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Author Topic: Is manned space exploration a good idea?  (Read 14715 times)

Offline syhprum

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Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« on: 02/05/2009 18:15:57 »
I think it is a ridiculous idea,just look how much money has been wasted on the ISS with negligible scientific results, space exploration is for robots.

Mod Edit - formatted subject as a question - please do this to help keep the forum tidy and easy to navigate.
« Last Edit: 14/05/2009 12:52:34 by BenV »


 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #1 on: 02/05/2009 20:40:29 »
I think it is a ridiculous idea,just look how much money has been wasted on the ISS with negligible scientific results, space exploration is for robots.
I believe you are making two fundamental errors in arriving at your position. Firstly, you are creating a fasle dichotomy; it is not a question of either manned space flight, or robotic space flight, both may be conducted independently and in support of each other. Secondly, the failure of the ISS is a political failure, not a failure of the concept of manned exploration. (And frankly, exploring space in near Earth orbit is rather like taking your annual holiday in your own garden.)

Mankind developed civilisation and technology out of our inherent desire to explore, whether this is the exploration of new places, or new ideas. On that basis, to retain the vigoour of the species, we must engage in exploration of both types. If destiny exists then man is destined to populate the galaxy, and if it does not exist, then we are free to make it so. Manned exploration of space is a human imperative.
 

lyner

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #2 on: 02/05/2009 22:47:21 »
Extended manned exploration of space is, for the foreseeable future, at least, just a Boys' Own idea.
To explore space to any significant degree you need to have a starship. This starship must be totally self sufficient and have a stable environment on it for thousands (at least) of years.
So far, we haven't even been able to get our use of the Earth right, despite all its resources. What hope have we of making an artificial environment with a lifetime of more than a few years?

Manned Space Exploration is just an escapist idea and a way of avoiding thinking about the  serious problems here on Earth. First Things First!
It actually solves none of our basic problems.
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #3 on: 03/05/2009 10:42:42 »
Sophie, I disagree with almost every element of your post. That includes a couple of examples of what I think are inappropriate debating tactics.
Extended manned exploration of space .
This is a mix of the logical fallacies of Red Herrings and of Composition. The original post says nothing about extended exploration of space. Indeed their specific mentioning of the International Space Station (ISS), an NEO (Near Earth Orbit) facility demonstrate they are not primarily thinking of extended exploration.

.....for the foreseeable future, at least,
This falls foul of the same objections I have raised to extended. You are particularising the OPs argument to make your case.
I do not think you have employed either of these techniques to deliberately deceive, but they are not relevant to the question as posed.

Moreover, there are many respected futuristswho have explored the possible future. There analysis has included manned exploration of the solar system and beyond, using technologies presently available or theoretically possible and likely to become available shortly. (Shortly in this context means within decades for manned exploration of some of the planets and their satellites, within the century for colonisation of some of these, and well within the millenium for exploration beyond the bounds of the solar system.)

.... just a Boys' Own idea.
You may have been using this as a shorthand way to provide a description of what you take to be the poor quality of the idea (manned exploration of space), but it comes across as an attack on the maturity of those proposing it. (For the record I don't mind having my maturity attacked, I just don't think it's an attractive debating posture.)

To explore space to any significant degree you need to have a starship.
Crawl before you walk. Walk before you run. If we stay rooted to the ground the starship will remain the stuff of dreams and mankind will be left facing a nightmare.

This starship must be totally self sufficient and have a stable environment on it for thousands (at least) of years.
Not necessarily technically correct. If - and I grant it is currently a big if, but in five hundred years it may be a very small if - if we can approach a significant fraction the speed of light the passage of time on the spacecraft will be much less than it appears to the stay at home observers.

Secondly, we do not need to use a generation ship, but can send frozen embryos with AI invested robotic support to 'awaken' them when the target system is reached.

So far, we haven't even been able to get our use of the Earth right, despite all its resources. What hope have we of making an artificial environment with a lifetime of more than a few years?
An argument from personal incredulity won't cut it. What chance would we have that sixty years after the Wright brothers first flew, giant jets would be crossing the Atlantic with hundreds of passengers? Jets so large the Wright brothers could have made their first flight inside them.
Is the task challenging? Of course it is. Anything worth doing is challenging. Is it within the capacity of human technology extrapolated a hundred years ahead. Certainly.

Manned Space Exploration is just an escapist idea
It is certainly escapist. It provides an escape from the confines of this planet. There is a whole universe out there to explore.
Manned Space Exploration is just an escapist idea and a way of avoiding thinking about the  serious problems here on Earth.
Again, you are arguing a false dichotomy. If we wish to focus on the serious problems on the Earth, let's stop spending money on art! What a waste that is. It's never saved an adult from tuberculosis, or a child from starvation.
Let's stop spending money on cosmetics. If we spent that money on health care then fewer than 3,000 children every day would die from malnourishment, poor drinking water, AIDs and the like.

It actually solves none of our basic problems.
No, but it addresses on of our greatest opportunities.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #4 on: 03/05/2009 12:32:14 »
Make up your mind. Is exploring low orbit like holidaying in your yard or walking before you can run?

Anyway, until we think of a cheap source of energy or a cheap way out of the gravity well space exploration will remain very expensive. As such it will never be available to the masses.
There's another issue with manned flight; why bother. You have 5 senses (according to Aristotle who was wrong but never mind).
In space you can't hear anything, can't toutch anything, can't smell anything and can't taste anything.
So you are left with looking at stuff.
Why not send a camera- that way, when things go wrong, nobody dies.

I know that there's a valid counter-argument to this; basicly we will explore because that's what we do. I'm very pleased that manking does this sort of thing and I hope it will continue. On the other hand this will always be a very expensive adventure for the few. Much more information will be gathered by things like Hubble or Voyager than by astronauts.

BTW, re.
"Not necessarily technically correct. If - and I grant it is currently a big if, but in five hundred years it may be a very small if - if we can approach a significant fraction the speed of light the passage of time on the spacecraft will be much less than it appears to the stay at home observers."
Most of the universe is many light years away; the best time we can hope to get ther is many years. It really doesn't matter what the observers back on earth think; the travelers will be stuck in a big tin can for centuries and that looks like toruble to me.
« Last Edit: 03/05/2009 12:33:55 by Bored chemist »
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #5 on: 03/05/2009 12:50:10 »
I can understand both point's of view put here.

Space exploration does appear to be waste of time, money and resources at the present. We could and probably should direct our efforts more toward solving our current problems, most of which we will not find the answer to in space. Not in the short term at least.

Interstellar space craft are a flight of fancy, for now, and will always be for the living. What is the point of sending robot controlled craft's with human embryo's? If it takes a 1000 years to reach a planet of some use to Earth dwellers, by the time we get there and send those useful whatevertheyare's back to Earth, it may be too late. Again, we have to ask, 'would the spread of humans be of benefit to the universe?' after all, we have made a bit of balls up on our own planet.

But should these negatives stop us exploring? Where would we be now if not for explorers and conquerors the likes of Jacques Cousteau, Capt. Cook, Columbus, Livingstone, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Ramses II and so many more? Should we not divert more from the pointless, minority and often hopeless causes to solving todays' problems and continue our exploration of our planet and the universe which supports it?
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #6 on: 03/05/2009 14:21:29 »
re: "Most of the universe is many light years away; the best time we can hope to get ther is many years. It really doesn't matter what the observers back on earth think; the travelers will be stuck in a big tin can for centuries and that looks like toruble to me"

Not true BC. Provided you can provide enough energy to continue to accelerate, although you can never exceed the speed of light, the vast distances you are trying to travel over reduce by virtue of the Lorentz contraction. In fact it works out to be the same flight time as you would achieve if you were in a Newtonian universe and there was no speed limit (i.e. the speed of light). There is the problem of reporting your findings because time dilation will have aged the people back on earth much more than you, but that is another issue.
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #7 on: 03/05/2009 14:41:37 »
To address the original post, I don't think manned space exploration is a crazy idea, but we certainly should do a cost benefit analysis. It is matter of getting the most information for the least cost. There can be inspirational benefits that are hard to quantify, but it seems to me that apart from our quite local space it would be hard to justify. Much of recent space exploration, with the emphasis on exploration, has been subsidised heavily by countries for both real and speculative military objectives. Our current technology means that manned flights are limited to Mars and even this is stretching it a bit. There would have to be significant justification to send a manned expedition there, although I don't suppose there would be a shortage of volunteers, despite the risks.

Flights to orbit for repair and deployment of satellites has been of benefit and may continue to be so. I am unsure about the space station concept and whether it has been worthwhile. The reasons for some of the investment here has been political more than scientific, although I am sure the scientists involved are grateful for the opportunity.

I have a suspicion now that the glamour has diminished and the previous inspiration that space expeditions once engendered has largely dissipated. Until there is a breakthrough in propulsion systems I think that the limitations of manned space exploration will now have to join the queue for big-science funding behind the more pressing needs to find a lower cost means of generating energy.
 

lyner

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #8 on: 04/05/2009 00:38:55 »
Are we talking about exploration of near Space or propagation of the species? The two are entirely different concepts.
At the moment, most near 'exploration' is far more efficiently done by robots. It is much cheaper and we can shrug off the failures - no lives wasted. Every life support system costs the same as whole set of robotic experiments.
Strategies involving  cryogenics as a method of sending 'human spores' off into space in the hope of a future civilisation / colony are not unthinkable but need to be viewed in a very different light to Wild West style exploration.
I read a statement, in an earlier post,  implying that  "given enough energy, the speed achievable is limitless". That is actually irrelevant because the energy involved in near light speed travel is more than is ever likely to be available - it's like the idea of dumping nuclear waste into the Sun; the sums don't really work.
Ophiolite: Sorry if my post rattled you. I may have bent the debating rules a bit but I have read too many romantic posts which equate space travel with Earthbound travel. There is just no comparison between Alexander the Great and a project to colonise another star. Earth exploration and colonisation has involved many failures - particular for early travelers (polynesians etc.). Human life has always been relatively cheap and another keen explorer has always been available to launch another frail craft on the Ocean. Star ships are an entirely different ball park. (A simple Mars mission was estimated at 1 Trillion dollars, even). Until you can show me that there are (or could ever be) sufficient energy / resources available for multiple launches - most of which would involve failure (like dandelion seeds), the whole idea is very suspect. The actual numbers count when considering this sort of thing and until there is some serious quantitative assessment, I will still regard the idea as a 'romantic' one. There is no reason to suspect that truly unlimited Energy will ever be available.  Relying on it would be unwise.

Why is "being there" so important? Doesn't our superior intelligence allow us to do without that bit?

 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #9 on: 04/05/2009 06:42:33 »
I often wonder about the cost of repair missions to Hubble, considering the high cost of shuttle missions especially now that it is deemed necessary to have a rescue craft waiting on the launch pad.
The basic structure of Hubble is a military reconnaissance satellite of which the USA probably have spares in reserve I think that a replacement could be launched for less than a repair mission.
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #10 on: 04/05/2009 07:51:37 »
Ophiolite: Sorry if my post rattled you.
It didn't rattle me. I just thought it was beneath you. ;)

I have no time to respond fully at the moment, but I shall take up several of your points later.
 

lyner

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #11 on: 05/05/2009 00:37:24 »
Ophiolite: Sorry if my post rattled you.
It didn't rattle me. I just thought it was beneath you. ;)
What can I say?
Respond at leisure.
 

Offline Karsten

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #12 on: 06/05/2009 20:56:40 »
Secondly, we do not need to use a generation ship, but can send frozen embryos with AI invested robotic support to 'awaken' them when the target system is reached.

Humans beings raised by machines? Lovely thought. And all in the name if science. Not all that can be imagined needs to be actually tried. In my opinion.
 

Offline Karsten

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #13 on: 06/05/2009 21:32:36 »
Let's try manned space exploration after we have succeeded with the "unmanned planet" project. Won't be long.

Thank goodness for the few people who see only black. It balances with the many who cannot see it. Hooray! I found a reason to exist.  ;D

 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #14 on: 06/05/2009 22:46:33 »
Secondly, we do not need to use a generation ship, but can send frozen embryos with AI invested robotic support to 'awaken' them when the target system is reached.

Humans beings raised by machines? Lovely thought. And all in the name if science. Not all that can be imagined needs to be actually tried. In my opinion.
Don't be silly. Technology would provide the means and the technology would be derived from science, but this would most certainly be in the name of humanity. I regret that you are unable to see that properly constructed AIs would be able to deliver more caring and more love than the majority of children receive in today's world. It may be utopian, but our achievements are built on dreams.
 

lyner

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #15 on: 07/05/2009 00:20:07 »
Or, possibly, nightmares.
 

Offline Karsten

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #16 on: 07/05/2009 21:57:13 »
Secondly, we do not need to use a generation ship, but can send frozen embryos with AI invested robotic support to 'awaken' them when the target system is reached.

Humans beings raised by machines? Lovely thought. And all in the name if science. Not all that can be imagined needs to be actually tried. In my opinion.
Don't be silly. Technology would provide the means and the technology would be derived from science, but this would most certainly be in the name of humanity. I regret that you are unable to see that properly constructed AIs would be able to deliver more caring and more love than the majority of children receive in today's world. It may be utopian, but our achievements are built on dreams.

Intelligence, artificial or not, has nothing to do with caring and love.
And, silly or not, if I begin listing our most prominent technological "achievements", I wonder what sort of person dreamed them up. And among those are the people who will supposedly properly construct AI to take care of human embryos and raise them to be independent and mentally healthy adults? Scary to say the least. And those thoughts are a result of exactly the imagination that seems to be lacking in people who believe blindly in technology and what it can do for us. I am able to see FURTHER than what AI can do. I am able to see where it could fail and what the terrible, sad results could be in this case.
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #17 on: 07/05/2009 22:14:02 »
Or, possibly, nightmares.
If you are a pessimist.
 

lyner

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #18 on: 08/05/2009 00:16:32 »
There are two issues here.
1. How?
and
2. Why?

How? The technologies all have great big "if"s attached to them and, where the required Energy is concerned, have a pretty definite "no". Energy is the bottom line in most ventures, remember and, despite the promises of Fusion Power, there is no possible scenario of truly 'limitless energy'.

Why? (And who would go?) is a huge question. What circumstances could exist   where there was sufficient energy to 'rescue' the human race by sending selected individuals (or embryos) off on a star trek but not sufficient energy available to change the circumstances of everyone who would be left behind to die?

It is a romantic notion but there is really no parallel with "go west young man".
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #19 on: 14/05/2009 01:19:35 »
Why?

Two words:

Zero-gee

People love zero-gee. So... space tourism. If that seems shallow, well.... space tourism may be able to open the door, to help finance the cheap ways to get into space, and then space mining and so forth become possible. And let's face it, the Earth is full, and mankind needs elbow-room and resources of all kinds (particularly energy) right now. Starflight? I refuse to get drawn; that's not the problem right now.

Or, if you prefer three words:

Zero-gee sex
 

lyner

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Re: Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #20 on: 14/05/2009 10:40:52 »
A million pound screw?
Very sophisticated Science. Whilst people are trying to cut down energy consumption by turning off TVs instead of using standby can you think of anything more twentieth century?

Yes, it's crowded on Earth but where do you suggest we should go? It's even more crowded in a spaceship and just how many spaceships are you proposing?
I think you are just making zee joke.

 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #21 on: 14/05/2009 15:21:04 »
No, no, that's just the sales pitch. ;)

Space tech can save the world, but it needs to expand. Space tourism helps reduce costs and that allows exploration to proceed. It also permits launch of solar power satellites; they have energy payback under 5 years and lifetimes of perhaps 20 or more.

There's so much energy up there; and it's carbon neutral or even negative.

And there's absolutely no reason that living in space needs to be cramped.

There's also rare metals up there; things that are running out on Earth that are needed to build batteries for electric cars with and so forth. A lot of electric cars could be powered off solar or biomass generated energy and we're probably going to need the elements for that.

As long as we restrict ourselves to the Earth, resources per person are limited, and becoming ever more so.
 

lyner

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Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #22 on: 14/05/2009 16:05:54 »
I don't understand the appeal of "solar power satellites". Are we short of energy actually reaching the Earth's surface? Why not install the solar receivers down here, accept that they produce about 1/4 of the average power and save all those launch and running costs?

Do you really envisage billions of humans living in enormous satellites?  Because that would have to be the way it was done - you can't send them all away to other star systems. If it were feasible, it would just mean that the population would swell further. That doesn't appeal to me as an idea at all.
And your arguments seem to hang on the 'cost' of things. That cost is not a monetary one, in the long run. It is an Energy cost and, despite what 'they' say, there is not unlimited energy available. A trillion dollars to put a few humans on Mars for a short stay. Allowing for some extreme savings as technology advances and when (if) energy becomes more available, how about the cost for a few billion humans to live there for ever?
Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be chosen to be the first aged member of the general public to have a ride and see the Earth from up there but that's just for the 'lucky' few.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #23 on: 14/05/2009 16:43:55 »
SPS costs less than twice as much total all-in cost to install, but returns >3x as much energy as mid-summer because there's no day/night cycle, no weather and no off-axis losses. But you lose maybe a third beaming it down. So midsummer- it's quits.

But you also get the same amount of energy in winter as summer which is highly desirable (particularly in Britain because we're so far north). That means you get about 8x more energy from sps, and that's a big win.

And note that the 2x multiplier on installation assumes rockets, some mass launch systems can probably reduce the SPS cost multiplier down to maybe 1.1 or something.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Is manned space exploration a good idea?
« Reply #24 on: 14/05/2009 16:50:28 »
Do you really envisage billions of humans living in enormous satellites?  Because that would have to be the way it was done - you can't send them all away to other star systems. If it were feasible, it would just mean that the population would swell further.
The solar system has been estimated that it can support an enormous population, many many trillions.
Quote
That doesn't appeal to me as an idea at all.
And your arguments seem to hang on the 'cost' of things. That cost is not a monetary one, in the long run. It is an Energy cost and, despite what 'they' say, there is not unlimited energy available.
Cost is manpower really. Solar energy is essentially unlimited until we approach a Dyson sphere level of civilisation.

Quote
Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be chosen to be the first aged member of the general public to have a ride and see the Earth from up there but that's just for the 'lucky' few.
Well, I'm working on it, as are others. If I'm successful, it should bring the price to reach escape velocity/orbit down to about 10k euros/person.
 

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Is manned space exploration a good idea?
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