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On the 5th of February 1974, NASA’s plucky Mariner 10 space probe zipped past the planet Venus at over 18,000 miles per hour. Mission scientists took advantage of the opportunity to snap some revealing photos of our sister planet, but the primary purpose of the Venus flyby was to accelerate the probe towards the enigmatic Mercury, a body which had yet to be visited by any Earthly device. The event constituted the first ever gravitational slingshot, successfully sending Mariner 10 to grope the surface of Mercury using its array of sensitive instruments. This validation of the gravity-assist technique put the entire solar system within the practical reach of humanity’s probes, and it was used with spectacular success a few years later as Voyagers 1 and 2 toured the outer planets at a brisk 34,000 miles per hour.
One of the more intriguing theories to fall out of the early gravity-assist research was a hypothetical spacecraft called the Cycler, a vehicle which could utilize gravity to cycle between two bodies indefinitely— Earth and Mars, for instance— with little or no fuel consumption. Even before the complex orbital mathematics were within the grasp of science, tinkerers speculated that a small fleet of Cyclers might one day provide regular bus service to Mars, toting men and equipment to and from the Red Planet every few months. Though this interplanetary ferry may sound a bit like perpetual-motion poppycock, one of the concept’s chief designers and proponents is a man who is intimately familiar with aggressive-yet-successful outer-space endeavors: scientist/astronaut Dr. Buzz Aldrin.
The year was 1985: David Hasselhoff was fighting crime in a sass-talking Trans Am, Mr Mister’s Broken Wings were learning to fly again, and Buzz “Dr Rendezvous” Aldrin was unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos. The first primitive Cycler orbits had been discovered sixteen years earlier, but these curiosities depended upon irregular planetary encounters, and they had round-trips on the order of a decade. In 1985, however, Dr Aldrin reasoned that there must be trajectories which swing by Earth and Mars every twenty-six months or so. This interval corresponds to the Earth-Mars synodic period, the time required for Earth’s orbit to overtake Mars around the sun. Guided by Aldrin’s advice, physicists sprang into action with renewed vigor and fistfuls of formulas. As predicted, such an orbit was indeed discovered, and it was promptly christened the Aldrin Cycler.
The value of a perpetually repeating trajectory was immediately evident to NASA’s engineers. Rocket scientists must contend with an immense expense when hefting material into low-Earth orbit— roughly $20 million per metric ton. Even a simple brain surgeon can grasp that a Cycler would allow mission planners to shed much of the rocket’s fuel flab. In 1999, for example, NASA estimated that a rocket-powered manned mission to Mars would require 437 metric tons of stuff to be lifted into space. This equates to $8.74 billion to orbit the materials for one round trip to our rusty neighbor. Over half of that weight— 250 tons— is propellant for the Mars transfer. In contrast, a Cycler adheres to a philosophy of practical re-use rather than littering the cosmos with discarded multi-billion-dollar vehicles. Although Dr Aldrin’s massive vehicle would need an initial thrust to insert it into the sweet spot, only occasional coaxing would be necessary to maintain the rhythmic encounters.
If a network of shiny new Cyclers were to be established, each one might spend its first few years making automated supply runs to the Red Planet. This approach would help to shake any lingering bugs from the system, while ensuring that the anticipated human visitors would be properly equipped upon their arrival. It would also afford mission planners the opportunity to deploy a fuel manufacturing unit on Mars to slowly convert some of the planet’s plentiful carbon dioxide into oxygen/methane rocket fuel. Once the Martian supply depot is fully stocked, the first human passengers would clamber aboard a small, fuel-efficient rocket ship and intercept Cycler Alpha during one of its regular Earth flybys. Onboard the space-station-like Cycler, the travelers would spend the five-month trip to Mars in relative comfort, protected from most of the gamma-rays, high-energy protons, and cosmic rays which pepper the vehicle’s exterior. The hull’s gentle spin would also produce some centrifugal gravity to counteract the health effects of weightlessness, though this incessant spinning may cause occasional disorientation, nausea, and troublesome low-gravity “protein spills.”
When Mars looms large in the viewport, the crew would then disembark using the “taxi” which brought them to the Cycler from Earth. Meanwhile the Cycler would pilfer some momentum from Mars to increase its own speed; this results in a negligible loss to the planet’s orbital velocity, but a substantial gain for the spacecraft. Fortunately this exchange is in accordance with the law of conservation of momentum, therefore Sir Isaac Newton’s body can remain at rest. After releasing the taxi and passing the planet, the unattended Cycler would start its lonely twenty-one-month trip back to Earth.
Upon their arrival on the Martian surface, the intrepid explorers would no doubt utter their pre-prepared profundities, erect a flag or two, and photograph their footprints. In the ensuing weeks, the pre-delivered cache of food, water, habitats, and equipment will support the astronauts as they conduct the earnest business of astronauting. Several months later, when the time comes to depart, the travelers will refuel their short-sprint space taxi and blast back into orbit to dock with the passing Cycler Omega. This sister Cycler shares the same trajectory shape as Alpha, but with a complimentary route that puts the journey from Mars to Earth on the short leg of the orbit. Within five months of leaving Mars, the members of the first manned-and-womanned Mars mission would return home to a tempest of ticker tape and talk shows. Cycler Omega, in the meantime, would be en route to another Martian rendezvous.
As grand and simple as it all may seem, the Aldrin Cycler concept is not devoid of drawbacks. The Cyclers’ construction would certainly require more upfront money and resources than classic point-and-shoot rocketry technology; however the reusable Cycler would ensure that the second Mars journey is much more economical, as well as any subsequent manned or unmanned missions. Another concern is that the departure and arrival times would be governed by the iron fist of Newtonian mechanics, offering no arrival/departure flexibility, and very little margin for error. An additional inconvenience is the flyby speed: as designed, the Cyclers would swing by Earth at approximately 15,000 miles per hour, and fly past Mars at 22,000 mph. In order to intercept such speedy Cyclers, the rocket-taxis would need to be capable of splitting a lot of lickety.
To address such concerns, the incorrigible Dr Aldrin is perfecting plans for a new hybrid vehicle which mates the charm of a Cycler with the convenience of a rocket. With this revised design, the outbound journey to Mars would still be handled by an Aldrin-brand Cycler, but the return leg would be served by a Semi-Cycler capable of parking in a low-velocity orbit around Mars. This craft would be much much easier to intercept, however a brief engine burn would be required to break from Mars orbit. Additionally, its lower cruising speed would prolong the trip home by approximately three months. On the Earth end of the trajectory, the Semi-Cycler would perform a normal slingshot to make its way back to Mars. Although this method has greater propellant demands than a straightforward Cycler, it is still quite frugal in contrast to regular rocketry. Research continues.
Ultimately the Cycler’s greatest calling is not to serve as a low-cost transportation service, but as a stepping stone towards a true space-faring future. It was the establishment of railroads which finally opened up the western frontier of the United States, and so could the Earth-Mars Cycler help to tame the wilderness of space. An interplanetary transit system would encourage a spirit of long-term commitment rather than the myopic “footprints and flagpoles” mindset that undermined the Apollo moon missions. Certain astronomical sticks-in-the-mud will argue that space exploration should be relegated to the robots, and insist that rovers can make the same discoveries as humans at a lower cost and lesser risk. For many of us, however, it is better to inhabit the universe than to observe it from afar; and if there are indeed more giant leaps in store for mankind, then Dr Aldrin’s revolutionary spaceship may just be the most practical way to make them.
© 2008 All Rights Reserved. Do not distribute or repurpose this work without written permission from the copyright holder(s).
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First! Me first, wow! I’m usually 245th by the time I get to reading these.
Cool site. Wish the new articles were more frequent though!
2nd, this doesn’t happen often
“When Mars looms large in the viewport, the crew would and disembark using the “taxi” which brought them to the Cycler from Earth.”
the crew would stop fighting aliens and disembark …
Just a guess
I wonder if there is a thought of a Moon-Earth Cycler. It’s closer and the concept would be proven. Maybe we could use the space elevater to catch the Cycler….
As always, I love this site due to the simple layout, excellent thoughtful comments and witty top-notch writing. I know you have a Damn Interesting book coming out, but I wish your articles were more frequent. .. but I guess, what do I expect for paying the price of free.99?
Wow, what a concept! I wonder what effect the addition and subtraction of mass from the cycler would be as the taxi joins and leaves – could throw off the dynamics enogh to require additional thrust, either + or – to keep the cycler on track.
Wow! this is as far as I’ve got…….
DI ! btw, the commentators here also utter their “pre-prepared profoundities” when they are first :)
Very good once again Alan.
Finally have registered for this DI web site, have been a lurker for well over a year now and am always looking forward to the next DI article.
>>rocket-taxis would need to be capable of splitting a lot of lickety
Lost the bottom of that last one, quote above really got me!
I like the ability of Sir Isaac Newton’s body to remain at rest in accordance with the law of conservation of momentum, thanks to the Cycler also obeying said law. A D.I. turn of phrase as usual, Alan! I liked “splitting a lot of lickety” too.
Now the timestamps on these blog entries, that’s a different matter. April 10th, 2008 10:23 am? What is this, the Springfield Daily Tattler? Or a global blog? How about a timezone, there? (To be fair, this is far from the only blog which apparently fails to realize that there is more than one time zone on this planet. And it is quite possible to enjoy D.I. without knowing when each comment was posted. But if you’re going to display the timestamps, you might as well display useful ones.)
Oh you punster; you’re articles are always so pregnant with information, dripping with innuendo, I invariably spew coffee on the screen.
Had no idea that Buzz was more than a grand pilot. Cool to learn about his “other” job. Aside from getting there, I wonder about the feisability of actually sustaining life on the red planet. I guess getting there would be 1/4 the solution , & by then we would have the other problems ironed out..
Di! Again, you always make these science articles so funny and easy to understand, Alan. Thanks for the great work, and congrats on the book deal. Can hardly wait for my copy!
The mass that effects the motion of the cycler would be M (the mass 0f Mars+ the mass of the cycler). So the loss of a couple 1000 kg would serve as a negligible perturbation to the flight path of the new lighter cycler. To answer your thought: the dynamics won’t be affected.
I don’t think that’s possible. Granted, I haven’t given it much thought, but it seems like the cycler concept only works when the two bodies are orbiting a third and have substantially different orbital period.
Astronauts tend to be pretty impressive folks, especially back in those days, when their scientific and engineering backgrounds were leaned on even more heavily. I’ve always thought of it as how old rockers had to actually know how to play their instruments. :)
“Rocket scientists must contend with an immense expense when hefting material into low-Earth orbit– roughly $20 million per metric ton. Even a simple brain surgeon can grasp that a Cycler would allow mission planners to shed much of the rocket’s fuel flab”
I still don’t understand how this will work( am not a brain surgeon), cause everytime the cycler approaches either of earth or mars, the connecting taxi would have to overcome the earth’s gravitational pull so as to dock with the cycler. I believe it is in this phase of attaining the escape velocity that the ships burn the most of their fuel. Now granted that the size and weight of the connecting taxis would be small but still I think that the system would not make much sense unless we shoot the bulk of the material the very first time with the cyclers.
Correct me if I am wrong.
And yes… the article was really interesting
I think part of it is that it lets you break the tonnage and the mission up into more manageable chunks (if you’re lifting a smaller load to the cycler, you need less fuel to break orbit, which means much less fuel to reach orbit, etc.), and partly it assumes refueling on the way (in an article Aldrin wrote about it, he proposed refueling while waiting for the Mars-bound cycler with fuel mined on the moon).
good article once again, i wonder what our current capabilities (speedwize) are for catching orbiting satilites?
Good Article Alan.
I find it amusing that we spend so much time on the direct approach when a cheaper alternative exists just off our doorstep, so to speak. Like someone using stepping-stones to cross a waterway, we could use natural stepping-stones to reach Mars. Those would be Asteroids.
To date nearly 150,000 asteroids, with an approximate 5,000 additional discovered monthly, have been identified and orbital trajectories logged with many of these in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. A mishmash of cinders, rubble piles, dead comets, mineral rich floating mountains, and collected sand piles; these can be mined for construction material, water, minerals to help fund space travel, and possibly fuel.
NASA operates the Spaceguard Survey that has catalogued over 860 closer to home unsightly neighbors that pass within a 30 million mile danger zone to Earth and exceed a 62 mile diameter. Called planet busters, these puppies (yeah, big puppies) have the potential to radically alter the civilized world not to mention the un-civilized one.
Plans are in the works on how these killers can be diverted from the Earth. One is call the Gravity Tractor proposed by two astronauts, Lu & Stanley Love. Basically a heavy weight with a small thruster is put in orbit around a potentially dangerous asteroid. For instance, Apophis would require a one-ton tug and about 30 days to move it to a safer trajectory. The Gravity Tractor would engage the asteroid in a close elliptical orbit. On the side furthest from the direction desired to deflect the asteroid, a small thruster would fire on each orbit. This would increase the tug’s momentum in the direction desired to move the asteroid. The gravity bond between the tug and the rock would act as a tether slowing the tug, but in turn slightly deflecting the asteroid towards the desired direction. With each orbit this dance would slowly nudge the asteroid away from Earth. So in a sense, this same method could be utilized to redirect asteroids, as one would do to build stepping-stones, creating a viable path of stations, mining camps, refueling stations along the pathway between the Earth and the other planets.
Cost. This is a factor. In 2014 NASA plans to have a moon rocket ready for flight-testing. The fuel and resources required to overcome Earth’s 39,600 mph escape velocity and deliver a 25-ton lunar Lander (not including mothership and fuel) to the moon could be used to build a fleet of ships to mine and create asteroid stations, which would be reusable, unlike the solitary Moonship.
In contrast to the Moon, which requires a 5,730 mph velocity to escape it, the fuel cost of landing on, or taking off from an asteroid would be more like docking with the space station. Requiring less expense in fuel and resources. For instance there is one close Earth Asteroid called Eros, this space rock is some 20 miles long by 8 miles across, the velocity to escape its gravity well is so slight that a golfer could send golf ball satellites into orbit with virtually each swing.
Once heavy metal asteroids could be found and “tamed”, factories would be created to mine them, thus reducing the material needed to be lifted from the gravity well of the Earth. Also ice bearing asteroids or dead comets could be mined for fuel and oxygen once again reducing the cost of space exploration since less would needed to lifted from the Earth. Then there is the bonus of less shielding on an asteroid base from the Sun’s radiation since the stone’s mass would reflect or absorb a certain quantity depending of the asteroid’s composition and mass.
By creating these way stations further trips to the moon and then to Mars would become a reality, helping to bring space travel to mankind instead of just to a select few. Like the outposts of America’s past, these “tamed” asteroids would be the outposts of space helping to tame that frontier. Arranged and developed these asteroids would become the work camps that build the factories that built a nation.
That’s my thoughts on this subject. Now if you would excuse me, I need to rest. You see, I was feeding my daughter’s 4-H steer when he blindsided me. Flipped me over his head then used my body to mop up his leavings. Snapped some ribs on my left side as well as left me with minor scrapes and contusions. That’s okay; I lived through worse, other than it hurts like hell with each breath. ;) In case you were wondering where I’ve been lately.
My daughter’s steer, well she decided he was just too unpredictable so she sold him. She said we’d try again next year.
Don, I love all of your ideas and they make a lot of sense too. I suppose one of the major problems with them would no doubt be money. All of those great ideas would require money upfront and currently the govt is having a difficult time with healthcare, war, basic humanity 101… thus funding may be a bit hard to come by. Maybe someday though!
p.s. don, was that the video of you at the rodeo when the steer charged and flung you like a raggedy anne n’ andy doll, then your pants came off and your “little don” was flapping as you ran for your very essence?
You may not be a brain surgeon, Clear, but I’m quite sure that your doubts are well placed. First, as I understand it, many if not all interplanetary missions already use a trajectory that allows them to benefit greatly from “gravity drive” as vehicles pass near a planet. It is sometimes referred to as the slingshot effect.
Second, the benefit of the proposed vehicle would not use less energy, as the same energy would have to be expended in matching the cycler’s speed and vector. Once the “shuttle” achieved the same trajectory as the cycler (a necessary condition for docking), it too could simply coast along the same orbit to its destination. The only fuel expended would be a relatively tiny amount for course correction, which the cycler would need to do also.
There may be some logistical advantages to the proposed arrangement in that one vehicle would be purpose built for launch and another for space travel. But there would certainly be no huge energy savings.
LOL, good point!
very D.I. who would have guessed a guy named buzz figured this out.
To infinity, and beyond!
This doesn’t make sense to me. Any cargo waiting to be picked up by the cycler, would have to be accellerated to match the cycler’s relative velocity beforehand anyway, so where is the saving?
Asteroids that pass near earth are very, very seldom closer than the moon, and they are usually moving at a high velocity relative to the earth (which is why they are so dangerous). That means that a mining ship will have reach a much higher velocity than a Moonship to catch the asteroid, and will have to go much farther unless they are only going to be launched every few years.
Eros, for example, will pass within 16.6 million miles of earth in the year 2012, which is much farther than the 239,000 miles that is the distance to the moon. A spaceship to catch it will cost much more than a Moonship for the same mass. (The NEAR Shoemaker probe that did catch Eros was much smaller than one needed to carry ore or humans).
This website shows where Eros is at any one time, you can see it is near the orbit of mars right now:
Rest and get well!
The savings would come from not having to lift a new ship, with sufficient radiation shielding, for each subsequent trip. (Five or six months outside a planetary magnetosphere without something substantial between you and the solar “wind” would most likely fry ones genes to a crispity crunch.)I’m not sure of the mass needed to keep the explorers viably fertile or cancer-free, but at roughly $20mil/ton, I would imagine that the ability to reuse such a craft would “pay” for itself after a few trips.
Don, hope all heals well. If the new owner decides to host a BBQ with said steer in question as the guest of honor, I hope you’ll get a nice fillet out of it.
Glad you’re back, Don. Sorry to hear about the bull shit you got dragged through, though. Must say though, the last time Icame close to the same thing happening I had fresh steaks for a month. Get well my friend.
DI Alan. If it happens I just hope the timeliness is better than the “shuttles” at the airport.
stevekj, must be pacific time on those stamps.
Don, She needs a goat. I happen to have some.
I wish I knew someone that was headed your way. I could just accelerate the goats up to his speed, drop them in his truck, then go home and wait.
DAMNED Interesting, as usual, and with a generous side order of humor. The “infinity+” button on the animation made iced tea come out my nose… You guys rock!
Just wondering, but in the animation, it looks like the Alpha and Omega Cyclers cross orbits at about the same time when Mars and Earth are at closest approach. Is there any chance that the spacecraft could collide? Obviously the craft are making minute adjustments all the time, but I’ve heard of incidents where passenger airliners passed by each other accidentally within a stone’s throw. Imagine if you’re on board Cycler Alpha and you look out the starboard window to see Omega veering towards you as you’re both going 20,000 mph. Protein spills indeed.
A free e-book (fiction, but GOOD) with references to Aldrin and reusing space shuttle fuel tanks in-orbit: http://www.webscription.net/p-137-fallen-angels.aspx
I suggest the “FIRST!” and “SECOND!” guys take the first trip. We’ll consider designing the taxi for Earth later…
I suggest it be instant ban for anyone doing the ‘first” thing.
DI article, I love stuff like this.
I was thinking the same thing. However, I think the advantage is that you don’t have to re-send the mass each time. I might send 100 metric tons up in the cycler, but the visiting astronauts may only need a 10 metric ton vehicle. You’d use (ballpark figure) about a tenth of the fuel needed to get them up to speed on that trajectory. The advantage is that the astronauts get to live in a much larger environment during the journey for a fraction of the cost.
Having said that, I should probably point out that it would be much cheaper to do this AFTER we build a space elevator…
“splitting a lot of lickety.” Loved it. Man, what a good article. Crazy good.
On the downside, I would be worried about the so called “negligable” planetary orbital velocity reduction. The “evil man caused global warming” crowd already scare me enough.
This is such a cool concept…
All I’m going to yap about is that excellent picture
of the Space Shuttle. Almost looks like, dare I say it,
a transformer. And that’s a heavy and ‘scary’ backpack
it’s strapped to.
Having to wait 26 months if you miss the bus home is a bit harsh. I don’t mind jumping off or on a tram when its still moving but trying that at 15 000 mph seems very risky.
[spammy link removed]
Yep. I think the various references to fuel efficiency in the article are misleading, and the real point is for the cycler to be “space-station like”. Which would indeed create fuel efficiency, on re-use, compared to launching a whole damn space station every time we want to go to mars – but that’s never been a plan, so it’s a false alternative.
Great story and I’d say let’s have a nice round of protein spills on the house for everyone. I’ve never heard of this cycler craft before but it seems like a semi-decent sound idea. I wonder if that concept of the gravity shot and law of motion could be used to keep a perpetual moon based large scale craft in flight. This would so ease the ability to keep a permanent base of operations and allow for the mining of some high demand materials that are rich on the Moon and not at home. As to negate the fuel issue further, much like ‘Spaceship Two’ you could have your taxi taken up on a standard jet type craft and inserted with minimal fuel burn from an aleready high cruising altitude.
To the poster who suggested the 1st, 2nd idiot crew be the test pilots the problem is that they could return in some months. I nominate them to be strapped to the outside of a solar shield of a new solar probe that enters the edge of the corona as that would be some valuable data determining the exact temp that bs disintegrates.
Brilliant Allen. Always a pleasure.
“When Mars looms large in the viewport, the crew would and disembark using the “taxi” which brought them to the Cycler from Earth.” I’m sure you meant “then”……a DI and amusing article indeed!
-Wasn’t that what Buzz said after Armstrong?
I once used to believe in the common good of space exploration, perhaps the only hope for the human species to continue into existence. However, today I am not that convinced about how good it can really be to dream of the stars, while we still strive amidst religious conflicts, genocides, etc.
It seems to me such a contradiction to expend billions into technology, while a large proportion of our species still suffers from easily controlled disease, famines, lack of basic education, social violence, etc.
Perhaps, we are just acting in full concordance to our primeval nature (instinct). As primates we can’t help but to explore and play, but at the same time, we could not care less about our own brothers and sisters.
Overall, I hold very poor expectations about space exploration, until we first clean our mess here at home, otherwise risking a self-inflicted extinction.
Good points smokefoot, but let me explain my thoughts better. :)
Correct, which is why I suggested the Gravity Tractor. The cost in fuel to travel to an asteroid is far less than say the liftoff from the moon. Using these simplified puffer weights; an asteroid could be slowed and redirected to a new and fully useable orbit. The cost is time. Using two to three tugs can slow while redirecting the desired mega-rock to a closer, yet parallel orbit to Earth, and once established the asteroid could be examined for useable materials, or used as a base of operations to capture another asteroid. This plan would take a few years to implement, but think of the possibilities. If such had been started in the early 1970s, space colonies would have been established before 2000.
As any strategist’s can tell you, setting up outposts will help your units advance. Blindly rushing into unknown territory usually ends in failure. By creating beachheads you have shorter supply lines to create and help is closer should it be needed. Also by creating beachheads you can now utilize local resources to further your advancement and exploration into the unknown and can rely on less from your home base. :)
The NEAR project was a limited budget mission in which time was sacrificed in terms of cost. The mass of the probe was kept low so a much smaller booster could be used to lift it out of Earth’s gravity well. This also meant less mass to move the probe once in orbit thus the long timeframe to rendezvous with Eros. More money would have reduced the time factor and a larger probe could also have been sent. Alas limited budget, limited resources.
Since certain resources must be sent with a human crew to sustain their life force, the mass of the rocket is greatly increased to compensate for it. So time is now a factor that increases the cost and mass of the rocket. Robotic missions are cheaper, but our AI is still too primitive to be able to reach a valid decision to overcome unforeseen problems. The human element is just too valuable an element. But simplified robotic gravity tugs can be sent out to capture, secure, and establish our first asteroid bases. When the tugs finally get the hopefully iron rich rock parked, the human element is added. At that point, the asteroid is choice ground just waiting to be developed.
Once iron rich asteroids and comet bodies (or ice bearing asteroids) are discovered and placed in a more useable location, less material would have to be lifted from Earth substantially reducing the cost of space exploration/colonization. The determining weight of any rocket is the fuel onboard. The mass of the payload and the ultimate placement of that payload will determine how much fuel will be needed. This is why all deep space missions utilize the gravity slingshot. Otherwise using a certain number of elliptical orbits around the Earth, stealing a minor amount of energy, before heading into their journey.
Move 90 plus percent of manufacturing of machines, fuel, habitats, and etc. into space and that leaves just getting people out there. Thus more payloads will be people and not the machines to keep them alive or move them about the system
As with any endeavor, the startup costs are huge but in the long run the returns would far outweigh anything else we can do now. The only downside is the time factor. If the US Apollo missions had been diverted to this in the seventies, we could have had a thriving near Earth space manufacturing system, moon colonies, and possibly the beginnings of a Mars colony today.
Thanks for the good thoughts for my bullish encounter. Ribs are healing well. ;)
Sounds good, let’s do it.
“Splitting a lot of lickity.” Hehe
I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’d like to see more and more planets fall under the ruthless domination of our solar system.
It’s not quite the same physics in action, but the “negligible loss to the planet’s orbital velocity” reminded me of “…robs the planet of angular momentum…” from http://xkcd.com/162/
Buzz light beer of Star Command, being a galactic law enforcement officer, should be ticketing our feerless astronaut in the first picture. Note the traffic sign that says ‘No Standing.’ It’s even pointing right at him.
Interestingly, Boeing appears to have patented(!) the “slingshot effect”. Apparently this has never been an issue, until now: Boeing Patent Shuts Down AMC-14 Lunar Flyby Salvage Attempt.
What orbit would you use, though? An orbit larger or smaller than the earth’s means that the asteroid has a different time to circle the sun, which means that half the time it will be on the far side of the sun – a maximum of 186 million miles. An orbit that is the same size at the earth’s will cross the earth’s path twice a year; and I think people will have safety concerns about that! :-) Using the earth’s orbit, but placing the asteroid ahead or behind the earth is another possibility, but again, I think people will have safety concerns with maneuvering something so big so close to the earth, especially if you are going to try to get it closer than the moon. The moon crosses the earth’s path twice a month; if you want to get the asteroid into an orbit ahead or behind the earth and closer than the moon you have to figure out a way to get it there without the moon hitting it on the way!
Your beachhead argument seems to favor using the moon – it is already close and in a stable orbit, and the energy to lift off from it is minor. The only disadvantage it the lack of many metals – but oxygen and aluminum are very common there.
Um….wait a minute. If you get in your taxi, take off from Earth and catch up to the cycler in order to dock with it, you’ve injected yourself into its orbit. In other words, you’ve already flown to Mars, you’re just going to coast the rest of the way. Whether or not you link up with the cycler is irrelevant. You’ve already spent all the energy necessary to get to Mars. Even if the cycler were somehow able to reach down a pluck you up into its orbit, saving you some energy, it would come at the expense of the cycler’s inertia, and at some point that energy would have to be made back up or the cycler would fall out of its orbit. And anyhow, how much energy would it require to get the cycler into its orbit in the first place? By the law of conservation of energy, it would cost you at least as much energy as you might be able to save even if you were able to boost other ships around the solar system. I’m thinking this is a great-sounding idea which won’t work unless we figure out a way to violate the laws of Physics.
I haven’t read the article yet….but isn’t this a bit like patenting the 3-point turn? I think I might head down to the patent office and stake my claim over the ‘shocker’ and ‘Dirty Sanchez’….if I’m allowed I will shortly also patent the ‘Donkey Punch’.
I just read the article you provided. Apparently this really would be like me patenting the 3-point turn or the ‘Shocker’.
The article pretty much calls the patent hogwash and says it was given when the patent office was baffled by anything relating to space travel.
Love the 1985 references snuck into the article. Loved the Lickety. Certainly felt the buzz of the article. Just because a person takes up a lot of space doesn’t make them an astronaut. What no references to David and Goliath regarding the slingshot? Why would we have taxis when we could opt for Kit from Knight Rider? I would write more but I’m currently en route toward another Mars rendezvous. Before I go just wanted to mention that Don might consider showing rabbits or chickens in 4-H as they are less hassle than steers or horses can be.
The man knows his orbital physics, be assured. Launching the cyclers would require a lot of energy, true—but only once each. It’s the subsidiary launches, to hitch rides on the cyclers, that need not cost much energy. And, even if those other launches do not save any energy overall, they bring lots of convenience with them.
Think of, for example, the huge costs involved in building highways: roughly $1 million per mile, for Interstate-class roads. (Add in the longer-term costs for maintenance and repair, too.) These costs are only slowly (if ever) recouped via usage taxes such as (a part of) the tax assessed on the sale of motor fuels, but the indirect return in the form of greatly facilitated commerce is tremendous.
More simply put, establishing infrastructure will always cost a lot—but, done right, it will gain enough to be considered worth it.
…18,000 mph…34,000 mph…hope them cyclers got some good brakes!
As for the NASA Spaceguard Survey, it don’t matter whether you’re talking, toroids, asteroids or hemorrhoids…it all falls out in the end! :-)
I just got off the loo, had a very good BM, it was firm and slightly brown in color.The smell was rich ,not foul. Whilst sitting there I began contemplating the curent Democratic Presidential contest and came to the conclusion that Big Bubba Bill Clinton, does not want his spouse to win the nomination nor the office.
I believe he fears that historians would say she was a better holder of the office than he believes he was, if she were to be elected. By not having her win the office he preserves his legacy. The recent gaffes he has made in public are calculated attempts to derail her campaign with out appearing to do so.
I hate to niggle, but escape velocity from the earth is only about 25, 000 mph. Not slow, mind you, but not nearly 39,600 mph. (This was stated in a comment—and repeated in another comment— and not the article.) I thought someone in this wise crowd would have noticed and corrected this by now…! I bet what the Don meant was kph, although apparently escape velocity in kph is a bit higher than that number—40,270.
I remember the 25,000 mph escape velocity (as well as the 18,000 mph orbital velocity) from reading Hermann Oberth’s “Man into Space” when I was five or six. I still have all my old copies of Space World, if anyone remembers what that was.
The article was DI, as usual. Alan’s byline seems to guarantee that.
The importance of these simpler cycling gravity-assist orbits between the planets is without question. They will make economical freight distribution throughout the solar system possible.
Most gravity-assist trajectories in our space efforts will not be cyclic though. They will be worked out on an individual basis, and employ other means of complementary propulsion that employ energy sources like the solar wind, with sails, and the unlimited sunlight conversion to energy with collection panels.
In the utilization of the asteroids, particularly those in Earth-approaching orbits, these other forms of energy production and navigation will be essential for us to succeed.
Radiatidon’s post 19 is excellently thought provoking and well reasoned. He does his homework even with a few broken ribs. I’ll hazard a guess that he is a sound chess player as well as being one of the top ten Commentators I have seen here. Get well soon.
Well, it would be a much greater distance in reality. At that scale, two dots occupying the same place could be thousands of km apart.
…To infinity, and more infinity!
No, wait, that’s not how it goes. Uhh…
…To infinity, and so on!
Well, 69th huh? That must have some significance somewhere :).
A little history: About 11 years ago I helped build one of Dr. Aldrins homes on a mountain side in Colo. Spgs.. Being that famous, I was surprised that he would spend talking to each one of us at length when he came, usually laddened with a case or two of beer, to check on our progress in the cold evenings of winter as he flew between Houston, Moscow and Colorado Springs. He and his wife were emersed in Sky Lab and the movement to combine the two great powers Space Programs. After a few beers, and after being asked repeatedly, he would recount some of the experiences of his career which now spans over 40 years. We built a concrete bunker with a great green door that also had a reed filled bird hunting scene so he could save and store some of his Space memoribilia and collectables, not necessarily one of a kind mind you, I am sure there are plenty of other rocks on the Moon… He was one of those kinds of people you could listen to and like E.F. Hutton commercials, he rarely had to speak over any of us. It is rare to meet people like that, and I am sure they practice being human all the time too. :)
A few years later, I had to cheer when he knocked that kid out on the steps for saying all he stood for was fake and the Moon trip never happened. That had to have hurt and I dont believe that was fake either…
Like sailors on the oceans, they learn a great force exists that can at times be harnessed to propel man to new worlds. Much like the explorers of old with their biases, adgendas and desires, our explorers reach for new heights. Perhaps it is within all of us to see what lies at the horizon and for a few to see what lies beyond. As in those times, there is a huge bed of politics and nations competing for these rare glimpses of the unknown. I think using our experienced voyagers to promote, defend and advance our cause is benificial to our Nation and to our Dreams. I would one day like to see the Earth from space, not as an Astronaunt but as a passenger abord a flight, that is about the limit of my star exploration dreams. People like Buzz Aldrin and some of our private sector could make that a reality by the time I am an old man with eyes that have been fixed, other failing body parts and dreams that have faded. Perhaps, I may be able to step on board and see our great planet from some unkown height and experience the awe that so few have seen. I will also be bringing a map to see if those cartagraphers got it right :)
As far as his research and approach goes, I think he is right on when the vastness of Space is concerned; there must be nothing wasted, thrift and efficiency must be the key attribute to cover those distances. In Space, I believe there exists a bountiful wealth of unseen energies where forces ply and reshape all things. The key to our wisdom is Space is learning the how…
Things like how is it that Gamma Rays can travel as fast as they do or light for instance. In the size of Space, surely the laws of motion would be a raw and unmeasured force, not bound by the size of an object or its payload, only the ablity to harness the forces of celestial propulsion.
Could we not emulate these things in the nature of space to achieve a working knowledge; much in the same way we emulated the forces and creatures on this planet? Surely emulation and learning from observation apply in Space as on Earth… We have mastered many of our concepts on Earth by studying the small things, could not the study of small thing in Space lead to great break throughs?? Our problem is the risk, we may have become to timid as a people to allow some of our best to take the risks necessary to harness these seemingly chaotic forces.
So perhaps grounded on Terra Firma we may remain until the Mother of Invention gives us that little nudge out of the cradle and into the nursery…
Thanks for these moments
Good article again Alan. I think however that unless there is a worldwide crisis of some sort, our government would not provide the appropriate funds to make this type of system work. Look how long the ISS has been in orbit and what have we seen in the way of innovations from that? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a enthusiastic supporter of space exploration, but I don’t see this happening any time soon.
While you’re looking at the stars, people are picking your pockets…
Nicely written as always, pity most of us reading this won’t be here if it’s ever put into action.
I have a somewhat related question that maybe somebody here knows the answer to:
Why are they planning on decommissioning the ISS in 2016? I mean, it is a lot of usable material, it’s already up in orbit. We will need a “stepping stone” to the moon and to mars. Why not continue using it? It costs a lot of money for each and every pound to be lofted up there, and here is all of this ready-to-use material already sitting there.
The reasoning behind the decommissioning slated for 2016 is due to the end of the budget for the station (US portion) and the end-of-life expectancy of certain components used in the station. Now understand that this does not mean downing the station for reentry burn-up, just that for the purpose it is currently being used for will end. At that time the US will reevaluate the usefulness of the station in reference to NASA, research, and private industry. The station will either be used for something else as in this article from the Russian press –http://en.rian.ru/world/20070130/59917397.html
“No one is going to sink or drop the ISS, as all countries realize that the station is becoming a full-scale industrial facility in space. Although it is scheduled for decommissioning in 2015, its operational life could be prolonged until 2025,” Nikolai Sevastyanov said.
…Or the ISS would be cannibalized to build other things.
Understand that many components used in the station are being replaced almost daily as technology improves. These are small and the cost to replace not so severe. But as the station ages, more systems and components will need upgrading. There will come a time in which it would be cheaper to build a new structure than use the current ISS. New technologies will birth making station wide systems obsolete. Even the basic structures may become outdated and unable to support the new tech.
For instance hi-tech computer motherboards built 5 years ago were blazing fast for their time are now obsolete and unable to handle the newer processors or next-gen memory units. Being as such, not fully adapt to utilize many modern programs, especially graphic intense programs such as CAD or Resource hungry video games.
So why risk the continue use of something that is slow, cumbersome, and potentially expensive to run when new tech will build a cheaper and more versatile station?
Good point, we wouldn’t want the astronauts to be unable to play the latest video games on the ISS…
I am surprised that no one mentioned that except for the energy the taxi needs to get up to speed with the cycler it ALSO needs more or less the same amount of energy to stop, turn around and head back to Earth or Mars respectively. Or does it stay docked to the Cycler and only disengages at the other end of the journey? And if it does stay docked, what’s the use of the Cycler in the first place?
First you need to think in four dimensions instead of three. An object can orbit in line above the Earth with minor adjustments to the orbit to compensate gravity attraction between the Earth and the object. Or orbit from pole to pole instead of following the equator.
There are many even now who consider the moon mission a waste of time and resources. Though the trip to any asteroid might be longer than a moon mission, it would still take fewer resources. Due to less fuel required for touchdown and liftoff on an asteroid verses the moon, more equipment and life support could be included in the spacecraft. Or to reduce the time span, that fuel could be used to accelerate to a higher speed reducing the time to the rock. The cost factor would virtually be the same if not cheaper.
When the Apollo moonships launched, the Saturn V’s first stage burned for 2.5 minutes through 2,000,000 kg of fuel. This allowed the ship to reach just 42 miles and comprised of just the first stage of three. The second stage fired, burning for around 6 minutes and achieved 109 miles at a speed of 15,647 mph but still short of getting the craft into orbit. At this point the third stage went into operation and once finished with the first part of its two-part job had placed the moonship into a Low Earth Orbit. A very unstable and short-lived orbit, but was used to check systems before final launch from orbit towards the moon. By this time the Apollo Moonship and expended over 96% of its mass just to reach this point. Another 2% of its mass was used to place 47,000kg of the Command Ship and LEM within orbit around the moon, or just 2% of the original craft’s mass. So otherwise 96% of the craft was dedicated to escape the Earth and just a measly additional 2% to reach the moon.
If most if not all of a spacecraft is constructed in space and utilizing material taken from asteroids, less mass is wasted escaping the Earth and can be used for faster travel through space or larger crew’s quarters.
As for orbit, there already is the possibility that asteroids are in lateral orbit with the Earth. Named Trojans, some have been discovered in both Jupiter’s and Mar’s Lagrange points. The Lagrange points are very stable orbital points both 60 degrees leading and trailing a planet. Interesting enough though, that there are more in Jupiter’s L4, or the leading Lagrange than in the trailing L5. Orbital debris has been discovered in our own moon’s Lagrange points, but little has been said with the moon and our own celestial junk being all that more interesting than some pebbles leading and following the moon.
And speaking of Earth’s Moon, there is the possibility that the Earth actually has more than one. The director of the observatory of Toulouse announced in 1846 that Lebon, Dassier, and Lariviere had all observed another object in orbit around the Earth on March 21, 1846. Throughout the years many others have reported various objects in orbit around the Earth. Some of these could be small meteoroids captured by the Earth for a limited orbit of a few hours to a week or so. Even the moon could have captured an asteroid creating its own short-lived moonlet. Due to the uneven nature of the moon’s gravitational index though, such a moonlet would last at the most a decade or so before impacting with the moon. But the possibility of other objects in orbit not manmade and in a stable orbit is very plausible. Small asteroids that could be easily mined in our own backyard before setting out to capture and exploit other asteroids.
Then there are the asteroids such as 3756 Cruithne, which is in a co-orbital with Earth, or otherwise shares the Earth’s orbital plane. Like a drunken sailor this asteroid waltzes with the Earth in a celestial game of I’m-not-touching-you. Traveling in a horseshoe orbit, this rock approaches the Earth with an apparent potential collision, only to seemingly turn and move away. Repeating this same dance again and again as both orbit the sun. Asteroids such as this could be tamed into a more friendly and usable orbit.
We also have Amor asteroids whose orbits bring them close to but do not cross Earth’s orbit. These occur mainly between Mars and Earth.
Then there are the Apollo asteroids who cross the Earth’s orbit as they move towards the sun then back out again. They spend most of their time on the far side of the Earth away from the sun.
Finally there are the Aten asteroids who cross Earth’s orbit as they move out from the sun then back again. These rocks spend most of their time between the Earth and the sun.
Follow this link to the Armagh Observatory website à http://szyzyg.arm.ac.uk/~spm/. This is a map of the inner solar system with asteroids that have been discovered and mapped. Quite a lot of potential territory that can be mined for space colonies, raw material that can be tamed and harvested to fuel expansion. These asteroids would supply the material to build the ships and habitats and supply the fuel, oxygen, and water, rather than wasting fuel lifting it from the Earth or the Moon.
Any of the above asteroids could be tamed then repositioned at Earth’s L4 or L5 points. Once established the L4 & L5 mining colonies would be created sending both raw and manufactured goods back to Earth utilizing the space train, a series of space canisters in a continues string moving towards and returning from Earth to the colonies with robotic controls and limited maneuvering capabilities. These things could be launched weekly if not daily, and cheap to build using asteroid material. Space tugs would capture the barges as they approached the Earth and redirect them to the L2 & L3 points in the Earth/Moon system. Here they would be unloaded and the material sent to local space colonies, the Moon, or the Earth. Just as the railroad tamed the continents, the space train would help develop the inner system.
Lets not forget that many of the raw materials is actually on the surface of different asteroids. Many of the mining facilities could literally scrap the iron off the surface rather than dig through miles of dirt, another major cost saver making such potential worth considering.
One point you keep hitting on is distance. First we would search our local system (Earth/Moon) for any asteroids, comets, and other such that exist here. Utilize that to build the Earth/Moon system manufacturing plants and space habitats. Remember the time it took the Astronauts to reach the Moon was determined by how much fuel it cost to lift the Apollo free of the Earth. You need to realize that over 96% of the Moon rocket’s mass was fuel just to reach Low Earth Orbit.
Once an in system (Earth/Moon) infrastructure is created the cost will have been reduced by over 80%. Travel time notwithstanding, Europeans braved the dangers of the sea to travel to the Americas and Australia. Trips that took considerable time (not hours or days, but months) to complete in a very inhospitable environment. They had to take a majority if not all their supplies for the trip with them because of little or no knowledge of areas where they could re-supply.
Where is the inventive, passionate drive in the world? Where are the innovative cutting edge outliers? If we’re going to get to Mars we need severe creativity and risk taking. What we really need is to find a person who is a cross between Leonardo Da Vinci and the guy who started the show Jackass…….
Great bit of info from Radiation in #77!!
Clearing up a boo boo from #69. It was not Skylab that occupied the majority of his time but the ISS, which did require the mutual cooperation of both the Russian and US space programs. Obviously other countries played a contributing role.
I guess another question for Space Exploration is the one many of us have asked which is Why?
Apart from the thrill or pride of saying we have done that or because it was there, you find the people with the purse strings asking: “What is out there within our reach that justifies the risk, resources, funding and time to make the trip worth while.” Again, the same quandry leaders at the dawn of the Age of Discovery had to answer… and we must remember it took many decades, even a century or two depending on your point of view, to colonize and establish any sence of order in the New World. Some have proposed we repeat our process, go, claim and extract the minerals off of the Asteroids, should we then be called the New Conquestadors and bring an old Spanish flag along for the ride? Bring back riches in Platnium enough to buy several governments or super corporations many times over? Not bad for a group of second and third sons…
We must also find the Why in Space.
‘…and we must remember it took many decades, even a century or two depending on your point of view, to colonize and establish any sence of order in the New World’.
I would said, instead, that order was already established in the New World before the Spaniards, English and others proceeded to invade and conquer the territories of other nations, and in the process committing one of the largest ethnic cleansings of history (Check Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel for additional references). There is a large difference between exploiting an empty piece of rock (asteroid?), and extracting the resources that belong to other people; especially if it is done by the sword and the whip.
Apart from that, I insist in that many of us keep naively dreaming of the stars while we may only have a few decades more of civilization if we insist in our current lifestyles and world politics. I wonder, though, if we ever reach the technology and organization to exploit the resources from other planets and asteroids, would those resources be equally distributed among all nations, and among the entire human race? Perhaps, this last dream is even wildest than the former.
Four posts on this one article take up more space than everyone else’s combined!
Not sure of what you are trying to say, but Radiatidon’s comments are very insightful and interesting. So what if they are long. The best part of this website (besides reading the really cool articles) is reading the really cool posts that come with the article. I don’t mean the first post either.
Maybe…. But it’s a much better read than this one!
Steer + Don + Highly Enriched Processed Cow Food = Smelly Don’s Cracked Rib Surprise.
ER visit + Chest Wrap + Happy Drugs = Strange acting giddy Don.
Bed Rest + Can’t Talk since breathing hurts = Bored but still giddy Don.
Bored Don + Mule Headed Fool = Dumb Don feeding & working animals against other’s advice.
Shifted rib + Dumb Don = Preforated Lung Wall
Preforated Lung Wall = Second ER visit & Major Scold from Doctor
One Surgery Later + Threat to gag & tie Don Down = More happy Drugs and very weird Don
Very weird Don + One function Lung & one not so functioning Lung = Total bed rest & no talkie
Dumb Don + Happy Drugs + BOREDOM = Very Long Posts
In my right mind or is that left? Confusion from Happy-pain-drugs clouds the mind. Perhaps this should be in my defense? My trail of thought is confronted now since took recently medasin… Not shore wat was saying. Perhaps ladder wehn mind cleans up from dugs.
Nice triple reference on the bus stop picture. Or is it quadruple because one of the references is a reference? And just to let you know, the pop-up preview box doesn’t appear for MacOSX internet browsers (Safari or Firefox).
Makes me think of the Arthur C Clark (rip…) novel called “Rendezvous with Rama”. If you haven’t read it, its a pretty good story about a cylinder ferrying through space…
As usual, a very intriguing article; keep up the good work!
Enjoy the drugs, it sounds as if you need them.
Several of the comments at the end of the comment section of The Ethyl-Poisoned Earth, from about four months ago, call for a moot court jury to decide.
Anyone interested in being a juror and helping to decide the matter in dispute, are welcome to cast a verdict.
The link is:
…The above link has a glitch. Try:
The controversy begins with post #107.
A recap for Inti on #80
A valid point, it does however expand the focus of the discussion into areas outside of space travel and the motovations associated with such endevors. I appreciate the quote too, but again, if you put it into context by reading the next sentence it clearly says “claim” as in to take or make something one’s own. I prefer to adhere to a Western Civilizationists point of view when I describe “order”, because that is my heritage. I am not stating there arent other approaches to History, but I think that field can be critically overanaylized to death, to the point where this is not a fun hobby shared by a pretty enlightened and cool group, like this one, but a symantic trial where words are minced and original intent thoughts are mutated into something unrecognizable, No Thanks, already finished college and if people dont know what my intent was, it is now their problem, I have no problem “clearing the air”.
Ohh, the sad story of the New World exploited, all very valid and all very out of context, nice way to remind us of our past glorious exploits though. For many years I was enraptured by the commercial of the old Indian on the hill crying at the mess we made; then I went to about fifteen reservations and saw how “clean” they lived. On average, it was not far from a dump…So forgive me if my exclusion of a native race was omitted during a space discussion, it was an allusion, not the main crux of the article. Really, you must tone down the oversensativity/politically correct jargon or you may find the things you hold dear are nothing but things to be over analized. :( No fun there pal…
To augement the critique: I agree with the thinker,Inti. I believe the same kind of behavior and adgendas will be carried into Space, because that is part of the “human experience”. Now dont go flying into some other train of thought, I never condoned that sort of thing, just acknowledged it and after reading twenty years of History books where the one side wins and the other loses seems to be a reoccuring theme, it makes sence that the trend would continue, albiet in a changed fashion with new catch words, phrases and propaganda. I do appreciate the new angle on the old grand scheme but it is the stars of the future, not the smears of the past that this article, by Allan Bellows, was written.
Space travel, to think some people get paid to do that!! Wow…
Inti for #80
The sword and the cross is what the Spanish brought, the sword for small groups and the cross for large. Both persuasive and effictive; but corrupt by mans adgenda.
Again, sorry everyone not space related…
If by “order was already established” you mean that the New World was already filled with groups of people who fought wars of conquest, wiped out neighboring tribes/civilizations, enslaved their conquered enemies, practiced ritualistic human sacrifice on both “willing” and unwilling victims, and other niceties, then I guess you are correct. Many of the groups who had already done what the Spaniards, English, French, Portugese, etc., were about to do probably did not appreciate the competition. Especially from competition more militarily advanced. Who would want that?
I thought the article was fascinating. It made me think. In addition, many of the comments, especially those of Radiatidon helped me develop my thoughts and consider new exciting aspects of space exploration. Please, don’t worry about keeping things short. Any post that didn’t interest me, I just skimmed over and went to the next. And, honestly, I can’t imagine anything better than a post that makes your mind wander into new, previously unexplored pondering. So, thank you all.
I’m with Sid. So you better get some more jurors.
Plenty of good material in Radiatidon’s several posts. And for Two Cents it was quite worthwhile for platinum to have been mentioned here as well.
Some varieties of asteroids contain the whole platinum family of metals. One might go so far as to say, it is a rare but strategically important metal. This would be a potential source of great profits to attract the venture capitalists. This is exactly the sort of incentive that will be essential for successful colonization and exploitation of space.
“Certain astronomical sticks-in-the-mud” is a wonderful arrangement of words and I hope there is a pun intended. Not only that the subject is very interesting but presented so clearly with color. I’ll keep reading. I hope it may teach me to write well. Looking for mail/news about a book. Good luck on recruitments and the ability to take some time off. Kudos Alan and thanks.
This article has nothing to do with that one. Seeing as only three people have cast their votes in the 8-day period since your feud began, I believe it is safe to say that very few people care. Whether you drop it is of no concern to me, but I would appreciate it if you make no further references to your “trial” outside of its original forum.
The flame war, or “feud” if you prefer, started on a four month old thread. I mentioned it outside that thread once, on this most recent thread for two reasons: There is little viewership of archives, and flamers, if not confronted, tend to proliferate and to pollute many threads with arguments which often do not fit the facts. I would say that without other opinions entering in, there is no way a truly dedicated troll can be dealt with effectively. Even though I am getting a little bit the worst of it at the moment, this is a useful exercise.
My mention of it on this single most current thread was exceedingly brief. I included no argument of the positions, nothing to sway possible participants. And even over there, while I have continued to respond to comments made, I have certainly encouraged nothing more in the dialogue than waiting for third parties to render a verdict. It is for this reason that I find it hard to understand your perspective.
As evidence that I did not intend for the flame-war to transfer here, note that I did not comment to the poster who expressed his opinion here, rather than there. It is a bit of a surprise to me that his comment, every bit as out of place here, entirely escaped your notice. Even so, your point is well taken.
Be that as it may, the subject of this thread is of considerable and long standing interest to me. Far greater interest than the subject of the other thread. So I trust I will not be held to be off topic, to continue on about asteroid mining in a comment section about Mars.
A couple of decades ago, I posted some comments on an alt.newsgroup called Archimedes, that had to do with the potential of mining certain asteroids for the platinum family of metals, something I have also touched on earlier in this thread.
Several flamers came out of the woodwork and attacked the idea. Although I was outnumbered, I engaged each of them, defending my perspective. After a number of weeks, I got the idea that the dispute was not about the potential for mining the asteroids for their resources. It was really about arguing and winning. And really, it was tiresome to the point that I didn’t really want to continue. But I wasn’t prepared to drop the notion that the asteroids were the most important of the resources in our space environment to exploit early on, if humankind were to gain a permanent foothold in space.
The consensus of my opponents was that there was insufficient evidence of the existence of platinum on the asteroids, and that it would be an extremely expensive wild-goose chase.
So I doggedly continued to engage my detractors. A few more weeks went by. Then, over the course of only a few days, two new posters showed up, who took up for my position, with considerable authority, erudition and vigor. One claimed to be with JPL. The other claimed to be with NASA. I saw no reason to disbelieve them. I read their comments with at least the care that I had used with my detractors, and found no flaws in their facts or logic. Apparently, the flamers I was engaging came to the same conclusion. They departed, or at least ended their silly jabber. I never heard from them again.
Now on this thread, I have read with considerable interest, the comments of Radaitidon. In their entirety, they show considerable effort, care, and thought. A single mistaken figure caught my eye. I did not say, “Aha! You screwed up.” The detail wasn’t that important. It certainly did not impinge on the basic thrust of his ideas. And if you just replaced mph with kph, the number he used wasn’t all that far off. The fuller context of his remarks were what counted. In terms of the clarity of his thought, and the scholarship he employed, he has to be in the top percent or two of the posters here. That trumps a single unintended numerical glitch.
Governments were certainly essential to the first few decades of our quest for space. Now private enterprise must begin to play a much greater role. We see this happening more and more as time goes on. Certainly we will need iron, steel and the other important construction metals that can be mined, smelted, formed and machined from asteroids in space. And almost certainly, most mining activities of any sort, will be virtually entirely robotic, both autonomous and remotely controlled.
At least in the immediate future, there is not much practical prospect of moving entire asteroids around in space to any great extent, to positions which will make them more convenient to mine. That is why it is so important to develop autonomous and remotely controlled, self-repairing mining machinery which can operate even for years, without humans on site. Most of the mining will have to be done when the asteroid is very, very, very far from the Earth. Only upon the next close approach will we be able to economically ship the refined materials back to Earth by currently established methods.
But it won’t be construction metals and the other basic survival commodities which will fuel this effort. It will be the strategic metals, particularly those which are already in short supply.
We use up something on the order of 5,000,000 ounces of platinum annually, planetwide. Most of this use is in industry, and the uses are quite essential to our health and well-being. We already have an extreme shortfall of supply. The existing suppliers, only two of real importance, are already in a position to put the screws to us at any time they wish. The only thing that will change that, and at the same time make space a part of the future for humanity, is the mining of the strategic precious metals in some of the Earth-approaching asteroids. No other area of human endeavor holds more potential for an early large return on our investment in space.
Without this approach, our efforts will languish as they have for the last three decades. Profits and necessity will take us into space. Nothing else. In an increasingly beleaguered world, replete with disasters to deal with, we have already seen that taxation alone cannot keep the space effort from the stagnation and the near collapse it has been experiencing for these recent decades.
Your opponents didn’t listen to the right people (although your JPL and NASA supporters must have). In 1984, an engineer with the L5 Society (now part of the National Space Society) told me about asteroid 2244 Tesla, one of the Earth-approaching (but not Earth-intersecting, thanks be) group. Study of this body, via reflection spectrometry, shows that it is at least 90% metallic; about 75% of the metal content is iron and nickel-iron, and 2-3% is platinum.
This engineer assured me that, given sufficient launch capabilities with which to establish a solar-sail retrieval craft, Tesla could be moved into LEO (or maybe L5, for greater safety) in only five years.
The amount of iron would equal the total U.S. usage for 5-10 years. For a fanciful example, the platinum could be used to build a two-lane highway–each lane being 12 feet wide and 10 inches deep (3.6 m by .25 m)–around the Equator.
The estimated worth of these materials, after taking into account the depression of the market price due to the new abundance, is still $1,000,000,000,000.
Well over 90% of the accessible energy and materials in the Solar System are to be found off Earth, and they’re just lying around waiting to be picked up by those willing to make the effort. Let’s go!
As to #99…
There is money out there, but the people that make the difficult desisions are sitting in the comfortable chairs right now when it comes to space missions; not the hot seat like the 60’s and early 70’s. NASA is large and fundamentally good but it has a closed circle, good old boy routine that just drives me mad. As far as Space goes, I believe or I should say, with the little information I’ve read, our capabitities seem real limited, almost like being in a rutt. The people in those chairs need to hear the why?? They hear things about, money, power, prestige and re-election.
Until they are paid in their full fashion, we are staying in the cradle… Another space race would be nice, an Eco emergency would definantely do it, they would need to adapt the comfortable chairs for space envirnments, with enough R&D they should find a recliner suitable for low/no G. There are enough people willing to accept the risk, many great minds to produce these “flying machines” and enough dreamers to fund the programs. It is wierd, throughout History, MOST of our inventions were created in someones workshop or lab, garage etc. and then Governments got involved.
How different our Space Program might look if the private sector had been leading this and had more time before Space became “Nationalized”…
I realize our desire to keep pace with the Soviets really stepped up the pace. But it seems like since that race was postoned or called quits, we have stayed put in areas where Astronaunts are concerned. This is not directed at the unmanned programs which are pretty damm interesting too!
I am disturbed by liberty-loving Americans saying that “rights are granted by government” and/or are only available to citizens. Listen: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [ALL] men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” Heard that before? Understand it? Humans are BORN with rights, governments exist to secure them (like life and liberty are secured by external defense and internal order). Got it?
I am rather enamored of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and our Bill Of Rights, but I am a liitle puzzled why this particular thread took this turn of subject.
When or if we establish a firm foothold in space, as we should, we must pay very close attention to the governmental framework which will hold all humanity together, or it may tear us apart in ways that far surpass the carnage of the twentieth century. In view of that, it is worthwhile to re-examine some of the principles in the light of history. It is the only primer we have.
My guess is that if we compared my idea of liberty with the preceding writer, there would be considerably more contrasts than similarities. Liberty is defended better by careful deliberation and thought than by platitudes.
Many of our founding fathers were slave owners. What they meant in their resounding words is fairly apparent. The use of the word ALL meant all white men who held a certain minimum of property, who were not indentured for a period of servitude by contract to another, who were not black slaves brought to America in chains, who were not of Native American extraction, and who were not women, had these unalienable rights. These other groups had to continue to fight for these natural and “unalienable” rights for many generations to follow, and the fight continues.
This is not just history. Our rights erode today just as readily as they did in earlier history. They must be fought for with the same vigor and tenacity now as ever. And there are still no guarantees.
At some point in time, after the establishment of mining and manufacturing outposts and substantial colonies in space, if history is any guide, we will find ourselves at odds with the Space People. Before that time comes, we would be well advised to have sorted out better means of resolving intergovernmental disputes than we have currently devised. This should be at the top of the agenda, not the bottom.
Back to the subject of the Cycler. I believe that Dr Rendezvous proposed such an idea during Apollo and several times since then, that is an Earth – Moon Cycler not an Earth-Mars one. He was called upon during the early stages of NASA plans for it’s return to the moon project and proposed it as something which should be tested (according to Andrew Smiths excellent book “Moondust”). But alas it is not to be.
I would have thought that the concept of having several cyclers in constant lunar earth orbit would appeal to the safety conscious NASA. In the event of an emergency on the lunar surface or malfunction of the proposed un-manned lunar orbiter having an earth bound return vehicle due every few days would be very appealing.
The concept of a cycler which contains all the necessary life support equipment and acts as a shuttle between the earth and moon seems sensible.
There are such obvious problems to overcome such as the launch vehicle would have to resupply the cycler with fuel so it can perform a slow down to meet the launch vehicle and then a burn to reach lunar orbit, therefore the cycler would have to have an engine capable of multiple start-ups and shutdowns.
How possible would it be for the cycler to have attached a lunar lander that would perform the repeating task of shuttling passengers from the lunar surface to the cycler and then back down on the return journey. By having two vehicles which do repetitive task such as these would then mean only launching one vehicle from earth that is capable of docking with the cycler (with lunar lander in toe) and re-entering earths atmosphere.
I’d be very grateful to NASA if they published with their various plans the other possibilities the considered and reasons they discounted each one.
On a separate note, I found it fascinating to read that when the Soviets were planning to go to the moon (they eventually abandoned them in 1973) they were only going to launch cosmonauts to the moon when they had a spare return vehicle already sitting there and could attach or remotely land a lunar rover. The reason is that, in the event that the cosmonauts vehicle failed to reignite and get them off the lunar surface they could get in the rover and drive to the spare vehicle.
Equally the Soviet engineers plans of a permanent lunar base were given more attention then NASA’s engineers who eventually were forced (due to the demanding timescale) to design a single use unsustainable lunar project.
Then again the Soviets never managed to get a man out of low earth orbit!
It strikes me that as long as we couple the Cycler process with the same astronomically expensive methods of chemical propulsion to get freight in the Cycler system to the ultimate target destination and velocity, we will continue to wage a losing battle from a cost perspective.
I speculate that the utilization of solar wind sails will ultimately have to play a pivotal role in the movement of space freight at the lowest cost. The trade-off is the time it takes for the freight to get where in needs to go.
Another possibility worth considering would be the high speed ejection of industrial wastes and slag by magnetic ejection of the masses, contained in thin economical magnetically accellerated shells to propel payload in the opposite direction.
But the direction of travel of the ejection mass would have to be such that we would not be causing the build up of high velocity space trash in the routes of continuing space travel. Look at the ongoing problem with fast moving orbital trash surrounding the Earth. This is currently an unresolved problem which threatens everything we do in space, particularly if the problem continues to worsen.
I will hazard a guess that this method will be most. useful for moving goods into the area of Earth orbit from the asteroid belt and the Jovian system. But even between Mars and Earth, if care and planning were involved, solar powered mag-systems could probably be used safely.
I would have thought that after the successful landing of the Phoenix probe yesterday on Mars, there would have been a spate of happy reaction to a job well done. If we are going to rake them over the coals for the mishaps, as we do, we should give them our heartfelt thanks and sincere congratulations when they do it right.
And another thing. Seems like all day yesterday, I heard people grousing over gas prices ruining their holiday. Whatever our personal opinions about the war, Memorial day is not just another three day weekend. It is to honor very young and very courageous/terrified people who had their lives and well being taken from them to make us all safer. Let us remember them well. They did the ultimate service, and paid the ultimate price.
I guess there is a speck reason in being so apparently bored about what we are doing on Mars. No more banner headlines. No ticker tape parades. Once we have seen gravel strewn images of the Martian landscape, how could we keep on finding it interesting or exciting, this silent motionless tableaux? We don’t even see the rarified wind. We need some action! We need an opponent. That’s what got us to the moon. The cold war.
Perhaps we shouldn’t blame NASA and our legislators for dropping the ball on a moon colony or L5 installations. We need some drama. Conflict. And we have got to have music in the background. What are we likely to see here? A robot arm digging in a desert? A silent movie. And occasionally we will get to see some hysterical humans jumping up and down and hugging each other, and many of us won’t quite know why.
Leave aside that we are getting the data from the surface of an alien planet nearly two AU’s distant at the moment, and that there are facts about to be learned in the next few months, which for millennia have been a total mystery and a cause for rapt wonder. But instead what have we got? We have data. Not in real time either. We will get the digested product of the data digestion. Spoon fed by experts. Just the refined facts. None of the brainstorming, the debates, the sheer friction and tension of being on the breaking edge of the new reality (until someone eventually makes a movie with a great music track). But by then, it is history, not news.
We need to hear more of the theoretical debates, especially the one’s in which opinion is sharply divided. We need to get some of our information before it is just data, while the wonder is still mixed in. But back to what we have found.
We are pretty sure we have some water ice for one thing. We don’t know how much. Is it salty? Probably. How salty? How deep might the deposits go? The answers to these questions will mold our destiny. That is not an exaggeration. If we find enough water under the soil, there will be no stopping us from colonizing Mars. If there is not enough, our efforts will grind to a halt probably, no matter what we do.
Most of us have the idea that our wars are ideologically based. There will soon be other wars in the Middle East, and throughout the world. Not about oil. Not about Islam. They will be about the maldistribution of water. Who owns it. Who gets to use it.
We live on a planet two thirds covered with water. Most of it is poisonous to us without desalinization, or because it is full of organisms or parasites or pollutants inimical to our health. But what do we do? We steadfastly continue to transport our wastes, both our sewage and our complex industrial wastes complexly mixed in a vast worldwide network of previously potable water, which eventually terminates in our oceans, and our aquifers.
The ocean creatures have not figured out how to get our attention about their emergency, except by dying.
I once did a simple conservation test, going several years, using half the water of a comparable household. It was not all that inconvenient. I never intended to do the experiment forever. But in a sense I have. The habits of conservation are still pretty operational. I still use far less water than most of the people around me. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to see someone’s automatic lawn watering system watering the lawn during a downpour, while I take a brisk three minute shower. Do I wash my car? Only with rain. If it gets really muddy, I blast it for a minute with the hose to get the lumps off.
If I were to make up a religion to compete with all the other religions, water would not just be a sacrament. Put water and light together… now there is a GOD! Amen, Waterbrother.
Inti – Hopefully space exploration will give us something to strife towards together as humans; not as various different sects, cults, races, creeds etc. (Doubt it but it’s a nice thought)
Reading these kinds of articles are one of the few times I’m proud to be human!
To the whole DI team, thank you!!!
Have you been getting into the Bene Gesserit’s spice supply again? Or mixing it up with those Fremen? All kidding aside, I fully agree with you on the importance of water. Having grown up in Phoenix, I may be more aware than many Americans as to just how fragile our water supply is. Given that our bodies and the planet’s surface area are largely composed of water, it’s surprising how poorly-distributed and inaccessible most of our potable water is. I don’t expect the situation to be any better on Mars. If there’s not enough water on Mars, what’s to stop us from mining the ice moons of Jupiter or Saturn? I know there are technological hurdles to be overcome, but by the time we are actually considering the option, the accelerating pace of technology should have legs enough to clear that hurdle. On a side note, I’ve been perusing your eurekaideasunlimited blog archives, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff on there. I understand your frustration a little better after witnessing some of the anti-intellectual exchanges you’ve suffered through on other websites. I’m trying to imagine my girlfriend’s reaction as I calmly swab vegetable oil into my nostrils and snort it up. Even if it doesn’t work, it might be worth it just to see her face. Anyways, here’s to the Phoenix! (Not the city, it’s an abomination, although my parents still live there.)
Well hello Shoctopus.
Actually, it is perhaps the water swabbing of the nasal passage that slows most people down befor they ever get started, although only traces of water are used on a cotton swab.
There is a small vocal minority that uses something called a Neti Pot, in which a substantial volume of water is poured up the nose. It is very, very different than this procedure. I have used a Neti Pot, simply for comparison. I find it unpleasant. I do not know how people become accustomed to it. But above and beyond that, the Neti Pot is really used for sinus irrigation, and in its’ general use, will have little or no effect on the prevention of viral infection. It is the oil swabbing of the nasal membrane that makes it a hard target for viral invasion. You could skip the water swabbing and just use the oil portion of the procedure. I find it much more aesthetically pleasing to do the water swabbing first, but if I’m running late, I skip that step and just swab with the oil.
The snorting up of oil is also rather misleading. The amount of oil used on the swab is extremely low. Just enough to coat the swab, Perhaps two drops spread thinly on the nasal passage surface.
But, quite amazingly, the biggest impediment for many people is the last one you cite. It is the knee-jerk reaction of others, although you appear to be reacting to that prospect with a bit of gleeful pleasure. If that will motivate you, who am I to interfere with your fun?
As to the water crises we collectively face, we are even more unprepared for this emergency than we have been in the oil crisis. Actually there is a relationship between the two. We pay substantial amounts of money for bottled water with fancy names and aggressive advertising, for water which is just municipal water with a bit of extra filtration, ozonation or reverse ionization. Most of it comes in plastic bottles, a further drain on our petroleum resources, particularly since the containers are usually used once and discarded. Then there is the diesel fuel expended to bring that bottled water to our market, and the gas we expend to get the water home. While our tap water is not always entirely pristine, it can be put through filtration in our homes for perhaps a penny a gallon, and be every bit as potable as commercial bottled water.. I am not talking about “water softening” systems, which have a variety of liabilities.
In space, I do not anticipate that we will be transporting water to the inner solar system from the Jovian satellites in the foreseeable future. The water we will use on Mars really needs to be there already, in amounts great enough to allow for a certain amount of waste. That is, after all, what we do.
So am I the only one who noticed Buzz Lightyear popping up when you click the infinity + button on the flash animation? I thought at least one other person would comment on it.
Even after drinking some of my home-fermented wine, I see no Buzz Lightyear when I hit the infinity + button. But it prompts a question: Are there mirages on Mars?
Try hitting one of the other buttons, then hit infinity +. He wasn’t there the first time I hit it, but appeared after I hit some of the other buttons, then hit infinity +.
Guess the question about mirages was too easy to be damn interesting.
If we were to mine asteroids for platinum and other metals for use on Earth, how would we get them through the atmosphere, down to the surface safely and economically?
Not quite sure I understand the question. There is certainly no way to bring an asteroid of any appreciable size in its’ entirety to Earth. The prospective idea is to do the mining, refining, smelting in space, on the asteroid itself, using the limitless power of the sun as the energy source, and dissipating the attendant pollution harmlessly at the site, millions of miles from Earth. Very probably, 99+% of all mining functions would be done by machines and robots.
As to doing it economically, everything about going into space is expensive and risky. That is why it is so essential to focus more on those projects which have the high prospect of huge profits. The taxpayers of the world have already become highly resistant to footing the unending bill that their governments present them. We must more and more engage in projects which not only provide us with new discoveries, but which are designed to show a high profit in a fairly short time — like a decade or two.
Got it. Having it stay in space after being mined is the only way to go. Some were giving me the impression great fortunes were going to be made bringing platinum, for example, back to Earth because of its rarity.
Well maybe I still didn’t make it clear. The main reason to do all this mining, not only of the platinum family of metals, but of other precious metals as well is to bring them back to Earth. Platinum is especially important since it is currently so important as a catalyst, not only in the chemical industry, but also in reducing pollution from automobile exhaust. Hense the name “catalytic converter.”
A few decades ago I had invented and patented a product. When I went to set up for injection molding the parts, the best costs I was quoted for machining the injection molds were $50,000+. Add to that, the cost per component produced, and we were beginning to talk real money. That kind of cost is pretty much out of the question, when only the prototype has been built and no market testing has been done. I needed to produce some limited quantities, short runs, so that I could test the acceptance by the consumer. So instead of going the injection molding route, I cast the components using polyester resin. I got a small machine shop to [roduce some solid aluminum masters. I got a little creative and haggled and bartered, and got that done for $250 and a couple pounds of jerky. But then I still needed to make the molds from the masters. I went to Dow (feeling pretty guilty because they had been such a big war contractor during Vietnam). But for what I needed, they were about the only game in town. I bought a very small amount of liquid RTV (room temperature vulcanizing rubber). Somewhat less than two pounds for less than two hundred dollars.
It wasn’t just expensive because they were scalawags and profiteers. It was expensive because it was made with platinum in the catalytic component of the mix. If I could have figured out another way to do it, I would have told Dow to add it to some of their napalm and put it in a dark lower intestinal storage unit.
Instead, I bit my tongue, made the molds and cast my parts by hand. Although it was labor intensive, I was ready to sell units with a total expenditure of maybe $500-$600. Even with the costs of my idiot patent attorney, I was out of pocket less than $3000.
But yes, we do actually have to bring the platinum back to Earth.
Uh, sorry for the typos. I can’t currently read the computer screen without holding up the little camera obscura I made. Sort of hard because I like to type with both hands. I’ll rig it one of these days to be hands-free if I don’t get a lens in the right eye first. If you have cataracts, you could easily get an extra several months or longer of watching TV or reading. You won’t even need your reading glasses. It narrows your field of vision a bit. But most of us don’t use a lot of peripheral vision when we read or watch TV anyway.
I guess the ophthalmologist didn’t think it was important to be able to read or watch TV for some extra months before the operation. Otherwise, professionally trained as she is, certainly she would have suggested the notion to me rather than my thinking it up for myself. I sensed that she might have been a little ambivalent when I cancelled the operation she had scheduled for a year and a half ago.
If only I could find a creative, imaginative, innovative ophthalmologist.
Thanks for your reply and sorry ’bout the cataracts. I’ve also tried my hand at casting, in lead. Fun stuff! I made a chess king a couple of years ago and should have a complete set by around 2525…
So if we do want to bring platinum and other precious metals back to Earth after being mined in space, got any ideas as to how that’s going to happen? The way moon rocks were brought back is too expensive. The shuttle may also be too expensive for this task if any remain in service. Any type of drop-and-parachute scenario with all that weight seems kind of dangerous. NASA types must be full of ideas in this regard, though.
When you consider the current market value of platinum, palladium, ruthenium, iridium, rhodium, osmium, not to mention gold, which was trading for $1000+ per OUNCE the last time I looked, believe me, we will be able to bring these elements back to Earth cheaply enough that immense profits will result.
Here are some of the reasons for the expense of landing space materials back on Earth. First is that government is the biggest player. They operate, almost all the time, as if they are using play money, and as if no one actually had to labor to EARN it before they confiscated it, OFTEN cheating many rapaciously, while a favored few ultra-rich individuals and corporations are allowed to skate by, paying virtually nothing because of tax shelters and other complex loopholes. The people who pay the freight for those gorging at the trough are the moderately wealthy down to the lower middle class.
And for every welfare cheat who has more babies to increase their income from the dole, there are hundreds who are desparately poor and who simply do not have the skills or the potential to pull themselves up by there own bootstraps. Sorry for the rant, but I just got a fresh new signal loud and clear that the IRS is going to, in effect,. deprive me of yet another four figure sum, not because it was right, not because it was equitable or honorable, but because a tax preparer made a mistake in a single digit, which did not even favor me, or make logical sense, and I, with my bad eyesight, did not see it. No excuse the agent said. I signed the return. I can file an amendment, but according to this low level agent, I can’t do it to actually get the money I should have recieved. I can only do it for next year, and get (according to this IRS agent) a tax deduction next year for the loss of the money — meaning, if the agent is right, that I will only save the taxes on the money I would have received, and get perhaps a fifth of the money. I can tell you they will have even less fun this time than last time. I have a lot less faith in the integrity of the U.S. Tax Court than in my previous suit against them, because I have seen them in action. I will not be in the position I was the last time, of naively anticipating honesty, integrity, and fair play if I simply stated my case and relied on the honor of the court. I don’t know about all American courts, but the U.S. Tax Court is marsupial by design.
But who knows? Maybe the next higher up will see the absolute illogic of the lower agent and simply with a few quick actions, put the matter right. I really do want to believe that. That is the power of wishful thinking — and my Achilles Heel.
I am not only willing, but eager to have faith in America in the future no matter how many crooks get into power, no matter how institutionalized the myriad abuses become.
How long has the debate been going on now about whether waterboarding is torture? In spite of our being just as fanatically fundamentalist as the terrorists we battle, our moral compas is spinning like a top.
I am going to end this — festering splinter in the subject at hand — and once again deal with the various issues of space. but be assured that my — disenchantment with some of the more unscrupulous branches of government will continue to reappear until the improbable time that the government acts with some greater degree of integrity. Meanwhile , my love for my country is much like the love for ones own child. It goes on no matter how screwed up the situation becomes.
This past eight years has been the same sort of challenge that Vietnam was. There has been a recent lull in the number of American casualties. But it is absolute idiocy to think that, therefore the surge is working. And no matter how much one of the candidates pumps his fist up and down as he talks about it, he is not going to get the satisfactory surge climax he is eagerly anticipating. It is based on a totally incorrect assessment of the facts blended with wishful thinking.
In Vietnam, our propaganda focused on the widely contrasting body count. On any given day, many multiples of Cong dead for every one of our guys slain. And once again, only a half century later, we are being seduced by the same sorts of fantasy. I used to think that it was exceedingly improbable that we could ever pick another leader as incredibly stupid as Truman. The shrub proved me wrong.
Iran and Iraq had a protracted war with absolutely horrendous casualties for a decade. The result was entirely inconclusive. The reason is, both sides had a military cadre which was top heavy and fatalistic: “Nothing happens that is not the will of Allah.” Rubbish.
Now back to landing freight from space. Some freight (such as all the above listed metals) is not impacted at all by high heat. What that means is that we can transport it very much more economically down to Earth in the absence of humans on the landing craft. The lander can dispense with most of that heavy shielding if the interior can be allowed to attain several hundred degrees C. It can also take very high G-forces and much more sudden deceleration and even sudden quenching in the ocean. But with what we have learned about the aerodynamics of lifting bodies, I doubt very much that that would be necessary. It certainly would not be ecologically sound.
When you say the moon rocks were expensive to bring back, you are mixing in the entire cost of the mission, conducted during a frantic space race with a dangerous superpower.
You seem to have some interest in playing chess. Certainly a useful martial arts sport for the mind. Care to have a casual game? It may provide a little diversion for our fellow readers as we await the next essay.
If that is not the form of notation most familiar to you, just use your favorite notation (1. p-Q4 or 1.d2-d4 or even the verbose Pawn to Queen four). And of course it goes without saying, men of honor would never resort to using a computer or chess program to assist them in choosing their moves. Play hard and have a good time. Then when the game is over we can discuss some of the interesting highlights of the game. Sound good?
Cataracts and the tax man: that really sucks!
I didn’t know the precious metals had such high melting rates. I figured the hot ore would hit the Earth like some ghastly molten blob. But then my chemistry lab teacher did say we were the most hopeless class he ever had so much fun with…
I’ll have to warn you about my chess game. As much as I enjoy it, I’m pretty much a one-dimensional player and you’ve already wrecked my pet black response p-QB4. However, a good crushing is almost the same as winning to me, so here goes:
I hope our DI game goes as well as this one: http://maxxwolf.tripod.com/woody.html
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
Well Bogey, now that I have done my espionage and found out by your choice that you may well be my elder, I’m going to translate this so the younger players are more likely to be able to read it with some convenience. I’ll use modern short form. Can you read it okay?
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
Uh, and actually Bogey, responding to
1. d4 with 1….c5 is certainly playable. You don’t see it often though. If memory serves, the opening would have been a Classical Benoni. Whereas your current first move indicates that you intend to fianchetto your King’s Bishop, bringing it to g7, starting to take command of the long a1-h8 diafonal.
Come on, Anthro, I’m only 52. Well, 52 going on 80, but only 52!
Been a while since I’ve delved into my stack of chess books, but I think I can handle the upside-down black annotations. e4 – c5 always makes for an exciting game even if the sharpies know how to beat it like a rented mule. Didn’t know it was a Benoni, though. Yeah, fianchetto, or “the big diagonal ploy” as call ’em, that’s the ticket.
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
Well doing it the easy way, my comments too came out red. I should have guessed, but what do I know?
Very bold, however, I’ll ignore your foray into my space for now in favor of some development.
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
I just finished making a camera obscura monocle for my left eye. Now instead of seeing pale gray print which I can barely read with 3.75 diopter reading glasses, the print is once again intense black and crystal clear in the left quadrant of my field of vision without glasses. Of course, peripheral vision has become substantially reduced.
The opacity of the crystalline lens of my right eye is now too advanced for this correction to be of value, but I have never required two eyes used simultaneously anyway.
I expect I could help the typical cataract sufferer delay surgical replacement of the lens by six months to two years. I have been using a part time driver to transport me. That will not change until someone sticks me in the right eye with a scalpel and removes the old lens installs a new one, which I expect will be obsolete in just a few years.
I can now see faces with great clarity again. I have really missed that. And when the clouds are gone, I will be able to see the stars again and resolve features on the face of the moon.
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
My father-in-law had cataract surgery on one eye that didn’t go well. Years later, when his other eye needed it, he told the doctor to pound sand. Understandable, but a shame nonetheless.
On my blog or on Skin Cell Forum tou can find my letter to my surgeon, written before I canceled the surgery for cause over a year and a half ago. She hasn’t been fired. Would not be prudent. But after the one visit, and the stack of sloppiness of herself and her crew, she will not be doing the eye. I have not identified her by name, but any brilliant person could figure it out with the little clues I have sprinkled around. Seems the least I can do. No really great way to get the actual track records of surgeons. I paid for some reports which were valueless. That is why I used the approach I did, and why I am delaying still.
On the bright side, with the delay, I have produced two devices to help with my situation and am toying around with a different concept for surgical intervention. I even told this one about my long history of eye experiments. She wasn’t even curious enough to ask a single question about them when I opened the door for her to do so.
Care to elaborate what went wrong in the operation?
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
He only said the vision in the operated eye was worse after the operation and he couldn’t chance it with the last eye. If he ever knew any details he didn’t pass them on. For myself, having nystagmus and none of the usual disorders associated with it, eye operations scare me! To others, my eyes twitch like crazy, but my irises compensate by focusing with such incredible speed that I don’t notice. Causes some wonder when a new opthamologist or optometrist first checks them out.
I’m out-of-town until Monday. Take care.
Almost Monday. Guess I ought to move.
Another fianchetto please!
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
Okay Bogey, my driver will be here soon with the car. I may or may not be back until midnight. Take your time. Reti was pretty successful with the double fianchetto, but it can be challenging. It was called the hypermodern approach back in the old days.
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
You know waaaaay too much!
My greatest hope lies in a monumental blunder on your part. I used to play chess on pogo games a lot. You can set the game timer to get an edge for yourself. My favorite was 15/3 for 15 minutes per player and 3 seconds added for a move. The 3 seconds was my edge for the end game. I’d get down to a half a minute to go and the opponent would get complacent with a lead and make mistakes thinking the game was over while I’d move fast and get some ugly fork or pawn promotion.
I think I’m going to have a tough time making that happen here…
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
O mischief, thou art swift to enter in the thoughts of desperate men.
I attend a great purge. My driver is gone. My key retainers gone. But I stand now, feet solidly planted, with no retreat in them. My sword may be broken, but my dagger is dipped in venom.
Those who wish only for blunders from the besieged King, beset on all sides, serve themselves not.
If there is no regent on this field but me, then sink to your knees, put your forehead in the bloody mud and retire from this battle. Then rise and be my jester when I return from my joust with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and gird myself to do battle with the god of Presbyteria.
ANTHROPOSITOR — OLDBOGEYDOG
1. d4____________ g6
I’ll note you in my book of memory.
I just came across yet another example of systemic shortsightedness in space. I quote:
“Currently carbon dioxide collected by the space station’s air scrubbers and hydrogen produced by the station’s Elektron oxygen generator are dumped overboard.”
It is absolutely appalling that these loaded scrubbers are dumped into space! First from the perspective of the monumental cost of lifting every kilo of anything off earth, and the fact that both H and CO2 are potentially useful in an incredible number of ways. These elements and scrubbers are not bananas. They won’t rot. Are you suggesting that there is not enough space in space to store these materials?
But even more than that, we have already shortsightedly created a vast zone of incredibly fast moving trash around the planet, making it increasingly dangerous for every venture up there.
An errant paint chip or a screw, traveling much faster than a bullet, can take out a billion dollar satellite in a heartbeat.
May I suggest you recruit one or two nuts-and-bolts pragmatic people to supplement your scientists and engineers?
I am mystified that NASA can be this short sighted.
It strikes me that patent offices in general are often populated by non-inventive, pedestrian, clerical types. One notable exception — Einstein. As I recall, his career possibilities pretty much in ruin, do to his failure to fit in in acadamia, as sort of a last resort, went to work for the Swiss Patent Office. He was able to avoid retardation, so I expect he was not with them too long.
.I have contributed a bit to a Mars Forum since this thread seems to be giving up the ghost. The moderator has to approve before the stuff gets up, and is apparently on vacation, so I’ll paste up my most recent comment here. Maybe it will generate some ideas.
Well, I’m new around here, and I am never one to discourage brainstorming. But from my perspective, in such a distant, harsh and arid environment, the best focus is from a base of maximum practicality.
Recognizing how arid Mars appears, I expect water will always be at a premium, which means that fish farming requiring large pools of water is not likely to be at the very top of my list of things to ponder.
I do like the idea of a couple of gyroscopes, perpendicularly mounted near the center of a spacecraft, with spin rates rheostatically adjustable. This is certainly a fine idea for adjusting the position and stabilizing the craft. A similar kind of thing might also be useful on spacesuits as well, but we would have to mount them more creatively, since the spacesuit occupants stomach is in the way.
There is no question we will have to grow basic foods on Mars, and that the plants and grains we select will need to be nutrient dense and very adaptable. That is why I am experimenting with such plants as Maca which is a very high altitude plant that loves extreme conditions. It is a little too early in my experiments with Maca to draw any conclusions.
But there is another very adaptable and hardy plant that I have been working with for some time. It certainly has struck my interest. I have been eating it daily in every form I could devise. Today I had two salad bowls of the leaves raw; one bowl with lime juice sprinkled on, the other plain. Quite tasty both ways.
Over the past several months I have eaten this plant to excess, sometimes half a pound at a time. I eat the seeds, sprouts, shoots and leaves. I eat it dried as a spice, alone and in combination with other spices. It seems to take on the characteristics of whatever I mix with it. In some societies the seeds are consumed, but my focus in testing are the versatile and tasty raw greens.
Both the seeds and greens are exceedingly nutrient dense, providing a sense of energy, well-being, and fully satisfying the appetite. I have chopped it, dried it, used it alone as a spice on other foods, and I haven’t found anything that is not better with the plant mixed in. I have mixed it with every spice and food in my kitchen.
I call it Shmooo. I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty pleased with these developments. I certainly hope the Maca works out as well.
I’ll tell you another thing about these seeds. They will slurp up the water from the finest wisp of mist. My guess is you could lay a kilo of these seeds out on a tray on the Martian regolith, leave them for a few days, and they will have absorbed a couple hundred grams of moisture from the environment. I have not yet done any low temperature, low pressure tests. but the Shmooo seeds are so hardy that I would not be surprised if they did not slurp the moisture, hold it frozen solid, and still sprout when taken into a warm, well pressurized environment. I will be doing some freezing tests before long.
If we stop thinking of the recycler aspect of this orbit, we begin to notice that the outer leg goes into the main asteroid belt. My emphasis on mining of the asteroids has always been on the Earth approaching asteroids for obvious reasons; at least now and then, they are in the proximity of Earth. But in actual fact, those times are few and far between, and the numbers to choose from are few indeed. The central feature of mining the asteroids must be to do it virtually entirely by autonomous and distantly controlled robot equipment.
This conjures up images of tough and massive machines reminiscent of the terrestrial mining machines we are all familiar with. The more I think about it, the more I think that this is exactly the wrong approach, first making rubble and then extracting value from the rubble. Not only would such machinery need to be massive and durable, there would be a lot of moving parts. Parts subject to wear and ultimate breakdown, at which time the larger machinery may become as useless as a paperweight.
Let us examine the singular advantages of mining in deepspace. First, there is no terrestrial environmental impact. Also, the energy available to do the work does not need to be extracted from finite resources, as is the case with terrestrial operations. In space, we have unlimited solar energy.
Even so, if we use that energy in wrong ways, we can still fail miserably to do anything useful. However if we choose to convert that energy into another form, each of those conversions subtracts efficiency and adds costs, depleting rewards for the investors.
So choosing between using solar energy to create electricity with which to generate powerful laser beams to slice and dice the asteroid would be innefficient compared to a large diameter lens directly focusing on the asteroid. But of course, the light from a lens is only focused. not coherent. Focused light only provides heat, not exactly the satisfying instantaneous flash of sheer destruction that the laser’s coherent beam can produce.
To me, the lens has the edge except for the sheer mass involved. If the lens were of any size, and made of glass or quartz, just getting it there would be massively expensive. And because it is massive, it requires more substantial equipment to maintain its’ orientation and positional stability. The way around this is quite simple and requires no technological breakthroughs or esoteric materials. We need only make large wafer thin fresnel lenses out of the correct selection of the clear dimethylpolysiloxane family of materials, easily kept oriented for their task by tiny peripheral gyroscopes and micro thrusters. No brute force here. Just the tiniest if changes now and then, all powered by computers no bigger than a cell phone.
Seversl of these lenses would be focused on the target asteroid. And very slowly, perhaps overa period of years, they would increase its’ temperature until it becomes molten. The various elements and rocky materials would stratify, with the heaviest metals going to the core, and the lighter rocky materials forming the mantle.
During this cooling stage, the lighter mantle would cool more quickly than the interior. At some point, this lavalike mantle would attain a quas-isolid consistantcy allowing it to be scored deeply over the entire surface, now fairly spherical, by a more conventional device. Thes grooves would be deep and thin, Perhaps only a fraction of an inch to an inch in width.
Now additional time would go by as the asteroid dissipated enough of the remaining heat that at the base of the undercut grooves, the temperature is below zero C. Now a thin tough tape would be robotically applied accross the tops of all these grooves. Then, at strategic points all over the sphere, small squirter robots would simultaneously inject water at only slightly above the freezing point. It would very quickly freeze. And of course, since water expands when it freezes, the mantle will be split into pieces defined by the grooves.
Let us talk about the forces of this water as it becomes ice. Few people really comprehend exactly how much force is involved. Here is an illustration. I once made pressure vernier controls for the aerospace industry. One was called a V-II which was designed for use in pneumatic pressures of up to 6000 psi. In round numbers, that is more than 400 atmospheres. (Actual rated burst pressure for this device was 24,000 psi). I had made a couple dozen of these devices, and in testing, one of them showed a blemish in the interior bore which made it useless in the purpose that it was designed for.
I removed the piston, filled the V-II with water, made sure there were no air voids, put on an old 20,000 psi gauge, the bourdon tube of which I had filled with oil. So I had an entirely trapped system with no air voids, filled with water which had even had most of its’ dissolved gases removed in a soft vacuum. .
This was to be a simple demonstration to my young assistant who had blithely overpressured a lower pressure device pneumatically, He and a couple of other people in his vicinity had very nearly been seriously hurt. He had not apprehended the full import of the equation dealing with gases and pressires; PV=k, or to put it in more simple straightforward terms, P1V1=P2V2. Boyle’s Law, dealing with gases. Centuries old. This is dealing with gaseous pressures in a trapped system, P referring to pressure and V to volume. Increase the volume and the pressure decreases. But the young man had not internalized how much more dangerous gaseous pressures were than the virtually incompressible pressures of hydraulic or other liquid systems. Since he had just made a big pop with a cerain amount of shrapnel, I thought my little demo might capture a little understanding while he was still recovering most of his hearing.
Now I asked him how we should freeze the device, He suggested liquid nitrogen, which is far too cold and sets up some metal fatigue issues. I already knew there would be a failure of the unit. I did not want him to conclude that it was because of the extreme cryogenic conditions.
I put the unit in the freezer which was at about 10F. Every few hours, I would flambouyantly go over and get very close to the device, while he was looking on from 10 feet away. When the gauge read eighteen thousand psi, I was still unconcerned, getting my face a few feet away. My assistant is now watching from a full thirty feet away. He still wasn’t getting it. The unit was not going to pop until the 20,000 psi gauge had pegged out, and then some. I closed the freezer, locked it, and went about my business. Bit before I left I said, :”You know, I want to test your hearing. You work at my desk and listen for the explosion. I’ll come back as soon as you hear it and open the freezer. if you are right, I buy a steak and lobster dinner. If you don’t hear it and I come back and it has occurred, you buy. Two hours later I come back. he is still straining his ears. Says it hasn’t happenned yet. I said, yes it has. The silly goose was so sure of himself he bet another ten dollars. I opened the freezer Eight quarter inch steel bolts holding the end cap on had failed. The end cap only moved about a quarter inch, half an inch at most. If he had put a stethescope to the freezer he might have hear the snaps of the bolts, but I doubt it.
The point is, the failure occurred at probably above 25,000 psi, all of which was generated solely from the transition to the crystal state from the liquid state of water.
As to my bets. While my practice is generally to collect bets properly entered into, these were not entirely proper. I collected the $10 but gave him the opportunity to make me a bet that would cancel the steak and lobster dinner, that he couldn’t lose. I gave him a college physics textbook, which had a one page test at the end of each chapter. I bet him that he couldn’t read the book and do the tests successfully. I also stipulated that it was an open book test, so he could look up the answers. Couple that with the fact that each question referred the student to the page the answer was on, he had a mortal lock on winning the bet. He finished the book and all the tests within three weeks. This of course meant that he didn’t actually read the book. He scanned it in general, then took the tests, looking up the answers as required. But I presume he learned a little something anyway.
And finally, the grooves in the asteroid, the tape, that will certainly not work in the way I described it. The water is not in a trapped system and therefore, there is considerable relief of the pressures that would otherwise have built up, sort of like the hump on the ice cube in an ice cube tray. Also, there is not much water in the asteroid belt, and this use of water would be wasteful. Htdraulic jacks can generate even greater forces, and are very straightforward.
Also, at some point in the heating of the asteroid, there might be a point of equilibrium which would require the application of some sort of insulating cover material that would allow the heat to enter but retard its escape. This was just a spur of the moment brainstorm. One of the uses of a brainstorm is not just the basic idea, but also the opportunity to pick it to pieces while it is still just a brainstorm. What would be the minimum or maximum size of an asteroid that this sort of thing might work on? How many fresnel lenses would be required and how big would they need to be? Would it be worthwhile to impart spin to the asteroid? If so, how much spon would be practical? Some spin would facilitate more uniform heating. Too much might interfere with the stratification of the various components of the asteroid. We don’t even really know how efficiently any stratification would occur in the microgravity of the asteroid. Maybe the project would require both fresnel lenses AND laser beams generated by solar power. Even microwaves might play some roll. I think the central theme comes down to as few moving parts as possible with mechanical equipment, and with electronics, backup systems and excess capacity. That’s why I like the idea of fresnel lenses, lasers. small, durable, tough robots.
Your space research program is really unique. And what is really great about it – it is known worldwide and is more like a spectacular movie than something marked “Top Secret”. In our country nobody knows anything about what is being launched to space and for what purpose. I think that our researchers are still playing Star Wars instead of making some really scientific and unaggressive project like Hubble or Mars surface exploration.
I just got my DI cherry popped today and this is a damn interesting point. It would be helpful to cite the timezone, considering the site is being archived.
I am now a loyal reader of DI and hope to see the timezone stamp included when the site is has been completely redone.
Didn’t the Apollo 13 mission use a gravitational slingshot to return the module to Earth after the incident? (This is in reference to the claim that the Mariner 10 was the first time that a gravitational slingshot was used.)
What should be the speed of an orbiting cylcer space settlement which will have a torus for creating gravity which would be travelling in these buzz-aldrin cycler orbits?
What kind of propulsion system is favourable for cyler orbit?
I first ran across the Dr. Buzz Aldrin Mars Cycler about a decade and a half ago. The real “Mr. Funk” did first here indicated the cycler orbits take more fuel and energy. Yes, so they should only be used to send, protect, and support delicate payloads like humans. A Hohmann transfer orbit is the cheapest orbit, but the earth, Mars one takes nearly nine months. So for freight we should use that, and the cyclers should be reserved for humans.
The Mars Homestead Project has done lots of work on producing the equipment to produce the resources to build large pleasant habitats, greenhouses, and such to support a quickly growing population on Mars bringing to Mars little more the a starting set of equipment and then little more than the people.
To fill Elon Musk of SpaceX plan to send a million people to Mars we should start with a half dozen people with a good start of processing equipment, and then try to double that each alignment. They should be sent to Mars with a small spinning habitat like cycler that also grows food. The first Mars cycler ship might not have all that.
Larger cyclers should mostly be made out of materials already in orbits. Of course the lowest fuel need would be out of some asteroids between Earth and Mars. Some would need hardly a nudge to put them into that orbit. Lunar, might be easier get to, to process, but I think the best at is to process in Mars orbits, mostly using the tiny Moons of Mars. For many other reasons I see many advantages to develop and process using Phobos, the very close moon or Mars. It can be a great solution to many problems for a settlement on Mars as well as a great boon to transportation for Mars and beyond.
Glad I am came across this article. This is very in-depth and I had to read it twice to really get everything from it. I have become way more interested in Mars and space travel because of Elon Musk. I have following his career since he started SpaceX and I am become very interested in the progress he has been making with space exploration. read his profile here for more info.
Odd that i dont recall this excellent article. Odder still that i was unaware that he had a PhD.
Interesting point. I am responding in a plane 37,000 feet up, using a smartphone. That was unimagined in 2008, just 11 years ago.
Perhaps Dr. Aldrin’s dreams will come true in only 11 more.
The article is even better the second time around.
Just checking back in.
Checking back in.
Exploring Mars holds no allure for me. I don’t want to go to a place that looks as if Armageddon occurred there.
I am back.
How relevant is this in the perspective of the recent accomplishments of SpaceX, and the similar projects?