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Why we will never reach the stars - Comments

Sample's Avatar Comment 1 by Sample

Earth will die. When that time nears, our descendants, if they resemble humans, may look favorably on what now, to us, appears dismal.

Mike

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 17:21:59 UTC | #599052

Matt B's Avatar Comment 2 by Matt B

Humans are explorers by nature (literally). For a very long time, the Earth was filled with new places and undiscovered wonders. But we're at the point now where we can literally "see" a birds-eye view of almost any spot on Earth - without even getting up from our seat. The month-long journeys across the oceans are now a few hour airplane flight away. We're quickly outgrowing our container, and to remain here indefinitely will cause stagnation of our species.

That was the romantic angle - there are many others, such as the practical angle (we're using up natural resources with a minimum effort of conservation). Plus, as Sample stated in Comment #1, the Earth will die one day (or at least the parts of it that we rely on).

Now I don’t know about you, but were I born on Alpha Moon Base I’d want to get the hell out as soon as I was old enough to realise that a place existed with blue skies, oceans, sunsets, girls in grass skirts on tropical islands, rain, wind, snow, mountains, deserts, and a respectable quota of gravity. Yes that’s right, the place everyone was so eager to get away from. That discarded blue orb in the sky.

Perhaps this is true of a moon base, but just think of the wonders that await us if we somehow discovered a method of interstellar travel. We can try to imagine it - but we can't, because our only frame of reference is what we know from this planet (and the tiny bits our scientists can discern from looking outwards). There might be wonders out there that blow grass skirts and small mountains away completely.

Of course, the chances of such a future are slim (in my pessimistic opinion). The bulk of humanity would have to wake up from it's primitive, superstitious, ignorant mindset. We'd have to avoid/survive pandemics, natural catastrophes, and resource depletions. We might never get there, but at least the passion and desire for this goal will drive us forward (your typical "more about the journey than the destination" scenario).

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 17:42:23 UTC | #599055

phodopus's Avatar Comment 3 by phodopus

If you consider how some people already live right now in huge agglomerates of high rises with no green in sight, working a mindless job in a factory so they can afford a two week holiday in the sun once a year - why not live on the moon and then have holidays on earth for a few weeks. It could work, and if it's well paid, I can see it happening.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 17:44:46 UTC | #599056

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 4 by Dhamma

We don't know what medicine lies ahead that might turn your dull environment less so. Perhaps we will somehow project a beautiful scenario on the face of mars? There are lots of factors to be counted in, but you raise an interesting point.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 17:47:17 UTC | #599057

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

There is a problem that many more people watch science fiction with "warp 10 drives", humanoid bipedal aliens, transporters, horizontal floors and quick passages from star to star and planet to planet, than have any idea about the possibilities of feasible projects.

There is the possibility of Moon bases and scientific Mars bases, but these are not the simplistic enclosed Cities of Hollywood SF. There are the serious issues of dealing with low gravity, radiation and other problems. People living in bases would certainly have access to other areas using suits and enclosed vehicles.

At some point in the future the Earth's climate will destabilise as the orbit of our Moon becomes higher, and eventually the inner Solar System will become uninhabitable by humans as our Sun heats up. It is a good idea to have the capability to settle on the moons of the outer planets (as they warm) before then.

An astronauts view can put a new perspective on human nationalist disputes, when considering the view of life from space stations, This might help people focus on avoiding the more stupid methods of self-extermination or return to primordial living.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:10:55 UTC | #599063

William33's Avatar Comment 6 by William33

I understand your position. However what makes you think humanity will have a choice but to look into the universe for survival?

Let's look at our current place of residence. Over population, limited resources that only get more limited, wars, poverty etc There is going to be major decisions in the future and not all decisions will be popular but what needs to be done needs to be done.

Plus.. if humans are brought up in space, the chances are they could not return to Earth. Their bodies would be too weak to cope in our gravity.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:14:23 UTC | #599064

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 7 by aquilacane

as soon as I was old enough to realise that a place existed with blue skies, oceans, sunsets, girls in grass skirts on tropical islands, rain, wind, snow, mountains, deserts, and a respectable quota of gravity.

Well of course, that's all you know so you would miss it. Something you would not know how to miss if you were born on the moon and never been to earth.

In short, the people who dream up these amazing space cities of the future don’t seem to have a clue about whether any sane, rational, intelligent being would actually want to live in them.

Sane, rational and intelligent beings don't want to live in garbage dumps either but they do. Would you live in the Arctic if you grew up in the desert? People follow resources, opportunity and power. They mass in social groups. If these things are available people will come.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:20:24 UTC | #599067

Al Denelsbeck's Avatar Comment 8 by Al Denelsbeck

‘We have the technology’, as the opening to The Bionic Man used to say.

Ahem. Six Million Dollar Man. Young whippersnapper...

...I’d want to get the hell out as soon as I was old enough to realise that a place existed with blue skies, oceans, sunsets, girls in grass skirts on tropical islands, rain, wind, snow, mountains, deserts, and a respectable quota of gravity.

But what makes you think that by that time, we'd have such conditions on Earth?

...and urine recycled several million times …

Most people don't realize that's actually the water we're drinking right now. It's not hard to imagine a perspective that would rather have meticulously filtered water instead of the hit-or-miss, nobody-knows-the-path water from normal ecosystem processes in the dirt, yuck!

I suspect that space colonies and cities filled with wildly enthusiastic and excited space farers is an irrational delusion.

Despite my having some fun above, I'm much inclined to agree with you. We project out these ideas of terraforming and century/colony ships, most likely because, as Matt B says, we're explorers - it's an ingrained trait. The idea of maintaining an ecosystem that's already exactly what we need it to be somehow gets lost, despite the fact that it would be a thousand times easier.

We make excuses such as "natural resources running out," but imagine what those resources are like on a colony ship? Zero-population gain and limits on energy use and calorie consumption? Yes, implementing such would prevent the need for colony ships in the first place.

I'd love to see what conditions on other planets are like, but I suspect the likelihood of finding the classic M/Terra style is infinitesimal, and we're better off with probes. The benefit to cost of outer exploration seems far too disproportionate to contemplate seriously. I've even argued against the idea of space tourism because, other than horsing around in microgravity and taking photos of Earth, what else is there to do?

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:21:44 UTC | #599068

Atheist Mike's Avatar Comment 9 by Atheist Mike

I don't expect any major space exploration or colonization breakthrough until we drop the concept of 'nations' (which is unlikely to happen even in the next couple centuries) but once we get there I think you're quite right, this will be a major issue.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:24:48 UTC | #599070

Tord M's Avatar Comment 10 by Tord M

However badly we might treat our planet, it will almost certainly be easier to fix Earth than to terraform some distant dead planet. And if we do destroy Earth, from where would we get the resources to build the gigantic spaceships we would need to carry us away? (There would surely not be possible for us all to go.) So I don't believe we will leave Earth because we have plundered all it's resources.

But if we care enough for our planet to preserve it's environment, wildlife and resources, as well as all it's people, then I think some of us will eventually "set sails" for distant stars. I don't think it will be difficult to recruit volunteers either. But we will have to wait a couple of centuries before the technology is ready. And by then, we will know how to make the journey comfortable too, so that the lucky ones won't miss oceans, mountains, rainfall, etc. all too much (we already get most of our wildlife experiences from films, book, magazines, TV, anyway).

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:32:52 UTC | #599073

Don Quijote's Avatar Comment 11 by Don Quijote

In the not too distant future, humans will be more concerned with keeping alive on this planet to dream about travelling to another. The way we are going the human race will have driven itself extinct long before the sun consumes the earth.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:36:55 UTC | #599076

inquisador's Avatar Comment 12 by inquisador

You make a good point, Schrodinger, but the answer is quite simple. We build the spaceships and send out the astronauts to begin the work of terraforming Mars to make it habitable. Only the astronauts will be mostly remote-controlled androids for the first few hundred years. Then when they finish the beaches and the tropical islands ready for the hula-hula girls then we start shipping humans out there.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:46:08 UTC | #599080

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 13 by Alan4discussion

Comment 8 by Just Al

I'd love to see what conditions on other planets are like, but I suspect the likelihood of finding the classic M/Terra style is infinitesimal, and we're better off with probes.

The concept designs for interstellar probes have been seriously investigated by scientific groups for many years since 1978. Project Icarus is a Tau Zero Foundation (TZF) initiative in collaboration with The British Interplanetary Society (BIS). This link gives an introduction and further links. With luck probes could find planets suitable for colonies that were not too far away. They are looking at a tenth of light speed initially. We already have probes which run for 20 years or so.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 18:57:40 UTC | #599084

SomersetJohn's Avatar Comment 14 by SomersetJohn

What a bleak future you project SC. I cannot say it is a false future, but I do hope it is.

I honestly believe that we, as a species, will get into space in large numbers, indeed I believe this is our greatest hope of survival in the future. Initially we will expand into our solar system, colonising the asteroids, the moons of the gas giants and possibly building giant habitats in orbit around Earth and the other planets.

True, getting to other stars is a bit more problematic; I'm not convinced we will ever find some amazing space drive which will might provide easy access to them. There are several possibilities which can give us access to them though. Already mentioned are generation ships, another sci-fi favourite the sleeper ship. But how about, instead of sending people, awake or asleep, why not send data. A ship which can either clone people or build them from the chemical components. Of course this would require that human consciousness could in the future be stored and then pumped into a body. Or personality transfer into an artificial body. Or finding out how to keep people alive for hundreds or thousands of years (and sane over such periods).

I don't know if it will ever happen. I will keep dreaming and hoping.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 19:39:42 UTC | #599094

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 15 by bendigeidfran

Well Hiraeth is a better word. But lets conquer Earth. Look at the invisible, irrigate the deserts, engineer bacterial slaves for free energy and food, fabricate billions of realites where all can flourish. etc.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 20:03:15 UTC | #599107

fossil-fish's Avatar Comment 16 by fossil-fish

I am quite sure that Jean-Luc was going where no 'one' has gone before. Captain James T Kirk was going where no man had gone before.

Star Trek comparisons are dangerous ground considering the amount of 'Trekkies' in the world. Anyone seen Galaxy Quest?

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 20:14:54 UTC | #599112

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 17 by Alan4discussion

Comment 12 by inquisador

You make a good point, Schrodinger, but the answer is quite simple. We build the spaceships and send out the astronauts to begin the work of terraforming Mars to make it habitable. Only the astronauts will be mostly remote-controlled androids for the first few hundred years.

No need to wait that long! With the help of its team, Robonaut 2 -- or R2 for short, the humanoid robot, was sent to the International Space Station aboard Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission. and is now working there

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 20:21:35 UTC | #599115

ufischer's Avatar Comment 18 by ufischer

Whenever anyone has said something technologically possible is impossible for the human race, they have, so far, been proven wrong (in the last few hundred years, usually within their own lifetimes... in the last few decades, often within years or months of the pronouncement. Remember the head of DEC (Digital Equipment Corp... does anyone remember them?) saying that he could think of no reason why anyone would ever want to own a personal computer? That is just one of many such pronouncements. I hope this follows the pattern and we start terraforming our Moon, Mars and the suitable moons of the gas giants within the next few years. I was born in 1947 and would volunteer for such an expedition in a heartbeat. I suspect many more of my fellow denizens of this lovely planet feel the same way.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 20:40:55 UTC | #599123

SheilaC's Avatar Comment 19 by SheilaC

I can think of two ways to get people to live on a moon base without blue skies, oceans etc. 1) Don't give them any choice, like the first Europeans to arrive in Australia (NB, I'm not recommending this, just saying it's been done and could happen again) or 2) wait until the environment on Earth is so degraded (at least for some people) that the moon base is more attractive. Would you rather your kids had blue skies or food? Think of the numbers of people who leave the countryside for cities already. Come to think of it there's a third way - convince them that God wants them to go. That populated Jamestown, at least briefly.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 20:47:59 UTC | #599125

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 20 by Stevehill

Don't underestimate the innate desire for the survival of the species.

I could view the destruction of the earth and all life on it with more equanimity if I knew that somewhere out there the little spark of something or other we call humanity still burned bright.

Whilst I may not be up for it personally, is it outrageous to rule out the whole of humanity from wanting to make such a trip? People in poverty, with no obvious way out, offered the chance to live in some sort of self-sustaining biome, maybe? And their descendants after them? Until maybe after thousands of years they found a bus stop worth getting off at?

Skeptics said of Stephenson's Rocket that if you travelled at more than 30 mph you would suffocate and die.

We have dreams. That distinguishes us from fruit flies.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 20:53:58 UTC | #599129

red-beard's Avatar Comment 21 by red-beard

The colonization of space, if it were ever to be accomplished, will be done in minuscule steps. Already we have a handful of people living for small segments of time in orbit around the earth. You won't be plucking people up from Earth and dropping them on Mars for the rest of their lives. Things will be done in short breaths, the moments away from home increasing over the generations.

What will the first outposts be built for? Scientific research. Assuming the perpetual progression of technology, one would assume that space travel would become faster, cheaper, and safer. People follow money wherever it leads, and as soon as it is reasonably economical, industries will follow.

The first (part time) denizens of space will be scientists, explorers, and industrialists (and thus workers). Of course the majority of people will choose to stay earthbound, but nevertheless there exists that minority who will not be confined. (And forget about shipping normal people offworld!)

Unfortunately, I sincerely doubt that we apes will ever get ourselves in order.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 21:17:21 UTC | #599141

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 22 by Alan4discussion

Comment 18 by ufischer

I hope this follows the pattern and we start terraforming our Moon, Mars and the suitable moons of the gas giants within the next few years.

I think terraforming our Moon is a non-starter. Terraforming Mars would take thousands of years during which time it would create problems for colonists, such as melting ice causing travel problems and subsidence. Colonists would have to live in pressurised habitation and wear suits to go outside. I can see little merit in causing massive upheavals over centuries for an uncertain outcome, when bases could be established without these complications. I believe Mars is too small, too cold, limited in it's ability to retain an atmosphere and its rotational stability too suspect.

As I said @5 terraformng somewhere like Titan could be an option in the future when the Sun heats up and expands. Probes may also find suitable exoplanets.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 21:26:40 UTC | #599145

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 23 by Alan4discussion

Comment 19 by SheilaC

I can think of two ways to get people to live on a moon base without blue skies, oceans etc. 1) Don't give them any choice, like the first Europeans to arrive in Australia (NB, I'm not recommending this, just saying it's been done and could happen again) or 2) wait until the environment on Earth is so degraded (at least for some people) that the moon base is more attractive.

There are plenty of people now who would volunteer for such enterprises, as there are for astronaut training today. Some have been conducting experiments in mock-up bases.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 21:31:30 UTC | #599147

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 24 by Alan4discussion

Novel propusion techniques have been discussed for about 10 years. A Penn State artist's concept of an antimatter-powered Mars ship with equipment and crew landers at the right, and the engine, with magnetic nozzles, is shown on this link.

Mars in 6 weeks? And back in a total of four months? That's the prediction of a design team working on antimatter rocket concepts at Pennsylvania State University. But first, you have to get the stuff - and store it. (PSU)

And what a reaction. Where the Space Shuttle Main Engine has a specific impulse, a measure of efficiency, of 455 seconds, and nuclear fission could reach 10,000 seconds, fusion could provide 60,000 to 100,000 seconds, and matter/antimatter annihilation up to 100,000 to 1,000,000 seconds.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 21:46:14 UTC | #599154

Stevezar's Avatar Comment 25 by Stevezar

No matter which side of this issue you take, 10,000 years from now, when our descendants are combing the internet historical archives, they will come across this thread and get a good belly laugh and whichever side was more wrong and the naivety of the expressed view.

So I won't express an opinion and give them something to chuckle over. Maybe they will think I guessed perfectly and just kept it to myself.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 22:21:45 UTC | #599179

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 26 by Alan4discussion

I suspect that space colonies and cities filled with wildly enthusiastic and excited space-farers is an irrational delusion. And even if such places are ever constructed, the novelty would soon wear off and ‘take me home’ will become a deafening crescendo.

The first part of an objective study is dump all the wild sci-fi which has been concocted simply to create entertaining story lines.

Any permanent Moon or Mars base would have agricultural / horticultural food production areas which should be just as pleasant as green areas on Earth. These would be either pressurised surface domes, or lit areas underground. Personally, I don't find walking in greenhouses less pleasant than walking in gardens. As with bases like the ones in Antarctica, people would suit up and go out from time to time to attend to equipment spread around outside. Both the Moon and Mars have rocky minerals and water from which to extract oxygen or make fuel. Nuclear and/or solar power generation would probably be needed: at least initially. Locally manufactured variations on solar power could be developed later.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 22:47:42 UTC | #599184

Stevezar's Avatar Comment 27 by Stevezar

Comment 26 by Alan4discussion :

I suspect that space colonies and cities filled with wildly enthusiastic and excited space-farers is an irrational delusion. And even if such places are ever constructed, the novelty would soon wear off and ‘take me home’ will become a deafening crescendo.

The first part of an objective study is dump all the wild sci-fi which has been concocted simply to create entertaining story lines. Any permanent Moon or Mars base would have agricultural / horticultural food production areas which should be just as pleasant as green areas on Earth. These would be either pressurised surface domes, or lit areas underground. Personally, I don't find walking in greenhouses less pleasant than walking in gardens. As with bases like the ones in Antarctica, people would suit up and go out from time to time to attend to equipment spread around outside. Both the Moon and Mars have rocky minerals and water from which to extract oxygen or make fuel. Nuclear and/or solar power generation would probably be needed: at least initially. Locally manufactured variations on solar power could be developed later.

The best spaceflight possible is certainly better than the worst possible living conditions on earth.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 22:54:00 UTC | #599186

seals's Avatar Comment 28 by seals

We humans might find a way to travel interstellar distances, or we might not. But it would be dangerous to think that if we screw up here on this planet we can expect to find another one. We have to live as if this is the only planet we could ever live on, as it may well be for all we know, or it may be the only habitable planet within our range which amounts to the same thing. We do have a habit of getting what we want, so far and on a very minor timescale, but it's usually at the expense of our planet's ecosystem and resources; when we decide we need another whole ecosystem to support our burgeoning requirements, that may not be so readily forthcoming. We have to value this planet. We need it more than it needs us!

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 23:10:54 UTC | #599193

jonjermey's Avatar Comment 29 by jonjermey

There are far more important obstructions keeping us from the stars: the first being that to get there in less than a million years we would need to use up the entire Earth to provide fuel for our craft. But assuming we can solve the propulsion problem, stellar exploration will either be done by:

a) miniaturised robots with computer brains

b) human clones grown after landing (supervised by robots) from thawed fertilised embryos

Either of these is far more cost-effective than sending fully-grown human beings into space. And robots have the advantage of being far more robust: no air supply, no urine recycling and little or no terraforming would be needed. Their first job would be to set up a transmitter to send data back to us data on everything they see and do.

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 23:13:41 UTC | #599194

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 30 by Alan4discussion

Comment 28 by seals

There is no way a significant portion of Earth's human population could be moved to another planet, not even to our Moon. We cannot even move significant numbers people out of the path of tsunamis volcanoes or invading armies. The stupid would in any case sit in denial and refuse to go!

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 23:19:16 UTC | #599195