over today's small minded thinking.
     
  13. Oct 7, 2008 #12

    Astronuc

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    Why spend $100's billions on establishing a colony on Mars when one can invade and occupy a weaker nation on one's home planet? Priorities.

    The private concerns right now are suborbital flights that cost on the order of $100 K. That does not even get close to speeds necessary for orbit.
    http://www.suborbitalinstitute.org/FAQ.html (not verified)

    If you want a trip to ISS, just fork over ~$20-25 million/person. Somebody else - the tax payer has already payed for the destination.
     
  14. Oct 7, 2008 #13
    Yeah, but we did it. And now we want to go back again and we are taking 2 decades to do it.
     
  15. Oct 7, 2008 #14

    Evo

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    There is no urgent need (like beating the Russians). NASA, I'm sure, would love to have a huge budget to do a lot of things right now, but they don't.
     
  16. Oct 7, 2008 #15
    How much of a budget do they need? We did it on technology that's 40 years old now. You can probably find all the stuff you'd need in pawn shops and junkyards.
     
  17. Oct 7, 2008 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    Robots can explore space far more efficiently than humans can. No need to risk lives and spend $trillions. What's more, by waiting, advances in technology will make space travel more practical. The day of nanotechnology is here, but just barely.

    A person truly concerned about the future of humanity should focus Earth, not Mars.
     
  18. Oct 7, 2008 #17
    I agree 100%. As said before, the problem is funding. The best hope we have of developing cheaper ways of getting out into the solar system is through free enterprise, but there has to be a drive, and that drive will be rooted in profit.

    When it comes to sending people out into space, no robot or computer can beat the direct critical thinking and analysis skills of a human. The primary concern is that you're putting someones life in danger when you do so. A major liability.
     
  19. Oct 7, 2008 #18

    Astronuc

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    For robot yes - if someone is willing for a payback a decade or so later. So far those with deep pockets have not come forth to propose a private exploration.

    If it's manned - I doubt free enterprise could do it. Simply because it takes a huge amount of research, particularly in the area of nuclear systems, and the government may not allow that in private hands because of the special nuclear materials involved. A private entity would have to agree to significant oversight and safety regulations. NASA balked at what Naval Reactors folks said what they would have to do and what it would cost to develop a nuclear propulsion system. A private entity will not necessarily do it better or for less cost.
     
  20. Oct 7, 2008 #19
    Good points. It's funny you mention NASA and reactors because I read this just yesterday...

    NASA Eyes Nuclear Power for Moon Base
    http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/080917-tw-fission-moon.html

    At least there's a few companies pushing to get out into space. Albeit lagging 40 years behind the government...

    Bigelow Aerospace does rocket reality check
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21039277/
     
  21. Oct 7, 2008 #20

    Integral

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    The critical thinking human is sitting in a comfortable office in front of a computer controlling the robot doing the work. At night he goes home to his wife and kids.

    I think that the capabilities of a man in a space suit are way over stated. Look at all the work that is done preparing for a Hubble repair mission. They train for months for the simplest tasks. If anything significantly out of the plan were to occur to a man on Mars, the first thing he would have to do is call back to earth for help from the experts. The fact is that the skill sets of our astronauts is very limited compared with the skills many of you seem to think that they should have. One man cannot be space pilot, geologist, psychiatrist, electronics tech, and computer programmer. There simply is not time in life for complete training in all of the skills required. Further you cannot send a separate man with each skill because of space and mass limitations.

    At this point in time manned space travel is a waste of valuable resources. Until we have the capability of launching and recovering space craft with 100% success rates why should we put a man at risk? There is much that can be done robotically, we need to continue exploration, while developing reliable rocketry and systems.

    Meanwhile we need to guarantee that we can maintain our civilization on EARTH. What would be the point of launching a manned Mars mission, only to suffer a major economic or ecological disaster on Earth which demolishes our capability of supporting space flight.
     
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