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(The Atlantic)   Why haven't we gotten to the stars yet and how will we get there?   (theatlantic.com) divider line 100
    More: Interesting, Icarus, bleeding edges, Astrobiology, nuclear fissions, biosphere, space missions, nearest stars, Proxima Centauri  
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3433 clicks; posted to Geek » on 24 Feb 2012 at 8:58 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-02-24 09:02:39 AM  
Why haven't we gotten to the stars yet? This is why (zoom in with your browser for the full effect).
 
2012-02-24 09:04:52 AM  
Here's a start.

2.bp.blogspot.com
 
2012-02-24 09:10:43 AM  
It's that pesky special relativity.
 
2012-02-24 09:16:03 AM  
We haven't gotten to the stars yet because we, as a culture (and I mean the Western world as a whole here), have lost the collective will to do so. America only went to the moon because their, at the time, enemy were planning to do likewise and the idea of a Hammer & Sickle on the moon was uncomfortable to say the least.

It is technologically fesable to do so (I'm ignoring the ball busting cost) but our society couldn't stomach the concept of throwing humans at a target knowing they will never make it; their great-great-great-great-great grand children *might* make it but the original crew most certainly won't unless their is a breakthrough in cryogenics.

But considering people are still moaning about the loss of space truck and it's magnificent ability to... just about crawl in to LEO and we have no orbital shipyards working on things like the "CCCP Alexi Leonov" (i.e. an actual human carrying deep space vessel) and our 'space station' is little more than a work-mans hut that can't generate it's own gravity (because spinny things are expensive)... yeah... 100 years to get to the point where we're ready to break ground on a 100 year space mission sounds about right.

"Cheap & Cheerful" is not a concept applicable to sending humans in to deep space.
 
2012-02-24 09:22:29 AM  

stuhayes2010: It's that pesky special relativity.


You can go to the stars at sub-light speeds, it just takes a while.
Forty years for a trip on a fusion rocket isnt that bad.
 
2012-02-24 09:22:42 AM  
Who hasn't got to the stars? I've already met Wilfred Brimley!
 
2012-02-24 09:25:19 AM  

stuhayes2010: It's that pesky special relativity.


Light speed isn't a problem and can be 'adjusted' if you can bend space/time. Basically the Warp drive works although beyond towing a black hole we've no idea how to do it and insufficient energy production capabilities even if we did.

But yes FTL is theoretically possible.
 
2012-02-24 09:25:27 AM  

kyleaugustus: Here's a start.

[2.bp.blogspot.com image 640x410]


I don't think that any of those little chemical rockets can make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.
 
2012-02-24 09:26:55 AM  

way south: Forty years for a trip on a fusion rocket isnt that bad.


Easy to say, but we're not even sure yet if people could reasonably survive the ~6 months or whatever it would take to get to Mars. At the very least, 40 years in zero G would have a tremendous, probably permanent effect on the passengers ability to deal with gravity of any kind.
 
2012-02-24 09:27:34 AM  

Vaneshi: We haven't gotten to the stars yet because we, as a culture (and I mean the Western world as a whole here), have lost the collective will to do so. America only went to the moon because their, at the time, enemy were planning to do likewise and the idea of a Hammer & Sickle on the moon was uncomfortable to say the least.

It is technologically fesable to do so (I'm ignoring the ball busting cost) but our society couldn't stomach the concept of throwing humans at a target knowing they will never make it; their great-great-great-great-great grand children *might* make it but the original crew most certainly won't unless their is a breakthrough in cryogenics.

But considering people are still moaning about the loss of space truck and it's magnificent ability to... just about crawl in to LEO and we have no orbital shipyards working on things like the "CCCP Alexi Leonov" (i.e. an actual human carrying deep space vessel) and our 'space station' is little more than a work-mans hut that can't generate it's own gravity (because spinny things are expensive)... yeah... 100 years to get to the point where we're ready to break ground on a 100 year space mission sounds about right.

"Cheap & Cheerful" is not a concept applicable to sending humans in to deep space.


This.

We have not the intestinal fortitude to think that big.
 
2012-02-24 09:30:11 AM  
Don't you hear my call
Though you're many years away
Don't you hear me callin' you

Write your letters in the sand
For the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew
 
2012-02-24 09:30:34 AM  

Eddie Adams from Torrance: kyleaugustus: Here's a start.

[2.bp.blogspot.com image 640x410]

I don't think that any of those little chemical rockets can make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.


They aren't chemical. They're nuclear. Project Orion.

/it does look like they might have chemical boosters to get them out of the atmosphere before they start getting all fissiony, a sensible idea.
 
2012-02-24 09:31:20 AM  
I like how he ties in the search for extra-solar planets to the desire to go out and actually explore some of them, once/if we find a good close one. A hard goal like that would surely help move things along.

As for his search for Eden, I barely remember a short story about a generational ship searching for a new home. They eventually find planet Paradise and everybody gets off the ship and sets up camp or whatever on the surface. After a little while, it seems that everyone is severely lacking in motivation to go on with the work of building their civilization when they can just hang out in a field all day, enjoying life.

So the captain packs everyone up in the ship and sets off for a barely habitable ice world.
 
2012-02-24 09:31:46 AM  

jayhawk88:
Easy to say, but we're not even sure yet if people could reasonably survive the ~6 months or whatever it would take to get to Mars. At the very least, 40 years in zero G would have a tremendous, probably permanent effect on the passengers ability to deal with gravity of any kind.



cdn.mos.totalfilm.com

Would make the trip to Mars easily and with sufficient shielding for the crew. OTOH it would not be cheap n' cheerful or 'easy'. No, that's not from Babylon 5 either. A larger version still could trundle to the stars.

No problems with zero G either.
 
2012-02-24 09:32:23 AM  

way south: stuhayes2010: It's that pesky special relativity.

You can go to the stars at sub-light speeds, it just takes a while.
Forty years for a trip on a fusion rocket isnt that bad.


Even with time dilation the crew would be old and out of practice by the time they got there.

Have you seen old people trying to park at the mall? And you want AstroGramps to try parking several million joules of kinetic energy without ramming a biosphere?
 
2012-02-24 09:32:56 AM  
One word answer: SCIENCE!
 
2012-02-24 09:40:21 AM  

stratagos: way south: stuhayes2010: It's that pesky special relativity.

You can go to the stars at sub-light speeds, it just takes a while.
Forty years for a trip on a fusion rocket isnt that bad.

Even with time dilation the crew would be old and out of practice by the time they got there.

Have you seen old people trying to park at the mall? And you want AstroGramps to try parking several million joules of kinetic energy without ramming a biosphere?


We could just make sure the crew have children en route and train them to land the ship.

On the downside this would mean children born in weightlessness and exposed to cosmic rays during their development.
On the upside, there would a lot of zero-g farking going on.
 
2012-02-24 09:41:18 AM  
Because they're too far away. Next question.
 
2012-02-24 09:42:54 AM  
I'm nearly at the point where I'm starting to think the only way humanity will make it to the stars is as a cloud of fine dust and rubble when the sun goes nova in a billion years or so and reduces the planet to a burnt cinder.

Goddamn short-sighted government.
 
2012-02-24 09:45:54 AM  
Because the Fark article was tl;dr.
 
2012-02-24 09:47:59 AM  

stratagos:
Have you seen old people trying to park at the mall? And you want AstroGramps to try parking several million joules of kinetic energy without ramming a biosphere?


But if we send AstroGramps instead of young fit AstroKids and simply have the computer say the destination is a farmers market... that ship is going to haul ass to its designation.
 
2012-02-24 09:55:54 AM  
Because investing in a multi-decade long mission to space goes against the current ethos of constantly boosting quarterly profits at all costs?
 
2012-02-24 09:57:41 AM  

dittybopper: Eddie Adams from Torrance: kyleaugustus: Here's a start.

[2.bp.blogspot.com image 640x410]

I don't think that any of those little chemical rockets can make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.

They aren't chemical. They're nuclear. Project Orion.

/it does look like they might have chemical boosters to get them out of the atmosphere before they start getting all fissiony, a sensible idea.


I'm not terribly enamored with the idea of putting a bunch of fissiony stuff atop a rocket.
Rockets seem to have a nasty propensity to asplode rather frequently.

Sending a shower of nuclear fuel down on Florida is the kind of thing that's not likely to end well.
 
2012-02-24 09:58:47 AM  
we haven't even gotten to our own star yet, and it's only 8 light-minutes away.

/you just have to land at night
 
2012-02-24 10:02:42 AM  

Crewmannumber6: Because they're too far away. Next question.


Yes.

Vaneshi: We haven't gotten to the stars yet because we, as a culture (and I mean the Western world as a whole here), have lost the collective will to do so. America only went to the moon because their, at the time, enemy were planning to do likewise and the idea of a Hammer & Sickle on the moon was uncomfortable to say the least.


No.

The Voyager probes that we sent out in the 70s have only recently (within the last half year) broken thru the heliosphere into the beginnings of interstellar space. And that's with 70s technology. These things use 8-tracks to record and transmit flight data, and send data at, I believe, much less than a kilobyte per minute. The next interstellar probe is the New Horizons probe, sent to Pluto and after that, to deep space.

Also, we have currently no idea which nearby star would be the best target for sending a mind-blowingly expensive interstellar probe to. We've only been detecting extrasolar planets in great numbers for the last year, with the success of the Kepler space telescope. We still don't know if Alpha Centauri A or B or Tau Ceti have planets at all. Why would we spend so much money on sending probes before even knowing which suns have planets worth investigating? We could get there, and find out there's nothing more interesting than cold Jupiter gas giants and a very thick asteroid belt. Maybe better to wait a decade or two and launch space telescopes capable of detecting those planets first? When we develop this technology, which we still don't have?

But we sent a men 400,000 kilometers to the moon, why can't we sent people 40 trillion kilometers to Alpha Centauri, blah blah blah.
 
2012-02-24 10:04:21 AM  
Well what do we do when we get there? We're still making educated guesses about if the planet could support life. Our crew could arrive and find they can't terraform the planet to make it habitable. At that point what do they do? turn around and come back? What if the real estate is already occupied?

We still need to look at colonies at Mars and maybe some of the various moons before we think about leaving the solar system.
 
2012-02-24 10:06:32 AM  

Vaneshi: stratagos:
Have you seen old people trying to park at the mall? And you want AstroGramps to try parking several million joules of kinetic energy without ramming a biosphere?

But if we send AstroGramps instead of young fit AstroKids and simply have the computer say the destination is a farmers market... that ship is going to haul ass to its designation.


And now my award for favorite quote of the day goes to... both of you! Thanks for forcing me to suppress a laugh while working in lab.
 
2012-02-24 10:10:25 AM  
One more thing about the Voyagers and their 8-track data recorders. We laugh at 8-tracks today, and rightly so. So, if we'd made a colossal effort to send a probe back in the 70s to a nearby star, we'd be kicking ourselves today for ever have making that effort in the first place. Because we could, with advanced ion engines, send out a better probe cheaper with incredibly better capabilities and have it overtake a 70s probe and reach its destination thousands of years before the 70s probe got there at all. And I'm sure people 40 years in our future will laugh at our technology as well. So, why should we even attempt this now, when future probes would blow ours away and get there faster anyway?

And, of course, we don't have any technology capable of surviving several thousand years in the interstellar void anyway, so it's all a moot point.
 
2012-02-24 10:15:07 AM  
Western Civilization squandered a full 500 years of progress to stagnant Catholic dogma. Christopher Columbus should have been the first man on the moon.

That's why.
 
2012-02-24 10:16:08 AM  
I maintain that sending a probe on a round trip to the nearest star using the best technology available today, and allowing ANY country that wants to participate to do so on an equal % of GDP financing basis would be a great thing for humanity.

The scientific and financial results of the project might be questionable, but the social and political results would be terrific. Even just all-angle video recorded (including a lot outside of the visible spectrum) from such a trip would be awesome.

A camera system mounted on a rocket with enough AI to steer to the nearest star, round it, and return within a human lifetime. I'd love to see that.
 
2012-02-24 10:19:03 AM  

Baron Harkonnen:
The Voyager probes that we sent out in the 70s have only recently (within the last half year) broken thru the heliosphere into the beginnings of interstellar space. And that's with 70s technology. These things use 8-tracks to record and transmit flight data, and send data at, I believe, much less than a kilobyte per minute. The next interstellar probe is the New Horizons probe, sent to Pluto and after that, to deep space.


They aren't manned though. I'm also not quite sure you get that the Voyagers are quite slow moving, we're talking about something much faster not super luminal speeds but still much faster than a Voyager probe. 5 - 10 years to reach the Heliosphere is one of the things I've heard thrown around.

However, I would agree that 'just going for it' is retarded. Using Mars, a quite close world, as a test bed for these deep space technologies makes perfect sense that way we can wrap up exploring and exploiting our own solar system whilst those telescopes are built and begin find ever more likely targets for the 100 year+ mission.

But we sent a men 400,000 kilometers to the moon, why can't we sent people 40 trillion kilometers to Alpha Centauri, blah blah blah.
Something something orders of magnitude something something walk before you can run something something trap?
 
2012-02-24 10:25:26 AM  

Mr_Fabulous: Western Civilization squandered a full 500 years of progress to stagnant Catholic dogma. Christopher Columbus should have been the first man on the moon.

That's why.


Almost took you seriously until I got to the Christopher Columbus part. 6/10
 
2012-02-24 10:29:52 AM  

Baron Harkonnen:
So, why should we even attempt this now, when future probes would blow ours away and get there faster anyway?


I was going to buy a computer, a 286 but the trade papers were full of how wonderful this new 386 processor was going to be, faster, more powerful, so I figured I'd wait for them to become cheaper. Then the trade papers were raving about the 486 so I held off and waited. I did the same for the Pentium/Pentium 2/Pentium 3/Pentium 4/Core/Core 2. I'm considering buying a Core ix but the trade papers are full of people telling me how much better the next generation of processors will be... so I'll hold off and wait for them to come down in price I think. I still do not own a computer as I want the one I buy to be the best one possible.

It was a near certainty when they launched them that Voyager 1 & 2 would be, overtaken at some point in the future. But screw it, they did it with the best they had. Just like buying a computer at some point you have to go 'fark it' and get on the train.

TL;DR. "Shiat or get off the can" as the Americans would say.
 
2012-02-24 10:33:42 AM  

Jake Havechek: Don't you hear my call
Though you're many years away
Don't you hear me callin' you

Write your letters in the sand
For the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew


That song is now stuck in my head. Thank you.
 
2012-02-24 10:34:50 AM  

Baron Harkonnen: So, why should we even attempt this now, when future probes would blow ours away and get there faster anyway?


Try RTFA: "The 100 Year Starship Study. According to DARPA, the study is intended to "develop and mature a technology portfolio that will enable long-distance manned space flight a century from now.""

So we're not talking about leaving now, we're talking about developing technologies for interstellar spaceflight a century from now.
 
2012-02-24 10:36:03 AM  

Vaneshi: They aren't manned though. I'm also not quite sure you get that the Voyagers are quite slow moving, we're talking about something much faster not super luminal speeds but still much faster than a Voyager probe


I'm not sure you quite get that
1. Super-luminal speeds are impossible, so why did you bring that up in the first place?
2. Nothing we could currently build would have a chance of surviving long enough to reach a nearby star anyway. Especially if it were manned.
3. Especially if it were manned.
 
2012-02-24 10:40:51 AM  

Baron Harkonnen: Vaneshi: They aren't manned though. I'm also not quite sure you get that the Voyagers are quite slow moving, we're talking about something much faster not super luminal speeds but still much faster than a Voyager probe

I'm not sure you quite get that
1. Super-luminal speeds are impossible, so why did you bring that up in the first place?
2. Nothing we could currently build would have a chance of surviving long enough to reach a nearby star anyway. Especially if it were manned.
3. Especially if it were manned.


1. Physics disagrees with you. Also, you were intimating that Voyager 1 & 2 were moving as fast as we could make a probe go, they aren't.

2. How do you know this for certain? Have you tried? Are you, in fact, a time traveller? Can I have next weeks lottery numbers?

3. See point 2.
 
2012-02-24 10:43:56 AM  

squegeebooo: One word answer: SCIENCE ECONOMICS!



FTFY.

There's nothing in space that's worth going out there to bring back. No Spice Islands in the sky, if you think about it.
 
2012-02-24 10:44:01 AM  

Vaneshi: stuhayes2010: It's that pesky special relativity.

Light speed isn't a problem and can be 'adjusted' if you can bend space/time. Basically the Warp drive works although beyond towing a black hole we've no idea how to do it and insufficient energy production capabilities even if we did.

But yes FTL is theoretically possible.


No, it's not. Show me a theory that's peer reviewed abotu matter going faster than light.
 
2012-02-24 10:48:26 AM  

AntonChigger: Mr_Fabulous: Western Civilization squandered a full 500 years of progress to stagnant Catholic dogma. Christopher Columbus should have been the first man on the moon.

That's why.

Almost took you seriously until I got to the Christopher Columbus part. 6/10


While perhaps misguided, the general point that breakthroughs in technology could have come earlier under the right settings is correct. The Steam Engine, that powerful catalyst for the world we know now, was originally invented during the Roman Empire, not the 1700s, but its creators could not fathom a use for it beyond its peculiarity. Imagine an Industrial Revolution coming 1,500 years earlier.

The Chinese operated far larger sailing ships a few decades before Columbus reached the Americas. Theirs were much more seaworthy and could have reached the Americas had they gone that direction. However for political reasons, their effort of exploration, which was performed for self-aggrandizement, was aborted. The European states, having a balkanized political setting, allowed each state to take their own exploratory choices.
 
2012-02-24 10:49:18 AM  

wildcardjack: squegeebooo: One word answer: SCIENCE ECONOMICS!


FTFY.

There's nothing in space that's worth going out there to bring back. No Spice Islands in the sky, if you think about it.


Enh. I think robotic probes to go out, figure out which things in the asteroid belt have metals we want in them and drag them back close to earth for mining will happen in the next 80 years.

The deal is more that advances in automation and robotics have really made manned space flight pointless. We can have robots go get our samples for us and save the hassle of hauling around a bunch of life support. Until such a time as the population of Earth gets too crowded, there isn't really an incentive to send any more pink monkeys in to space.

/keep in mind a lot of the colonization of North America was done at a loss by the European governments
//they just wanted someone to dump the criminals and reduce the population density back home
 
2012-02-24 10:52:02 AM  

kyleaugustus: The Chinese operated far larger sailing ships a few decades before Columbus reached the Americas. Theirs were much more seaworthy and could have reached the Americas had they gone that direction.


They may have (Link
 
2012-02-24 10:52:08 AM  

Vaneshi: Baron Harkonnen:
So, why should we even attempt this now, when future probes would blow ours away and get there faster anyway?

I was going to buy a computer, a 286 but the trade papers were full of how wonderful this new 386 processor was going to be, faster, more powerful, so I figured I'd wait for them to become cheaper. Then the trade papers were raving about the 486 so I held off and waited. I did the same for the Pentium/Pentium 2/Pentium 3/Pentium 4/Core/Core 2. I'm considering buying a Core ix but the trade papers are full of people telling me how much better the next generation of processors will be... so I'll hold off and wait for them to come down in price I think. I still do not own a computer as I want the one I buy to be the best one possible.

It was a near certainty when they launched them that Voyager 1 & 2 would be, overtaken at some point in the future. But screw it, they did it with the best they had. Just like buying a computer at some point you have to go 'fark it' and get on the train.

TL;DR. "Shiat or get off the can" as the Americans would say.


I believe the scientific term is the "Iphone purchase phenomena"
 
2012-02-24 10:52:50 AM  

Baron Harkonnen: 3. Especially if it were manned.


That's what the Spacing Guild is for.
 
2012-02-24 10:53:48 AM  

wildcardjack: squegeebooo: One word answer: SCIENCE ECONOMICS!


FTFY.

There's nothing in space that's worth going out there to bring back. No Spice Islands in the sky, if you think about it.


Helium-3 from the moon's surface may be a useful resource to return to Earth. It's a viable fuel for fusion reactors and is a material almost non-existent here. It's carried in solar wind and deposited on the moon's surface. While Earth receives a share of it as well, our atmosphere dilutes it out.
 
2012-02-24 10:59:51 AM  
Project Icarus? Who's the lead rocket scientist, Prof. W. E. Coyote? With funding by the ACME corporation?
 
2012-02-24 11:00:50 AM  

stuhayes2010:
No, it's not. Show me a theory that's peer reviewed abotu matter going faster than light.


Sup? (new window)
 
2012-02-24 11:01:24 AM  
We just need to build a device that transmits a harmonic frequency which resonates with our pineal glands. Then what's from beyond will come to us!
 
2012-02-24 11:01:54 AM  

Vaneshi: 1. Physics disagrees with you [about faster than light-speed travel being impossible


I'll tell you what. If there's been some sort of breakthru in physics recently which proves that actual faster than light speed travel is possible, you point me to it and I promise you not only will I shut the hell up, I'll even send nude photos of myself to you.
 
2012-02-24 11:02:52 AM  
kyleaugustus:

wildcardjack: squegeebooo: One word answer: SCIENCE ECONOMICS!


FTFY.

There's nothing in space that's worth going out there to bring back. No Spice Islands in the sky, if you think about it.

Helium-3 from the moon's surface may be a useful resource to return to Earth. It's a viable fuel for fusion reactors and is a material almost non-existent here. It's carried in solar wind and deposited on the moon's surface. While Earth receives a share of it as well, our atmosphere dilutes it out.


Call me when we get a working reactor with the tons of He-3 we already have here on Earth.

There are plenty of reasons to get back to space, but He-3 is a pretty weak one. If we get working fusion power we'd be so wealthy that there'd be no question about returning to the moon even if we didn't need He-3.
 
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