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comment by OftenBen

If this or Bezos or a similar character is what is required to make us a multi-planet species, so be it.

I don't see anybody else making an effort.

kleinbl00  ·  275 days ago  ·  link  ·  


I know how badly Musk wants to be The Man Who Sold The Moon. He's said as much. And I know how badly his cult wants him to be. You said as much. But Tsiolkovsky won't be cheated no matter how badly Elon or you or anybody else wishes it to be so.

Elon thinks the Heavy will be $1700/kilo to LEO, and argues that he can get it down to $20 with reuse. But he's full of shit. With full reusability he's still looking at somewhere on the order of $1200 a kilo. $1200 a kilo is "rich people launching cubesats." It's a cost of $200k to get 150 kilos into space - that's for you and all the shit necessary to keep you alive.

But let's shoot the moon (literally). Presume Hyperloop is a stealth-mode launch cannon. Presume the capsules are going to be made out of diamond-fiber unobtanium and use unobtanium-alloy magnets that weigh nothing and have 100% quench. That's 811 megajoules per kilo for escape velocity. With zero loss, that's 225 kW/h per kilo. And all that energy needs to be delivered before you let it out of the gun - not over an hour, but over a matter of seconds.

Per kilogram.

You know who's doing more to get your happy space colony? am_Unition. At least he's researching fusion.

am_Unition  ·  274 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Well, kinda. I'm currently still doing space stuff, but the intent is to eventually break into fusion research. My god, it's so cutthroat, though, because of the almost total lack of funding and the complexity of the problem (edit: you know this). And shhh, don't tell my advisors, they don't like it when I talk about jumping ship into a different plasma regime.

The math is terrible, yes. Much worse for fusion than my schtuff, at least for now, although it's what you make of things, to a degree. I kinda went for some low-hanging fruit, for now. I just want my pedigree, and at this point, I've done all of the research I need, it's just reporting it. Which sucks, I can assure you.

OftenBen  ·  275 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Believe me, I've seen the unhappy math.

Massive egos have been the driving force behinds all kinds of extraordinary achievements because massive egos are given to extraordinary measures in a way that ordinary or at least non-pathological people aren't.

If such a personality is the cost to the goal I stated beforehand, I think that it's a worthwhile trade.

kleinbl00  ·  274 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You say "massive ego." I say "180GW to launch my 40lb toddler at the moon, not including the rocket or space capsule." That's 4,000 kg of TNT, by the way, or about four pickup loads.

The Mayflower weighed 180 tons.

But sure. We're gonna get a space colony through sheer force of will.

OftenBen  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Willpower and also a MASSIVE initial expenditure of resources.

Once there is a manufacturing/industrial base outside of our gravity well the conversation changes a bit.

kleinbl00  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The problem doesn't really get better until you're mining asteroids - whatever you're manufacturing has to have raw materials from somewhere.

OftenBen  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That's true.

And until I see other candidates my money is on a Musk/Bezos like character to accomplish that goal.

kleinbl00  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I want to believe.

I do. I've been a fan of space and all the science fictiony- science facty shit that entails since long before you were born. But I went to my first launch and it let me truly see the problem for the first time.

Let's say Elon Musk builds his launch gun. Let's assume he builds it for free. Let's assume he's also cornered the market on solar energy such that he can sell it for 6 cents per kilowatt hour. And he's managed to get someone else to pay for the panels, too, so that's also free. Finally, let's presume that he's figured out a way to 3D-print anything he wants out of air, also for free. Our cost per kilo to LEO, presuming Zeus himself gifted Elon the whole fuckin' apparatus, is 225 kW/H x .06 = $13.50 per kilo.

For starters, this hopefully illustrates what kind of prime-grade weed Elon is smoking when he says he can get Falcon Heavy launches down to $20/kilo. But it also means that lofting the 408,000 kg International Space Station is gonna cost about $5.5 million dollars. That gives you a pressurized volume of about 32,000 cubic feet, or basically a quonset hut. You can keep six people alive.

For five and a half million dollars, all else being free, cheapest, most optimistic possible conditions, you can play space volleyball. Or, you could if you had two teams instead of one.

But disregard that. What can you do in space that you can't do cheaper on the ground? You wanna see a depressing Wikipedia article? Here you go. It starts off with "During the Soyuz 6 mission of 1969, Russian astronauts performed the first welding experiments in space" and makes its way to "Research and development is required to determine the best commodities to be produced, and to find efficient production methods. The following products are considered prospective early candidates." Fifty fuckin' years, yo. We've been attempting to justify our presence in space for fifty fuckin' years and the best we can do is "look, insulin crystals are bigger."

So the question then becomes why. WHY go to space. Okay, so that if a big fuckin' asteroid wipes out Earth we're still kickin' it on Mars. But even my Tooth Fairy Express is $14 to get a can of beans to LEO and the only justification I have to launch beans at low earth orbit is "fear of asteroids."

ULA can get a Delta II up for $164m. Elon Musk puts a Falcon 9 at $62m. Go Elon! Let's put his pricing at 30% what the Bad Guys can do. So if a return manned mission to Mars is $230 billion that means that Elon can do it for $70b.

And that's one mission to Mars and back, no interplanetary manufacturing capability, no waystations at the Lagrange points, nothing sexy like that. And all that sexy shit? Yeah, you need that before you're mining asteroids.

I want to believe. I do. But this here gravity well is so very much deeper than most people really want to grapple with. Yeah, LEO is 90% of the way to anywhere in the universe but it's also 10 times as fast as a bullet. Bullets the size of Volkswagens require office buildings worth of high explosives to get up to speed. And if it isn't an office building worth of high explosive, it's a thunderous amount of energy some other way, and it's not going to get anywhere near cheap enough when our cost-cutting measures are things like "land the first stage."

I want to believe.

But the more I've learned, the harder it is.

OftenBen  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I want to believe.

    But the more I've learned, the harder it is.

Behold, the story of my experience with religion and optimism.

Regarding space in specific and why I think Elon being petty on twitter is basically irrelevant.

1. Existential risk reduction is worth it. Convince me otherwise and you will also have convinced me to give a shit what a billionaire says on twitter. If he's the guy who manages to make us a multi-planet species, he could say all kinds of nasty things on twitter and I would still go into debt to buy a Tesla and thank him for the privilege.

2. You gave a number of $5.5 million to put 6 people in orbit. There are individuals to whom $5.5 million is essentially no money. The optimism I do have relies on the fact that, historically, people who accumulate great wealth are often given to massive expenditures for the sake of ego. This yacht sold for $458 million. At the $5.5 million per half dozen rate, that's over 400 individuals in orbit, or some amount of crew rotation. I have to assume that there is some economy of scale at work too. The point I am making is that titanic amounts of money are spent on useless bullshit anyway, let's spend some of it on useless bullshit that might propel us into a proper space age, and ego-driven billionaires are the ones most likely to do that.

3. Yeah, there is a substantial amount of learning to do, things to find out before we go colonizing other planets or even set up an industrial base outside of our gravity well. And I don't see any way to learn those lessons other than to try. The Wright brothers didn't get it the first try and I bet whoever sets out to start mining asteroids first is going to make mistakes too. But we don't get to just let our spark die out here on this rock.

Edit 4. We are really talking past each other here. My point is that I think ego driven billionaires are the ones most likely to spend the money required to give us even the slimmest possible chance of being a multi planet species eventually. It appears that you want to talk about why that's impossible with regard to technical detail. I am talking about the motivations of actors with the resources to attempt the endeavor.

kleinbl00  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

First principles: We started this discussion with you:

    If this or Bezos or a similar character is what is required to make us a multi-planet species, so be it.

    I don't see anybody else making an effort.

You are declaring that Elon Musk can say whatever he wants to say because he's our best bet at a "multi-planet species." And look - sure, Elon Musk can be as much of an asshole as he wants. Most robber barons were. But simple practical science says "multi-planet species" is hella harder than Elon Musk or you think it is - yet you still proclaim yourself a pessimist ("Behold, the story of my experience with religion and optimism").

Sure - if I triangulate to a future where it costs effectively nothing to get into space, I can loft a habitat for six dudes for a million dollars a piece. What you're studiously, deliberately, obviously missing is the core of the argument: what are they gonna do there? 'cuz I can get six dudes from Home Depot for a helluvalot less to do whatever I need. Six dudes in orbit can't even mow my lawn... unless my lawn is in space. We're having a hard time getting people to colonize Alaska let alone the Moon or whatever and the air in Alaska is eminently breathable. Rich dudes who want to spend a million dollars? Yeah, they exist. Rich dudes who want to spend ten thousand times that to go to Arizona-in-near-Vacuum? Smaller pool.

I've never been to the Monaco Yacht Show. It would be awesome to go someday. I have been to the International Space Developer's Conference and I can testify with authority as to the unseriousness of the affair. There were tickets available at the last minute to ride their ex-Soviet vomit comet, flown in special for the fete... and there weren't enough people willing to drop $5k for a few minutes of weightlessness to warrant coming back the next year. This is your potential pool of Mars-going billionaires.

It's not the learning. It's the economic justification. Columbus didn't land on Haiti to Boldly Go, he did it because he was looking for a faster trade route. Pizarro didn't conquer the Incas for god and country, he did it for gold.

I know what your point is. I've known all along. What you're steadfastly refusing to hear is that "ego-driven billionaires" aren't near rich enough to succeed. Read my lips: Musk can't pull it off.

OftenBen  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Read my lips: Musk can't pull it off.

I mostly agree with you. The smart money and my own pessimism (Let's say recovering pessimist) are in agreement on that. There is a chance, however slim, that he pulls it off and a random rock floating through the system will no longer mean the flash-annihilation of the whole biosphere.

I still don't see anybody else trying. The guys riding, or not riding, the vomit comet for funsies are not the folks I imagine funding a moon base or floating shipyard/refinery or the ones I'd imagine going to Mars. When I say a Musk or Bezos like character that's really the type of individual I am talking about to fund/organize such a venture. That smaller pool you referenced. As far as the 'what are they going to do up there?' problem, I am hedging my bets that there is economic incentive in mining asteroids. As an example, there could be a small station that refines hydrogen/hydrazine from dirty snowballs and will top-up your satellite for a fraction of the cost of sending a refueling mission from deep in the gravity well. I definitely think that there is not enough information to completely rule out the idea that there is value to be found outside of that well.

When he fails you are welcome to rub all the salt you want in every bloody wound you can find. I already ate crow when Mars One was exposed, I'm used to the taste.

kleinbl00  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It's entertaining to me that I'm the pessimist on this discussion and the optimist on the other one.

My fear is that the only obvious, expedient use case for space is military. Our advances in manned spaceflight were all proxy warfare with a rival power; our vehicles and methods of manned spaceflight are all military derivatives. Except, of course, SpaceX, which is now launching NRO payloads.

The way forward in manned spaceflight looks a lot like the cold war.

OftenBen  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    It's entertaining to me that I'm the pessimist on this discussion and the optimist on the other one.

I feel the same.

    The way forward in manned spaceflight looks a lot like the cold war.

It's a possibility that it's the only way forward. I would love to see alternatives. I have not.

Devac  ·  272 days ago  ·  link  ·  
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