Science Questions

What is the point of space exploration?

Sun, 12th Sep 2010

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Steve (by text) asked:

Apart from the obvious military use of the moon, what is the point of space exploration?


Dominic -    Well i guess it's driven a lot of technological advance in the last 30 yers or so. I mean the Apollo Missions certainly inspired people to create technology that they wouldnt have created otherwise.

Dave -   And GPS is really useful and we've found out a lot about the Earth - you can send up satellites up to find out where the forests are - there's a huge amount you can find out about the Earth from space.

Chris -   And on last week's show, my interview with Peter Quinn, who's in Australia - he's the Director of the institute they've set up to try and get the square kilometer array in Australia. He pointed out that wifi is entirely based in terms of its protocols on radio astronomy, and the world wide web - with CERN saying 'we're going to have all these big projects and we need ways for physicists to talk to each other' - that directly catalysed the development of html, the language that made the web possible. So i think there are all these other spin offs that we can thank the exlploration for.

Dave -   Plus just finding out what's out there!


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Q= how far out is space exploration economically viable.....from hindsight
CZARCAR, Thu, 20th Oct 2011

There are two important branches for this question

firstly  robotic space exploration,  scientific knowledge,  important to learn about the solar system and put very sensitive long range sensors in space. It might be possible to put a very high velocity extremely deep space probe way outside the solar system but I am not sure that we have enough patience or equipment reliability to get to even the nearest stars because any practical probe would take more than a human lifetime to get there.

Secondly manned space exploration.  Initially to show we can do it, but going much beyond the moon possibly or Mars is extremely dubious on risks and value for money.  Human beings are very heavy and need enormous life support systems for long space voyages. Soul Surfer, Thu, 20th Oct 2011

Does humanity have reliable atomic clock for such travels? simplified, Thu, 20th Oct 2011

Why is it ' obvious ' that the moon be used for military use ? neilep, Thu, 20th Oct 2011

If a war broke out for control of the Moon we would have to quickly develop our space travel resources so that we could get involved. syhprum, Thu, 20th Oct 2011

Is it possible for war to break out for control of the moon ?...Surely it would take a culture capable of controlling the moon, that, to make war about it would be silly and self destructive ! neilep, Thu, 20th Oct 2011

You can never know where science can lead us. I can think of, or recall, the following reasons:

1) We've study the stars for hundreds, if not thousands of years. What did we find out? We found out that an extinction level event is on the way from an asteroid/commet and unless we use science to help maneuver it from crashing Earth and causing an extinction level event, Homesapiens will disappear from the universe.

2) By studying stars we can learn something about our own star, Sol.

3) Studying the science of space travel and satellite physics, we might never have created the GPS system, which had the end effect of causing less casualties and less noncombatants etc.

4) There are things that can be manufactured in orbit that can't be made on Earth.

I know that the last two  were only required to orbits around the Earth so its like a mini use of what we've learned about the stars. Pmb, Thu, 20th Oct 2011

Probably on the moon the people brains better work  , there  optimum gravitation is. simplified, Thu, 20th Oct 2011

Maybe we can seed the universe :)
If we now find worlds that can hold our kind of life.

Or maybe we shouldn't, it's like always, we won't know until we tried.
And as Soulsurfer said, the future isn't with big manned spacecrafts. It's with small miniaturized ones, able to create their own propulsion. yor_on, Fri, 21st Oct 2011

to finde another place for human beings. too many people now mao, Fri, 21st Oct 2011

I hope the moon won't be militarized, at least not with respect to terrestrial affairs.  Assuming we do eventually colonize the moon, I suppose some defensive capabilities will be inevitable.  And, there have been questions whether we need to build a defense from natural phenomenon from space.  An alien invasion would seem unlikely.

Will people move to the moon as part of colonies tied to terrestrial governments, or as an independent nation?  One lunar nation?

I would envision the moon itself as being a stepping stone for further space explanation.

The Dark Side of the moon is really dark every 15 days, and would be an excellent place for large telescopes.  During the lunar night, there would be no light pollution from Earth, and no atmospheric interference.  One may also be able to put telescopes in polar craters to shield them from light sources, and also provide a stable temperature environment.  There have also been suggestions that the dark side of the moon would also be good for space based radio telescopes, shielded from terrestrial radio signals. 

The moon would also be a natural place for a ground-based spaceship accelerator.  There is a smaller gravity well on the moon than on the surface of the Earth, and no atmospheric resistance. 

One may also be able to derive rocket fuels from the lunar surface which would enable refueling rockets in space prior to trips to other planets, or even out of the solar system.

I suppose the question remains as to WHY?

We may choose to build a new home for terrestrial life and humanity on the moon and other planets.  I don't envision a grand exodus as the expense and resources for space travel be great. 

And, thus similarly to the way Europeans populated the "New World", they didn't depopulate the "Old World".

People have always been curious about "What is out there?", and the only way to get an answer is to actually look for the answers.

A space colony would also provide a backup, in case some calamity would befall Earth, or perhaps a virulent viral infection wiping out humanity.

There have been questions on whether 3He will be the fuel for tomorrow's world.  Unfortunately it is very rare in the Earth's crust.  3He is different from the more common 4He which is essentially a radioactive decay product.  There is speculation that it could be mined on either the moon, or perhaps Jupiter.

Would there be benefits of building a lunar particle accelerator?  Perhaps one could more effectively build an antimatter generator/trap on the moon than on Earth due to the decreased atmospheric particle count. CliffordK, Fri, 21st Oct 2011

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