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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  1659 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Surprisingly Strong Case for Colonizing Venus

I didn't see much mention of available resources, other than air. Still, interesting.

Kaius  ·  1658 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't know. A lot of this Lunar, Mars or Venus colonization stuff cannot be logically reasoned for. I think we have conquered all the Everests, we have made it to the poles and now we need another goal beyond our reach to strive for regardless of its actual worth.

Maybe if you harness a huge amount of earths resources you could make it there but bear in mind that we haven't launched a living human beyond the Low Earth Orbit for decades. The furthest point a living person has been from the Earth and returned was around 250K miles and that was Apollo 13 back in 1970. Jumping from where we are now to a manned capsule floating above Venus is pretty nuts.

Its fun to think about and plan how it could be done and use it as a measure for how far we are from it but that's completely different to strapping a bunch of peeps into a can and launching them toward an unforgiving exile.

Look at the excuses provided for doing it:

    a vital resource located on Venus, mass over-crowding, nuclear apocalypse
How vital would it have to be exactly that we survived this long without it? Mass over-crowding? It would be cheaper and easier to have another world war, that would gain a bit of breathing room for a while, far more likely we will descend into violence with assured success for the survivors rather than join in mutual peaceful sharing of valuable resources with the minuscule chance of success for a few. Nuclear apocalypse! Fugetaboutiitt.

Have we started living in death valley yet on a large sustainable level? What about the polar regions? What about under the ocean. All of those places are more habitable than a planet we have not evolved over millenia to survive on. 9/10th gravity might just be enough to postpone osteoporosis for a few years.

kleinbl00  ·  1657 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Very few people truly understand the staggering energy expenditures necessary to inch up the gravity well. Very few people have been to a launch.

I watch them out at Vandenberg whenever I can. It's pretty humbling to watch a skyscraper full of hydrogen turn into a column of fire just to launch a Volkswagen into polar orbit. It's even more humbling when you realize it cost $6 billion to launch and mostly happened to spy on bin Laden.

And yeah, sure. There are more efficient ways to get stuff into space, all we need is some Buck Rogers. But the energy costs don't change, so now you need to muster up the equivalent of a skyscraper full of hydrogen to get that Volkswagen into polar orbit. And the Volkswagen is kind of the bare minimum to keep someone alive inside while you do it - a Mercury capsule is 4,000 lb of dumb, ballistic padding. Dragon X comes in at 9300lb and will just about get 7 people to the ISS, a bare 200 mi above the Karman line. The Falcon Heavy, should SpaceX ever build it, will get about 1/10th as much payload to the moon as the Saturn V did.

I dig space. I dig space exploration. But I agree with you 100% - arguing for Venus for "pragmatic" reasons is like arguing against vaccination because "science."

Kaius  ·  1655 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yep I agree but I would take it further. I read this post on Friday and was so busy over the weekend I didn't reply, each time I thought about replying I decided against it.

I don't know where to start when it comes looking at space and our place in it rationally. We have grown up (most of us) on a diet of media and pictures that suggest we will get there one day and are moving toward it but the reality (IMHO) is that its not achievable. To look at it rationally seems to remove the hope from the whole endeavor.

That's really depressing, I could list a bunch of stuff: resources, distance, biological etc. But that's just like stepping on dreams, really nice dreams. There is no fun in that.

So you get this shitty reply instead of something else. Sorry about that :)

kleinbl00  ·  1654 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I dunno, man. I ride a motorcycle. It was built in 2008, weighs 450 lbs and makes 120 HP. In 1998 that was crazy power. In 1988 it was GP bike power. In 1978 it was science fiction. In 1908, a gas vehicle smaller than a horse made a hell of a lot less power than a horse, not a hundred times as much.

I expect there will be advances in power. It may then work out economically to venture forth into space with the casual abandon of Drake crossing the Atlantic. Until then, not even sub-orbital tourism pencils out.

Kaius  ·  1654 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I ride a motorcycle. It was built in 2008, weighs 450 lbs and makes 120 HP. In 1998 that was crazy power. In 1988 it was GP bike power. In 1978 it was science fiction. In 1908, a gas vehicle smaller than a horse made a hell of a lot less power than a horse, not a hundred times as much.
I hear you, its the narrative we are all familiar with. We are constantly improving and pushing forward with technological advances right? Well...

Lets take one example that breaks the narrative which is the fact that up to 2003 you were able to travel at supersonic speed across the Atlantic on Concorde. But Concorde was retired for various reasons so lets not dwell on that and instead look at where we are with space exploration.

There is another narrative regarding space which is that we are definitively heading as a species toward a point where space exploration will happen. Its almost taken for granted when people speak about our future as a race. Now take that narrative and introduce the fact that NASA no longer has a shuttle program. If we wanted to land on the Moon right now we could not do it unless we dusted off some of those shuttles on display and hope the engine still runs. Now like the Concorde there are all sorts of reasons the Shuttle program was retired (Cost, political etc) but the overriding fact is that it is not running.

So right now, at this moment in time we are not actively moving toward placing Humans on the Moon (apart from a few privately owned companies making a lot of news headlines by saying they are planning to do it), we know how to do it but we have opted to no longer chase that dream.

And that's what it is, its a dream. Its a lovely wonderful dream. Its the story of a species crawling from the primordial ooze and through its intellect and ambition launches itself among the stars. Who couldn't get behind that! There are downsides to it of course, the sense that perhaps you don't need to take as much care of your home planet as its more of a temporary launchpad rather than a permanent prison... There is an air of escapism in this dream don't you think? Perhaps that's just me.

Let me take one second to also point out that our present level of achievement is directly caused by and reliant on fossil fuels. The fact that the efficiency of a motorbike engine has increased dramatically is due to our increased understanding of engineering, manufacturing and refinement of engines and fuel. The energy stored within the fuel was always there, we have just gotten better at extracting it and using it. We have achieved or are extremely close to hitting the upper boundary on the amount of energy that can be extracted from that fuel. Increases in power output from the same fuel on the same curve as we have seen is not possible.

So where does our replacement for fossil fuel come from? It needs to have the explosive energy required to escape the gravity well. We are still working on that one it seems...

Anyway this is a longer post than I intended to write and I feel like I only scratched the surface. All I mentioned was general state of play stuff, we didn't even dive into the really difficult problems that needs to be solved before we can go anywhere.

I need to go listen to some more of my Hyperion audiobook and dream a little more.

kleinbl00  ·  1654 days ago  ·  link  ·  

So I'm going to take your same post and twist it for optimism instead of pessimism. I'm going to do this despite the fact that I'm deeply cynical about it all. The difference is "why?"

My motorcycle is going stupider and stupider fast because engineering technology is trickling down from aerospace to consumer use. I tune that bike with a laptop... that I bought for $40. Think about that: I have control (to the percentage point) over fuel and spark for every region of that engine's run. When I was in high school you couldn't do that in Formula 1. So that's a need being met by available technology.

Contrast with the Concorde: I have this picture, framed. Once I've restored it, it'll go up next to one of the Mattes a buddy of mine made for the Total Recall remake. The styles are similar. That's a Boeing 2707, first iteration, back when Boeing thought they could economically produce a supersonic swing-wing SST every bit as big as a 747. When they rolled it out, the SR-71/A-12 was still secret; their best guess at an engine was the YJ93, which the XB-70 used. Still, it was within the limits of reasonable technology and we didn't know that a Mach 2.7 swing-wing jumboliner was crazy talk.

And it might not have been, if it weren't for OPEC.

I've got all sorts of data on the 2707. Its fuel curves were, in a word, optimistic. That's why they ditched the swing wing; they just didn't have the power and they didn't have the efficiency to push that much heavy that fast. Then the oil crisis hit, gas shot through the roof, the project was cancelled and some wag put a sign up on I-5 South saying

The Concorde, meanwhile, was a national project for France and England. No way they're going to let a little thing like "pragmatism" get in the way of that! Which is why the Concorde continued to fly, at $15k a ticket (and more), until 2003... losing $10,000 per ticket.

It comes back around to "WHY?"

When you're fighting a proxy war with the Soviet Union, it makes sense to build Saturn V rockets to send people to the moon first. That's a PR battle for hearts and minds. But once you're there, you're no longer making victories. The Space Shuttle exists entirely for one object:

That's a KH-9 Hexagon, the biggest spy satellite we ever flew. Problem was, the NRO really didn't want to launch things in space shuttles. They thought shuttles were a terrible idea. But since half the justification for the shuttle was military, the NRO dared NASA to build something so preposterously large that it'd get killed in committee. Unfortunately NASA called their bluff and we ended up with a turkey nobody wanted. Why did we ground the shuttle with no replacement? Because the NRO had evolved beyond the needs of anything that large and because what shuttles we had left were dangerous as fuck.

See, nowhere in there is there an organic need for a space shuttle. It was every bit as political as the Saturn V, every bit as political as the Concorde. Take away the Soviets and you take away your space race. Meanwhile, the Chinese are 30 years and more behind so even if you wanted to drum up another costly, inefficient proxy battle it's gonna be a while before it makes any sense.

There was a time, though, when it made no sense to cross the ocean. There was a time when only crazy experimenters tried to fly. And there was a time when the raw juice in fossil fuels was insanely dangerous and explosive, and now I buy them by the gallon with the flexpass on my keychain so that I can chase Ferrari Scuderias down Sepulveda Pass at midnight at 120mph.

There's no "WHY" for space yet. There was, then there wasn't. I suspect there will be again. I doubt it'll look the way the sci fi writers say and I doubt it'll be any time soon, but I don't doubt its eventuality.

The Vorkosigan Saga kicks the shit out of the Hyperion Cantos, by the way. I couldn't stand Dan Simmons. The audiobook, in particular, was grating as hell.

Kaius  ·  1654 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think we are both in agreement that there were various factors resulting in the retirement of both Concorde and the Shuttles. As you say there has to be a need in order to sustain such expensive ventures.

Where I think we differ is that while I can see what you are saying about the 'organic' nature of our development thus far, it doesnt necessarily translate into future success in space.

    There was a time, though, when it made no sense to cross the ocean. There was a time when only crazy experimenters tried to fly. And there was a time when the raw juice in fossil fuels was insanely dangerous and explosive, and now I buy them by the gallon with the flexpass on my keychain so that I can chase Ferrari Scuderias down Sepulveda Pass at midnight at 120mph.

Yep, there was a economic driver behind all of that and it was built up incrementally over hundreds of years. At each stage of the development there was an almost immediate benefit that could be used in lots of other areas. Geometry leading to Navigation leading to Cartography leading to... until we end up being able to sail small ships out of sight of land knowing we can make our way back safely to shore.

When it comes to space we are dealing with a different beast entirely. How do you incrementally improve your method of travel until you can make the MASSIVE leap to the nearest inhabitable planet (I am making an assumption here that we don't take the longer refueling multistop approach). How do you do it considering that the most plentiful, energy rich fuel that we have is busily being expended in daily commutes to the office.

To get from here to way over there is going to take a long time and its going to take more than we have. If you breakdown half way there is no life raft. We have not come up with anything that could conceivable get us there even with multi generational ships.

Oh its probably clear at this stage that I want it to be true as much as the next person but an honest review would indicate that we are not on a path to achieving it.

Heres an article worth a read I think.

kleinbl00  ·  1654 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Do me a solid and post that article. I disagree with most of it but not in a concise and short sort of way.

I also think this is a broader discussion that bears more participation than we're likely to find down here in this wormhole.

Kaius  ·  1654 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Oh don't get me started on wormholes... :)


OftenBen  ·  1658 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm sure we'd find something. The whole 'No worrying about environmental protection laws' thing might be a sufficient incentive for certain kinds of industry.