From Centauri Dreams:
Tim Folger and Les Johnson (NASA MSFC) stood last summer in front of a nuclear rocket at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Johnson’s work in advanced propulsion concepts is well known to Centauri Dreams readers, but what he was talking to Folger about in an article for National Geographic was an older technology. NERVA, once conceived as part of the propulsion package that would send astronauts to Mars, had in its day the mantle of the next logical step beyond chemical propulsion. A snip from the story:
Johnson looks wistfully at the 40,000-pound engine in front of us… “If we’re going to send people to Mars, this should be considered again,” Johnson says. “You would only need half the propellant of a conventional rocket.” NASA is now designing a conventional rocket to replace the Saturn V, which was retired in 1973, not long after the last manned moon landing. It hasn’t decided where the new rocket will go. The NERVA project ended in 1973 too, without a flight test. Since then, during the space shuttle era, humans haven’t ventured more than 400 miles from Earth.
I’m looking forward to getting back to Huntsville and seeing Les, as well as a number of other friends in the interstellar community, at the 2nd Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, coming up this February, where it may be that NERVA will have a place in the discussion of how we go about building a system-spanning civilization. You’ll want to give Folger’s article a look for comments not only from Les but Freeman Dyson and Andreas Tziolas (from the Icarus team), as well as Elon Musk, the 100 Year Starship’s Mae Jemison, and NASA’s Mason Peck.
Image: NERVA nuclear rocket being tested. (Smithsonian Institution Photo No. 75-13750).
In fact, there are a number of issues presented here that I’ll want to get back to later, but I can’t cover the rest of the story today. I’m all but out the door for a brief but intense period of Tau Zero work that will leave me no time to keep up regular posts here or even to moderate comments. More about this later, and more about Folger’s essay as well, and please bear with me through the temporary slowdown. Things should get back to normal by mid-day Thursday.
Speaking of NERVA, though, I’ll leave you with an interesting petition Gregory Benford alerted me to with regard to the development of nuclear thermal rockets, one that calls for an effort to:
Harness the full intellectual and industrial strength of our universities, national laboratories and private enterprise to rapidly develop and deploy a nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) adaptable to both manned and un-manned space missions. A NTR (which would only operate in outer space) will jump-start our manned space exploration program by reducing inner solar system flight times from months to weeks. This is not new technology; NTRs were tested in the 1960s (President Kennedy was a guest at one test). The physics and engineering are sound. In addition to inspiring young Americans to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a working NTR will herald a speedy and economical expansion of the human presence in the cosmos.
Going significantly beyond the Moon demands advances in propulsion of the kind that nuclear thermal rockets can deliver. Getting NERVA concepts out of mothballs and updating them with modern materials are necessary steps as we push out into the Solar System.
Going to Mars does require a serious upgrade to nuclear rocket technology, but somehow I don’t think the taxpaying public will go for funding research by the government, especially in this era of deficits and flat budgets.
This kind of research will probably be taken up by the private sector, perhaps with some seed money from the government, but only if there’s an economic need to exploit the resources of the Solar System, including planetary bodies like Mars.
It would be nice for such research like NERVA could be funded for the future of Mankind, but unfortunately that’s not how the world is set up now.
One can only hope.
Metaphysical essayist Bruce Duensing puts forward a theory that is interesting and what some would conclude is impossible.
Do the dead dream that they are alive?
Do they dream at all?
Chickens as Eggs In Embryo
I am about to suggest to you, based on my own experiences, which one can either take or leave as either a psychic set of impressions of an afterlife or an imaginative construction that is the creation of myself as an observer of my own model of reality, that there may be a truism veiled in this account, that death as well as life is a combination of the imaginative realm toward itself, as well as having a parallel of weaving a spiders web in tandem in which we become exposed, naked to our own assumptions as to what or whom we may be.
Perhaps this is as much of a cautionary tale to you as it is to it’s author, but then in some sense, I am only a correspondent whose narrative portends a fever dream or a eyewitness of self fulfilling prophecies or then again, perhaps both.
More specifically, death is not a singular state… but the many, from those allegedly dead to our world who are imagining they are alive, imagining one is in a environment that is free standing and existential, imagining delimited self expression .. as I now recall in hindsight within my childhood as recalled as “my Father’s house has many mansions.” Indeed. A chilling thought is that we unawares may be encasing ourselves in amber.
Let me explain this strange perspective by way of an experiential account lacking any proof, any tangible artifact other than the hand that selects the letters that are arranged to express this chain of events, both in the prosaic and in the metaphysical sense.
Further,this wayward and seemingly random account has a pattern as apparent to me as a leaf thst begs the question; Is reality, in it’s highest intermediary sense formed in the eye of the beholder?
Is there not one heaven but an infinite variety of them, all of which are constructed by what we have sewn together from the material, the defining of what oneself may be as a purpose entirely invented, created by the observer and of course, no two observations in the subjective nature of him or her are similar, unlike a leaf or a automobile, sentience apparently not only borrows form, but mimics it’s objectively rote nature with the freedom only limited by our own trans-personal models of Self, and many.. as I experienced… have none whatsoever.
In these proverbial soap bubbles, each a universe onto themselves, these membranes of our own making once blown from the bubble pipe of the young lady or man on a summer day that is but a shadow of another yet to come, a faux escape, that are only to be carried by the wind, suspended in the atmosphere of a realm we can scarcely imagine. Or, then again, do we do so every day, imagine what we are? And thus make a body of work that is our world as we have experienced it? And so begins my account from the early hours of this day, “stuck inside a mobile with the memphis Blues again..” Am I the inadvertent chronicler of this parallel world or have I been played? Perhaps both.
Years ago I read a short story by Robert Charles Wilson titled ‘Divided By Infinity’ in which the protagonist experiences a kind of twisted immortality by continuously commiting serial suicide.
To him, there’s no relief by death, only universes where he’s only becoming more ‘unlikely’ to exist.
Which, I think, is a kind of Purgatorive Nightmare.
Duensing’s Dreaming Dead is kind of like that I think.
My old friend James Essig has written an open letter to the Augustine Panel on America’s spaceflight future asking them to consider nuclear power for rockets:
Dear Folks at NASA;
You all live the dream of human space exploration and manned space flight. Many of you grew up in the era of the Star Trek and Star Wars movie series, as I have. If we are honest with our selves, we have to admit that we all love dream about the future possibility of mankind’s travel among the stars that might be realized for our decedents. Some of you, as I do, have a dream that we might travel to other star systems this very century, but due to the rationality and the here and now approach that must necessarily be at least part of the institutionalized research and development programs of a very large Federal Government organization such as NASA which is ultimately funded by the American tax-payers, I understand that you must at times feel the need to subjectively repress the desire to express your interest in a bold initiative that would enable human civilization to launch manned space expeditions to our nearest stellar neighbors by some time this century if not by mid-century. I offer some plausible rationalized and mildly mathematical arguments why we should not dismiss such ideas and why known physics may enable us to reach very high relativistic gamma factors in terms of manned space craft, whereupon perhaps novel kinematical and/or unknown space time topology altering effects might be manifest due to any unspecified break down in the principles of special and/or general relativity for macroscopically spatial and rest-mass wise objects traveling at such high velocities such as perhaps future manned spacecraft.
I haven’t the heart to tell him they wrapped up shop August 12th and that they’re giving Mr. Obamanator the final report September 14th or 15th.
And speaking of the Augustine Commission…
NASA Needs More Money to Meet Space Goals, Panel Finds, Washington Post“Don’t try to put astronauts on Mars yet — too hard, too costly. Go to the moon — maybe. Or build rockets that could zip around the inner solar system, visiting asteroids, maybe a Martian moon. Keep the International Space Station going until 2020 rather than crash it into the Pacific in 2016. Help underwrite commercial space flight the same way the United States gave the airline business a boost in the 1920s with air mail.”
“A blue-ribbon study group is urging the Obama administration to rely on private enterprise to reduce costs and accelerate broad access to low Earth orbit, comparing budding entrepreneurial space efforts to the 1920s, when air-mail contracts sparked a boom in U.S. commercial aviation.”
Augustine panel tells White House NASA needs a new plan — and more money, Orlando Sentinel
“A presidential panel told the White House today that NASA is on an “unsustainable trajectory” and to preserve a “meaningful” human spaceflight program, NASA needs an additional $3 billion annually and a mandate to work closely with other countries and private companies.”
“A White House panel of independent space experts says NASA’s return-to-the-moon plan just won’t fly. The problem is money. The expert panel estimates it would cost about $3 billion a year beyond NASA’s current $18 billion annual budget. “Under the budget that was proposed, exploration beyond Earth is not viable,” panel member Edward Crawley, a professor of aeronautics at MIT, told The Associated Press Tuesday.”
“It’s pretty clear NASA needs more money,” said Dr. Ed Crawley, panel member. “We basically said human exploration beyond low Earth orbit is not obtainable within the fiscal year 2010 budget. We did not find a credible plan that would fit within the budget.”
Panel: No moon or beyond for NASA without new funds, Houston Chronicle
“NASA has not been given resources matched to the tasks it has been asked to undertake,” said Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology. “That has to change.” That message was echoed by Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, the ranking Republican on the House panel that has jurisdiction over NASA. “The benefits of human spaceflight to our nation are innumerable, and as such our financial commitment to NASA and to the aerospace industry should not waiver and in fact should be increased to meet these worthy objectives,” Olson said.”
“I’m very curious about what the administration is going to do with a report like this,” said Marcia Smith, a former space expert for the Congressional Research Service and founder of spacepolicyonline.com. The “committee has made a stark case. … They’re saying it’s $3 billion if you want to do almost anything.”
Panel Calls Program of NASA Unfeasible, NY Times
“A blue-ribbon panel said Tuesday that a lack of financing has left NASA’s current space program on an “unsustainable trajectory” and that the Obama administration should consider using private companies to launch people into low-Earth orbit.”
The above is from NASA Watch.
Far be it for me to question common sense or wisdom (if you believe that, I have some swampland in Arizona to sell ya!), but hasn’t anyone noticed that NASA and everybody else’s’ plan for exploring the Moon getting drawn away?
And all this attention given to Buzz Aldrin’s supposed mention on CSPAN of a “monolith” on one of Mars’ moon, Phobos? What’s up with that?
Are we being distracted? Why?
And are UFOs involved?
The reason I’m asking these questions is because the panel requested by CFR backed US President Obama to rethink NASA’s “Road Map to Space” (an unfunded mandate by former President Bu$hco) is more than likely is going to recommend that the US go away from exploring the Moon.
Instead, the panel suggests that NASA concentrate on using the Orion capsule to explore Lagrange points in lunar and Earth orbits and “docking” with asteroids.
I realize that money , or lack thereof might be a huge reason for some of these changes in policy, and god knows that the US as a viable economic entity might become a thing of the past sooner than later, so it could have larger fish to fry than lunar exploration shortly.
But IMHO, the Moon provides resources that are close-by to be exploited, re, three days travel by even primitive rockets. Plus the Moon is a natural (?)satellite that can be used as a military base of operations.
Whoa. Did I say ‘military?’
That my friends, could be the answer right there.
According to UFO lore, President Eisenhower met with some supposed ‘aliens’ back in 1954 and signed some treaties.
Now from what I’ve researched of that, it was mainly about letting the aliens sample people for genetic studies, but could some of the language of the treaties have set ‘boundries’ for human exploration of the Solar System and beyond possibly?
In fact, the 1960 Brookings Report about ET contact claims that such contact stemming from interplanetary exploration would throw world societies into total chaos, unable to recover.
And one other legend that will not die is the supposed “Apollo 20” video that records an ancient spaceship in a crater on the Moon.
Is that b.s. too? Or did it happen?
All I see is that every time someone suggests we (meaning human beings) go back to the Moon to either explore, exploit for resources, set up bases or colonize, there’s a thousand and one reasons that pop up to kill such endeavors.
It’ll be interesting to see if NASA still carries out this LCROSS crash into a crater in the southern lunar hemisphere (crater with water?) this fall.
If it doesn’t happen, or the mainstream media doesn’t mention anything about it at all, I’ll be all the more curious.
So now we’re supposed to set our sights on Mars because Moon exploration is so ‘old hat’ now eh?
Or more exactly, the moons of Mars?
Okay, I’ll buy that.
In fact, I discussed this with Quasar9 one time. He wasn’t too thrilled about it, so we agreed to disagree.
My argument was that because a planet had a deep gravity well, it was harder to exploit for resources, thus, we need to go for the asteroids.
And lo and behold, for the very reasons the space exploratory panel suggests.
I didn’t suggest they use asteroids as stepping stones to get to the moons of Mars (I suggested the asteroid belt beyond Mars).
And that’s where I think Mr. Aldrin came in with his ‘monolith’ on Phobos schpeel.
Was that an attempt to influence discource on that panel?
I’m sure it was.
So, you’re gonna say “some space exploration is better than none Dad”, and I’ll agree with that.
What I’m saying is that “there might be more than what we’re being told.”
Yeah, I know, tin-foil bullshit and all that.
And I didn’t even bring up the fact we’re going waaaay out of our way to avoid bringing any kind of nuclear powered equipment into space, even if it would make things a thousand times easier to plan and operate.
And don’t even tell me about those bullshit non-nuclear treaties we’ve already broken with our military programs.
Virgin Galactic Satellite Company?
The company is working with UK space exploration company Surrey Small Satellites on plans to develop a launcher that could propel a 200kg satellite into space at roughly 10pc the cost of current technology.
Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic said: “We have the technology and the investment to put this together. We hope to develop a preliminary satellite launch vehicle ourselves, but will go to the wider market to produce something capable of carrying 200kg, which we believe is the sweet spot in the market.”
Mr Whitehorn said that the company hoped to have proposals to put to the market for the development of the satellite launch vehicle in the next four months.
Virgin Galactic has secured $100m of funding from Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments for the commercial satellite business on top of the $280m co-investment in its space tourism business announced last week. The extra investment would take Aabar’s stake in Virgin Galactic from 32pc to 38pc.
The satellite business will target the growing market for low-orbit earth observation and communication satellites.
According to Mr Whitehorn, it could also be used to start construction of server farms in space and to create mobile and broadband networks that could serve areas such as Africa that do not have good cable networks.
Although the development is in its early stages, it could provide a significant boost to the UK space industry, which according to Mr Whitehorn employs around 70,000 people and represents £2.5bn per year in net exports.
Mr Whitehorn said: “This is a hidden industry in the UK but a very important one. In terms of net exports it is bigger than the car industry.
“We hope to be able to use the development of our commercial satellite business to leverage off the tourism work we are already doing and to add real value to the UK economy.”
Was the 1908 Tunguska, Siberia explosion actually ‘Tesla Tech?‘
1908: Tesla repeated the idea of destruction by electrical waves to the newspaper on April 21st. His letter to the editor stated, “When I spoke of future warfare I meant that it should be conducted by direct application of electrical waves without the use of aerial engines or other implements of destruction.” He added: “This is not a dream. Even now wireless power plants could be constructed by which any region of the globe might be rendered uninhabitable without subjecting the population of other parts to serious danger or inconvenience.”(27)
In the period from 1900 to 1910 Tesla’s creative thrust was to establish his plan for wireless transmission of energy. Undercut by Marconi’s accomplishment, beset by financial problems, and spurned by the scientific establishment, Tesla was in a desperate situation by mid-decade. The strain became too great by 1906-1907 and, according to Tesla biographers, he suffered an emotional collapse.(28),(29)In order to make a final effort to have his grand scheme recognized, he may have tried one high power test of his transmitter to show off its destructive potential. This would have been in 1908.
The Tunguska event took place on the morning of June 30th, 1908. An explosion estimated to be equivalent to 10-15 megatons of TNT flattened 500,000 acres of pine forest near the Stony Tunguska River in central Siberia. Whole herds of reindeer were destroyed. Several nomadic villages were reported to have vanished. The explosion was heard over a radius of 620 miles. When an expedition was made to the area in 1927 to find evidence of the meteorite presumed to have caused the blast, no impact crater was found. When the ground was drilled for pieces of nickel, iron, or stone, the main constituents of meteorites, none were found down to a depth of 118 feet.
Several explanations have been given for the Tunguska event. The officially accepted version is that a 100,000 ton fragment of Encke’s Comet, composed mainly of dust and ice, entered the atmosphere at 62,000 mph, heated up, and exploded over the earth’s surface creating a fireball and shock wave but no crater. Alternative explanations of the disaster include a renegade mini-black hole or an alien space ship crashing into the earth with the resulting release of energy.
Associating Tesla with the Tunguska event comes close to putting the inventor’s power transmission idea in the same speculative category as ancient astronauts. However, historical facts point to the possibility that this event was caused by a test firing of Tesla’s energy weapon.
In 1907 and 1908, Tesla wrote about the destructive effects of his energy transmitter. His Wardenclyffe facility was much larger than the Colorado Springs device that destroyed the power station’s generator. Then, in 1915, he stated bluntly:
It is perfectly practical to transmit electrical energy without wires and produce destructive effects at a distance. I have already constructed a wireless transmitter which makes this possible. … But when unavoidable [it] may be used to destroy property and life. The art is already so far developed that the great destructive effects can be produced at any point on the globe, defined beforehand with great accuracy (emphasis added).(30) Nikola Tesla, 1915
He seems to confess to such a test having taken place before 1915, and, though the evidence is circumstantial, Tesla had the motive and the means to cause the Tunguska event. His transmitter could generate energy levels and frequencies capable of releasing the destructive force of 10 megatons, or more, of TNT. And the overlooked genius was desperate.
The nature of the Tunguska event, also, is consistent with what would happen during the sudden release of wireless power. No fiery object was reported in the skies at that time by professional or amateur astronomers as would be expected when a 200,000,000 pound object enters the atmosphere at tens of thousands miles an hour. Also, the first reporters, from the town of Tomsk, to reach the area judged the stories about a body falling from the sky was the result of the imagination of an impressionable people. He noted there was considerable noise coming from the explosion, but no stones fell. The absence of an impact crater can be explained by there having been no material body to impact. An explosion caused by broadcast power would not leave a crater.
This sounds amazingly like HAARP tech also.
Are the two related?
Nuclear Energy Redux
We can make a case for improving living standards through space exploration, but only if we take the necessary next steps. Today, our launch technologies are essentially half a century old, with only minor improvements along the way. In our attempt to bootstrap a spacefaring civilization, we need to be thinking long-term and improving our ways of getting out of Earth’s gravity well. On this score, Genta is a proponent of nuclear energy, believing it alone will allow our emergence as a true spacefaring species. Here he speaks from his perspective as a deeply practical mechanical engineer:
The use of nuclear energy for space propulsion in Earth orbit and beyond is just a matter of political will and only marginally of technology: sure, technological advances are required, but after more than 50 years of theoretical studies the ideas are clear and what are still needed are just details. Nuclear-thermal propulsion was demonstrated on the ground in the 1970s and could be used by now for deep-space propulsion. It is true that the performance of such systems can be improved well beyond those demonstrated up to now, but what we have could allow anyway a large improvement if compared with chemical propulsion.
But transitioning to next generation technologies — or catching up in terms of a developing but unused capability — is a demanding process. More on this:
What we really need is to have nuclear powered spacecraft for interplanetary missions, even if their performance were only marginally better than those of chemical propulsion: we need to gain experience in building and operating nuclear systems in space and to make people used to this technology. Performance of nuclear thermal propulsion will improve in due course, but if we wait to start until improved systems are available, everything will be delayed indefinitely.
Anyone advocating nuclear propulsion in today’s climate of opinion is sure to have a fight on his hands, but Genta believes the time for this fight is propitious. We’re already seeing signs that in the power industry, nuclear options are making a comeback in terms of public acceptance — the phrase ‘nuclear renaissance’ is in the air in some quarters, indicating that we may be ready to move past the era of kneejerk rejection of the nuclear idea. Funding remains a problem, but we come back again to having to sell our future in space one mission at a time, a laborious task but an essential one.
The space option is a long-term perspective, which will naturally be implemented in due time. Perhaps it is hard to accept that progress toward space must be done step by step, but trying shortcuts may be dangerous. In a situation of scarce funds a hard competition between missions and technologies should be avoided. The efforts should be concentrated in areas that may prove to be enabling technologies, even if this may result in postponing some important scientific results.
There is no more important enabling technology than one that would get us to low-Earth orbit cheaply. Genta noted the space elevator concept in his talk but expressed concerns about the size of the investment needed to build it. In any case, a space elevator raises its own safety concerns. He sees nuclear technology as an achievable solution to the low-Earth orbit problem that should not be put off in hopes of a vastly more expensive future solution. Political will is a tricky thing to summon, but making a sustained, long-term case for space as a key player in our economic future may help overcome the obstacle.
Paul makes an excellent case for the use of nuclear power and uses Genta’s paper to great effect, and I totally agree with the meme 100%.
Without utilizing nuclear energy of some sort, mankind will never make it off its’ planet in numbers large enough to colonize the Solar System, let alone interstellar space.
Somehow, I’m not too optimistic about our prospects lately.
NASA is facing the prospect of having to explore deep space without the aid of the long-lasting nuclear batteries it has relied upon for decades to send spacecraft to destinations where sunlight is in short supply.
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin told a House Appropriations subcommittee March 5 that the U.S. inventory of plutonium-238 — the radioactive material essential for building long-lasting batteries known to the experts as radioisotope power systems — is running out quickly.
“Looking ahead, plutonium is in short supply,” Griffin told lawmakers during the first of two days of hearings on the U.S. space agency’s 2009 budget request.
I know most of my readers hate nuclear energy in any form (except fusion possibly), but plutonium batteries are the most efficient way to power space probes to the outer solar system. A comparable solar power system would require extra-large panels that are mass prohibitive.
The mysterious properties of black holes can be recreated on a tabletop, scientists now reveal.Solving mysteries concerning black holes could yield key clues toward a “theory of everything” that unites how we conceive of all the natural forces.Black holes rank among the greatest enigmas of the universe. Scientists theorize black holes have gravitational pulls so powerful that nothing, including light, can escape after falling past a border known as the event horizon.Direct experiments with black holes are unlikely, due at the very least to how far any are from Eearth, not to mention how difficult these warps in space and time would be to work with. Instead, researchers are searching for ways to create lab models of event horizons. Now scientists have created an artificial event horizon on a tabletop using fiber optics.
I’m not a quantum physicist, but if I’m not mistaken an earlier attempt at creating wormholes follows along these lines too. Is this a precursor to recreating micro-universes?
Scientists studying images from The University of Arizona-led High Resolution Imaging Experiment camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have discovered never-before-seen impact “megabreccia” and a possibly once-habitable ancient lake on Mars at a place called Holden crater. The megabreccia is topped by layers of fine sediments that formed in what apparently was a long-lived, calm lake that filled Holden crater on early Mars, HiRISE scientists say. The Holden Crater image is on the HiRISE Website. “Holden crater has some of the best-exposed lake deposits and ancient megabreccia known on Mars,” said HiRISE’s principal investigator, professor Alfred McEwen of the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. “Both contain minerals that formed in the presence of water and mark potentially habitable environments. This would be an excellent place to send a rover or sample-return mission to make major advances in understanding if Mars supported life.”
For this reason alone we should send a human being to find possible fossils. Or actual living critters for that matter.
Air Force Reserve Command officials are expanding the critical role reservists play in space operations by establishing AFRC’s first space wing at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. Command officials will activate the 310th Space Wing March 7. The new organization is an expansion of the existing 310th Space Group, based at Schriever AFB. “This will be a landmark day in our Air Force’s long and proud history,” said Col. Jeff Ansted, 310th Space Group commander. “Our members have worked very hard over the past 15 years to provide unrivaled support in operating and defending our space systems. By increasing our unit’s mission and responsibilities, the Air Force is again acknowledging that space is a vital component to fighting and winning our nation’s wars.” The new organization comprises 16 subordinate units located at Schriever AFB, Peterson AFB and Buckley AFB in Colorado and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
The U.S. Air Force Space Reserve probably gets more funding in one year than NASA does in five. Air Force Reserve Establishes First Space Wing _________________________________________________________________
Science fiction has brought us so many concepts for colonizing the stars over the last hundred years, everything from interstellar arks loading thousands of colonists (the sea-faring metaphor) to worldships that see generations of crewmembers live and die during their long joiurney. Suspended animation can get people through a trip that takes centuries, while robotic wardens might oversee the safe passage of human genetic material that could be converted into a colony upon arrival.If you want to be on the cutting edge today, though, better look toward what George Dvorsky talks about in Seven ways to control the Galaxy with self-replicating probes. Here’s a novel way to colonize a distant star system: Let a von Neumann probe find a promising planet and use the matter it finds there to establish a colony and fill it with settlers. Not the kind of settler that gets out of a suspended animation tank, yawns, stretches, and then walks out onto an alien landscape, but an uploaded consciousness that would be able to take physical (robotic) form to explore the new environment.
This would be possible only with a Technological Singularity as purported by Vinge, Bradbury, Kurzweil and others. I was a fan of the Singularity, but now I see it as a techno-religion with promises of a Rapture and an after-life. Post-agricultural human constants, but it relieves us of our responsibilities to ourselves and future generations. This also could be a reason for the UFO phenomenon. Read Mac Tonnies’ essay on it here.
As for myself, I’ll take Asimov’s ‘spomes‘ (sky-life) leisurely approach anytime!
Dr. Robert Bussard, the inventer of the Bussard Interstellar Ramjet who passed away last fall was a life long advocate of nuclear fusion energy and worked diligently to make it come to pass, was working on a method of nuclear fusion that converted hydrogen and boron directly into electricity, leaving helium the only by-product of the process:
This is not your father’s fusion reactor! Forget everything you know about conventional thinking on nuclear fusion: high-temperature plasmas, steam turbines, neutron radiation and even nuclear waste are a thing of the past. Goodbye thermonuclear fusion; hello inertial electrostatic confinement fusion (IEC), an old idea that’s been made new. While the international community debates the fate of the politically-turmoiled $12 billion ITER (an experimental thermonuclear reactor), simple IEC reactors are being built as high-school science fair projects…
Dr. Bussard will discuss his recent results and details of this potentially world-altering technology, whose conception dates back as far as 1924, and even includes a reactor design by Philo T. Farnsworth (inventor of the scanning television).
Can a 100 MW fusion reactor be built for less than Google’s annual electricity bill? Come see what’s possible when you think outside the thermonuclear box and ignore the herd…
The following is a Google vid that shows Dr. Forward giving a lecture in November 2006 about his fusion process and how it would meet Google’s present and future energy needs.
In fact, the Defence Department was funding his research, the Navy I believe. After his death there was speculation the funding would be pulled, but as of this posting the project is still funded until the end of this fiscal year.
From Press TV:
China will launch ten spacecrafts this year including two environmental satellites, a meteorological satellite and a communications satellite for Venezuela, said Yang Baohua, head of the China Academy of Space Technology, according to the China Daily.The missions this year also include two Shenzhou VII spaceships, one of which will feature the country’s first spacewalk, Yang said.
“China’s space technology has entered a new stage. The design and manufacture of satellites takes less time, and homemade satellites are more reliable and have a longer lifespan,” Yang added.
China and Russia have expressed concerns about a US plan to shoot down what officials in Washington say is a crippled spy satellite, with that event to take place potentially as early as this week.
Yang said the country is also planning to send a record number of satellites into space in the next five to 10 years, but failed to mention the exact number.
This is pretty impressive by any standard, with a manned launch thrown in to boot.
Is this announcement a response to the American decision to shoot down its crippled satellite? An, ” Okay, you’re going to show me yours, but here’s mine!” kinda thing?
My take on all this posturing is just that, posturing. Along with the recent successful Iranian rocket launch and Russia’s continuous supplying of Iranian nuclear facilities/reactors, the Rockefeller owned American government is just stewing in its own juices, with the neoconmunists adding their own distinctive flavors.
This is shaping up to quite an interesting year indeed!
Nuclear power for spaceflight has been a bugaboo in the American space program for decades. I believe it was the SALT II Treaty of 1967 that banned the use of nuclear weapons in the upper atmosphere and low earth orbit. Since then, the nuclear incidents of Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986) have driven home the need for nuclear safety in the areas of energy production and the environment. But as far as space exploration is concerned, especially in the U.S., things have gotten out of hand.
The recent proclamations of China, Russia, India, and yes, America to return to explore the Moon, Mars and the rest of the Solar System using human beings have offered up the old questions of human durability and travel times between planets. Various propulsion methods have been suggested and designed. But guess what the good ol’ U.S. decided to use for it’s return to the Moon. That’s right, chemical rockets. With subtle improvements of course, like using cheaper fuels like kerosene or methane. The only differences being the way that the chemicals are stored, like better cryogenic systems, meaning the stuff is stored colder. Wow, big deal! Colder cheaper fuel with the oxydizer, liquid oxygen, gets you the same horsepower as the liquid hydrogen, which is more expensive to produce. Impressed yet?
Estimates made by researchers over recent years show that nuclear power, if used in long-distance space voyages, will save considerable funds and shorten interplanetary journeys. In a Mars mission a nuclear-powered engine would cut flight time almost by two thirds, compared with a jet engine using ordinary chemical fuel. The rim of the solar system could be reached within three, rather than 10, years. Nuclear plants can be used not only as sources of electric power, but also as sources of heat to support life and productive activities at bases beyond Earth.
Russia and the United States have laid a good groundwork for progress in this field. But Russia leads in such key factors as maximum hydrogen temperature and specific thrust impulse. In fact, it is the only country in the world that has a hands-on technology for building space-based nuclear reactor plants.
The U.S. only once tested a nuclear reactor like the Soviet Topaz unit. It was in 1965. The reactor lasted 43 days, although the satellite on which it was installed is still in orbit as part of space junk. Russia has launched about 40 spacecraft with nuclear plants aboard. Most of them were used for spying purposes and, once activated, stayed in low near-Earth orbits for several months on end.
These small nuclear power units are safer and more reliable than the old 1960s designs that were previously proposed. Reduced travel times to the planets are more cost effective when using small, modern nuclear power cells. I realize radiation is always in back of people’s minds, especially Americans, almost to the point of pathology I think. We want cheap energy to run our toys and lifestyle, which means burning fossil fuels and polluting the air. But then we complain (or ignore it as official government policy) to the rest of the world that there’s global warming, give Al Gore a Nobel Prize and tell Third World countries they can’t burn oil or coal to fuel their rising economies! What’s up with that? A bit more than a “little” hypocracy I’d say! It must be because we know what nuclear radiation does to people. Hiroshima, Nagasoki anyone? Add guilt to that also.
Time has passed for that crap now. While solar power satellites in orbit beaming down energy to solar energy plantations are great, they would only supply 10-20% of our needs. Modern compact nuclear power cells using helium-3 as fuel are outstanding stop-gap powerplants for both space travel and here on Earth. Until we can figure out that pesky hydrogen fusion issue anyway.
And remember you nay-sayers, if Americans won’t/don’t do it, for sure China, Russia and India will. Think about that when you’re peddling your bike-powered electric generator to charge up your cell-phone!