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Space Science Technology

Space Is (Not) the Place, Says Professor 376

Posted by Soulskill
from the maybe-not-yet dept.
snoop.daub writes "A while back, we discussed UCSD professor Tom Murphy's post about the limits on growth in energy use and economies. Partly in reaction to Slashdot's response (and my own writeup!), he's back with a new post arguing that space is not a solution to enable continued growth. There's a lot of good stuff in here about public misconceptions regarding the difficulty of space travel and the like; again definitely worth the read."
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Space Is (Not) the Place, Says Professor

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  • Dear humans (Score:2, Informative)

    by Scareduck (177470) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @07:31PM (#37756490) Homepage Journal

    Please all die.

    KTHXBAI,
    -- Mr. Science

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @07:46PM (#37756654) Homepage

    Habitats fabricated in free space can provide thousands of times more habitable surface area than Earth.

    Sure they can. At some impressive energy cost (remember the gravity well, it sucks pretty hard). It would be much easier to make floating / submerged habitats than ones in outer space.

    Until you come up with essentially unlimited, cheap energy, space is not going to be the place for the huddled masses yearning to be free.

  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @08:29PM (#37757028)

    Habitats fabricated in free space can provide thousands of times more habitable surface area than Earth.

    Sure they can. At some impressive energy cost (remember the gravity well, it sucks pretty hard). It would be much easier to make floating / submerged habitats than ones in outer space.

    Until you come up with essentially unlimited, cheap energy, space is not going to be the place for the huddled masses yearning to be free.

    It's too bad there isn't a massive effectively limitless energy source somewhere pretty near us in space. /sarcasm

    Yes, getting to space is expensive now. The thing is, the actual energy cost to get into space is much less than you would think. Here [wikipedia.org] is an interesting comparison. At ~7.7km/s (escape velocity is ~11km/s) and 277 tonnes, the ISS has less orbital kinetic energy (orbital kinetic energy=1/2 gravitational) potential energy than that contained by the fuel in an Airbus A380. Only ~100 times that which the average car in the US used in 2000. A single decent power plant can produce that much energy in a day (actually, a 1000MW power plant will produce ~10 times that. In one day.)

    The trouble is, rockets are not very efficient and extremely heavy. And expensive to build. And, well, you're launching yourself into space on a pile of burning extremely combustible material. If we can find a better way to get into space (space elevators would be awesome), going to space won't be a problem. A single power plant could lift an ISS into space every day (figuring ~10% efficiency). Yes, spaceflight could be the answer. Not terribly soon, but yes.

  • by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @09:12PM (#37757314)

    Remember that the space program also fueld the technology boom of the 60's and 70's. Who's to say if we would have invented the electronic computer in the 50's if we didn't need missles. Would the microchip have been invented? Even aircraft technology had to be advanced to help with the space program.

    And of course think of the Bra's. Playtex was a major vendor of space suit technology, that eventually lead to new materials that now make boobies much more enticing.

  • by Old Wolf (56093) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @10:46PM (#37758000)

    20% of physics students, at this university level, thought that humanity had traveled beyond the Moon? And some thought that we routinely use the shuttle to travel to the moon...

    That's a lot easier to stomach than the fact that 75% of Americans with postgraduate degrees (and 84% overall) believe that a mythical being was involved in created humanity
    (source) [gallup.com]

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