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Space Science

Proposed Next-Generation Space Station 153

Posted by timothy
from the one-ticket-for-5/6ths-of-the-way-to-the-moon dept.
WallytheWalrus writes "This NewScientist.com article discusses the proposed next generation of telescopes and space stations. The concept presented with little fanfare by the NASA Exploration Team (NEXT) consists of placing a space station about 5/6ths of the way to the moon at one of a handful of local Lagrangian Points. This station would act as a springboard for constructing new telescopic mirrors, maintaining the telescopes that use them, and as a haven for future manned exploration missions. If only NEXT's budget was more than $4 million a year...."
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Proposed Next-Generation Space Station

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  • Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Helter (593482) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:56PM (#4538136)
    Unfortunately you can't take all of NASA's plans at face value. They also have a plan filed to start populating mars in 2018.
    • Is any of this online that I could have a look at? future proposed NASA missions? (and does anybody have links to other countries bluesky missions?). Cheers.



    • Methinks if not because of the announcement by the "Chinese Space Agency" that they are going to the moon by 2010 (perhaps as early as 2008) and establish a moonbase there, with a longer-term plan of having a base on Mars by 2040, perhaps we won't even hear any "new ideas" from NASA.

      Competition is indeed good !

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 26, 2002 @04:58PM (#4538142)
    The only website I read is Slashdot and its links, so when I see a visited NewScientist.com link I know that something is wrong [slashdot.org]
    • by jerde (23294)
      I really wish Slashdot's editors would READ SLASHDOT!

      I can understand reposts that are a couple weeks apart.

      But these few-days-apart repostings are increasingly common, and it's getting really irritating. Back in the days of five-digit usernumbers, this almost NEVER happened.

      Can't the editors of Slashdot be expected to have read all the Slashdot stories for at least the past week, so as to recognize obvious duplicates? I think it would be reasonable to expect them to search for duplicates for the past year, but that's just me.

      How long before moderators can act on the stories themselves? Add a "-5 Repost" option... :)

      - Peter
    • by broller (74249)
      The only website I read is Slashdot and its links...I know that something is wrong

      Ok, while the story is reposted, I don't think that's the worst of your problems.
  • I'm in as soon as they tell us what the frill the first one is doing of importance.
  • Space Cowboys (Score:2, Insightful)

    by frank249 (100528)
    OK this is the same story as a couple days ago but I just remembered that in the movie Space Cowboys, a character wants to take the russian satelite with the nukes to the moon. Somebody says that that is a long way but someone else says that he only has to get half way and then the gravity from the moon will take him the rest of the way. Well now I know thatyou would have to get 5/6s of the distance before the moon's weaker gravity would capture you. Oh well, if you can suspend disbelief long enough to beleive they would send Clint Eastwood and James Gardner into space, I guess you can overlook the physics too.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Here's some advice. Don't make Eastwood's day. It's not a good idea. Punk.
    • Re:Space Cowboys (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kst (168867)
      The distance actually matters less than the delta-v (fuel requirements). In those terms, Low Earth Orbit is probably about halfway to the Moon, or to just about anywhere in the Solar System. (I don't know the exact figures; perhaps somone else can provide more details.)

      Oh well, if you can suspend disbelief long enough to beleive they would send Clint Eastwood and James Gardner into space, I guess you can overlook the physics too.

      Why not? They sent John Glenn, and he's older than either of them.
    • Wow. Three times this was modded up and three times it was modded down as over rated. I don't care about the points but it is a shame that 6 points were wasted to neutralize each other out.

      How does meta moderation work? Were these voted down?
  • Not again... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CleverNickName (129189) <wil@wi[ ]eaton.net ['lwh' in gap]> on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:02PM (#4538166) Homepage Journal
    WTF is this? The misleading Star Trek topic titles day? [slashdot.org]

    You're making me earn my karma today, you bastards.

    Okay, on topic: Am I the only person who really wants us to go back to the moon? If this space station gets built, I sure hope that they use it to act as a halfway point between the earth and the moon, and not as just a platform for Orbital Mind Control Lasers. [warehouse23.com]
    • well... seeing as how you've helped pilot interSTELLAR spacecraft I think the LEAST you could do is give us a hand with our puny "space station" at earth's L1 point. I mean, jeez!
    • Re:Not again... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cyno01 (573917)
      they don't need orbital mind control lasers, they already have the HAARP instaltaion [navy.mil]
    • halfway point between the earth and the moon

      Halfway, 5/6ths, whatever. Don't go confusing me with that "new math".

      -
    • Am I the only person who really wants us to go back to the moon?
      No sir, no you are not. I think that, while the one space station has it's advantages, I'd rather the money that might go towards any US space station v3.0 project, go instead towards research towards putting together a livable habitat for use on the moon.
      That way, we can all start a lucrative career as Space Pirates [fantasticfiction.co.uk].
    • now the're just taunting us, well i guess that's the life of a trekkie
    • Re:Not again... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blincoln (592401)

      Am I the only person who really wants us to go back to the moon?

      Heck no. I won't be satisfied until we have self-sustaining colonies on the moon and Mars, with plans for them in other star systems. Keeping all of our eggs in one basket is probably the scariest thing I can think of.

      My granddad actually worked on the Apollo project. A few years before he died we were all having dinner and talking about space exploration, and it was obvious how disappointed he was that we hadn't even gotten people to Mars yet. You'd think we could do better in 30 years.


      • Or at least, why Mars as first/second choice ?

        much easier and cheaper to build colonies in space. Either mine the asteroids exclusively or create a lunar mining base, but once you have a stream of resources from either, real-estate and energy is MUCH cheaper in orbit.

        Also transportation is cheaper (just one gravity well instead of 2)

        (this is the third time I ask the question in /. and I still haven't gotten a satisfactoy answer.)
        • Check out The Case for Mars, by Robert Zubrin (ISBN 0684835509, Amazon link [amazon.com]). Makes a pretty convincing argument on why it might be easier to settle Mars than the moon, atmosphere being one of the reasons (easier to grow plants). I don't know enough to refute his arguments though, so I can't make much of a convincing case other than it sounded cool, and I'd rather go to Mars than the moon. :)
    • Weird, I just heard Patrick Stewart talking about the moon on the discovery channel. I half expect the next time I turn on the tv Shatner will be selling moon property via priceline if this theme keeps up.
  • Seen it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:03PM (#4538171) Homepage
    Hm. Can we moderate stories as Redundant [slashdot.org]? :-)
    • Hm. Can we moderate stories as Redundant [slashdot.org]?

      It seems the slashdot editors have found a way to travel to space without a vehicle.....and a body.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:03PM (#4538172)
    NASA should invent a time machine for the sole purpose of preventing slashdot duplications [slashdot.org].
  • Raise Taxes (Score:3, Informative)

    by Istealmymusic (573079) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:05PM (#4538186) Homepage Journal
    If only NEXT's budget was more than $4 million a year

    In other words: raise taxes.

    ---
    Bush's Argument: Raise children, not taxes

    • Re:Raise Taxes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tremblay99 (534187) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:15PM (#4538231)
      In other words: raise taxes.

      No, you can also slash "defense" spending. How many more third world countries are left to invade / bomb?

    • Re:Raise Taxes (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blincoln (592401)
      I would be happy to pay higher taxes if it would help expand our presence in space.
      • I would be happier to pay higher taxes if it would solve world hunger and provide universal healthcare. Space exploration is basically just a national ego trip- which is not to say it's a bad thing, but it should be one of our lowest priorities.

        If we're going to spend immense amounts of money on new modes of travel, we should figure out a way to make gas-burning automobiles obsolete.
        • Space exploration is basically just a national ego trip

          Establishing a permanent presence in space is the best way to ensure that the human race is never wiped out by natural (e.g. viral) or our own (e.g. nuclear war) causes. It would still be horrible for the Earth's population to die off, but at least the civilization we'd built would survive in other places.

          Far into the future, it's also the only way for us to survive the end of our solar system.

          As long as we stay on a single planet, everything we've created in the last 5000 years can be erased so well that it might have never happened at all. As flawed as we are, I think we deserve better than that.

          • I agree wholeheartedly that the human race should get some colonies into space. I'm thinking a small Martian colony as a stepping stone, which would, admittedly, take many centuries to develop. This way, even if an Earthly disaster befalls us, we can still explore and spread throughout the universe. Survival of the human race for the furtherment of science is of the utmost priority!
            • Survival of the human race for the furtherment of science is of the utmost priority !

              Yes, I can see it now: all the voters shouting: "our survival is only important for the further advancing of science ! please take our lives for your next article !" ;-)

              either you ment that the other way around, or, like the famous redhead said "you need to sort out your priorities" .

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If only NEXT's budget was more than $4 million a year...
    Maybe Apple [apple.com] will buy them too :)
  • lagrangian points (Score:5, Informative)

    by agurkan (523320) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:06PM (#4538190) Homepage

    These are points where the gravitational pull of two bodies, such as the Earth and the Moon, cancel each other out, providing a stable location to position spacecraft.

    I am very surprised The New Scientist makes such a mistake. These points are stable mainly because of rotation. In a nonrotating system, there is only one equilibrium point, and that is unstable.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, and this is the point of the article isn't it?
    • Re:lagrangian points (Score:5, Informative)

      by GileadGreene (539584) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:25PM (#4538273) Homepage
      I am very surprised The New Scientist makes such a mistake. These points are stable mainly because of rotation. In a nonrotating system, there is only one equilibrium point, and that is unstable.

      You are correct about the contribution of rotation to teh formation of the libration points. However, these points are not all stable. L4 and L5 (the triangular points) are stable (at least in a linear sense). L1, L2, and L3 are unstable. That said, you can establish periodic orbits around the unstable points, so they aren't completely useless :-)

  • Progress... (Score:4, Funny)

    by DarkHelmet (120004) <<mark> <at> <seventhcycle.net>> on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:07PM (#4538192) Homepage
    If only NEXT's budget was more than $4 million a year...."

    Well, at least this year the toilets on the space station will be ready and paid for.

    • Well, at least this year the toilets on the space station will be ready and paid for.

      Please feel free to build your own space station and to use American Standard toilets. Ewwww. :)

  • Quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mckayc (307712) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:08PM (#4538197)
    If only NEXT's budget was more than $4 million a year....

    If only NASA could stay within their proposed budgets...

    Seriously though, Congress wouldn't be so iffy about giving NASA money if they actually stayed within their budget. Now no matter how little they say a project will cost, everyone will always roll their eyes and assume it'll cost like 10 times that.
    • And NASA's would be more likely to get the money the want if they inflate their budgets to cover all of the unexpected costs?

    • Seriously though, Congress wouldn't be so iffy about giving NASA money if they actually stayed within their budget.

      Can you think of any project, department or plan the U.S. Congress funds that doesn't end up costing more than anticipated?
      • Re:Quote (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PyroMosh (287149)
        Just one?

        The Panama Canal [pancanal.com].

        Lockheed Martin's X-33 [af.mil] single-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicle concept.

        NASA's Mars Global Surveyor [nasa.gov]

        The NEAR [time.com] space probe (and it was delivered 9 months ahead of schedule!)

        The World Trade Center recovery effort [aflcio.org].

        The US Navy's Super Hornet [navy.mil] (upgrade to the old F/A-18 Hornet Naval strike fighter)

        The U2 [cia.gov] Spy Plane

        Also, I remember hearing from the Discovery Chanel or TLC or Discovery Wings or something that the F-117 Stealth Fighter was developed under budget, but I can't seem to find a reliable link.

        Golden Grove Prison [correctionalnews.com] at St. Croix in the US Vigrin Islands.

        The Grand Staircase-Escalante monument in Utah [hcn.org].

        It happens. It's rare percentage wise, but it does happen all the time. With the exception of the last two, which I only found out from google searching for links for the rest, I knew of all of these off of the top of my head, so it's not a big secret or anything. Just think of all the mundane projects that come in under budget too. Government buildings, roadways, etc.
    • NEXT is just a think-tank: they don't need a huge budget. They will pass the project on to another group to implement it, and go on to thinking of other, nifty projects for NASA to pursue.
  • For already-moderated-discussion and insight, go here [slashdot.org]
  • Edge of Chaos (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sivar (316343)
    This is offtopic to moderate accordingly, but I wanted to point out that the game "Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos" used Lagrangian extensively as an important part of the game, as well as many other concepts in "real physics" that so many games ignore, either because the developers don't care or don't know. This was a point of respect to the game, but that it is huge, well designed, has a great plot and well-written character development helped too. It is, however, one that requires patience (Very LARGE area to explore.) and Windows (Unfortunately, it does not run in WineX at all.)
  • by MyHair (589485) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:14PM (#4538225) Journal
    Can somebody check to see if Timothy has Alzheimer's?
  • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:16PM (#4538235) Journal
    ....Deja Vous! [slashdot.org]
    • Vous, huh? Was that a command? Oh well.
  • by GileadGreene (539584) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @05:22PM (#4538259) Homepage
    Didn't we just have this story a few days ago? Oh well - guess we can talk about it again:

    While the concept of placing a space station at a libration (or Lagrange) point seems nice on the surface, it's a very tough proposition in reality.

    The problem is that the myth of a libration point as simply some kind of nifty stable point in space where gravity balances has been propagated for a while now. I've seen this mistake turn up in countless places, including some otherwise reputable textbooks. The reality is far more complex, and difficult to analyze.

    For starters, the L1, L2, and L3 are unstable. That means that anything put there will tend to drift away over time. Not only that, but the L points don't even exist in reality - they are an artifact of a simplified gravitiational model (three bodies only). Once you incorporate the eccentricity of the primaries, and the effects of the other planets, you find that the L points are not so much points as variable regions of space with rather messy dynamical properties that we still don't fully understand. Oh, sure, you can mess around with numerical explorations and experiments, and there are a couple of series approximations that give reasonable first guesses at some particular solutions, but we are still a long way from being able to characterize and predict the full dynamics in one of these regions.

    So, placing some thing actually at a libration point is out. But, as it turns out, you can establish periodic or near-periodic orbits around the approximate region of the libration "point" (so-called halo or lissajous orbits). We still don't really undertsand these orbits that well either, but we know enough to be able to have successfully put some unmanned probes out at the Sun-Earth L1 point (e.g. ISEE-3, SOHO, and most recently Genesis). Note that these are all Sun-Earth L1 missions, not Earth-Moon which would add another layer of complexity due to the influence of the Sun's gravity of the Earth-Moon system.

    At present, the process of designing a new trajectory for a libration point mission consists of a fair amount of trial and error, and iteration. Techniques have improved some in the last decade (check out the work by Martin Lo at JPL and Kathleen Howell at Purdue on using dynamical systems theory to find transfers to/from halos), but it's still a lot of work to generate a finished trajectory that meets all of the necessary constraints. Trying to do this kind of thing with a manned, maneuvering spacecraft is going to be extremely difficult. In particular, any kind of rendezvous between two or more spacecraft will be difficult, since it's tough to predict where your spacecraft is going to go (very non-linear dynamics). Planning L point trajectories in real time really isn't that feasible until techniques improve a lot more.

    This is a very active field of research, but there's still a long way to go before we're likely to be really ready for manned missions that do anything other than hang around on their own at L1 for a while.

    • Yep, it's a repeat. [slashdot.org]
    • You make some good points, but they don't seem to match with your conclusions. In my opinion the facts you stated support the conclusion that this is a perfect next generation project for a research agency.

      Also, I think most people understand that the models are simplified. Eliminating all but the major variables is a useful engineering tool in understanding the problem. In your freshman physics class when you solve the ball dropping off of the building problem you don't include every possible effect acting on the ball, but you still get a very useful answer. And part of the reason we want to put a station there is to study the intricacies of the problem further. Having an object physically there will help us to expand our understanding of all the variables involved.

      • In my opinion the facts you stated support the conclusion that this is a perfect next generation project for a research agency.

        I'm not saying that we shouldn't be doing research in this area, just that it's very premature to be talking about putting manned platforms there.

        Also, I think most people understand that the models are simplified. Eliminating all but the major variables is a useful engineering tool in understanding the problem.In your freshman physics class when you solve the ball dropping off of the building problem you don't include every possible effect acting on the ball, but you still get a very useful answer.

        I agree that simplified models are a useful engineering tool (I'm an engineer by trade). My point was that the simplified models have lead to a number of popular misconceptions about what the libration points actually, and a misunderstanding of just a how complex it really is to analyze those regions of space. Also, your example with the ball dropping off of a building is not comparable to a libration point trajectory. The ball example works because, unless you are looking for a very precise answer, you can neglect everything other than gravity, which is by far the dominant force (try doing the same thing with an analysis of a feather falling :-). A libration point trajectory is a nasty problem in nonlinear dynamical systems: it is very sensitively dependent on initial conditions. If you do not correctly model some of the effects that would otherwise be neglible, you spacecraft will start in a slightly different location than you had planned, and end up in a wildly different location than you had intended. Even basic three-body dynamics are quite messy compared to the Keplerian orbits we are all used to. Throwing in all those extra bodies makes then even hairier. Not to say it can't be done (we have done it after all), just that it's much more difficult than most people seem to think (far more involved than a "normal" space mission).

        And part of the reason we want to put a station there is to study the intricacies of the problem further. Having an object physically there will help us to expand our understanding of all the variables involved.

        The reason that NASA wants to put a station there is that the people involved in planning the station do not have a clear understanding if the difficulties involved - they believe the "simplified model", and don't even seem to fully understand that. Someone in the NASA HEDS program needs to talk to some of the folks at JPL or Goddard who do libration points for a living. We would do much better to place unmanned objects in libration point orbits if we want to "expand our understanding of all the variables involved". That said, it's not so much the actual environment that we don't understand, it's the math needed to characterize and predict what things will do in these regions. In a Keplerian orbit we can use standard conic sections as a first cut, and perhaps include the effects of the major perturbations if necessary. At a libration point we don't even fully understand the motion: there's nothing comparable to a conic section. It's all numerical explorations, with no firm grasp of the underlying character of the trajectories. Right now operating a spacecraft in the vicinity of a libration point is akin to what it would have been like if someone tried to compute a free-return to the moon in the days before Kepler pointed out that "it's all just ellipses".

    • First off, here's a map [nasa.gov] showing where the lagrange points in the earth-sun system are. This map works for the earth-moon system as well, as the earth-moon syetem is reduced to a point for earth-sun lagrange calculations.

      You're right about L1, L2, and L3 not being stable, but L4 and L5 are. This link [nasa.gov] explains in a bit more detail , but the L4 and L5 points, despite being peaks of gravitational "hills", would be self stabilizing.

      Here's NASA's explanation:
      A detailed analysis (In PostScript [nasa.gov] or PDF [nasa.gov]) confirms our expectations [of instability] for L1, L2 and L3, but not for L4 and L5. When a satellite parked at L4 or L5 starts to roll off the hill it picks up speed. At this point the Coriolis force comes into play - the same force that causes hurricanes to spin up on the earth - and sends the satellite into a stable orbit around the Lagrange point.

      Putting a space station at either of these stable points wouldn't be much more difficult than putting something in orbit around the L1 point and would be easier then going around the moon to the L2 point, which NASA has shown they can do with reasonable success.

      The radiation would be worse there, but if we have to improve our radiation shielding anyway, we might as well try to make it strong enough so people can be placed at these points.

      • You're right about L1, L2, and L3 not being stable, but L4 and L5 are. This link [nasa.gov] explains in a bit more detail , but the L4 and L5 points, despite being peaks of gravitational "hills", would be self stabilizing.

        Actually, if you read the paper you link to you will find that the L4 and L5 points are stable in a linear sense (i.e. using a linear analysis). However, it is not clear how far out from the libration point this linear approximation is valid. It may require extremely precise targeting to get your spacecraft into the linearly stable region.

        That aside, the reason we were talking only about the co-linear points (L1,2,3) instead of L4 and L5 is that L1 was the focus of the New Scientist article. The most likely reason for that is that L4 and L5, being (as you point out) at least linearly stable, have accumulated a lot of dust and debris over the millennia (see also the Trojan asteroids at Jupiter's L4 and L5 points). This makes them unattractive as a location for sensitive scientific instruments, or space stations. Hence the focus on L1.

  • What we need now is a plan to mine asteroids.

    Without this process/technology in place everything we do in space is extremely expensive because we have to carry all of our mass into orbit.

    If we ARE mining the asteroids, or the moon, or whatever else is handy (and hey, how about not throwing away space shuttle tanks, that would be a start at least) then at the very least we can use the mass for shielding from both radiation and impact, but one hopes that we will also be refining steel in orbit so we can use it for the heavy structure of our various constructions. We all love aluminum and titanium, but steel is more useful, especially when you don't have to worry about building things from it which are strong enough not to collapse under their own weight. We just have to figure out how to make it so we can move them, or make it so we don't have to move them.

  • by nege (263655)
    4 million a year? My company spent more on that just implementing one database last year, which isnt even all that business critical. I think that NASA should do more of those pay for flight things and become more cosumer driven if it wants to succeed. If people want to pay lots of money to go into outer space, then it is worth spending that money to make it happen!
    • Re:budget (Score:2, Funny)

      by GigsVT (208848)
      4 million a year? My company spent more on that just implementing one database last year, which isnt even all that business critical.

      You work for California don't you?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The time between when Columbus "discovered" the new world and Magellen circumnavigated the globe was 30 years. It has now been 30 years since Apollo 17, the last time man visited the moon, the last time man left low earth orbit. I think it's a great failure of our race that we've dragged our feet such.

    To think that technological advance is blazingly fast in this day in age is misleading. We're not doing too well at hitting the important targets. NASA might just now be waking up to this, but it's yet to be seen if their budget wakes up to it. (Nasa funding was 4% of the national budget at the height of the Apollo program, it's less than 1% now)

    So I applaud their very recent efforts to finally mention some vague goals away from Low Earth Orbit. L1 is a fine stepping stone, but Mars is where the public eye is. Nasa administrator Daniel Goldin had some brave words about the possibility of sending men to Mars in this decade or the next, but Bush put a bean counter in charge of Nasa pretty quickly to throttle cost overruns from the ISS.

    What we really need is a president giving NASA a kick in the pants, and the funding to follow, as Kennedy did. Either that or wait around for private space exploration to become worthwhile, and we're going to be waiting quite a while in that case. Another space race? maybe China? I hope so. Because the current NASA schedule is anything but ambitious.
  • by sterno (16320) on Saturday October 26, 2002 @06:27PM (#4538562) Homepage
    In an era where government seems to be doing everything in it's power to render itself meaningless, a project like this will never happen. Our government has has lost any reason to pretend to have an interest in further the future of humanity now that we have no cold war competition. So, NASA will slowly shrivel away into insignificance. Until private companies develop an interest in space, there will be no going forward for us.

    The sad thing is that with this development, the short term financial return will be what all space exploration is measured by. A private corporation isn't going to put the risk into a decade or longer effort to develop a space station or any sort of space travel because the risk involved in such a venture isn't worth it.
  • I can't find it anywhere, but there was a story about the construction of a Russian module for the International Space Station that was being made out of wood to cut costs. Their budget was about 4 dollars, but some homeless guy pissed inside it, and they had to resand the floorboards.

    "It took ages to get the smell out"
  • So, this'll be like the NEXT Step in space colonization, right?
  • Does anyone think this looks a little like the (early) history of the Gundam series? Sure people only conjecturing about building space stations at the Lagrange points now, but in 43 years, when the Universal Century began in the series (by the building of the first colony), we could definitely be building colonies at the Lagrange points. Also, the plans for the colonies used in the Gundam series were based on plans developed in the 1800s, so the ideas seem sound. In addition, the Earth's population might definitely be at 20 billion like it was when the UC began. If I am is correct, perhaps we could (possibly) be living in space colonies in about half a century (to supplant the earth's population woes). Also if it proves true, it would not be too far of a leap to suggest one of the colonies might demand independence from the Earth. Note: The UN seems an awful lot like an Earth Federation inasmuch as (con)Federation means a league of independent states. If it shows anything, it just goes to show that Anime writers do their homework before writing SciFi! Just my $0.02.
  • But the astronauts might get carried away, build cool mechs and attack the earth! We better start developing gundamium now! I hear it can only be made in space however, so we will finally have a use for the ISS...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think this would be just another short sighted adventure and waste of money (ie providing very little in return). What I would like my tax dollars spent on in this area is to like a previous poster suggested, was to mine asteroids. Or my true desire to see the Orion space craft built. With this kind of space ship we could expand a human presence throught the solar system fairly quickly and relatively cheaply. Just a thought ;)
  • by Peahippo (539266) <peahippo.mail@com> on Saturday October 26, 2002 @09:01PM (#4539238) Homepage
    The article talks up the usual myth of sending people into the unknown. I stopped buying into this crap a long time ago. Putting equipment, people and resources anywhere in cislunar space is the very definition of a known exercise. Another poster mentioned about objects drifing away if put into L1, 2 or 3 points. Gee ... if you're drifting ... use attitude thrusters ... and it is now time to pun: it's not rocket science, folks.

    Having figuratively seen Skylab and Mir tumble and burn while the Apollo gantries rusted in the sun, I now know their game. The $8 billion spent before 1 kilogram of the ISS made it into orbit more than illustrates the game. The game is to remain well employed and supplied with cool aerospace toys. As for the return of value to the taxpayer ... well, some mumbling of "benefits from technological research" has seemed to silence rumblings of dissent in the past. It'll probably work again.

    The article talks critically and comparatively about "politically motivated Apollo missions of the 1970s, or the aimless, cash-guzzling International Space Station". This reminds me of the push for Network Computers some years ago, in which the very providers of software and hardware used their own high cost-of-ownership as a marketing reason for changing the installed plant over to NCs. If Apollo, the ISS, and the (implied and obvious) Space Shuttle were such fiascos, then of what good is NASA's next project? Irony abounds from this; irrelevant politics and outrageous expenses are the invisible bywords written into NASA's mission statement.

    "This time the science will come first, promises Gary Martin, NASA's Future Technology Architect and head of NEXT." Oh, god! That's the very problem about the American space program: Science comes 1st; politics comes 2nd; and economics is in a very distant 378th place. The average Kuiper Belt object is nearer to NASA than considerations of economics and ROI.

    Don't you think that we should put an end to this "jobs program for PhDs"? Don't you think that we should get manufacturing and energy returns from the public investment in a space program? Why do we continue to explore space without making real plans to go there to exploit the resources we find?

    I have an idea. NASA should stop being some sort of "research agency on crack". It should be trimmed down to be a rocket agency, devoted to tranportation only, and more cheaply than what we have now. Its mission will be to lift cargo off the Earth, into 5 standard deliveries in increasing order of expense:
    • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is for temporary satellites.
    • HEO is for long-term sats.
    • Geosynchronous is for sats that require such a position.
    • Cislunar is for reaching the Lagrange positions and Luna herself.
    • Escape is simply a push beyond about 7 miles per second, in order to escape the Earth and reach all other points beyond (although to escape Sol requires about 618 km/s).
    Once NASA is there to transport stuff according to rate sheets and schedules, then we'll see what private industry can do to make a buck off of manufacturing and energy.

    ... Oh, who am I fooling? No idea works in America unless is revolves (orbits?) around two central cultural ideas:
    • how much money can I steal this quarter?
    • how many poor people can I put into jail?
    Reducing NASA to a cheap launcher has nothing to do with promoting white-collar crime and blue-collar imprisonment. The future of Humankind in space is Chinese. They will probably get it done before their empire surrenders to the inevitable self-immolation.
    • Escape is simply a push beyond about 7 miles per second, in order to escape the Earth and reach all other points beyond (although to escape Sol requires about 618 km/s).

      Solar escape velocity from Earth's vicinity (1 AU) is about 42 km/s. Perhaps 618 km/s is the escape velocity from the Sun's surface -- something that isn't likely to be of much direct concern to us for the foreseeable future.
    • The game is to remain well employed and supplied with cool aerospace toys

      Ya until we run out of hydrocarbon to fuel all those toys. More likely it is "Perscute other countries to sell us all their oil, until no one has any fuel left"
  • .... before we start making ny more plans.
    • regardless of the ISS subject, this kind of thinking is counter-productive.

      One should try to choose the best path at all times. Resources spent are not important, only resources you will spend, as oposed to your projected return and probability of success.

      as for plans, one should always make other plans and think ahead, so that decision making will be more effective.

"Just think of a computer as hardware you can program." -- Nigel de la Tierre

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