Worlds alien and familiar… from an alien world

By Phil Plait | October 17, 2009 9:05 am

The Mars Global Surveyor was in operation around the Red Planet for over nine years. From 1997 to 2006 it snapped away with its Mars Orbiter Camera, taking more than 240,000 images. One of these pictures from the MOC is circulating the web right now; but no one is giving the supplemental info on what it is or linked to where it’s from! So I’m chiming in.

The picture was taken in May 2003, but its impact has not lessened with time. It shows Earth and Jupiter in one shot as seen from Mars! The whole image can be found here, but it’s huge (basically a long strip) so I’ve extracted the two planets here:

moc_earth_jupiter

Whoa. You can clearly see the Earth and Moon, and even the continent of South America! On Jupiter, the banding of the clouds of obvious, as are three of the Galilean moons.

But I think you really need to click through and see the whole image (as well as the accompanying explanation on the MOC site). In this case, context is important. It’s critical! It’s images like this that remind us that we live on a planet, a world like any other and yet unique in that it’s our home. I get people asking me if space exploration is worth it, and then I see images like this, and I know the answer is yes. We need this perspective. It’s said that the Apollo 8 shot of the Earth rising over the Moon launched the modern environmental movement, because it showed all of us eggs sitting in our one, lone basket. We should be reminded of this idea as often as possible, and images like this one from the MOC need to be spread far and wide.

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Comments (163)

  1. Brett G

    That is amazing. I love science.

  2. Soooooo cool! To scroll up from Jupiter and reach the “Pale Blue Dot” and it’s lone Moon… So cool!

  3. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Deleted by author — bloody HTML tags did not work!

  4. This picture is WOW! But, I’m in the middle of reading Ringworld for the first time. Wrapping my mind around what the Puppeteer’s have done to their worlds, makes our “looking back at ourselves” seem like crawling in comparison. Ooohhhh, the possibilities. I hope pics like these continue to inspire us to explore our vast universe.

  5. johnfruh

    Phil,

    I totally agree with you that space exploration is worth it and that these images testify to it.

    However, if I may, I differ with you on the form of that exploration. In short, I’m all for robotic missions which have, to date, done most of the heavy science lifting with respect to space exploration. I for one, am done with “manned” missions. They cost way too much and are a very poor return on investment.

    Up with science mission!
    Down with manned missions!

    …John

  6. T_U_T

    Down with manned missions!

    If you want to wait for the next mass extinction, it is your choice, but, please, don’t make this choice for me too. I want my descendants to get off this mossy pebble ASAP. There is much more to this universe than sitting on our asses, watching interesting space pictures and waiting till the sun swells red and huge and turns us into charcoal.

  7. This looks a lot like a picture taken by the HiRis camera on MRO.

    http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/earthmoon.php

  8. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    The website claims that “North and South America were in view” in this image:

     

    Image of Earth from Mars

    Err… to me that appears more like Europe and Africa… do I detect American chauvinism on their part?

  9. Just me

    Totally astonishing. I don’t quite get why I’m so emotionally affected by images like these. The “Pale Blue Dot” image from Voyager, along w/ Carl Sagan’s famous comment made me teary. I guess I’m just a sentimental fool. I was similarly affected by the “Earthrise” photo — and video. Didn’t Galileo shoot a “family portrait” also? I don’t remember now. And of course, I can’t forget that beautiful Cassini image of Saturn from a few weeks ago.

  10. Grizzly

    One small small quibble. From Mars neither disk nor crescent would be visible without the use of a telescope. They’d be dots just like Mars is from Earth.

    Still, it is an amazing picture that does provide perspective on the size of our solar system and perhaps our rather inconsequential place in the grand scheme of things.

  11. Gary Ansorge

    Bob Park is one of the most vociferous anti-human space presence nay sayers around. I expect there were several such as he giving equivalent bad advice to Queen Issabella 6 centuries ago. Fortunately, they were overruled or we would not likely be here today.

    Many of those in that camp like to point out that a “simple” robotic system is far hardier than a human and requires no life support. I like to point out that these “simple” systems cost tens of millions of dollars to create; they are just as subject to radiation damage as organic systems(and they can’t even repair themselves), and they really are SIMPLE, as in simple minded,ie, unable to adapt to unexpected situations.

    It used to be said(back when a dollar was actually worth something) that to birth, raise and educate an average human cost about $100,000(in the USA). That’s a far cry from the cost of one of these simple robotic systems and we end up with a self-programming, self repairing, self-replicating, adaptable system. Granted, the life support can be expensive but it’s fraking re-uasble by many such organic systems.

    I’m a big fan of hollowing out iron/nickel asteroids and loading them up with people, plants,other critters, solar cells,etc. At the present time, we have only a vague idea how to prevent muscle/bone degeneration but that is a solvable problem. Bears have one solution, a parathyroid hormone that prevents muscle and bone degeneration even after being inactive for six months. If they can do it, so can we.

    If we commit to settling and industrializing the High Frontier, in another 6 centuries, we could have several billion people(in space) living, working, laughing, quarreling, reproducing, loving and just doing what humans have always done. I think that’s a goal well worth pursuing.

    Gary 7

  12. Charlie

    IVAN3MAN AT LARGE – They should be able to tell what is visible on the image of the earth based on the time the picture was taken not simply what the picture looks like to the viewer. Shouldn’t be any chauvinism involved.

  13. Cory

    @8. The site also gives the time and the angle from which the picture was taken. Given that it was near-summer and that the sun would have just risen over most of North and South American at 1300GMT, the claim that it was North and South America makes sense. If it was Europe and Africa, that would meant the East Coast of the U.S. would have been in near-complete night at 0800 local time, which is a far crazier assertion than chauvinism.

    @11. What’s the point of pursuing that goal? We’ll be dead with no idea of what happens one day after our deaths, much less six hundred years. Hell, we’ll have no ideas period.

  14. Martin CT

    I have some questions about the image. Why are there no stars visible? Why is there zero pixel noise, especially in the bottom half of the frame? You wonder if there isn’t some Photoshopping going on.

    It is very evocative, but maybe just a little too clean!

  15. Very cool picture, and it is indeed inspiring. Although I do question the statement that the Earthrise photo by Apollo 8 launched the environmental movement. A quick look at Wikipedia for the “Environmental Movement” (click my name) shows that it is much older. To be fair, you did say “It is said”, but it still reads as an implicit endorsement.

  16. Roy

    I think I’ll go watch that Sagan music video a few more times.

    “mote of dust”

  17. Roger Wilco

    IVAN3MAN AT LARGE questions whether the image is of the Americas or Europe/Africa but he is wrong. While I’m all for checking carefully any American chauvinism, please note that the image was taken at 1300 GM and the sun has barely risen over the northern part of the landmass in the image. Note that “appears more like” doesn’t always cut it, you need science too!

  18. T_U_T

    What’s the point of pursuing that goal? We’ll be dead with no idea of what happens one day after our deaths, much less six hundred years.

    Do you have a better long term goal to pursue ? Or are you just so selfish that you don’t care about what happens with your descendants at all ?

  19. Peter

    Absolutely amazing. I cannot help but feeling touched and getting an almost religious feeling watching images like these: it’s Mother Earth, our beautiful, safe, comfortable home floating in the cosmos.

    @’Just me’, it isn’t just you! (pun intended)

  20. Very cool indeed. First I thought that the parts of both planets that were lit by the sun should be the same. But when I saw the explanatory page I was completely surprised.
    Sometimes I have the same problem looking up at the moon.

  21. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    @ Charlie and @ Cory,

    Hmm… I realize now that I was mistaken in my assumption; I had assumed that the bright patch was the high albedo of the Sahara Desert, and also I had transposed in my mind — some days I think that I must have bloody toys in my attic! — the time and date of the event. OOPS!

    Man, that will teach me to have a coffee break first, before sounding off!

  22. No. That is a picture of me waving at the camera.

    Cory,

    The purpose of settling other planets is to preserve the species, so that others may look at this wonderful picture of me waving at the camera. I’ll know they’re looking at my picture, just as I knew the robot was talking to me, when it said, Say cheese! Clearly, this was a robot that wanted to go to the moon for the full effect of that comment, but robots do not run the world, yet. Especially not that robot.

    PS I am holding up a future copy of Death from the Skies, which was not easy to find in 2003. I’m holding the book in my right hand and waving with my left. It just looks the other way around, from your perspective on Mars.

    Hello, Martians!

    BA planned it all.

  23. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    @ Roger Wilco,

    Yeah, I’ve realized that after having a coffee break; I’ve acknowledged my error, thank you! :-)

  24. Steve Sleep

    Very Nice, My second love next to Art, is Astonomy. I had the extreme Pleasure of working as a Janitor at the USGS in Flagstaff Az, going on ten years ago. The division(Buildings…they have a new building now) were the Astrogeology, andCartographic and Photography Divisions. I had a first hand look at the newest maps still in proofing, Papers that hjad yet to be submitted to science journals, and The Immense pleasure of Meeting and getting to know DR. Roddy, Professer emeritous, a cratering expert, who would take the time out to have conversations with me concerning the Mars erosion and images from the first rover, possible theory of glacial recession etc. I Was able to Meet Mrs. Carolyn Shoemaker,Mr. Soderblom, and several brilliant men who studied mars, and Mr. Johnson who had directly worked on the Sojourner rover. Their kindness and enthusiasm about my enthusiasm was wonderful. So I try and keep up on these beutiful photos and think of the Scientist that would let some dumb longhaired janitor interrupt them and answer my questions. Beutiful pictures and fascinating….

  25. Why do we not see any background stars?

  26. Looks similar (but lower res) to one taken by MRO in October of 2007

    http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/earthmoon.php

  27. Levi in NY

    If I’m the first person to step foot on Mars, I think I’m going to look up and my first words will be “Hey, I can see my house from up here!”

  28. Don M.

    At first glance this looks like a phony photo: the phases of the Earth and Jupiter look mismatched. Of course, Earth is an inferior planet to Mars in terms of orbital position and Jupiter can’t show that particular phase because it isn’t, but Jupiter’s disk looks fully illuminated but Earth’s is slightly less than 50% illuminated.

    I assume that Mars was almost at quadrature in the morning sky from the Earth’s point of view, and Jupiter was quite distant (i.e. that it was nearly in line with the sun when viewed from Mars, hence nearly full illumination). Can anyone detect any phase on the Jupiter image? It should have *some*, I think, to see Earth with that phase. If Jupiter has exactly full illumination then this photo can’t be real (I’m not calling “hoax” – I’m just saying I would like to see a diagram of the Earth/Jupiter/Sun/Mars configuration when this was taken, Phil). What phase *should* Jupiter have here, and what are the relative distances, for perspective on how these phases can occur?

  29. johnfruh

    T_U_T @ #8

    So, you want ot get off this Mossy Pebble, eh? Just where do you propose to go? And, I’m not making a choice for you. I clearly said that I had had it with manned missions. I’m done being a space cadet. Its time is over. If you want to get off this rock, then by all means go ahead. Just don’t you dare do it on my nickel.

    Yes, there is a great deal to the universe, as our tools discover every day. Knowledge, is the point of the exploration.
    And as for this mossy pebble being a mess. I suggest that we get cracking with cleaning it up if you want your descendants to have any sort of quality of life.
    This, planet is the best space ship we have. It is already coursing through the universe, well, around the Milky way galaxy anyway. And, as Phil points out in his book, We will, in a couple of billion’s of years have Andromeda in our neighborhood to explore.

    Yes, the sun will roast us. But that is some 5B years from now. I suggest we concern ourselves with the next 100 years instead.
    It is just your attitude that riles me. You have already given up on this rock and are looking to abandon ship ASAP (your words). Good luck with that. Again, Just where the hell do you intend to go and how are you going to get there.

    …John

  30. Don M.

    Ballparking their relative distances from the camera, I would say that since Jupiter is 11x the size of the earth but only 1.5x (roughly) the size the Earth in the photo, then Jupiter is just over 7x as far from the camera.

  31. johnfruh

    Gary @ #11

    You say … “…. I expect there were several such as he giving equivalent bad advice to Queen Issabella 6 centuries ago. Fortunately, they were overruled or we would not likely be here today. …”

    Your analogy fails. Columbus was NOT on a voyage of discovery. He already knew that the earth was round. He was looking for a short cut to the east for purposes of exploitation and profit. There is no equivalent goal to be reached by putting men on the moon or on Mars, for that matter.
    Isabella wanted a huge return on her investment, NOT knowledge and how to make our world a better place.

    You say: … “Many of those in that camp like to point out that a “simple” robotic system is far hardier than a human and requires no life support. I like to point out that these “simple” systems cost tens of millions of dollars to create; they are just as subject to radiation damage as organic systems(and they can’t even repair themselves), and they really are SIMPLE, as in simple minded,ie, unable to adapt to unexpected situations….”

    Yes, today, robotics is in its infancy. And yes, it costs millions. However, putting spam in the can costs BILLIONS and BILLIONS (apologies to Sagan) and returns little or nothing in the way of science. Just imagine how much more advance robotics would be if we redirected our energies in that direction instead of spending billions on life support. So what if today’s robotics is SIMPLE? What’s your hurry? Wait a bit. Autonomous robots are on their way. Hey, if even the military has seen the light and now uses pilotless drones, don’t you think that we could learn from them and conduct space research remotely? I’d like my “Captain Kirk command chair” to be in mission control. I’d much rather have a room full of scientists remotely control robots in space rather than risk lives for no good reason. AND, when true autonomy comes to our robots, we can have them be just as adaptable, and dare I say, even more so than humans. It is only a matter of time. Or, do you not believe in the advances being made in AI?
    And if even that is not enough and the mission fails due to robotic limitations or their inability to repair themselves, so what? All we have to do is send another smarter mission. This approach would still be way more cost effective than manned missions.

    Your comparison of the costs also fails. Do you really mean to say that the investment in an Astronaut is a mere $100k? Come on, man, get real! If you are going to make such comparisons, please compare apples to apples. Add up all the costs including: raining, life support, quadruply redundant backup systems, fuel to lift it all, resupply ships, etc. etc. the list goes on.

    Please explain just how you are proposing to realize your fantasy of loading iron/nickel asteroids with people. Once you have done that, please explain the point of doing so.

    Given the record of the last 50 years of manned space flight which has seen only some 450-500 people in space, please explain by what miracle you are going to get billions of people up there.

    You say:… “If we commit to settling and industrializing the High Frontier, in another 6 centuries, we could have several billion people(in space) living, working, laughing, quarreling, reproducing, loving and just doing what humans have always done. I think that’s a goal well worth pursuing.”

    Again, please explain why we would want to do that? What is the compelling reason for undertaking such an enormous undertaking. Why would we want to go to the High frontier just to do there what we already do here and in far more comfort? Please enlighten this particular nay sayer.

    Looking forward to your reply.

    …John

  32. MadScientist

    We also need to remind those who believe that the earth is our toilet and that it can be abandoned: there is no other habitable rock which we humans can get to – the earth is all we’ve got, so take care of it.

  33. nobody

    I simulated the viewpoint and perspective of the photo with Celestia… Damn, this program is so accurate!!!! And all the details were right :)

  34. Patrick

    But what if our explorations bring us to the notice of some imperialistic water-hating mechanoids who follow the radio transmissions back here and come take our women and forbid the playing of football?

    Better to sit back and hide rather than risk that.

  35. Gary Ansorge

    26. johnfruh:

    John you sound just like my best bud, an old hippy drummer who believes there is no reason to leave this comfortable, self sustaining, self regulating nursery,er, I mean planet and taking on a difficult, exciting, extremely profitable venture. Granted, the Columbus metaphor was probably insufficient for you, since he only found something he wasn’t expecting, a whole new place to live. Well, what can I say, our knowledge lets us see a bit further than could he, so we know a bit more about where we can go and SOME of what we’ll likely find but we certainly don’t know everything that will be there to surprise us(and I just LOVE surprises). Besides, while scuba diving is a fun approximation of free fall, it’s still not the real thing. I expect the other 4 billion people on this planet are NOT going to do the the hard task of regulating their energy use to a level less than our own or recycle their waste in a cost effective manner, because as rich and well informed as WE are, we STILL don’t do everything we could. It’s highly unlikely the up and coming impoverished nations will do any better than have we. What’s the point of this? Just that this planet will likely become unlivable to a multi billion population of humans in about a century and a half, unless we’re able to supplement the energy and raw materials we need to survive and prosper and the only place I know of that has all those THINGS we want in abundance is in space.

    If you ever get the chance, look for The Last Frontier, written about 1956, as I recall. It’s an interesting psycho/social historical perspective on the effect that settling the western hemisphere had on the old societies of Europe. I expect settling the High Frontier would have effects just as profound on those older, mature cultures we leave behind.

    Besides, I’m a product of the American frontier and I want a new one.

    GAry 7

  36. Gary Ansorge

    Oh and John, to respond to your question about astronauts, those are just the early stage explorers. To SETTLE the High Frontier, we will need ordinary people, plumbers, mechanics, electricians, welders, mothers and fathers etc. Those folk are a heck of a lot cheaper to produce than supermen/women and THEY are what we’ll need in abundance, if we ever hope to really LIVE in space.

    GAry 7

  37. Gamercow

    I think a balanced attack is needed in the future.

    1)Keep shooting up robots to be our scouts, our probes, our first explorers, our eyes, ears, noses, and hands on other worlds. The benefits of this are lower cost, probably faster travel, and much lower impact on any flora or fauna we find on other worlds.

    2)Improve technology used for launching things into space, keeping them there, and getting them other places. Genetics, nanotechnology, fusion, etc. This will bring the cost of sending people other places down, and will allow them to get there quicker and more safely.

    3)When the time is right, send people. The benefits of manned travel are real-time problem solving and exploration, scientific advancements and tests that might not have been planned on the ground, and it will give us an idea of what needs to be done to make other places survivable for humans.

    It does not have to be a black and white situation. The important thing is to keep exploring, keep learning, and keep our eyes on the infinite dark and all that is in it.

  38. johnfruh

    @#35. MadScientist

    Here! Here!

    At last someone who understands!

    …John

  39. Gary Ansorge

    John, another addendum: I’m not talking about relocating billions of humans to space,,,merely 1 or 2 percent of the total population over a period of centuries(That’s all that actually immigrated to the western hemisphere). If they do what people have always done, they will manufacture those billions in just a few centuries.

    GAry 7

  40. Gary Ansorge

    As the idealists who established the USA realized, people are greedy, selfish and sometimes downright mean but, we can use those qualities to accomplish great deeds, if we accept that that is the way people are and set up institutions and laws that channel their drives into constructive action. Which is why we have a tripartite government(each side keeps an eye on the other two sides, to maintain their own selfish self interests) and income tax(go ahead and make all the money you want. Just pay some of it into the general fund.)

    Gary 7

  41. johnfruh

    @#38,gary.
    Hey, gary, I’m that buddy of yours, except that I was a computer nerd rather than a drummer. But I did have the shoulder length hair and all.
    Anyway, I’m with him. It’s sad that you are so pessimistic about our chances of turning this mess around. well, you may be right and our future on the earth is doomed. But, again, what is your alternative? Where are these riches of which you speak?

    as for Columbus, he didn’t give a damn for the “new place to live” He did not want to live there. He wanted the spices and the riches the KNEW were there.

    Yes, there may be surprises out there for us to discover. My point is that we can send our tools (which are nothing more than extensions of our arms and legs, etc.) out there to discover these surprises for us (BTW, I love surprises too). I’m ALL for that. I think that it is hubris of us to think that we can Adapt to space as readily as you suggest. Remember that Columbus was still on earth when he made his voyages. He could resuply along the way (e.g. air, fish, rain water, etc.) NONE of these amenities are available tu is bio units in space. It is a very hostile place which is why we can only go out there in clever cocoons called space suits.
    Okay, so you want to experience free fall, weightlessness, cool. But that is way too trivial a reason to spend $billions. Ride the vomit comet for a fraction of the cost until you’ve had your fill.

    So, if the “other” 4 billion won’t pull their weight, then mother nature will take care of them. Would it not be better to show them the error of their ways rather than cut and run to troubles you know nothing about?

    You say: “… this planet will likely become unlivable to a multi billion population of humans in about a century and a half, unless we’re able to supplement the energy and raw materials we need to survive and prosper and the only place I know of that has all those THINGS we want in abundance is in space.”

    Do tell. Where is this abundance of which you speak? Asteroid belt? give me a break. Do the cost benefit analysis and show me that it comes out on the plus side. And, while your at it convince me that our earthly resources will actually be exhausted in 150 years. You may be right about oil, but name all the other things that will become scarce and for which easy alternatives are available “out there”.

    I agree that the psych/social effects would be profound, even devastating. Imagine being left behind to die. Imagine the riots, etc. The sabotage of flights, etc.

    So, you have the American frontier mindset. Good for you. Hitch up your wagons and go. Just don’t expect any support from me.

    Now then, how about answering my questions?
    – About robotics
    – about good reasons to populate the High frontier (and, no, being an American frontiersman won’t do)
    – about HOW you are going to accomplish this

    …John

  42. johnfruh

    @#42 gary,
    Again, how are you going to accomplish such a feat.

    Look, compare the first 50 years of manned space flight with the first fifty years of air travel. Air travel grew from canvas and balsa wood to supersonic jet fighters. And, everything in between. Do you see my point about how damned hard space travel is?

    Let me try another tack. Since space is so hostile, how about trying your High Frontier in Antarctica? Way simpler than space, right? Just a little cold, right? Lots of resources in the surrounding sea, and under the ice, right? Air to breath and lots of water. Show me how you would manage that and we’ll talk further,okay? Up for the challenge?

    I’ll be waiting.

    …John

  43. johnfruh

    @#40. Gamercow ,

    Point 1. Agreed! Totally.

    Point 2. Fusion? Just how will fusion bring costs down? We can’t even contain a fusion reaction here on earth let alone in space. What are you talking about? Get to places quicker and safer? How? details please.

    Point 3. Please explain how the benefits of real-time problem solving outweighs the costs. Besides, what’s your hurry? We already know what we need to survive. We also already know that the moon and Mars do not have the resources we need to survive there. Remember a little experiment called Habitat? It was supposed to be a self contained sustainable environment. It failed miserably.

    I totally agree with your last statement …
    “The important thing is to keep exploring, keep learning, and keep our eyes on the infinite dark and all that is in it.”.

    Right on. ALL I’m saying is that we can do it better and cheaper if we use our fabulous brains to create smart tools (i.e. robots) to go out there for us.

    …John

  44. johnfruh

    @#43. Gary

    What is your point, Gary? We have that right here and right now. AND, it’s not working very well in case you haven’t noticed. Imagine if you had our problems in a teeny tiny space colony.

    Do you not know that one of the Russian cosmonauts almost went crazy due to the isolation? He almost sabotaged the MIR space station.

    As the old saying goes, “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”

    What I’m saying is that we have evolved to live, precariously at that, on this speck of dust. To think that we can create an equivalent environment out there or modify ourselves to adapt to the hostile environment is hubris. Besides, what’s the point again? For you to get your rocks off? I don’t think so!

    Not on my nickel anyway!
    …John

  45. amphiox

    johnfruh: looking over the general tone of the majority of your many posts, I am reminded of the saying “those who can only say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are trying to do it.”

    And yet, despite your negativity, you seem to have an incredible degree of faith in human infallibility in the other direction. Do you really think that we are guaranteed to solve all our earthbound problems, now and to eternity, including all the unforeseen ones we have not even conceived of? Because so long as we have just this one egg, one slip-up, one unforeseen error, one ill-conceived environmental policy, one moment of collective madness, one hasty war, one unavoidable natural disaster, and it’s curtains.

    It surprises me that you seem to be arguing that the survival of the species is a goal that is not economically justified.

    And frankly, I’ll bet good money that colonizing space and making it economically profitable will be EASIER and cheaper than achieving total environmental sustainability and peace on earth. By several orders of magnitude.

    I do agree with you that manned space missions should not be doing any science, though. All manned efforts should be focused on only one goal – the ultimate establishment of a self-sufficient space colony. And a lot of the ground work of that can be done on the earth first. We should be working on getting our launch and life support systems up to snuff – in terms of both efficiency, reliability, and cost, before throwing up people on expensive and dangerous dead-end launch platforms that have no hope of ever evolving to the point of getting into low earth orbit just a couple times a year. The only research humans should be doing in space right now is research on human physiology, where the human being goes up only because he/she is the experimental subject.

    While there is science out there that only humans can do, right now, chances are for most of them the cost of developing a robotic system to do it will turn out to be less than the cost of sending a human out to do it, factoring all the R and D, and risks involved. For the few remaining things that robotics will not be able to achieve more effectively than humans, I see no reason to waste effort at this preliminary stage on those, because once we get humans out there, the science will automatically follow them, and all that human-based science will get done just as a side effect of humans living and working routinely in space.

  46. amphiox

    BTW, I don’t think we’re talking long-term at all when it comes to the survival of the species, either. Without a manned space program, I give our civilization anywhere between 50 to 500 years, tops. As for the species, I’m an optimist, so I suspect that we could survive a couple million – the average duration of a flexible, generalist species with a wide range and the ability to occupy many niches, and we may well become the progenitors of an adaptive radiation of successor species that could endure for tens or even hundreds of millions of years after our own extinction. But, and this is a big but, survival in this fashion will surely mean multiple cycles of boom and bust, population explosions and crashes, multiple rising and falling of civilizations, perhaps several global civilizations in succession. And this means the periodic deaths of billions, again and again.

    Space colonization will not necessarily avoid all this, but I think it will reduce the chances significantly, and help buffer the worst of the fluctuations.

  47. amphiox

    It is my belief that orbital space colonies will be achieved before viable settlements on any moon or planet other than earth. And the first major economic resource that will sustain these colonies, motivate their creation, and allow them to grow, will be solar energy.

    This will also be readily achievable, provided we put an effort into it, within a century, within the lifespans of some of the people reading this blog, right now. Though the colonies will not be self-sufficient without support from earth at the start. That will come later.

    We have to keep in mind that many of the early New World colonies in fact failed, with the deaths of all colonists. Viking Greenland, Vinland, and St. James Town come to mind as examples. How would history have gone if the parent nations had decided to give up at that point and abandon the venture as too risky and too costly, and without sufficient economic return?

    Actually, we do have a historical precedent for that. Ming Dynasty China abandoned a program of oceanic exploration primarily because of conservative economic concerns. Look what happened to them.

  48. johnfruh

    @#48. amphiox

    Thanks for you considered and through response. happy to engage, with you.
    I understand how my tone would appear negative to you. But I assure you that is not the case.
    Please take a few minutes to read through them again and I’m sure you’ll find that what I’m saying is that I (me, myself and I) have had it with space cadet views on manned missions.

    I agree with you totally that manned missions are mostly useless for science, unless it is for human factors science which would be obviated by sending only our tools out there.

    As to your charge that I see us as infallible when it comes to solving our earthly problems, I beg to differ. We are most definitely not infallible.

    Time, after time, I have asked for details and specifics as to how the grandiose dreams of, for example, achieving Gary’s High Frontier are to be achieved, I’m met with either silence or more hand waving.

    I’m not in the way. I just don’t want manned missions to be conducted on my nickel. Let the frontiersman go if they want. And while they are at it, do it like the frontiersman of old by their own resources, and not on the shoulders of the entire nation.

    As to your point about colonization being the only valid reason. Let me turn the question back on you. What if one of the catastrophes you enumerated were to happen on your colony? What then?

    You are right, our existence here on earth is precarious. But jumping ship is not the answer. We are all going to die someday. As will all of humanity. After all, 99% of all species that have ever existed are extinct. I, for one don’t think that we are any exception. So, call me a fatalist. Charge accepted! It’s only a matter of time after all.

    You say… “It surprises me that you seem to be arguing that the survival of the species is a goal that is not economically justified.”
    Even the universe itself will peter out. Just ask Phil, if you don’t trust me. But entropy is ever increasing, The universe is ever expanding and accelerating to boot! It will as I’m sure you know end in utter darkness and cold. The Microwave Background Radiation is not down near absolute zero for nothing! So, the survival of the species temporary at best.

    However, having said all that, I’m ready to change my mind. Just show me the way forward. Show me the evidence. Convince me that there is a “land of milk and honey” out there for us and I’m with you.

    I’ve been asking for specifics from our other posters here and still have not received any plausible ways forward. maybe you can help in this regards.

    Now, I realize that I am fighting an uphill fight here. hell, even Steven Hawking, for pete’s sake, is on your band wagon. But I haven’t heard him show ANY way forward.

    I’m waiting to be convinced.

    …John

  49. johnfruh

    @#49. amphiox

    I fear that you underestimate our resilience. Consider, if you will all of the vicissitudes we, as a species have already survived.
    You are right about the boom and bust. My contention is that those cycles will happen right here on good old mother earth.

    Again, I’m willing to be convinced. so, please, justify your last sentence…
    “Space colonization will not necessarily avoid all this, but I think it will reduce the chances significantly, and help buffer the worst of the fluctuations.”

    Why do you think this? What makes you so seemingly confident. What do you know about our ability to go “out there” that I don’t?

    …John

  50. johnfruh

    @#50. amphiox

    What? Low earth orbit? That’s your answer? Within 100 years? Can you please show me the plans?

    As I had said in an earlier post. I consider any recourse to earth based exploration analogies to be invalid.
    The Ming Dynasty did very well for a very long time. Lack of being a sea faring nation did not do them in.

    Besides, the mightiest of sea faring nations was also brought to its knees. There was a time when the sun did not set on the British Empire. And look at “her” now. Exploration and exploitation have their limits. The universe might be infinite, but its energy is not. There is only so much to go around.
    In my view, we would do much better to safeguard our environment here. That is a much more tractable problem than jumping ship.
    So far, the way I see it, the expenditure of energy suggested by our commenters here to achieve any form of meaningful space colonization far, far outweigh any benefits. Hell, we could build one hell of a great bunker instead.
    Hey how about colonizing the south pole or the ocean floor? Wouldn’t that be far easier?
    But, If you think that’s hard, I invite you to consider that the space environment is orders of magnitude harder.

    Sorry to be so pedantic, but just how are your low earth colonies going to be come self sufficient?
    If we can’t create a self sustaining Biosphere here, on earth, what makes you think that we can do it in space?
    Or is this where the hand waving comes in?

    But, as always, I stand to be enlightened and corrected.

    …John

  51. Thomas Siefert

    @ Geordi Calrissian
    Welcome to Known Space.
    If you haven’t done so already, may I suggest that before you read the sequel to Ringworld, Ringworld Engineers, that you read the short story collection Neutron Star and the novel Protector. Those two books give great background information on events and characters that have significance in Ringworld Engineers.

  52. Don M. @ 33

    I’ve been goofing off in Celestia, and it confirms the phases seen by the MGS. The reason is hidden on their website. While looking at that, tilt your head so Jupiter is immediately “above” the MGS. Notice how the Earth is almost to the left of the Sun, while Jupiter is nearly behind it? Earth would appear a crescent, while Jupiter would almost be full. It’s a nifty trick of perspective, nothing more.

  53. Just me

    @ 54 Thomas Siefert

    (Okay, I know I’m going way off topic here, Phil, so please forgive me, and don’t delete this post!)

    I read Ringworld, Ringworld Engineers and Integral Trees and some other Niven works, and I have to say that while I found the worlds in which those stories took place thoroughly facinating, I found the characters to be completely flat and uninteresting. Niven has a great scientific mind, but he’s not so good at giving life and “soul” to his characters. I find this to be true with a lot of sci-fi literature. Sci-fi authors tend to so enamored of the science that their characters feel like afterthoughts, which is a great disappointment to me.

    I find that if I want to visit fantastical worlds and possible futures, I read sci-fi. If I want to get to know interesting and relatable characters, I have to read either classical literature or modern fiction, or even modern non-fiction: The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Einstien in Berlin have richer characterization than any sci-fi I’ve read in recent memory.

    But, to bring this back on topic. I’m really on the fence regarding human vs. robotic exploration of space. We potentially became a space-faring species the moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. And if the energy and enthusiasm of Kennedy’s vision for the moon had been sustained, it’s very likely that we’d have made it to Mars by now. But we lost sight of that. As it stands, Mars is still several decades and several hundred billion dollars away.

    And I can’t help but make a political commentary here: It’s ironic that the US can “justify” spending hundreds of billions of dollars on wars which by their very design, result in massive death and destruction, but the prospect of sending a small group of people (five to ten) to Mars, is met with overwhelming resistance because it’s too risky and expensive.
    I know that if someone knocked on my door today and said “Would you like to join our mission to Mars?” I would say yes without hesitation. I think a lot of people would respond in similar fashion.

    I think one of the strongest arguments in favour of human exploration of space is a “spiritual” one — that is, we are a social species, and we very often live vicariously through the achievements (and sometimes failures) of others. I think most people who were old enough to be aware of the first moon landing can fairly easily recall where they were when it happened, and can also recall the emotions they felt. Likewise, people remember where they were when the Challenger exploded, or when the World Trade Center towers fell. History is significant to us because it is a record of what we have done. It is the story of us.

    Robotic missions are certainly safer and arguably cheaper. But robots are robots. Because they’re expendable, we can send them on dangerous, one-way missions. We can send a probe into Jupiter and have it send data back until it is burned up or crushed. We could send an astronaut on the same kind of mission, and have him or her look out the portal and report back what they see, and possibly get much more interesting, and perhaps even poetic descriptions of Jupiter beneath the cloud-tops, but I have a feeling that such a mission concept would be met with significant resistance, even though I’m quite sure that it would not be hard to find at least a few volunteers for such a mission. Another advantage to robotic missions, particularly to the outer planets and beyond, is we don’t have to spend too much brain-power in trying to find a way to get the robots back home safely.
    As our technology becomes more sophisticated, we can even have “intelligent” robots, programmed to be “curious”, so that we can give them a general “to do” list, say, on Europa, so that when they land, they can improvise within the boundaries of their mission parameters. They can look around, and decide on the spot what direction to go to gain the most science, and send the data and images back to us. As it is now, the Mars rover program is slow and tedious. Often the rovers will move only a few meters a day, if that, and if there’s science to be done, then they often have to just sit and wait for days, while mission operators meet on earth to discuss the next steps.

    MGS sent that incredible image of Jupiter and our home because the operators knew that the alignment was going to happen, and sent instructions to the robot. Imagine if a probe could do its own rudimentary exploration, particularly in the months and years it spends traveling between planets, and decide, in its own rudimentary brain, “This is a very interesting image. I think those fleshy humans on earth would like to see this!” [CLICK!] I mean, we can think of a lot of things, and instruct our robots to take interesting images, but we can’t think of everything.

    And then there’s the whole concept of micro-probes: constellations of coffee-can sized (or smaller) probes that could be sent out on missions and function like a colony, where collectively, they could do a lot more science than a single probe, or a single human mission, for a lot less money.

    But with all the arguments in favour of robotic missions, I will use this anecdote in response: I’ve seen photos of meteor showers and comets. But the grandest photos pale in comparison to actually seeing a blazing fireball cutting a trail across the night sky with my own eyes, or taking my own photo of Hale-Bopp.

    Sorry, I’ve rambled on and on. I hope that this makes some sense at least.

  54. Just me

    @ 27. Eddie Janssen

    I would guess that the reason we don’t see any background stars is the same as for why there are no background stars in the photos taken during the lunar missions: in this case, Earth and Jupiter are much (hundreds? thousands of times?) brighter than the background stars.

    That, or the photo of Earth and Jupiter was photoshopped by some NASA flunkie, just like the Moon landings were faked! 😉

  55. T_U_T

    @ johnfruh

    It is just your attitude that riles me. You have already given up on this rock and are looking to abandon ship ASAP (your words).

    You are putting #$#$ in my mouth. I never said that I want abandon earth. Spreading not abandoning. That is what I want.

    This, planet is the best space ship we have. It is already coursing through the universe, well, around the Milky way galaxy anyway.

    Essentially a sitting duck. I don’t want to be a sitting duck. Because it always, in all areas of life, works like this. If you go ahead, you will stumble upon something nasty sooner or later. But that is the better alternative. Because if you stay, something nasty will stumble upon you. And this is almost always worse, because you would be just a sitting duck for it.

    Just where do you propose to go?

    The universe goes in all directions. But I would go to the nearest stellar system with an earth-like planet ( or at least, terraformable planet ).

    Just don’t you dare do it on my nickel.

    And what will you do if I do ? Go to mommy, whining that the big mean T_U_T took an insignificant fraction of your taxes to assure your survival even if you are not interested in it ?
    I will simply use any resources I can get my hand on, to do what I consider the best way to assure the survival of my descendants. Like it or not. It is survival of the fittest after all.

  56. Chet Twarog

    #51 johnfruh said: “We are all going to die someday. As will all of humanity. After all, 99% of all species that have ever existed are extinct. I, for one don’t think that we are any exception. So, call me a fatalist.”
    You err: all of those extinct species were quite incapable of the flexibility that we Homo sapiens have. Thus, we are exceptional!
    I’d rather support us spending the $ billions for manned/unmanned space exploration, colonization, industrialization, etc (and the accompanying technological, scientific, economic, and engineering benefits) rather than the $700 billions/year on warfare (war technologies, killing, ecological destruction (bombs, chemical defoliants, mass exoduses, immigrant encampments, etc).
    Additionally, we are discovering more and more exoplanets that would require multi-generational spaceship colonies thousands of years to get to. We (fantasizing) may be capable of expanding and evolving to inhabit those exoplanets developing an expanding Galactic Civilization!
    But, of course, most would still inhabit Earth. We are quite capable of sustaining a dynamic civilization on Earth but look around the planet—how well are we really doing?

  57. How cool is that. And that title of yours? Interesting indeed.

    Now I don’t care if this snap is real or just a photoshopped version of some junkie’s wild imagination. Just the thought of all watching planets or sun or stars or just plain sky from not our’s land is always fascinating.

    I know I hardly can, but dream doing this during some incarnation of myself.

  58. Chet Twarog

    #56 Just me Says: “I find that if I want to visit fantastical worlds and possible futures, I read sci-fi. If I want to get to know interesting and relatable characters.”
    Well, there are many wonderful SF that you seek—it just takes lots of reading and researching.
    Have you tried some of the SF websites such as TOR or BAEN? SF magazines such as Analog SF/SF, Amazing, Asimov, Thrilling Wonder Stories…?
    I just finished some excellent SF by Joel Shepherd, his Cassandra Kresnov novels. And I checked out a J.G. Ballard novel “Memories of the Space Age” from the library. I would also recommend Jack McDevitt, Ben Bova, Isaac Asimov, Kim Stanley Robinson, David Brin, Kathryn Kristine Rusch (Artist Retrieval Series) Robert Sawyer, Allen Steele, Theodore Sturgeon, etc.
    And, DITTO to your other comments!

  59. Chet Twarog

    As well as some fun (silly) future detective SF series by John Zakour: The Plutonium Blonde, The Doomsday Brunette, The Radioactive Redhead (3 with Larry Ganem), The Frost Haired Vixen, The Blue Haired Bombshell, The Flaxen Femme Fatale.

  60. johnfruh

    @#58. T_U_T

    “You are putting #$#$ in my mouth”.
    Sorry, I may have confused your post with someone else’s. My mistake.

    “Essentially a sitting duck. ….”
    Okay, lets say the earth is a sitting duck. You, at least, want to abandon ship. Here is what you just said…
    “I will simply use any resources I can get my hand on, to do what I consider the best way to assure the survival of my descendants.”
    So, maybe I didn’t put that “#$#$” in your mouth after all.

    “If you go ahead, you will stumble upon something nasty sooner or later…”
    You bet you will. Pioneers have been known to get arrows up their “you know what”. And you propose to suffer the slings and arrows of the great interstellar unknown. Good luck with that.

    Oh, and by the way, just why would your spacecraft NOT be a sitting duck just as much as the earth is ? How do you propose to ward off Cosmic Rays, Comet Dust and the billions of bits of debris out there ready slam into your shiny spacecraft? My earth already has formidable shields in place for these things such as the MagnetoSphere and the atmosphere.
    And, have you ever heard of the expression “home field advantage”? It works, you know.

    So, I’ll stay home, thank you very much. I can mount a pretty good defense against all manner of projectiles being hurled at me.

    “And what will you do if I do ? Go to mommy, whining that the big mean T_U_T took an insignificant fraction of your taxes to assure your survival even if you are not interested in it ?”

    In this regard when you say “you”, may I remind you the “I” represent the billions of people who don’t want to join you on your great adventure. If you think that it’s hard to get taxes out of people now, and it is. just you wait until you ask for Trillions and Trillions for your interstellar covered wagon.

    “…an insignificant fraction of your taxes…”
    Are you kidding me? Insignificant? Really? In case you haven’t noticed, we don’t even want to raise taxes for a universal healthcare system. We don’t even want to spend tax money on reversing global heating. So, tell me, how are you going to get that nickel out of my pocket and into yours?

    “… to assure your survival even if you are not interested in it…”
    News flash. Most people don’t care about long term survival. At best, they care about personal survival right now. If they did, we would not be raping and pillaging the earth the way we are now. We would be taking global heating seriously. I’m deadly serious about our survival. I just differ with you on the best way to accomplish it.

    “..I will simply use any resources I can get my hand on…”
    Do tell. I’ve asked for details. Can you tell me, at least, what resources you will “get your hands on”?
    Then I would like you to tell me the physics principles you will be relying upon to turn the resources into you spacecraft.
    Then show me the plans for your spacecraft.
    How are you going to power it? What kind of shields are you going to use to ward off the nasty bits of stuff out there just itching to punch a hole in your craft’s skin.
    What are you going to use for life support?

    I can answer any and all of these sorts of questions regarding my spaceship (i.e. the earth), can you answer them for yours?

    I’ll be waiting for your response.

    …John

  61. Just me

    @60 Chet Twarog

    I agree with you on Kim Stanley Robinson (LOVED the Mars Trilogy) and David Brin, and I read some excellent shorts in an anthology called Extreme Science Fiction. Greg Bear is pretty good too. I feel differently about Asimov, though. He had some brilliant ideas and explored them through his stories, but, when reading his robot novels, I found his human characters to be cold and uninteresting. His robots were more interesting to me than his human characters, which was possibly his intention, though I’m not sure.
    And while we’re on the subject of SF, let me throw out a “one-hit wonder”: The Adolescence of P-1 by Thomas J. Ryan. Written in 1977, and I think it has yet to be surpassed in the realm of AI fiction. Of course, I’m happy to have my assertion challenged, and even beaten. :-)

    Anyway, thanks for all your recommendations. I’ll definitely check them out!

    Bonus authors: Neal Stephenson, William Gibson!

  62. Chet Twarog

    @63 Just me Says.
    I mostly agree, thanks. However, Asimov’s “Foundation” series !!!
    Plus, I enjoyed “Battlestar Galactica”, “Babylon 5”, and now into “Stargate: Universe” SF series.

  63. Chet Twarog

    #62 johnfruh
    Thanks for staying in. Pls don’t be too hardcore and inflexible.
    Phil’s point, and others, mine too, is that all of the photos of our homeworld planet/moon Earth/Luna or “Gaia” or “Oceana” from manned or robotic spacecraft should be actively promoted, postered, put on legal roadside billboards or buildings to continuously remind everyone that we actually share (with all bioms) a PLANET; a unique, one-of-a-kind, planet ecology that will not be found or replicated or terraformed any where else!
    We have to mature as a civilization. There are no gods or known interstellar or intergalactic beings that will “guide” or “save” humanity. It has been just us since we killed off our co-species Homo neanderthals.
    We initially needed NASA for manned and robotic missions. It is now time for private enterprise (Bigelow, Ad Astra, Vigin Galactic, Edmund Musk, SpaceX, etc), COTs, and, yes, governments (China, India, Soviet Union, ESA, USA) to colonize, industrialize, explore the Solar System, then intergalactic space, then ???
    Please read G. Harry Stine’s [renowned rocket expert and a pioneer in the development of the aerospace hobby of model rocketry] books: “The Third Industrial Revolution (1979)”, “Living in Space (1997)”, “Handbook for Space Colonists (1988)”, “Space Power (1981)”, and “Space Doctor (1981)”.

  64. Thomas Siefert

    @ Just me
    Agree on Niven, his universe is quite often better than his characters and his short stories works a lot better than his novels. Integral Trees fell apart from me once I realised the universe wasn’t that interesting.
    His collaborations with Jerry Pournelle works far better.

  65. T_U_T

    @johnfruh.

    Wow. You have put your foot in your mouth so deeply that you are farthing toes.

    First you scorn me for abandoning earth, then you go on to declare that you and “Most people” have abandoned both earth and humankind, thus making a far better case for the rest of us leaving and letting you and your ilk to drown in their own feces than I could come up with.

    There is also a strange paradox in your posts. You not only show callous indifference towards our own survival, but you are extremely passionate about it. And being passionate about indifference is self-contradictory. So I have to conclude you have an ax to grind here.

    So I ask you directly. Why do you hate mankind ? Why do you want us all die ?

  66. I didn’t go through all the responses, so maybe this question has been answered already:

    Why is Earth’s ‘dark’ (as in non sunlit) side so clearly visible in this picture?

  67. mike burkhart

    Incredable Amazing !!!!!!!!as for man in space let me quote H.G.Wells form The film Things to come “for mankind there can be no rest he must go on untill all the universe is conquerd and then it is still only a begining” [form Things to come relesed in the 1930s writen by H.G.Wells]

  68. Brian

    Why no stars? Did no one read the article? Not only were the images “mosaiced” together, they were colorized (the MGS hi-res camera is B&W!)

  69. Brian

    …so in other words, the images were heavily processed. The raw images are available at the end of the article.

  70. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    WTF is a “space cadet” view on manned missions? Is that to be moved by the awesomeness of them, like being moved by the awesomeness of the photos above?

    As regards space it’s not a safe harbor, and it will probably not be needed as such. But it is another opportunity to explore environmental niches.

    Btw, I believe someone claimed that there is no other habitable world around. Last week an article about the habitability research by Mendes was doing the rounds. Turns out that Mars is as habitable as Europa, both score ~ 0.4 to Earth ~ 0.5 on average relative habitability. (Though Enceladus may be the body packing the most habitability relative to mass in the solar system.)

    [I won’t link to slip through the bothersome hold up. Mendes’ work is easy enough to google. The press release has some nice graphics.]

    As a perspective, Mendes’ research confirms that Earth was more habitable before the current ice age period, with maximum during periods like the Cretaceous. (Perhaps no surprise.)

    Anyway, considering diversity after mass extinctions apparently recovers on a time scale less than 1 My (according to a paper this year IIRC), perhaps we should stop agonizing over human effects such as AGW vs environment. It will, after the inevitable risky period of massive niche collapse, increase Earth value and robustness in the long run when it takes us out of the current climate region. (It’s the potential human suffering that is bothersome.)

    Sci-fi authors tend to so enamored of the science that their characters feel like afterthoughts,

    That is likely because of sci-fi is observably a basically idea literature genre where the alternative reality (including its science) is “always” the main character. Any persons are showing how the reality behaves up to and including how persons would behave in it, but is minor importance as such. Those authors that tries to overpower the environment characterization with person characterization are likely in the wrong literature segment, and can be boring for sci-fi readers. Too much space opera and it can as well be written as fantasy or war stories or such.

    Obviously this is much a reversal from other literature, and there isn’t much point in expecting or judging otherwise. Both types of literature has their value and enjoyment.

  71. Tometheus

    There’s some heavy photo manipulation being done there. Separate photos, separate exposures, artificial colorization, then the background is painted back to black. Might as well just take the HIRISE images 1, 2 and put them in the relative positions. :)

    At first I’m tempted to say that the science is bastardized by such photo manipulation, but it still does foster inquiry and and perhaps learning as illustrated above with the relative phases question.

  72. Gary Ansorge

    70. T_U_T:

    If John was really interested in this discussion, he could find all the answers to refute his arguments at the SSI site or by reading Gerard K. O’Neilles book The High Frontier. I thought from his initial posting he was really interested but it’s obvious he’s just stirring the poop pot. I have some familiarity with such people. They take whatever position engenders the most emphatic response and laugh, because in order to answer his questions, it would take several books(High Frontier is just a beginning). I’ve done that research over the last half century. The problems of settling the High Frontier are readily solvable.

    GAry 7

  73. T_U_T

    Q :

    WTF is a “space cadet” view on manned missions?

    A : anything less than utter rejection of the very idea of leaving the ground.

  74. T_U_T

    They take whatever position engenders the most emphatic response and laugh,

    there is a name for such persons. a troll

  75. Gary Ansorge

    One thing that always bothers me about such posters is the claim that it only took 50 years to get to commercial flight. The truth is it took over 2000 years to get there, from the early imaginings of the ancient greeks, to gliders and lighter than air balloons to the early heavier than air craft and finally to the Wright brothers. It all had to wait for an appropriate compact, light weight power source. We had steam power for two centuries but that was just inappropriate for heavier than air craft. So, we’ve had chemical rockets for 75 years and we KNOW those are not going to do the job we want, but we have numerous technologies in the developmental stage, from the rail accelerator being worked on by NASA to accelerate a craft to 600 mph before ignition of its rockets, to space elevators and potential thermonuclear fusion powered thrusters(from, possibly Dr. Bussards Polywell Fusor) to, in the more distant future, anti-matter power sources. Once we have access to the most approriate energy source, things will literally “take off”. As far as the other problems, like radiation shielding, NASA is researching magnetic field barriers and polyethylene shielding. Micro meteors are not that big a problem. The ISS deals with those all the time as well as our communications satellites.
    Enclosed life support systems are a bit trickier but not insurmountable, just difficult and as we all know, the difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.

    GAry 7

  76. T_U_T

    what about this power source, gary ? Powerful enough ?

  77. Gary Ansorge

    81. T_U_T:

    Sounds good. I had no idea that it could be operated at 25,000 degrees C. I look forward to a developmental phase. I’ll note in passing that the Vasimir thruster has been developed to a 200,000 watt unit that is supposed to be added to the ISS to compensate for drag and enable it to rise to higher orbit with little use of propellant mass. Again, development is ongoing.

    Thanks for that link.

    GAry 7

  78. MHS

    Without a doubt one of the most awesome space pictures I’ve ever seen. Absolutely amazing!!

  79. Don M.

    Here is a nice piece in the new Night Sky blog about the photo, including a diagram. I was more or less right about the relative distances of Earth and Jupiter when the photos were taken (7x).

    http://www.nightsky.ie/2009/10/stunning-earth-and-jupiter-in-the-same-photo/

  80. Quiet Desperation

    If you want to wait for the next mass extinction, it is your choice, but, please, don’t make this choice for me too. I want my descendants to get off this mossy pebble ASAP.

    Oy, I tire of the “extinction level event” excuse for manned missions. It’s silly how afraid people, especially science fans and skeptical thinkers who should know better, have become of the sky. It’s fine for Phil to write a fun book about it, but, geez, people. You sound like a bad miniseries. You’re so worried about our biosphere you want to colonize someplace *without* one?

    If you want to aim at mass migration (where, exactly?), we should be funding propulsion and basic lifting capability projects, and heavily subsidies to get some more private efforts off the ground. Big ticket “boo yeah!” Man-On-Mars programs are not going to accomplish what you want. A tiny base on the moon, staffed by government approved astronauts and utterly dependent on Earth, is not colonization.

    The way to move into space properly is to do it a layer at a time. Heavily develop earth’s orbit first. Build a base upon which to construct further layers. Get the ship construction off the surface. Then you go to the L4/L5 points. THEN you start thinking moonbase. Maybe. Personally I feel settling into yet another gravity well, even one 1/6 as strong, is a mistake. Just build bigger and better habitats until you’re ready to make some small Halos/Ringworlds.

    You’re worried about threats? What’s better than a home you can just move away from the threat? When *I* say Man’s future is in *space* I literally mean it. :)

    There are no gods or known interstellar or intergalactic beings that will “guide” or “save” humanity.

    Cite?

    I kid. 😉

    It has been just us since we killed off our co-species Homo neanderthals.

    Roland Emmerich? Is that you? :-) Still planning that “30,000 B.C.” sequel?

    She was a homo sapiens. He was a neanderthal. Their love was forbidden, and led to the final battle for supremacy of the Earth!

    Anyway, that’s only one of several hypotheses. Some have Neanderthals dying off before modern humans emerged from Africa.

  81. Mike

    I remember when this image was first released. It’s no less amazing 6 years later.

  82. johnfruh

    @#59. Chet Twaro

    “You err: all of those extinct species were quite incapable of the flexibility that we Homo sapiens have. Thus, we are exceptional!”

    So, I err, do I? Actually, those species had quite a bit of flexibility. The dinosaurs, for example lasted some 160 million years. Pretty good as far as I’m concerned. Our body plan actually has very little flexibility. The only reason we have been as successful as we have been is because we have figured out how to make life comfortable by devising cocoons for ourselves. If you think I’m wrong, I invite you to spend a week in the great outdoors as a naked ape. No amenities of any kind allowed. Pick forest, desert or feldt, prairie or tropical paradise. The lets see how flexible you are? AND to maintain this cocoon, we are rapidly depleting the resources to do so. Unless we change our ways, mother nature will slap us down hard.

    ” I’d rather support us spending the $ billions for manned/unmanned space exploration, … rather than the $700 billions/year on warfare…”
    Agreed for the most part. I part company with you wrt manned missions and colonization etc, for the reasons already stated above. I’d rather spend that money on more science. Just compare, if you will, the benefits that we get from unmanned usages of space versus the manned missions. Communications satellites, Earth observation missions, the GPS system, The surveyor missions, The rover missions, and the many many robotic missions that have returned a wealth of science to us. By contrast, the manned missions have returned only minimal science. Yes, I grant you that Apollo was great. I lived through it and jumped for joy when neil Armstrong set foot and the moon. That program brought home lots of science. But since then? Not so much.

    BTW, back then we needed people in the loop. I contend, that now, we don’t. We can make better instruments than the human body. It, actually, is the weakest link in the whole chain.

    Exoplanets? Really? As I’ve asked before and at the risk of repeating myself, How are you going to bridge the LIGHT YEAR distances involved in getting there. If it takes LIGHT that long to get to us from there, can you imagine how long it would take to travel there? Generations? Thousands of years? How about geologic Epochs? Do the math for me. Pick your fastest, most powerful AND plausible propulsion system, Then determine the distance to the NEAREST exoplanet and come back to us with the time required to get there. The number should be quite enlightening.

    “But, of course, most would still inhabit Earth. We are quite capable of sustaining a dynamic civilization on Earth but look around the planet—how well are we really doing?”

    Quite right, Chet! I suggest that we take our ‘exceptional’ problem solving abilities and harness them to make this planet as wonderful and as hospitable to life as possible.

    …John

  83. Paul M.

    Martin @16, you should read the explanation on the MOC site that Phil linked to. It has a good explanation of how the image was produced. I don’t know that Photoshop was used, but there was post processing done. It’s actually an interesting story!

  84. johnfruh

    @#68. Chet,

    “Pls don’t be too hardcore and inflexible.”

    Chet, What? Me Hardcore? I’m willing to be convinced. I’ll change my mind when I see evidence, good reasons for going out there. etc. I’ve been asking specific and pointed questions. But instead of getting answers that would help to convince me, I’m met with hand waving and, to be frank, Sci Fi wishful thinking. Gus, Sci Fi is fun. But the operative word is “FICTION”. It’s not real! In the mean time, we have REAL problems here on earth to solve.

    What? Me inflexible? I’m willing to be convinced and have asked for details on how to achieve the manned space travel dreams expounded upon above. I have received no answers to my difficult questions. Just lots of hand waving. I’ve also asked for good reasons for mounting such missions in the first place and have been met with reasons like, to paraphrase, “It’s our destiny to explore”, “We have to get off this rock because it’s doomed”, “humans are more flexible than robots”, “There are vast resources out there”. I have refuted all of them.

    “Phil’s point, and others, mine too, is that all of the photos of our homeworld planet/moon Earth/Luna or “Gaia” or “Oceana” from manned or robotic spacecraft should be actively promoted, postered, put on legal roadside billboards or buildings to continuously remind everyone that we actually share (with all bioms) a PLANET; a unique, one-of-a-kind, planet ecology that will not be found or replicated or terraformed any where else!”

    Bravo! Couldn’t agree with you more. Yes, Yes, Yes, more pictures like this. Lets do what we can to raise consciousness on just how “unique”, and “one-of-a-kind” this planet of ours is!!!

    “We have to mature as a civilization.”
    Right on!

    “There are no gods or known interstellar or intergalactic beings that will “guide” or “save” humanity.”
    Right on!!
    It has been just us since we killed off our co-species Homo neanderthals.
    Right on!!!

    We initially needed NASA for manned and robotic missions.
    Right on!!!!

    “It is now time for private enterprise (Bigelow, Ad Astra, Vigin Galactic, Edmund Musk, SpaceX, etc), COTs, and, yes, governments (China, India, Soviet Union, ESA, USA) to colonize, industrialize, explore the Solar System, then intergalactic space, then ???”

    This is where we part company.

    “Please read G. Harry Stine’s [renowned rocket expert and a pioneer in the development of the aerospace hobby of model rocketry] books: “The Third Industrial Revolution (1979)”, “Living in Space (1997)”, “Handbook for Space Colonists (1988)”, “Space Power (1981)”, and “Space Doctor (1981)”.”

    Thanks for the suggested reading list. I will undertake it.

    But Chet, tell why it is so hard for our fellow posters, here. To answer my questions?

    …John

  85. T_U_T

    I ask you again. What is your motivation to keep humans off space. You protest a little too much, it can be thus something more than just laziness greed or incuriosity.

    Generations? Thousands of years? How about geologic Epochs?

    what about a little more than 20 years to alpha centauri ?

  86. johnfruh

    @#70. T_U_T

    “… you and “Most people” have abandoned both earth and humankind…”
    What? How do you figure that T_U_T?
    Could it be because I’m humble enough to realize that there is no such thing as immortality? Well there is no such thing. Not for you, not for me, not for ou species,or any other living thing for that matter.

    “There is also a strange paradox in your posts. You not only show callous indifference towards our own survival, but you are extremely passionate about it. And being passionate about indifference is self-contradictory.”
    Okay, Y_U_T, let me explain it to you:
    1) I’m passionate about all life! After all, it’s the best game in town. I do and behave in such a manner as to maximize support for life. What else is there to do?

    2) I have “Indifference” to life for these reasons: A) it is, at best, temporary. If one takes a long enough perspective, it is all for naught. B) I and you MUST eat living things to survive (ie. life is not all that sacred). C) ALL the evidence suggests that 99% of all life forms that have ever existed have become extinct. Until, I see evidence to the contrary, I will assume that we are going the way of the Dodo too. Maybe faster, given the accelerating rate at which we are multiplying and “drowning in our own feces”, as you say.

    “So I have to conclude you have an ax to grind here.”
    IF I have an ax to grind, it is this: Just because we can dream IT (whatever IT may be) does not automatically imply that we can realize IT. There are real limitations which are being ignored by the dreamers. After all, Clint Eastwood, as Dirty Harry, so famously said “A man has got to know his limitations”.
    Now, given the limits to growth, the limits of the earth’s biosphere, the limits to usable energy, I am doing my bit to raise some consciousness.

    “So I ask you directly. Why do you hate mankind ? Why do you want us all die ?”
    I don’t hate mankind.
    I hate ignorance and love truth.
    I hate false dreams and expectations. I love reality.

    I don’t want us all to die. I want to affirm life. It’s the only game in town no matter how awful it can get. I want to improve our lot in life. I want us all to live meaningful lives. In short, I want us all to reach the peak of Victor Mazlo’s hierarchy of needs. The top being self actualization within the limits of reality. I want the “meaning” part to be decided upon by every individual. BUT, that meaning MUST be within the realm of reality. No afterlife, no gods, no hell below us. Above us only sky. No warp drives allowed. No dilithium crystals. etc. I could go on but I think you get my point.

    So, one more time, with feeling. If YOU guys want colonize/industrialize space, go ahead and do it. BUT, do it on your own or with those you can persuade to join you. I’m not with you.

    Now then, T_U_T, back to you.

    Oh, and BTW, I’m still waiting for answers to my questions.

    …John

  87. @johnfruh

    “It is now time for private enterprise (Bigelow, Ad Astra, Vigin Galactic, Edmund Musk, SpaceX, etc), COTs, and, yes, governments (China, India, Soviet Union, ESA, USA) to colonize, industrialize, explore the Solar System, then intergalactic space, then ???”
    This is where we part company.

    So the implication is that it doesn’t matter if it is not your nickle either? You seem to have a philosophical problem with manned space travel then? Do you also suggest we pack up in Antarctica too and send in the robots?

    I have refuted all of them
    Well, no, you haven’t. You’ve asked a lot of questions. How? Why? When? etc. But you could sum it up by saying we haven’t done it yet, we can’t do it in the near future so we shouldn’t even try and not on my (or anybody elses) nickel either.

    BTW, it only took one extinction event to wipe out the dinosaurs. The previous 160 million years were irrelevant.

  88. johnfruh

    @#75. Torbjörn

    “WTF is a “space cadet” view on manned missions? Is that to be moved by the awesomeness of them, like being moved by the awesomeness of the photos above?”

    I define the “space cadet” view as follows:
    A) all things are possible.
    B) We are limited only by our imaginations.
    C) What could go wrong?
    D) We have unlimited power and resources at our disposal.
    E) There are no costs to society
    F) All technology is great.
    G) If we can dream it, we can do it. So lets do it!

    In short, this is a Pollyanna outlook that is very immature and unrealistic. So I use the term as a pejorative.

    Re: Mendes extraterrestrial Quantitative Habitability Theory (QH Theory)

    Torbjörn, this is a good first step. You are the first person on this thread to show some evidence of any sort to address my question of “go where”. So thanks for that.

    But, and you just had to know that there was going to be a ‘but’, I think you overstate the case. here is why. The news report clearly says …
    “…”Various planetary models were used to calculate and compare the habitability of Mars, Venus, Europa, Titan, and Enceladus, …”
    Now, note, MODELS were used (i.e. no actual data). This makes it premature to suggest that these places are only just less habitable than the earth.
    And, the same paragraph which starts with the above quote ands like this:
    “Further studies will expand the habitability definition to include other environmental variables such as light, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nutrients concentrations.”
    Does this not suggest that the early results are only slightly better than guesswork?
    But, nevertheless, Bravo for bringing some science to bear, sketchy as it may be. Well Done!!!

    …John

  89. johnfruh

    @#77. Gary A
    “If John was really interested in this discussion, he could find all the answers to refute his arguments at the SSI site or by reading Gerard K. O’Neilles book The High Frontier. ”

    Do tell, Gary. What is this SSI site of which you speak. I admit ignorance of it. But will remedy that as best I can. A link to it would help. But, in any case, If the answers are there, and since you know about it, how come you haven’t quoted from it? You could had shut me up and put me in my place ages ago.
    Have I not been asking to be shown wrong? So, just do it. Show me the evidence and I will eat my portion of humble pie.

    “… it’s obvious he’s just stirring the poop pot”.
    Help me out gary, How am I stirring the pot?

    ” because in order to answer his questions, it would take several books(High Frontier is just a beginning).”
    Really! Several Books to answer my questions? I had no idea. Well, excuse me!
    Gary, I’m not asking for blue prints or technical drawings of your starship. I just want, what I consider simple answers to simple questions.

    A) Why use humans to explore rather than autonomies robots?
    B) What are the costs versus the benefits of manned space flight? Why should I invest.
    C) Where are all these vast resources that we could industrialize?
    D) Why should we give up on this world and fly off to ones we know virtually nothing about?
    E) How do you propose to do it? (What is your technology, your science, your physics, your financial backing.

    ” I’ve done that research over the last half century.”
    Great! So, please tell us! Start by answering my questions above. I’d love to know. Just think, you could shut me up and make me eat humble pie. And I would too. You would be my hero. You would have shown me to be wrong. To be a nay sayer. To be short sighted. I’d loe for you to get me unstuck from my present take on reality. So, by all means, show me the way.

    “… The problems of settling the High Frontier are readily solvable…”
    Good, now, please, please, just SHOW me and I’m yours forever.

    …John

    GAry 7

  90. johnfruh

    @#80. Gary

    “One thing that always bothers me about such posters is the claim that it only took 50 years to get to commercial flight. The truth is it took over 2000 years to get there, …”

    Gary, Gary, Gary, come on man! So, lets say it took 2000 years, from Icarus to the Wright Brothers. So what? I was talking about the progress from when heavier than air flying machines were REALIZED onward.

    “So, we’ve had chemical rockets for 75 years and we KNOW those are not going to do the job we want,”
    Huh, only 75 years? If I use your measures for flight, I could say that since the chinese invented gunpowder and made fireworks a 1000 years ago, then rocketry is just as old. And that our western use of gunpowder to propel cannon balls, bullets, etc., these were early forms of rocketry. Admittedly these used available oxygen from the atmosphere and so were not rockets in the modern sense of having a totally self contained fuel source. But lets not quibble, shall we? After all you included balloons and gliders as flying machines. So you see, two can play that game. But, time is short, so lets not.

    My point in bringing up the whole 50 year thing was to show how damned hard space travel is compared to air travel. I was trying to make the point that the difficulty is orders of magnitude greater and the our fellow posters should take that into consideration before going on about imminent human space colonies and space exploitation are. I believe that if you honestly compare the two, you will get my point.

    “… but we have numerous technologies in the developmental stage, from the rail accelerator being worked on by NASA to accelerate a craft to 600 mph before ignition of its rockets,…”
    Okay, let me for the moment grant that rail accelerators are in the works. You still need to show me that this is a step forward in terms of space exploitation, colonization, etc. and gets you to the era of the High frontier.
    “… to space elevators and potential thermonuclear fusion powered thrusters …”
    Hold on man! These are definitely NOT in the development stage. At the very best, they are in the proof of concept stage. AND, if you haven’t noticed, the last round of concept test for the elevators ended in dismal failure. So, please don’t overstate your position on this. The same holds true for your fusion thruster. Fusion thrusters? In development? Show me who, where, when and how, please.

    “… Once we have access to the most approriate energy source, things will literally “take off”. …”
    Ah, excuse me. The same was said about fusion reactors for generating electricity. 50 years ago, the nuclear industry said that it would take 50 years to develop a working fusion reactor. Well, guess what, the fifty years have come and gone and the industry is STILL saying that a fusion reactor is 50 years away. So, once again, please do not overstate your case. It’s silly.

    “Enclosed life support systems are a bit trickier but not insurmountable, just difficult and as we all know, the difficult we do immediately,”
    Again, Oh really? Then why don’t we already have enclosed life support? Why did biosphere 2 and the russian BIOS 3 fail? Go to Wikipedia and look them up. If we can do the difficult “immediately” (your words), Where is this self sustaining life support system?

    ” .. the impossible takes a little longer. ..”
    Hey, Gary, I agree with you on this point. Yesterday’s impossibility can turn in tomorrow’s inevitability. We have many examples and I’m sure you can think of a couple so I won’t bore you with examples. But, you know what? Those examples had the oh so critical “Show me” factor taken care of. They showed us all how to get from impossible to common place. I’m just asking you to show us all how you would achieve the “High Frontier”, for example. Until then, I will consider it impossible.

    …john

  91. johnfruh

    @#85. Quiet Desperation

    Man, you are a hoot!
    Bravo!
    So much better said than I ever could!!

    Up with you man! I solute you!!!

    However, you left out the minor detail of a financial plan. Or, do you also think that it would only cost a a pittance?

    …John

  92. johnfruh

    @#90. T_U_T

    ” …What is your motivation to keep humans off space….”

    Simply this T_U_T, Cost/benefit. There was a time when it made sense (e.g. the Apollo program) to put humans into the loop. A time when there were no micro processors. When there was nothing in the way of robotics to speak of. That time is past. There is no longer a need for the “human software” in the machine. We can use our considerable smarts to make our rockets, spacecraft, robots extensions of our precious and and oh so vulnerable arms, legs and, yes,, even minds.
    We humans, are the consummate tool makers. No other species even comes close. So, I am simply saying that the era of human space flight is obsolete. My viewpoint is strictly utilitarian. I’m done with the “Ooooh, Aaaah, it’s so sexy” phase. It was great, but it’s time to move on and do some real science. It has been held back by manned missions for too long and too many times.

    Please don’t tar me with laziness and incuriosity. My curiosity is inexhaustible. My wallet is open for robotic science missions. I want knowledge, I want it now and I’m willing to pay for it.

    But I’m not willing to pay for the very inefficient and science deficient manned missions.

    “… what about a little more than 20 years to alpha centauri ? ..” (This is a link to a Wikipedia page on Relativistic Rocketry).
    T_U_T, your kidding me right? You’re having me on, right. You must be joking! Relativistic rocketry? In our not too distant future? What have you been smoking?

    Oh, and lest you think that you slipped one by me, I do notice that you are talking about a star system WITHOUT earthlike exoplanets! How about telling us the relativistic travel time to a habitable star system?
    But then, what’s a little slight of hand and miss direction between friends, eh?

    Okay, Okay, lets say relativistic rockets, for a space colony no less.
    Now, one more time around this bush.
    How are you going to manage that?, etc., etc. etc. You know the rest of the questions, right?

    …John

  93. amphiox

    Johnfruh:

    “What if one of the catastrophes you enumerated were to happen on your colony? What then?”

    If it happens to the colony, then earth can repopulate the colony. If it happens to earth, the colony can repopulate earth. If it happens to both at the same time, then we’re screwed, unless we have a third colony. The more colonies, the better our chances that something terrible will not happen to ALL of them ALL at once.

    And the more colonies we have, the more they can help each other in times of need. If one colony goes into an economic crash, it can ask for aid from another one. That is how the boom/bust cycles can be lessened (though probably never removed).

    Regarding your comment #52 in general:

    The average lifespan of civilizations on earth historically has been around 500 years. That is not to say that they all die off completely of course. Many recover and rebuild, but the new civilization is not the same as the old one. There is always crash, and occasionally there is no significant recovery (think Easter Island, the Mayans, Norse Greenland). But we shouldn’t expect our current civilization to be somehow special. So that is where I put my range. 500 years for the average duration. 50 as the worst case scenario: if we are so stupid or reckless or just plain unlucky that one of the incipient problems we can already recognize right now grows to do us in, it will do so within the next 100 years (otherwise we’ll have solved the problem, and we won’t be destroyed – by that threat).

    Regarding #53:

    Go review the history of the Ming Dynasty. The termination of their exploration program coincides with the beginning of their terminal decline. Of course it wasn’t the only reason, it may not even have been directly a reason. But when the economic screws began to tighten on them, they chose to cut that program, and the ultimate consequence of that decision is that it left China helpless to resist exploitation by the Europeans who arrived on their shores a couple centuries later. In abandoning a field in which they once lead the world, they allowed a competitor to overtake them, and take advantage of them.

    And why can’t we colonize the ocean floor and the south pole at the same time as we try to colonize space? Many of the technologies required are going to overlap. You’re going to need hermetically sealed habitats in all three situations, for example. The ocean floor in particular is probably more challenging than earth orbit, or the surface of Mars. Even for simple robotic exploration, we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about large stretches of the ocean floor. It has been easier to explore Mars than it has been to explore the ocean depths, so far.

    My comment #50 about orbital colonies was not directed to you, but to others on this thread who might appreciate thinking about some pure speculation on possibilities.

    You keep talking about “impossible”. You keep demanding “plans”. Yet you refuse to countenance even attempting to develop such plans and capabilities. You don’t want to spend even a penny on thinking about the possibilities. That is not a fair argument. Absolutely none of your arguments of that nature are. Of course it will remain impossible if we refuse to even try to figure it out.

    Frankly, the total amount of money we are spending on space exploration is minuscule. The cost of individual manned missions is huge (and in many instances wasteful-I agree with you there), but manned missions are so few right now that it is still just a drop in the economic bucket. If we double it or triple it, it will still be a drop in the bucket.

    It is an investment. The earth is not made of special stuff. Everything on this planet that is valuable to us is present out there, trillions and trillions of times more plentiful than it is here. It may be that they are forever beyond our reach, but if we don’t even try to reach for them, how will we know? If we succeed we get the whole universe. If we try and ultimately fail, we lose nothing.

    And if it turns out that space colonization is technically and economically feasible, it will NEVER cost more than a minuscule amount of our total economic output, because we will find the economic resources out there that will make it self-sustaining, after which the process will proceed automatically, without need for any further government direction (beyond regulating the frontier).

    And if it turns out that there are no economic resources out there, we STILL lose almost nothing by searching. The amount we are spending as a proportion of our total economic output is so tiny that trying and failing will be almost no different than not trying at all. It is not “your” nickel that is going to be spent. At the very most it is a sliver off the rim of your penny.

    And yet you don’t want to try. Not even to think about trying.

    From where I sit, that just isn’t rational.

  94. johnfruh

    @#92. shane

    “… So the implication is that it doesn’t matter if it is not your nickle either? … ”
    No, Shane, I’ve often said not on my nickel and by that I mean the public purse. If private enterprise want it, so be it! If they can make a profit, I’m all for it. But no government subsidies.

    “… You seem to have a philosophical problem with manned space travel then? …”
    No, Shane, not philosophical, as such. My problem is strictly utilitarian as I’ve explained in my posts above. Manned space flight is the least efficient way to do science and exploration in space.

    “… Do you also suggest we pack up in Antarctica too and send in the robots? …”
    No. The costs associated with manned exploration in Antarctica are well within reason. Now, those missions are still supplied from the outside world, but at least they have local air to breath, water to drink and 1 G to work in. It is not nearly as hostile as space. Hell, I would even support Ocean floor outposts.
    But notice, Shane, Ocean floor outposts are way harder than Antarctica. So you know what, we are sending ROVs down there to do the looking around, sample gathering and dirty work for us.
    Catch the drift?
    We get real, valuable science from the folks in Antactica. That’s worth my money.

    “… I have refuted all of them…” , “… Well, no, you haven’t. …”
    I refuted all contentions that Manned space exploration was necessary, that robotics could not do it. That robotics missions were too inflexible. I refuted the claims that Colonization and Exploitation were Just a few dozens or hundreds of years away. Not because they are not possible, but because the people making the claims could not support them with plausible approaches to achieving them.

    “.. You’ve asked a lot of questions. How? Why? When? etc….”
    Right you are. And I’m still awaiting adequate answers. AND, no, Relativistic, rocketry does not count.

    “… But you could sum it up by saying we haven’t done it yet, we can’t do it in the near future so we shouldn’t even try and not on my (or anybody elses) nickel either….”
    Wrong, Shane! It’s simple. Just show me a plausible way to accomplish it. Give me a pressing reason to do it (mass extinction doesn’t count). Give me a plausible destination. That’s all I’m asking.
    “… not on my (or anybody elses) nickel either…”. The “not on my nickel” part is correct and by that I mean the public purse. If you want to do it on your own money or donations, etc. then be my guest. I wish you luck. Just think of the pleasure it would give you to show me up as a Chicken Little. And, would soooo, eat humble pie.
    So, come on boys, hit me with your best shot. Fire away.

    “… BTW, it only took one extinction event to wipe out the dinosaurs. The previous 160 million years were irrelevant. …”
    Oh, really? That is actually a subject of some debat. But lets not quibble.

    Must I quote Shakespeare to you? Okay, lets see…. “All that’s past, is prologue!” You like that? Kinda neat, eh?

    So, to continue…
    How is it that we have birds around? They evolved from dinosaurs.
    How is it that the tiny mammals back then evolved into the many and varied mammalian species that we see around us now, including us? Oh, yeah, the dinosaurs went extinct and left this neat little niche available for the mammals.

    Irrelevant, you say? I think not!

    …John

  95. Minor quibble about 160 millions being irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how well evolved they were or how they filled their niche or how long they were around or what came after for that matter. Dinosaurs were done in in a very short period and as far as they are concerned they are done, gone, kaput, finished, no longer around. They are dead. A rock from space or volcanoes or something finished them off and that is why the previous 160 millions are irrelevant. Does that clarify what I meant?

  96. T_U_T

    Simply this T_U_T, Cost/benefit.

    If you consider spreading through the galaxy not worth the money, then you are essentially saying that we are worthless.

    T_U_T, your kidding me right? You’re having me on, right. You must be joking! Relativistic rocketry? In our not too distant future? What have you been smoking?

    this one we could build right now, so, assuming you are not just trolling us, what reason do you have to reject it ?

  97. @T_U_T

    Channeling johnfruh…
    So you have a rocket?
    Where are you going?
    What are you going to do when you get there?
    How will you survive the trip?
    What about the radiation on our poor weak bodies?
    Who’s paying for it?

    Bob Zubrin is a clever man. I hadn’t heard of that rocket before. Any idea of how much water is required?
    Edit: found it… 2700 tonnes for an Alpha Centauri jaunt.

  98. johnfruh

    @#98. amphiox

    A valiant post. Bravo.

    Re: your colonies, everywhere.
    Man, you think big. Good for you. I have nothing against that.

    Maybe, I’m too narrow minded, or short sighted or just stupid. But, I have yet to get any simple answers as to how you are going to create, provision, transport and sustain these colonies.

    Just one, show me how you propose to have just one live long and prosper. Then we can talk about hundreds or even thousands of them.

    “… Regarding your comment #52 in general:
    The average lifespan of civilizations on earth historically has been around 500 years.
    Regarding #53:
    “… Go review the history of the Ming Dynasty….”
    No, Amphiox, it is you who should review the Ming Dynasty’s History. A simple query on Wigipedia resulted in this page:

    … en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ming_dynasty …

    It totally refutes your claims with regards to its downfall.

    ” …And why can’t we colonize the ocean floor and the south pole at the same time as we try to colonize space?…”
    We certainly can and should and, I claim, before we attempt space. They, at least, have known reserves of resources and could be used as safe havens should the worst come to the worst. Just think of the giant bunkers we could build to house entire cities of 100k+ inhabitants. These environments are hostile enough let alone space. They just are not as sexy as space is right now. Ah, the lure of the final frontier. So grand, so infinite. So full of billions of this and billions of that. But darn those pesky interstellar distances anyway. Where is my warp drive? Oh, yeah, I forgot, it doesn’t exist and what’s worse, it can’t exist! Curse you Einstein and your GR as well! Sigh.

    ” …The ocean floor in particular is probably more challenging than earth orbit, or the surface of Mars….”
    Nope, wrong again. Look up “underwater habitat” on Wikipedia. Here is the link for you:

    …en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undersea_habitat …

    ” … Even for simple robotic exploration, we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about large stretches of the ocean floor. …”
    Correct you are Amphiox. And such a shame too. But you do realize that you just scored a point for me, right? “simple robotic exploration …”?, “know more about the surface of Mars than the ocean floor…”. Sound familiar? They should, I’m quoting you.

    ” … You keep talking about “impossible”. You keep demanding “plans”. Yet you refuse to countenance even attempting to develop such plans and capabilities. …”
    What? How can I demand plans in the first sentence AND refuse to countenance developing such plans in the second? What are you talking about?
    I ask for plans. I ask for Plausible methodologies and technologies to accomplish those “Plans”, although they are nothing but wishful thinking or dare I say pipe dreams.
    JUST SHOW ME THE PLANS and I’ll shut up.

    “… You don’t want to spend even a penny on thinking about the possibilities. …”
    No, no, no you don’t. No sneaking around trying to move the goal posts. I’ve spent a bunch of pennies thinking about the possibilities. I’ve listened to all manner of experts and dreamers on the possibilities. Hell, I’ve even listened to the “planetary Society”.
    I have thought about them, weighed them in the balance and have found them wanting. That is why I take my stand on this issue.
    Now, If you, or anyone else, can answer my questions in a straightforward and honest manner, I will listen. If you can show me that I am wrong, I will eat a bunch of humble pie and you can laugh at me, ridicule me and dismiss me as just a crank. If you can do that, Then you will have done me a great service because you will have succeeded in disavowing me of a false judgement that I have been inflicting on the patient readers of this thread.

    So, by all means, go to it.

    “…Frankly, the total amount of money we are spending on space exploration is minuscule. …”,
    Excuse me? Minuscule? “You know, a billion here and a billion there and before you know it we are talking about real money”, to quote one of our congressmen.

    “….The cost of individual manned missions is huge (and in many instances wasteful-I agree with you there), …”
    Than you for that. One of my points exactly!

    “… but manned missions are so few right now that it is still just a drop in the economic bucket…”
    And why is that, do you suppose? Could it have anything to do with NASA no longer having the right stuff? Or the lack of interest by the general public and by extension the congress?. Could it have something to do with the lack of ROI (return on investment)?

    “…If we double it or triple it, it will still be a drop in the bucket….”
    Careful now. last time I looked each shuttle launch cost $20 Billion. Go ahead, double, triple the launches. Oh, what the heck build a whole new shuttle fleet and launch one every month. How do you think that would go down? Because now, you’re talking about real money being spent on, in many instances, wasteful missions. Just think how much science we could buy for that. Just think how many science missions have already been cancelled because this minuscule amount of money has been wasted on manned missions. I don’t know about you, but it makes me sick.

    “… It is an investment…” No it isn’t, Its throwing good money after bad. You’ve just said so yourself.

    “..The earth is not made of special stuff….” It sure is! It’s made of star stuff. It took 4.5 billion years to get it to this state.

    “… Everything on this planet that is valuable to us is present out there, trillions and trillions of times more plentiful than it is here….” You don’t know that! You are just arm waving at this point.

    “…It may be that they are forever beyond our reach,…” I think you’re right.

    “… but if we don’t even try to reach for them, how will we know?…” Who said, we shouldn’t reach for them? I sure didn’t. I just don’t want it to be ‘your’ arm doing the reaching. I want my robot arm to do the reaching for us while we stay comfy and cozy in our command centers right here on good old mother earth (even though she can be a bitch sometimes).

    “…If we succeed we get the whole universe….” Not bloody likely. Haven’t you read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe? Amongst other things, it says that the Universe is big, mind bogglingly big, etc. So, there is no way we can ever get the whole thing.

    “… If we try and ultimately fail, we lose nothing….” What? No cost? What about the cost of the lost opportunity of doing something more effective, more efficient, etc.?

    “… And if it turns out that space colonization is technically and economically feasible, it will NEVER cost more than a minuscule amount of our total economic output, because we will find the economic resources out there that will make it self-sustaining, after which the process will proceed automatically, without need for any further government direction (beyond regulating the frontier)….”
    You’re making this up. You’re waving your arms again. There is no way that you can know this.

    “… If it turns out … blah, blah, blah…” What? What do you mean IF? I thought you were sure that these colonies were feasible? Are you contradicting yourself?
    But, never mind. Lets just say that you may be right. All I’m asking is that you show me how it could turn out that way. That’s all. Just show me a plausible way forward.

    “…And if it turns out that there are no economic resources out there …”
    What? I thought you said there were trillions and trillions more out there than here on earth? Do you doubt your own words?

    “… It is not “your” nickel that is going to be spent. At the very most it is a sliver off the rim of your penny….” Lets say you’re right. Even so, I have still no compelling evidence that it is even plausible.

    “… And yet you don’t want to try. Not even to think about trying….” I have too thought about it and that’s why I don’t want to try. I look at it and see a fantasy. And I refuse to invest in a fantasy. That’s all. Prove me wrong and I might reconsider.

    “…From where I sit, that just isn’t rational….”

    From where I sit, it is totally rational, totally logical and totally reasonable. I for one realize that our resources are limited. This includes time, money, people, raw materials, planning, management, infrastructure, backup systems. Quadruple redundancy, fail safe mechanisms, energy, communications, logistics, and so on and so on.

    You on the other hand, don’t even think that the sky is the limit. It seems to me that, as far as you are concerned, there are no limits. Now THAT is not rational.

    …John

  99. johnfruh

    @#101. T_U_T S

    Simply this T_U_T, Cost/benefit.

    “… If you consider spreading through the galaxy not worth the money, then you are essentially saying that we are worthless….”
    Nope, not at all. Our worth has nothing what so ever to do with spreading ourselves across the galaxy. We define our own worth. It’s subjective.

    “… this one we could build right now, so, assuming you are not just trolling us, what reason do you have to reject it ?…” for those of you who did not click through T_U_T’s link, it deals with Robert Subrin’s Nuclear salt-water Rocket (NSWR). Subrin is the Planetary Society guy.

    T_U_T, Subrin wrote the proposal for such a rocket motor way back in 1991. It does sound feasible upon first inspection. So, score a point for you there. For those of you interested, read the companion article written in 1992 which does a good job of outlining the principles involved.’
    It can be found here … http://www.npl.washington.edu/AV/altvw56.html
    What’s missing is any rebuttal and so I can’t show you what may be it’s fatal flaw.
    However, it is now, some 18 years later and we have heard nothing further concerning this proposal. That says something to me. If it is such a good idea, then why is it not in use today?

    T_U_T, any suggestions, insights?

    …John
    So, I guess, you are stepping away from Relativistic rocketry, right?

  100. johnfruh

    @# 102. shane

    Very funny. You made me laugh. Score a point!

    So, how about some answers?

    I still waiting.

    …John

  101. T_U_T

    you are not waiting for answers johnny, you are just waiting for more stuff to dismiss without any good reason, just for the heck of it.

  102. Quiet Desperation

    I solute you!!!

    Solute me? That could precipitate something!

    Bah ha ha! Get it? Ha ha… er… yeah. *cough*

    However, you left out the minor detail of a financial plan. Or, do you also think that it would only cost a a pittance?

    Cripes, I was just talking in general terms, not advocating a particular business model. Lighten up a bit there, sport.

    And if you must have something, one idea I had was to build orbital colonies on the backs of solar power satellites. There’s lots of products a space colony could sell to the flatlanders. Colonies have been supported by trade since the dawn of civilization.

  103. johnfruh

    @#106. T_U_T

    “…you are not waiting for answers johnny, you are just waiting for more stuff to dismiss without any good reason, just for the heck of it….”

    So, T_U_T, yet another dodge? Did I dismiss your suggestion of Subrin’s Nuclear rocket? No, I did not.

    And, no, I’m not spending all this time debating, although I use that term loosely, with you just for the heck of it.
    I want you to “THINK” things through. Don’t just dream it. THINK!

    Here’s a hint at the process:
    1) come up with an idea, suggestion or proposal.
    2) Figure out how you would implement it.
    3) Ask yourself this question… Then what?
    4) Examine the alternatives.
    5) Pick the best one.
    6) Pretend that you can Implement it, just for the sake of the argument.
    7) Ask yourself this question again… Then what?

    Repeat this process until you are satisfied that it leads to a desired and realistic outcome. If it does, then great. Go for it.
    If it does not, then drop it and start at #1 above again.

    …john

  104. johnfruh

    @#108. Quiet Desperation

    “…Cripes, I was just talking in general terms, not advocating a particular business model. …”
    But at least you had a reasoned step by step approach! So, score a point.
    You thought it through. Score a point.

    “… There’s lots of products a space colony could sell to the flatlanders….”
    Please name these products of which you speak. Back up your assertions with specifics. “lots of products” doesn’t wash with me. And, while you are at it, please explain why colonists need to “sell” (I think you realy mean produce, but I’ll let that slide) these products rather than robots.

    But “flatlanders”? Really? And all along I thought the world was round. Learn something every day. Thanks for that. Loose a point.

    “… Colonies have been supported by trade since the dawn of civilization….”
    Correct. Score a point. Now, do the heavy lifting and show me how that translates in the space environment.

    …John

  105. johnfruh

    @#100. shane S

    “… It doesn’t matter how well evolved they were or how they filled their niche or how long they were around or what came after for that matter….”
    Ah, you might want to ask some paleontology guys about that. It all matters.

    “… Dinosaurs were done in a very short period and as far as they are concerned they are done, gone, kaput, finished, no longer around. They are dead. …”
    They may be dead, but they are most certainly not done! They left descendants that are flying around your neighborhood right now.

    “… Does that clarify what I meant?…”
    Not in the least. All of your ancestors are dead. Does it matter at all to you that they existed? I hope so, otherwise you would not be contributing to this thread.

    …John

  106. T_U_T

    Did I dismiss your suggestion of Subrin’s Nuclear rocket? No, I did not.

    You simply declared that because nobody realized the idea, it has to be fatally flawed and unworkable.
    That counts as ‘dismised’ on my book

  107. Gary Ansorge

    Jhonny boy:

    Below is a link to the Space Studies Institute. You might check it out.

    http://spacestudiesinstitute.wordpress.com/

    As far as a MORE practical launch vehicle which could be built right now(ISP of 3000 vs 450 for the shuttle launch vehicle):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_lightbulb

    I’ve already mentioned NASA research in protective shielding against charged particle radiation:

    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/travelinginspace/radiation_shielding.html

    ,,,and of course, some research on magnetic/electrostatic shielding

    http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/rad_shield_040527.html

    The one thing that everybody such as you seem to forget is that planet earth has a multitude of ways to kill us, from object impacts, to volcanos, hurricanes, tornados, flood, earthquakes, freezing cold or high temps(both of these later can be protected against, if you can afford heating/air conditioning).

    In space you have basically three things that can kill you and all can be protected against:
    1)radiation(see links)
    2) Hard vacuum(Duh? Walls.)
    3) meteors(move your H.O.M.E. or vaporize them with lasers)

    ,,,and that’s about it.

    As far as a business plan is concerned, most assume initial funding from government to establish basic infrastructure, such as when the US government provided contracts to the early airlines for air postal service, such that the airlines would have at least break even, so they could continue their DEVELOPMENT to profitability.

    That’s as far as I can take you. The rest of this journey is yours alone. Read them, think about them and if you need clarification, think some more. Try using your intellectual prowess to SOLVE these problems rather than merely going on about how blooming HARD it is.

    Gary 7

  108. Quiet Desperation

    You thought it through. Score a point.

    Gee, thanks! (eye roll)

    Please name these products of which you speak. Back up your assertions with specifics. “lots of products” doesn’t wash with me.

    The early stuff will take advantage what the free fall environment offers that you can’t get on Earth. Ultraclean vacuums and microgravity could be a boon to many types of basic manufacturing such as the production of semiconductor wafers and industrial crystals. Extremes of hot and cold are available for substantially lower cost.

    A lot of materials science has been done on the Shuttle. After raw power production (which the colony itself needs anyway), producing basic materials superior to terrestrial versions would be the majority of early orbital industries. It’s not the sexy stuff like iPhones and Audi TTs. It’s the crucial industries that allow the sexy to exist.

    Tourism, of course. That attraction will be around for quite a while.

    You Google this stuff if you’re really interested.

    And, while you are at it, please explain why colonists need to “sell” (I think you realy mean produce, but I’ll let that slide) these products rather than robots.

    You questioned the cost of manned colonies. I posited a means for them to be self supporting.

    But “flatlanders”? Really? And all along I thought the world was round. Learn something every day. Thanks for that. Loose a point.

    (facepalm) Flatlander is a pejorative term in science fiction used by people in space for people who live on planets, especially in Larry Niven’s work. It’s a joke.

    Correct. Score a point. Now, do the heavy lifting and show me how that translates in the space environment.

    That’s that whole selling thing I mentioned. Obviously we’ve moved beyond barter systems. Space colonies could sell their products to purchase necessities from Earth. Eventually they expand can to the point where alternate source could be exploited. Orbital farms for food would probably be early on the agenda.

    I don’t claim it’s easy. All I’m saying is that it’s possible, and that the costs involved can be dealt with by cleverness, ingenuity and *focused* patience. Patience does *not* include another “rah rah” effort to get a man on _fill_in_celestial_body_here_ followed by another big bust/backlash.

    The big hurdle right now is launch costs, so that’s what needs to be the current focus. Everything else is secondary to the price of putting a kilogram into orbit. That’s layer 1 of the onion. Layer 0 to you coders out there.

    Propulsion once you are in space is the next important item, IMHO. NASA just made a big announcemnt about the VASIMR ion drive, so there’s some activity there. It’s being done in cooperation with Ad Astra Company. It will be tested on the ISS.

  109. Gary Ansorge

    114. Q.D.

    That Vasimir thruster is rated at 200,000 watts, which has the potential to replace the onboard chemical thrusters the ISS uses for station keeping. Since it’s solar powered, the advantage comes from having a very high ISP, so very low replacement for the reaction mass. I expect it will eventually evolve to many mega watts, sufficient for system wide use (at least anywhere we have adequate solar intensity).

    Go NASA!!!

    GAry 7

  110. mike burkhart

    My reply quoteing H.G.Wells is how I feel about space exploration it must go on maned or unmaned I know it won’t be easy and it will take a long time for us to understand our universe but it must be done and it will continue so long as people like Phill and myslef and many who leave replys on this blog want to explore the universe and unlock it mysteries we’ve come a long way so far but there is more work to be done we’ve only scratched the surface

  111. Chet Twarog

    johnfruh and other commentators: What a fascinating blog “Space Cadets”!
    I still look forward to seeing the International Space Station and/or resupply ships or the soon to be mothballed space shuttles (and the launches, too) pass by! Get thee to http://www.heavens-above.com/
    One quite valid question: when will, if ever, the ISS crew be self-sustaining to demonstrate deep space voyages, colonizing Luna, asteroids/comets, other planets or moons?
    I wrote Homo sapiens flexibility/adaptability vs other species that went extinct, you mentioned dinosars (recommended qrtly mag: Prehistoric Times (www.prehistorictimes.com)) existed for @160 my before mass extinction (avian dinosaurs stil exist). OK but thousands of different species of dinosaurs evolved/extinct, too. Its not like T-Rex existed as a species for 160 my.
    I guess that if Earth got whacked by a few 16km sized asteroids with one or two mass magama eruptions within a couple my, another 70-90% of species would go extinct including us. We can’t do much about super volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, BUT we could develop a means of diverting those asteroids/comets from impacting.
    So we’d need Earth- and Lunar-based observatories and spacecraft to discover/monitor all potential approaches of hazardous comets/asteroids with spacecraft “parked”, perhaps the Lagrange pts, to deflect them–land on them and use ion egines/solar sails/… Dinos couldn’t.
    However, why not “capture” them to smelt/melt with solar furnances for resources? We’d need space factories–robotic or manned?

  112. Chet Twarog

    Another recommended SF novel: David Brin/Gregory Benford’s “Heart of the Comet”. A scientific team lands on and colonizes the interior of Comet Halley in 2061 on its outward orbit till it returns.

  113. Pinkie

    I don’t see any background stars. Clearly this was faked, as I’m sure all our supposed missions to Mars were.

    Just kidding. 😉

  114. Rebecca

    Gosh, it took me quite a while but I’ve read all of everyone’s posts on this and I have really enjoyed it. Since his views seem to be underrepresented in the comments, I’ll chime in and say I agree with johnfruh (much to the disappointment of my aerospace engineer and lifetime astronaut want-to-be husband). This is one of those philosophical discussions we had before we were married where we just agreed to disagree but respect the other’s opinion.

    I really liked this statement from johnfruh (#53):
    “If we can’t create a self sustaining Biosphere here, on earth, what makes you think that we can do it in space?”

    I wonder what makes individuals stick to either side of this coin. I think my idealism fuels my decision to want to fix all the problems of earth with our efforts and resources. But I think it’s my husband’s idealism that makes him want to use those same efforts and resources to explore the universe fro new frontiers.

    Keep the discussion going, but be friendly, guys.

  115. Rebecca

    Oh I wanted to add something hubbie and I discovered during our discussion of this, which probably contributes to our opposing views. He places a large value on human life specifically and the continuation of the species, wheras I value all life equally in the long run and wouldn’t feel terrible if the humans died out and left the earth to the next species to rise up.

  116. DaveS

    Anyone who is so arrogant as to say “teach me” without deigning to educate himself, and who considers himself the “point keeper” while failing with great verbosity to hold up an argument, yet so ignorant as to type “Loose a point” is not worth reading, in my opinion.

  117. T_U_T

    Rebecca, if you find yourself agreeing with a mindless troll, you should always reconsider what you are agreeing with. Because you are most likely wrong.

    continuation of the species, wheras I value all life equally in the long run and wouldn’t feel terrible if the humans died out and left the earth to the next species to rise up.

    Our earth is already a middle-aged planet. It has oxygen atmosphere for only half a billion years, and in another half a billion years the sun will become so hot that all macroscopic life will die out.
    After an mass extinction it takes ~ 30 millions years for the biosphere to recover. Also, anything that would take us down, would also kill all fellow primates, throwing back the development of intelligence back by roughly the same amount of time. Also, we mined almost all easily accessible mineral resources, and that will take more than 100 million years to restore. Some, like uranium will not be restored at all. So, at best, our biosphere has only 15 shots at best and this single one at worst to procreate and spawn daughter biospheres on other worlds.
    This is, why I don’t want our try to be wasted even if our species were not more valuable than any other.

    And, also, I don’t think that space program is at expense of helping people here on earth. On the contrary, it actually aids us helping other people, like anything that turns us away from mindless greed and consumption does.

  118. @Rebecca
    wheras I value all life equally in the long run and wouldn’t feel terrible if the humans died out and left the earth to the next species to rise up.

    So far we know of one species in the entire universe that has “risen up”. The chance of it happening again on the same planet has to be pretty slim. As T_U_T said, the planet may not have enough time to do it twice. Maybe we can help the next lot along though?

  119. johnfruh

    @#112. T_U_T S

    Re: Zubin’s nuclear rocket motor.

    “…You simply declared that because nobody realized the idea, it has to be fatally flawed and unworkable.
    That counts as ‘dismised’ on my book…”

    Now, come on T_U_T. I never said any such thing. What I said is that
    “… What’s missing is any rebuttal and so I can’t show you what may be it’s fatal flaw….”
    Note that the operative word is “may”.

    You also seemed to miss my earlier sentence in that post that said …” It does sound feasible upon first inspection. ” …

    If it were a great idea, one that we could implement today, then why haven’t we? I presume that Zubrin tried to sell this idea to NASA and that NASA considered and rejected the idea.

    My point is that you are/were proposing a rocket motor that, for whatever reason, never saw the light of day. And, as far as I know, never even made it past the proposal stage. Accordingly, your suggestion that it is a solution falls rather short.

    …John

  120. Rebecca

    @T_U_T (#123):

    “Rebecca, if you find yourself agreeing with a mindless troll, you should always reconsider what you are agreeing with. Because you are most likely wrong.”

    I don’t think he is/was being a troll at all. Just because someone has a different opinion from your own does not make them a troll. I find his comments/arguments to be well thought out and far less emotional than yours. Although I value your opinion as well and am glad to have read it here.

    @shane (#124):
    “So far we know of one species in the entire universe that has ‘risen up’.”

    That is a very anthropocentric view. I’d say in some respects thats ants or bacterium are kicking our asses quite nicely. Obviously not in others.

    @ all – Thanks for keeping the conversation civil.

  121. johnfruh

    @#113. Gary and #114. Quiet Desperation

    Okay boys, great, finally something to consider. Took a long time to get it out of you, but, whatever.

    I will read through your posts and the links carefully and get back to you.

    @#117. Chet, Thanks for chiming in. Yes, it is fun watching them pass overhead. No question about it. But that is incidental to our discussion.

    @#120. Rebecca. Thanks for the support.

    @#122. DaveS

    “Anyone who is so arrogant as to say “teach me” without deigning to educate himself, and who considers himself the “point keeper” while failing with great verbosity to hold up an argument, yet so ignorant as to type “Loose a point” is not worth reading, in my opinion.”

    DaveS, Sorry if I come across as arrogant. But I can’t understand why saying “teach me” would make you think that. How do you know that I have not educated myself? You don’t know my level of education on these matters.

    But, my level of education, or that of the other posters is not at issue. What is at issue is my rejection of any further manned missions in favor of robotic missions. We come her with whatever background we have accumulated and engage in a lively debate in hopes that this issue gets a thorough hearing.

    Please show me how I fail to hold up an argument. I am the one who has stated my position clearly and directly and have supported it with numerous examples. I have also shown my “opponents” what it would take to convince me that they are right and I am wrong. In contrast, not one of them has ever acknowledged that they might be wrong. So, who is it that ‘might’ be arrogant. It’s not me.

    Points won and lost. As one of my detractors said above “jeez, lighten up a little, man”, or something to that effect. Sorry, my bad, I didn’t tell you guys that I was having a little fun. So, in deference to you DaveS, no more points from me, okay? I will leave that to our readers. They should be the sole judges of who scores or looses points. Agreed?

    @#123. T_U_T

    So, you consider me a “mindless troll”. You know, once people start throwing ad hominems around it usually means that they have lost the argument and must resort to mud slinging. I recommend that you drop this tactic. It looks bad on you.

    Now then, for some minor quibbles regarding your time frames….

    “… in another half a billion years the sun will become so hot that all macroscopic life will die out….”
    Actually, according solar scientists, the sun has another 5.5 billion years of life left before it becomes a red giant and engulfs the earth in its atmosphere.

    “… After a mass extinction it takes ~ 30 millions years for the biosphere to recover. …”
    This seems excessive. Do you mean to tell us that it took 30 million years for the earth to recover after the asteroid or whatever caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? I don’t think so. All of the stuff that I’ve seen on the event suggest that life was continuous above and below the iridium layer that marks the boundary.

    “… Also, we mined almost all easily accessible mineral resources, and that will take more than 100 million years to restore. …”
    Huh, How does the planet restore mineral resources? As far as I know, ALL of the minerals in the earth were formed inside a star. Are you saying that the earth could make more iron, zinc, gold, silver, etc. on its own in 100 million years? Come on man, those atoms need to be made inside a fusion reactor (i.e. the sun). There is no way that the earth has that capability.

    In effect, you have given up on the earth. How sad is that. You are ready to write it of right now.

    If you want to convince people to join you on your space colony, you are going to have to show them that it will be better than leaving the earth. Just scaring them won’t be enough. If it were, we would be doing something about global heating already rather than just talking about it.

    @#124. shane

    “…So far we know of one species in the entire universe that has “risen up”. The chance of it happening again on the same planet has to be pretty slim. …” Correct. But, the chances of our “rising up” were just as slim. It will either happen or not. No big deal.

    “…As T_U_T said, the planet may not have enough time to do it twice. Maybe we can help the next lot along though?”

    But shane, don’t you get it? We can’t get out of it alive! We can’t live for ever! The universe is going to become desolate in time. It is, even now spreading out and cooling down. So, it is only a matter of time before ALL life, all stars, all galaxies, etc, etc, will die. What are you going to do then? Sorry, rhetorical question. The answer is self evident, there is nothing you can do about it.

    So, why quibble over a billion years here or a billion years there? Live now man! The future will turn out to be curious-or than you or I can imagine.

    …John

  122. Cheyenne

    I award johnfruh ten points. Not so much for style but for the substance of his points. Of course he’s completely correct.

    I admire the optimism of a lot of the people that are really gung-ho for manned missions and space colonies, etc. but it’s just a silly diversion right now. Those kinds of ideas waste our limited resources and actually hurt our ability to do real exploration and scientific discovery in this day and age.

    If you want a space colony out in some Lagrange point can you please do me the favor and wait for a couple hundred years? We have a massive amount of exploration and discovery ahead of us and I’m entirely sick of hearing about the next NASA mission that is going to be scrapped because some half wit (like Griffin and Co. in the old guard) thinks it’s more important to put a clown into the ISS than do missions like the Einstein series or finally get moving on sample return missions to Jupiter’s moons.

    Robotic missions work. In every way. They are inspiring and affordable and let us actually get to places like Mars and maybe, hopefully, find out if life exists elsewhere in this universe. Manned missions for the last 30 years sort of make me gag in their near complete pointlessness coupled with the fact that they have directly hindered our ability to learn more about this universe.

  123. T_U_T

    But shane, don’t you get it? We can’t get out of it alive! We can’t live for ever! The universe is going to become desolate in time. It is, even now spreading out and cooling down. So, it is only a matter of time before ALL life, all stars, all galaxies, etc, etc, will die. What are you going to do then? Sorry, rhetorical question. The answer is self evident, there is nothing you can do about it.

    As I said before. You have abandoned both earth and mankind, so you have no right to scorn me that I have abandoned the earth.

    Yet you did. Twice. Thus I have to conclude that you have no interest in sincere debate and just try to troll me.

    And here again.

    Now, come on T_U_T. I never said any such thing. What I said is that

    You say that you never did say that and then go on implying the same thing again

    My point is that you are/were proposing a rocket motor that, for whatever reason, never saw the light of day.

    I have to repeat myself, you have put your foot in you mouth so deeply, that you are farthing toes

    And, as far as I know, never even made it past the proposal stage.

    Yeah. I can imagine also that someone said the same words to Christopher Columbus about ocean voyages.

    As George Ansorge said above

    I expect there were several such as he giving equivalent bad advice to Queen Issabella 6 centuries ago. Fortunately, they were overruled or we would not likely be here today.

    As i said. No interest in a sincere debate.

    So, why quibble over a billion years here or a billion years there? Live now man! The future will turn out to be curious-or than you or I can imagine.

    The problem with this approach is, that the future of people who don’t think about it and plan ahead is usually short and full of suffering.
    And the future you are offering to makind is doing a little unmanned exploration as we exhaust our resources, then regressing back to stone age and forgetting everything after a few thousands of years, then subsistence farming for a few or few dozens of millions years, and extinction by a random cosmic catastrophe. Neither pleasant nor curious.

    @rebecca,

    if you consider that better arguments, then poor you.

  124. Chet Twarog

    johnfruh OK, Zubrin’s nuc rocket not demonstrated.
    Ad Astra Rocket Company (AARC) [http://www.adastrarocket.com] has engineered, built, and tested VASIMR: The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket.
    Applications: “The engine is expected to perform the following functions at a fraction of the cost of chemical technologies: 1) drag compensation for space stations, 2) lunar cargo transport, 3) in-space refueling, 4) in space resource recovery, 5) ultra high speed transportation for deep space missions.”
    AARC estimates a 39 day trip to Mars using VASMIR.
    So, if astronomers do discover an inhabitable exoplanet within 200 light years, should we go?

  125. Chet Twarog

    Cheyenne I’m very offended by your stating “thinks it’s more important to put a clown into the ISS than do missions like the Einstein series or finally get moving on sample return missions to Jupiter’s moons.”
    That “clown” is Canadian billionaire “space tourist” Guy Laliberte who paid the Soviets $35 million to gp to the ISS to promote his ONE DROP Foundation.
    That “cloewn” is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, poker player, space tourist and currently the CEO of Cirque du Soleil.
    As a philanthropist he launched the ONE DROP Foundation to fight poverty in the world by giving everyone access to water. Inspired by the creative experience of Cirque du Soleil and its international program for street kids, Cirque du Monde, the ONE DROP Foundation makes use of the circus arts, folklore, popular theatre, music, dance and the visual arts to promote education, community involvement and public awareness of water issues. Technical projects in developing countries will improve access to water, ensure food security and promote gender equality in communities.
    The operating costs of ONE DROP will be covered by a $100 million contribution from Guy Laliberté over 25 years.
    We need more “clowns”!!!

  126. T_U_T

    # Chet

    I am waiting for johny to promptly dismiss a hare brained fantasy like VASIMR. There has to be a reason why no one flew it to mars in 39 days after all. 😉

  127. Chet Twarog

    T_U_T AARC stated a spacecraft with the VASMIR could get to Mars in 39 days. Pls check their webpage.

  128. T_U_T

    Yes, I know, I am merely parodying johnytroll :)

  129. johnfruh

    @#130. Cheyenne

    Thanks for the support Cheyenne. Much appreciated. I’m in complete agreement with your point of view.

    @ DaveS

    Dave, since you are bothered by my verbosity, I will use “point form” in my responses to any of your posts. How’s that? Deal?

    @#113. Gary

    Thanks again for the link to the SSI. I did check it out at your suggestion.
    Sorry mate, but I was rather underwhelmed by it, to put it mildly. The site looks almost dead. The most recent entry …
    ” The World’s Energy Future [Still] Belongs in Space” is dated April 14, 2007!

    I’ve included the link here for those of you who think I am being overly harsh.
    http://spacestudiesinstitute.wordpress.com/

    “…As far as a MORE practical launch vehicle which could be built right now(ISP of 3000 vs 450 for the shuttle launch vehicle):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_lightbulb …”

    Once again, Gary, “could be built” is a stretch here. The very first sentence start out … “A nuclear lightbulb is a hypothetical type of spacecraft engine…”. AND, the editors of Wikipedia felt it necessary to warn us that …”This article needs additional citations for verification….”

    “… I’ve already mentioned NASA research in protective shielding against charged particle radiation:
    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/travelinginspace/radiation_shielding.html …”

    Okay Gary, finally some real evidence. However, again, note that the article was published back in 2004. Seems old to me. Why nothing more current. I would have thought that NASA would be publishing more current stuff if it were serious about extended manned missions beyond low earth orbit. But, be that as it may. The most disappointing part was that the article gave very little information about the results of shielding efforts. The core of the article is this sentence …”Polyethylene is a good shielding material because it has high hydrogen content, and hydrogen atoms are good at absorbing and dispersing radiation. …” That’s it! No numbers, no test results, just a bunch of fluff. Very disappointing but it is at least it’s something.

    ” … and of course, some research on magnetic/electrostatic shielding
    http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/rad_shield_040527.html …”

    Again, Gary, this article dates back to 2004 (’04 was evidently a hot year for shielding reports. Now, please read the following quote, taken from the article, … “”I think NASA should always be considering these far-out concepts,” said NASA’s Robert Youngquist, a physicist who leads the KSC-Applied Physics Lab at Kennedy Space Center in Florida….”.
    Did you catch it? In case you missed it, here it is again, separated out for emphasis …”these far-out concepts…”.
    I remember asking for realistic/plausible approaches and NOT far-out concepts.

    “… The one thing that everybody such as you seem to forget is that planet earth has a multitude of ways to kill us, from object impacts, to volcanos, hurricanes, tornados, flood, earthquakes, freezing cold or high temps…”
    You presume too much, Gary. How do you know that we “seem to forget”? I for one am very aware of the many ways that the earth can kill us.

    “…In space you have basically three things that can kill you and all can be protected against:
    1)radiation(see links)
    2) Hard vacuum(Duh? Walls.)
    3) meteors(move your H.O.M.E. or vaporize them with lasers)
    ,,,and that’s about it….” You may have left out a couple. Lets also throw in system failures, diseases, mutinies and good old human error.

    “… As far as a business plan is concerned, most assume initial funding from government to establish basic infrastructure, such as when the US government provided contracts to the early airlines for air postal service, such that the airlines would have at least break even, so they could continue their DEVELOPMENT to profitability….”

    Sorry Gar, but your analogy does not hold up and here is why. The “air mail” service provided immediate benefits to the government and society. You have not demonstrated similar benefits for colonies.

    “… That’s as far as I can take you. The rest of this journey is yours alone. …”
    Thanks for taking me this far. It’s a start. However, you know that the onus is on the person making a given claim to support it with evidence. costs, benefits, risks, approaches to solving problems. It is NOT the job of, “nay sayers” and “Trolls” like me.
    “… Try using your intellectual prowess to SOLVE these problems rather than merely going on about how blooming HARD it is….”
    Gary, it’s not so much about hard as getting the biggest bang for our “space” dollars. Remember what Jack Kennedy said when he initiated the space race? something along the lines of …”we do this and the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” And I was right there saying, yes!, yes! And signed on to “sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to the earth”. But that was then, before computers, AI and robots. We needed humans in the loop. They were vital. That is not the case today.

    One last thought. If NASA had confidence in its shielding technology, why would they commission and pay for and install “robonaut” ?
    You know the one, right? The one that eliminates the need for certain EVAs so as to minimize the risks of EVAs on ISS crews. Seems like NASA has more faith in robotics than you do.

    @#114. Quiet Desperation Says:

    “…The early stuff will take advantage of what the free fall environment offers that you can’t get on Earth….” Like what?

    “… Ultra clean vacuums and microgravity could be a boon to many types of basic manufacturing such as the production of semiconductor wafers and industrial crystals….” Okay, so I checked with the Intel web site to see of the worlds largest manufacturer of semiconductors was doing with microgravity inspired wafers. Guess what? The search of their archives for the word microgravity, and ultra clean vacuum, produced ZERO results. So, could you please point me at who on earth is using such wafers?

    “… A lot of materials science has been done on the Shuttle….” True, can you name any? What are the benefits to us?
    “… It’s the crucial industries that allow the sexy to exist….” Can you please name the “crucial” industries? And, “crucial” for what?

    “… Tourism, of course. That attraction will be around for quite a while….” Well, now you are on to something. Entertainment and recreation for billionaires. I’m all for that.

    “… NASA just made a big announcemnt about the VASIMR ion drive, so there’s some activity there. It’s being done in cooperation with Ad Astra Company. It will be tested on the ISS. …”
    Good work QD. Some actual work on non chemical rocketry. Very interesting.

    …John

  130. johnfruh

    @#131. T_U_T

    “… You have abandoned both earth and mankind, so you have no right to scorn me that I have abandoned the earth….” I have not, I do my bit to minimize my impact on the earth. I tread as lightly as I can. I’m all for restoring and improving our environment. I’m willing to pay a carbon tax, an energy tax AND to have my quality of life reduced, are you?
    It was you who said “…I want my descendants to get off this mossy pebble ASAP. …”, way back at post #8!

    “… I can imagine also that someone said the same words to Christopher Columbus about ocean voyages. …”
    Please bone up on your history because the facts are these:
    1) The Portuguese had control of the route around Africa to the East.
    2) They were getting rich on this trade.
    3) The Spain was a rival power to Portugal.
    4) Columbus sold his “mission” to Issabela because he thought he had a shortcut that would be more efficient. A shortcut to known riches, resources, etc.

    Accordingly your analogy to Columbus fails miserably.

    So, why quibble over a billion years here or a billion years there? Live now man! The future will turn out to be curious-or than you or I can imagine.

    “… The problem with this approach is, that the future of people who don’t think about it and plan ahead is usually short and full of suffering….” Nice sentiment. You use the term “plan”.

    I’ve been asking for a plan. I still have not seen one. You just blew me off. All I see from you are pipe dreams. And, if you spend your life dreaming rather than doing something real, it is you who’s future will be short and full of suffering.

    “… And the future you are offering to makind is doing a little unmanned exploration …”
    No, no,no! I want a LOT of unmanned exploration. I want the science, the information, the synthesizing of that information so that we can get insight into how our planet works.

    “… as we exhaust our resources, …” All the more reason to bend your considerable intellect to figuring out how we can use renewable resources. How we can reduce, reuse and recycle. Don’t underestimate your capacity to adapt. What can YOU do today to save a bit of energy, to make some process more efficient, less wasteful.

    @#132. Chet

    “… So, if astronomers do discover an inhabitable exoplanet within 200 light years, should we go? …”
    Short answer: No.
    Long answer: Why?, just because we have an “ultra high speed” rocket?
    Note, that AARC does not define this “ultra high speed”.
    Chet, if you want to go to an exoplanet no matter how near, you will want to have a transport mechanism that can attain significant relativistic speeds, such as 10% the speed of light. Even at that speed, It would take you millenia to get there (NOT a mere 200 years).

    Here’s my idea/suggestion for what it’s worth. We create ur own version of panspermia! We freeze a bunch of sperm and egg cells, Pack pack them into a smart rocket or rockets and fire them off in the direction of a number of likely earth like exoplanets. These “smart” rockets would have robotic systems on them that would take care of all the details of cryogenics and space navigation, etc.. They would also be able to “seed” the exoplanets with “us”, making sure to raise our offspring, bring them to maturity and teach them about their long dead sperm & egg donors (i.e. us).

    What do you think, guys?

    @#133. T_U_T Says:

    “…I am waiting for johny to promptly dismiss a hare brained fantasy like VASIMR. There has to be a reason why no one flew it to mars in 39 days after all. …”
    Sorry, T_U_T, you will be waiting a long time. VASIMR is a plausible technology. I have no problem with it.

  131. Quiet Desperation

    So, could you please point me at who on earth is using such wafers?

    Well, John, how can anyone be using such wafers if we haven’t built the orbital production facility yet? Honestly, that was a bit silly.

    I work at a company that makes chips among other things. The guys over there would *love* super pure micro-g wafers. The yields on some of the cutting edge semiconductors would increase by one or more orders of magnitude. For the really experimental stuff they have to fab multiple wafers just to get enough workable parts for the prototype system.

    True, can you name any? What are the benefits to us?

    Here’s a conference from 1998 on the topic:
    http://spacescience.spaceref.com/newhome/headlines/msad09jul98_1.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materials_science#Important_journals
    And so on…

    Materials science is the foundation of the high tech industry that allows you to post these endless questions. 😉

    Good work QD. Some actual work on non chemical rocketry. Very interesting.

    Do I get a cookie?

    I leave you with this: Google is your friend! Or Bing if you lean that way. Wikipedia is also good as the technical stuff is apolitical and not subject to edit wars.

    Search on laser launch systems- that’s another interesting possibility. There’s also space towers, although that’s looking a bit dubious.

    Here’s my idea/suggestion for what it’s worth. We create ur own version of panspermia! We freeze a bunch of sperm and egg cells, Pack pack them into a smart rocket or rockets and fire them off in the direction of a number of likely earth like exoplanets.

    “Voyage From Yesteryear” by James P. Hogan.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyage_from_Yesteryear

    Boy, I haven’t read any of Hogan’s work since the 1980s. I should catch up. He was a fun hard SF writer back then.

  132. johnfruh

    Hmmm, no new posts in almost 20 hours.
    Well, That’s a wrap then I guess.

    No one left standing but me, I guess.

    Nothing more left to say boys?

    Okay then.

    I’ll turn off the lights on my way out.

    Night, night, all.

  133. Quiet Desperation

    @John

    I posted one last response, but it looks like Discovery’s server cast it into the virtual void. That seems to happen once in a while here.

    It was getting weird anyway. I mean, you asked my why no one is using micro-g silicon wafers. Gee, might it have something to do the fact that no one has lofted a silicon wafer foundry into orbit yet? I mean… c’mon, John. Intel’s website if for selling current Intel products.

    The company I work for has a division that makes bleeding edge chips from some of the newer and more exotic semiconductors. Those guys would *love* to have super pure wafers. It would increase the chip yields from each wafer by an order of magnitude. One very expensive thing they need to do is put the wafer in multimillion dollar test fixture to test each die location, and then cut out the passable chips. With higher yields, they could just dice and package all the dies from the sweet spot of the wafers and deal with the much rarer bad ones in test.

    FWIW, a couple of the guys I know over there worked for Intel.

    If you Google “materials science shuttle” you’ll find the proceedings of conferences to discuss the results of the shuttle experiments.

    As for how crucial it is, the very foundation of the high tech world is materials science. Cruder forms of it previously drove the industrial revolution. Somewhere in the dim past, materials science was started when someone created the first ceramic. The modern version derives from early metallurgy.

    So, yeah, there’s some value there. Exploring what the space environment has to offer this science is solid, basic research. It’s not sexy, so it doesn’t get a lot of PR.

    If you like the panspermia idea, you might enjoy the novel “Voyage From Yesteryear” by James P. Hogan from 1980-something.

  134. Quiet_Desperation

    @John

    I posted one last response, but it looks like Discovery’s server cast it into the virtual void. That seems to happen once in a while here.

    It was getting weird anyway. I mean, you asked my why no one is using micro-g silicon wafers. Gee, might it have something to do the fact that no one has lofted a silicon wafer foundry into orbit yet? I mean… c’mon, John.

    The company I work for has a division that makes bleeding edge chips from some of the newer and more exotic semiconductors. Those guys would *love* to have super pure wafers. It would increase the chip yields from each wafer by an order of magnitude. One very expensive thing they need to do is put the wafer in multimillion dollar test fixture to test each die location, and then cut out the passable chips. With higher yields, they could just dice and package all the dies from the sweet spot of the wafers and deal with the much rarer bad ones in test.

    If you Google “materials science shuttle” you’ll find the proceedings of conferences to discuss the results of the shuttle experiments.

    As for how crucial it is, the very foundation of the high tech world is materials science. Cruder forms of it previously drove the industrial revolution. Somewhere in the dim past, materials science was started when someone created the first ceramic. The modern version derives from early metallurgy.

    So, yeah, there’s some value there. Exploring what the space environment has to offer this science is solid, basic research. It’s not sexy, so it doesn’t get a lot of PR.

    If you like the panspermia idea, you might enjoy the novel “Voyage From Yesteryear” by James P. Hogan from 1980-something.

  135. Chet Twarog

    johnfruh: seems like it. I guess we all covered our respective positions. Guess humanity is bound to our own solar system for now. We may eventually develop technologies to move further out. Its been a great blog.

  136. johnfruh

    @#143. Quiet_Desperation

    Thanks for your post QD.

    I would have thought that at least Intel would have had some articles on this stuff.
    I know that there is no orbiting wafer foundry. But I at least expected some discussion about it. Like, maybe they could produce just one, teeny, weeny wafer in an appropriately designed mini/micro foundry and that since Intel and others sooo want it, they could, like fund the construction of such a thing and charge it to R&D.

    I will do as you suggest and google materials science on the shuttle.

    @144 Chet

    Thanks for the wrap up. I agree.

    …John

  137. T_U_T

    Nothing more left to say boys?

    What can be reasonably discussed with someone like you, who is determined to dismiss anything but projects just before deployment as being pipe dream.

  138. johnfruh

    @#143 QD

    Hi QD,

    So, I did as you suggested and googled material science. But, all I found was old stuff ranging from 1992 to 2003.
    Maybe it’s me. But if you have them, could you please point me in the direction. of some really good links in this regard. All I’ve found is mediocre stuff.

    …John

  139. johnfruh

    @#148 T_U_T

    I’m sorry you feel that way.

    Projects don’t have to be ready for deployment. But they do have to be plausible.

    There should be a good reason to do them and there should be a good return on the investment.

    That’s why I was pushing for details.

    My contention is that robotic missions are more effective at doing science in space.
    I have yet to hear/find compelling reasons to have humans in the loop since computing, AI and robotics came along.

    I believe that my discussions with you have always been about reasonable approaches to space exploration. Every assertion that I have made was backed up with evidence and reason.
    I had been asking you and the others to justify your assertions.
    When you did, for example with the VASIMR motor, I looked into it and found that it passed muster with me. I’d love to see this motor succeed but for robotic missions rather than manned missions.
    As I’ve often said, I want the science, the information, the analysis and the synthesis ASAP. I’ll pay money for that.

    Call me the devjl’s advocate, if you will. That’s fine. In that event, it’s my role to ask “and then what” until we reach a satisfying conclusion or we determine that we have reached a dead end.

    You haven’t responded to my “Olive Branch” so I’ll ask again. What do you think of my panspermia idea.

    here is what I had suggested…
    “Here’s my idea/suggestion for what it’s worth. We create ur own version of panspermia! We freeze a bunch of sperm and egg cells, Pack pack them into a smart rocket or rockets and fire them off in the direction of a number of likely earth like exoplanets.”

    @ Quiet Desperation, Thanks for the link to Hogan’s work. But I’d be interested in what YOU think of the idea.

    …John

    …John

  140. johnfruh

    @ Quiet Desperation.

    Cute plot line of Hogan’s in Voyage from Yesteryear. I like it.

    Okay, so I checked out the websites you suggested wrt Materials science. Sorry man, but you sent me on a wild goose chase.
    The conference site lacked anything about results of shuttle and ISS materials Science research.
    While the wikipedia page made abolutely no reference to space, the shuttle or the ISS or microgravity.

    So, I don’t get it. Why did you send me there?

    Now, I’ll be showing my age, but the only material science that I can recall that ever come from space was Teflon. Hurray!

    So, please, lease help me. What else has space based materials science accomplished. I’m not being a smart ass. I would really like to know.

    …John

  141. Markle

    Why is the troll still feeding? At best, you’re dealing with someone who thinks that his “nickel” gives him the right to veto everybody else’s ideas. Yet he doesn’t extend the same courtesy.

    The best this gets you is stalemate. That’s fine for the luddite saboteur. He doesn’t care about winning the argument, he just need to wrap you up in debate and prevent any action.

    Wasn’t this post somehow about how we managed to put a camera into orbit around Mars and the cool picture(s) it took due to an fortuitous alignment?

  142. Markle

    By the way, he pulled the same stunt last year in a post about how cold it gets in Antarctica. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/09/26/but-baby-its-cold-outside/

    Don’t feed the trolls.

  143. Markle

    By the way, he pulled the same stunt last year in a post about how cold it gets in Antarctica.
    (add the hypertext transport protocol colon double-slash blogs dot discovermagazine dot and com stuff here)/badastronomy/2008/09/26/but-baby-its-cold-outside/

    Starts in post #13, gets into his groove at #29, throttles up the verbosimobile in #36, 42, 44, 47, 48, 49, 51, 53. Pattern look familiar?

  144. johnfruh

    @#152 Markle

    Well done, Markle. You’ve done your homework.

    What Ideas am I vetoing?
    I’m challenging them! I want them to be justified! I want them to be supported by evidence.

    “…Yet he doesn’t extend the same courtesy. …”
    I’m stumped, Markle, what do you mean by this statement.

    ” … That’s fine for the luddite saboteur….”
    What? You’re calling me a Luddite? The guy who has more faith in machinery and our tool making genius than you guys? Please!

    In case you need reminding, here is the definition of Luddite …

    Lud·dite (lŭd’īt)
    n.
    Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.

    One who opposes technical or technological change.

    I’m the one who is promoting technological change. I’m the one promoting machinery. So I reject your charge.

    And as for your “saboteur”, charge, show me where I have ever suggested or sabotaged anything.
    Or are you suggesting that by asking for evidence, reasoned debate and purpose, I am sabotaging ideas?

    If your ideas are that good, then, by all means, rise to the occasion and show me up for the neanderthal you undoubtedly think I am.

    “… He doesn’t care about winning the argument, he just need to wrap you up in debate and prevent any action….”
    But I am interested in winning. And, even if I don’t, at least the subject is getting a thorough airing out. People are free to form their own opinions and vote with their “nickels” as they see fit. Just don’t expect manned missions to get any support from me.
    How am I preventing any action? I have no veto power. I’m simply stating my case, my point of view and supporting it. And, when I’m challenged with bogus arguments, I point out the flaws in those arguments. You may also note that when evidence is properly presented, I give due credit.

    There’s a cute saying when it comes to talk versus action and it goes like this…

    “After all is said and done, more gets said than done! …” Sorry, but I don’t know who said it but he is right on! And, in a way, this thread is bearing him out.

    “… Wasn’t this post somehow about how we managed to put a camera into orbit around Mars and the cool picture(s) it took due to an fortuitous alignment? …”
    Yes, it was! And I gave Phil full marks for presenting the pictures to us.

    My gripe was/is that Phil is still in favor of manned missions and so I voiced my opinion. That’s all. here is what I said …

    “Phil,
    I totally agree with you that space exploration is worth it and that these images testify to it.
    However, if I may, I differ with you on the form of that exploration. In short, I’m all for robotic missions which have, to date, done most of the heavy science lifting with respect to space exploration. I for one, am done with “manned” missions. They cost way too much and are a very poor return on investment.
    Up with science mission!
    Down with manned missions! …”

    I stand by that statement/opinion. Notice also, BTW, that these pictures were taken by robotic missions!
    Need I say more?

    …John

  145. T_U_T

    @johnfruh
    you sound more and more like an overpitched example of bureaucratic shortsightedness.
    You want to evaluate plausibility of ideas ? By what measure ?
    By timeline of their deployment ? Or worse, by the amount of work already done on them ? Or even worse, by ROI of tax dollars ?

    That may be good for a bureaucrat, or a politician.
    ( is this going to succeed during my election term ? It is going to make me famous or rich ? If not, it is useless. )
    But it is useless to positively destructive as a measure of plausibility of ideas,
    because every new idea starts at square one. No research done on it, no money spent,
    no budget, no timeline of deployment, no cost estimate, no way to tell whether it is even going to work.
    And the time where you get an actual timeline of its deployment is a waaay in the future.
    Even to estimate its feasibility, some serious work has yet to be done.
    So, if you base your base you policy on measures like that, each and every new idea will be automatically rejected
    before they actually can have a chance. And without new ideas, everything stops to a grinding halt.
    This is, why measures like that are rarely used by someone else than actual bureaucrats and politicians.
    And even when they are used, then only as supreficially plausible excuses for dismissing something that is in disfavor for other reasons.
    Even you are hypocritical in its application.
    You suggest we should rely on huge fully automated, ( by necessity all self-repairing and autonomously thinking ) robotic probes to spread beyond earth.
    But is someone already building a sentient robot ? Are there any self-healing machines around ? What is the official timeline for human matching artificial intelligence ?
    What is the research body on automatons capable of keeping themselves functional for thousands of years of continuous radiation barrage ?
    Further more, you say you are all in for robotic exploration, but what is the ROI of Hubble pictures ? Exactly how much dollars is the tax payer getting back, givent that they are publicly available for free ?
    You don’t seem to apply the same rigor to your own ideas.
    So you are providing further evidence that those draconian demands you place on manned spaceflight are but an excuse for dismissing the idea without
    revealing your true motivation for keeping humans off space.
    I am asking you thus again. Why don’t you like the idea of mankind spreading beyond earth ?

  146. Markle

    You see how this works? Classic troll tactics. Don’t feed the troll.

  147. Johnfruh

    @#157. Markle

    I don’t understand you. What do you mean by saying “you see how this works?”
    Are you referring to T_U_T’s post at #156?
    Sorry man, I don’t get it.

    @#156. T_U_T

    Here is my response to you. And, BTW, I’m sorry that you are so upset.
    “…You want to evaluate plausibility of ideas ? By what measure ?…” Known laws of Physics. And as you ask and I say by an ROI on my tax dollars. Just consider the ROI generated by communications satellites. Look at the usefulness of weather satellites, “environmental” (I’ll use this to mean all those satellites that look down and study the earth) Satellites. These machines are awesome and have contributed to our quality of life immensely. And not one of them needs a person up there to take care of them.

    T_U_T, our resources are limited. Given all the problems that we face on earth, I find it irresponsible to continue to spend vast sums of money to push humans out into the solar system. Especially when we have better ways (i.e robotics) to glean the information we want.

    It is my opinion that the purpose of space missions should be exploration rather than exploitation. I want knowledge, I want science, I want insight into how the universe works, etc. etc. and the best way to do that is to build instruments that act as our senses. I say again, we humans are the ultimate tool makers and in many respects the tools that we put out into space are far superior to our own senses. They can see better (e.g Hubble’s optics), hear better (e.g. radio), they can even “feel” better than we can.

    As to your thoughts on ideas.
    Every idea MUST go through a crucible, a trial by fire of sorts before it is implemented. Even plausible ideas, more often than not, fail for some reason or other. And even when they succeed technically, they may fail economically. The U.S. Pattent office is stuffed for patents for devices that are economic failures, that are obsolete before they hit the market and so forth.

    If you want to coddle the idea of manned exploration, exploitation and even colonization of space then be my guest. Spend your nickel on doing so. I for one have evaluated the pros and cons and for me, the cons win out. In my view, manned missions have had their day in the sun. But that day is now drawing to a close. I was all for Apollo because, back then, putting “boots” on the lunar soil was the best way to get the science done. (Note that the Russians tried and failed with their robotic missions because of technical and sophistication problems). But now! Now we have computers. We have microprocessors, we have AI, we have remote control. All of this means that we do not need manned missions which cost a fortune and return precious little science. I want the biggest bang I can get for my space science dollar. I’ve had it with spending fortunes for environmental systems to keep humans in space. The money can be spent much more wisely to gain the knowledge we desire.

    As for Robotics.
    I never suggested that we “… should rely on huge fully automated, ( by necessity all self-repairing and autonomously thinking ) robotic probes to spread beyond earth. …”

    I know that self-repairing robotics is beyond our capabilities. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the way you use the term “spread”, as in colonize, is not what I man at all. I have absolutely no wish to “spread” robots all over the solar system or the nearby star systems. What I want is the information that they can get for us by being out there. That they “happen” to “spread” to the various planets is incidental.

    I don’t care that we do not have self-repairing robots. I never said anything about sentients either.
    If they fail, as they must, then we crank up the assembly line, factory, or whatever to put a better system out there.
    Please understand this and excuse me if it seems that I’m shouting but I want to make this point absolutely clear… ALL SYSTEMS FAIL … Our machines fail, our bodies fail, the earth will fail, the solar system will fail and, ultimately, the universe will fail.
    Given that, I want to live now! Make hay while the sun shines, now! I want the knowledge, the science, etc. now!, or ASAP, and it is my contention that manned missions stand in the way of that and so I would like to consign them to the ash heap.

    “… what is the ROI of Hubble pictures ? …” I’m glad you asked. The ROI is knowledge, information, and insight, not to mention the joy they bring to the eye. I’ve tried ignorance and I’ve tried knowledge. I choose knowledge. Hubble, Spitzer, WMAP, etc. All pull back the curtain of ignorance, they all inspire, and so I choose to support them.

    As to “draconian demands”.
    Space flight imposes “draconian demands “. If you think that my “demands” for plausibility, are draconian, then wait till you try them in the space environment. I’m just trying to raise your consciousness to them. I’m not imposing them on you.
    I “dismiss” the idea, nay, the reality of manned missions, for the reasons sated above. I stand by them.

    My true motivation for keeping humans off space are and have been revealed above and have remained consistent throughout this debate. But to refresh your memory:
    Humans in space:
    1) are too costly.
    2) return precious little science
    3) are the weakest link in the chain
    4) puts crews needlessly at risk (key word needlessly because we have robotics)
    5) kills people
    6) has no well defined goal/purpose (i.e. in this day and age, why?)

    I could go on but I think you catch my drift.

    An aside for you T_U_T, concerning Materials Science.
    Just to be clear, I’m all for materials science, space based or otherwise. You will note that even space based materials science has no use for humans. The materials Science labs are FULLY automated, no human intervention required. In fact, the materials guys don’t want humans anywhere near their experiments due to contamination concerns and concerns related to human error!

    “… I am asking you thus again. Why don’t you like the idea of mankind spreading beyond earth ? ”

    I think I’ve made myself clear, but, what the hell, lets summarize it again:

    1) There is nowhere to spread. No habitable planets and exoplanets are waaaay too far away.

    2) The earth, with all its faults, is the very best spacecraft we have.

    3) We are custom built, by natural selection, as messy as that is, for this environment (i.e. we are earthlings.)

    4) The end game is clear, we all die. But in the mean time, I want the knowledge we glean from the space program to make us wiser in the ways of keeping the earth habitable for us. You need only look around to see what ignorance and profligacy has done. We have fouled our nest and it’s high time we cleaned it up.

    5) Expending our limited resources in an effort to abandon this ship by means of space faring colonies runs counter to the responsible stewardship of this “Blue Marble”.

    QED!
    (well, in my mind, anyway).

    Your turn, fire away!

    …John

  148. T_U_T

    If human colonization of space has ROI lower than just staying here, you are saying that the total GDP of a galactic civilization with say a billion of inhabited planets and countless free floating colonies will be lower than the one of one single, resource depleted world.
    Markle was right. You are but an obtuse troll full of ****.

  149. Johnfruh

    @159 T_U_T

    You asked what I had against spreading beyond earth. I answered you.

    You come back with a post About a “… galactic civilization with say a billion of inhabited planets and countless free floating colonies …” ?

    I ask you this… What have you been smoking? Wow, you really think big.

    And how did you make that leap? How in the world can you suggest that “I” am saying ANYTHING about the GDP of such a civilization? Unbelievable!

    But seriously, lets say you are right and there is such a thing as a galactic civilization.
    In that case, please answer Enrico Fermi’s question… To wit … “where are they? …” They shou;d already be here!
    So, T_U_T, WHERE ARE THEY?????

    …John

  150. T_U_T

    Don’t dare to move the goalposts. you wrote that the return of investment of spreading beyond earth is too small. But the return of such investment is a galactic civilization. So you said that a galactic civilization is simply not worth the effort. Which is absolutely ridiculous.

  151. T_U_T

    And also, I would suggest to postpone insulting me like “What have you been smoking?” till you can actually show that what I am saying is wrong.

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