Space Troll: Discussing the REAL future of Humanity

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Friday, August 19, 2005
Gawd, I hate these guys. I'm making this post to get one without comments on top to end the ad comments.

It was good to get one shuttle flight done, during which two things were demonstrated: One, the importances of having the ultimately flexible machine- man- available on site to solve problems. The other thing demonstrated: that the NASA bureacracy can no longer efficiently solve problems. Why not turn over the foam problem to problem-solvers that have proven their efficiency and innovation, like these guys?
4:03 AM :: ::

Mike O :: permalink

Interplanetary robotic tenacity

Thursday, April 07, 2005
The Energizer Bunny has got nothing on the two Mars Rovers. NASA is giving a third extension to their mission team for up to another 18 months. Not that they don’t have some wear and tear to show for it: Spirit’s drilling tool is worn out and Opportunity’s thermal emission spectrometer is on the fritz. Still, incredible endurance for machinery designed for a 90 day mission. Even the Martian weather. seems to be helping the robotic explorers along. Maybe it’ll take a Martian showing up to take them away to turn them into coffee tables to end the mission. Still, it will take human minds onsite to give the level of flexibility of exploration necessary to come up with in-depth, practical knowledge of Mars.
4:22 AM :: ::

Mike O :: permalink

Solar Sails fastest way to Mars?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Source: Space.com

Photo from Space.com

I posted about this earlier on my site, but you might have heard about Gregory Benford, who is a professor of physics at UC Irvine as well as a notable science fiction author. Gregory, along with his brother James conducted an interesting experiment.
Dr. Benford and his brother James were testing a very thin carbon-mesh sail, using microwaves as the energy source for propulsion. Unexpectedly, the sail experienced a force considerably greater than predicted. They theorized that the heat from the microwave beam was causing carbon monoxide gas to escape from the sail's surface; the recoil from the escaping molecules provided what could be a useful adjunct to the propulsive force experienced by light sails.

They believe that by beaming microwave energy up from Earth to boil off volatile molecules from a specially formulated paint applied to the sail will provide enough added force to propel a spacecraft to Mars in record time. "It's a different way of thinking about propulsion," Gregory Benford says. "We leave the engine on the ground." Their research will be published this month in the journal Acta Astronautica.

I look forward towards the publication of this article. More from Space.com:
This is how it would work: a rocket would take the craft to low-Earth orbit, whereupon the craft would unfurl a 100 meter diameter sail. A transmitter on Earth would fire a one-hour burst of microwaves at it to heat it up, accelerating the craft to 60 kilometres per second. This would set an interplanetary speed record for space probes.

This might be an alternative to nuclear propulsion as that can not only be expensive but also dangerous (would you fly with a nuclear reactor strapped to your back?). The project has major undertakings though.
The plan would require a 60-megawatt microwave beam with a similar diameter as the sail that was capable of tracking the craft. The deep-space communications network that NASA uses to communicate with Mars rovers and the Cassini probe now orbiting Saturn can only output half a megawatt.

Constructing this would be a major task for NASA, but the prize could be far more rewarding than their pursuit of rocket or nuclear propulsion. Although this is a good idea, I would recommend that the "solar sail" be equipped with rockets (chemical or nuclear) in the event that they "sail off course" or in order to gain speed around a planet. Either way I congratulate the Benford brothers and look forward to their proposal towards the space community (and hopefully NASA's as well). Selah!)
2:38 AM :: ::

Darnell Clayton :: permalink

Global Warming on Mars?

Saturday, February 05, 2005
Source (Better Humans)

Believe or not many scientists think that one solution to colonizing the "Red Planet" would be through injecting synthetic green house gases that are more powerful than the regular carbon dioxide.

The approach developed by Marinova and colleagues involves artificially created greenhouse gases nearly 10,000 times more effective than carbon dioxide. Using a computer model of the Martian atmosphere, the researchers analyzed four of the best candidate gases individually and in combination.

Focusing on fluorine-based gases, which are composed of elements readily available on the Martian surface, the found that a compound called octafluoropropane produced the greatest warming alone and even more warming in combination with several similar gases.

Although I think there is personally nothing financial to gain from the Red Planet for the immediate future, these procedures could enable an "Earth Like" world on Mars for future generations. I see Mars as more of a testing ground for more glories prizes on Jupiter and Saturn's moons (the icy worlds of Europa, Mimas, Enceladus and the methane world of Titan).

Credit: NASA Glenn Research Center

From red to blue: A new proposal for creating a runaway greenhouse effect on Mars could feasibly make the planet more hospitable in centuries

One draw back to this measure though is the American public (as well as the international space lovers) may be impatient to fund such procedures and focus will most likely focus their energies on the Moon, which is probably a more practical spot since it's about 3 days journey away from our homeworld. However if these scientists are correct then implementing such procedures NOW on the red planet would be a wise investment for the future (unless of coarse hyper jumps are invented and we simply travel to more promising worlds beyond our solar system). All of the needed chemicals already exist on Mars, and although this may take several hundred years to complete it would be well worth the wait if a "Green Mars" emerged.

Last excerpt from "Better Humans:"

Adding about 300 parts per million of the gas mixture in the current Martian atmosphere, the researchers say, could spark a runaway greenhouse effect that causes the evaporation of carbon dioxide on the Martian surface. This in turn would lead to further melting, temperature increases, enhanced atmospheric pressure and a thicker atmosphere.

I've had my say about colonization, what's your view? Selah!
3:01 AM :: ::

Darnell Clayton :: permalink

Hubble not to be rescued

Saturday, January 22, 2005
After the last blue-sky posting, I thought I’d discuss something a bit more hard-nosed.

The story is that NASA is going to submit a budget that scraps efforts to save the Hubble space telescope . This is likely as much a political ploy as a true financial decision; the Hubble has a lot of popular appeal and NASA expects an outcry to help boost their budget. In this way, NASA is functioning by the basic rule of all government agency; cut your most public program to help your budget requests.

I’m sorry, but saving it is not worth the billion or more it will cost to salvage it. There is no question that it has inspired imagination as well as provided some real science. But is the additional ROI worth another billion? Considering that exceeds the entire cost of the two Mars rovers (admittedly, an excessively successful mission, making up for two previous disasters with no return), I personally don’t think so. Hard decisions need to be made to get concentration back on real human-oriented space exploration, this is one of them. Once there is a more permanent presence of human in space, the cost factor for a new telescope rapidly improves.

The ‘Duhh!’ award (along with the kudo award) of the week go to the Cassini/Huygens team. It seems most of the wind measurement readings have been lost because the readouts were not switched over to the proper transponder, sending it through the erratic, slower frequency. After seven years, a significant amount of important data was lost because somebody forgot to pick up the remote and change the channel?? Still, the rest of the outstanding success of the Titan mission makes just a point of minor humor.
5:32 AM :: ::

Mike O :: permalink

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
The search for extra-terrestrial life is one of the most exciting areas of long-term space exploration. By that, I am not refering to the silly 'UFO' type of search; I'm talking the search for those planets capable of sustaining life and the exploration of such planets.

However, I think that search is overly biased in terms of our own 'traditional'
form of life. I remember a presentation on the exciting finds on Jupiter's moon Europa, that seems to indicate the presence of a salty ocean underneath a layer of ice, possibly as thin as one mile thick. One scientist, obviously quite nervous about going out so far on a limb as to suggest the slight possibility of life uderneath that ice. But, he was quick to point out, it would be simple microbial forms at best.

That statement convinces me that they are thinking with Earth-based blinders on. Just because life here that exists without oxygen and dependent on chemical processes without light (anaerobic lithotropes) is only microbial, doesn't mean that's all they'd be there. They wouldn't face competition from the more energy efficient processes involving light and oxygen, so who knows.
For those interested in the type of biochemistry involved, here are a few links (stuff I had to memorize a couple decades ago :):

Sulfur Cycle - Nitrification Cycle - Non-traditional Biochemical Cycles

And all of this assumes water as the solvent of life, which is the only form we know. Does that preculde the possibility of another solvent of life, such as liquid mehane? And, if such life could exist, would we even be able to recognize it as life? It seems highly unlikely, but there has been very little research on complex molecular structures at temperatures that far below our ambient temperature. We simply don't know.

Think the above sounds far-fetched? How about life thriving around underwater volcanic vents at boiling temperatures? Or living organisms in burning coal refuse piles at ph 0 and sixty degrees Centigrade? Both exist right here on Earth; living proof that life is really stubborn.
3:03 AM :: ::

Mike O :: permalink

This beach would be a bit nippy; liquid ethane, maybe??

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Congratulations to the Cassini/Huygens team on the first successful landing on another planet's moon! Although I agree with this assessment on how the announcement was handled, it beat my local paper in Dallas; the article was on 18a!
A great accomplishment, nonetheless, and an imprtant milestone in extraterrestrial investigation. After all, the moons of Saturn and Jupiter is where things really get interesting (a topic to be detailed later)

A possible lake or methane or ethane.

The suggestion is that these may be ice boulders.
4:05 PM :: ::

Mike O :: permalink