Debate and Discussion

Would space colonization save the world (or maybe just Humanity)?
Lonnehart at 1:40AM, Jan. 7, 2009
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With all this talk of the apocalypse and world doom, you'd think we would be working feverishly on space station/base technology. If we could perfect such technology so that we could be living in space as well as earth AND the moon(we create viable space stations with all the necessary safety features and such), do you think humanity will survive the threats of bioterrorism (I bet it'll be hard for terrorists to get into those space colonies/moonbases), asteroid collision, etc… ? Is there anything that space colonization cannot save us from?
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:38PM
StaceyMontgomery at 5:24AM, Jan. 7, 2009
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Space colonies and space stations are very, very, fragile. They are extremely easy for terrorists to take out. If terrorism is such a big problem going forward, then they are likely not a viable idea.

Also, only a tiny tiny tiny fraction of people could ever get into space. So space colonies will in no way save any of us. They would just be a message in a bottle.

Personally, I think that Space colonies (like an O'Neil style L5 colony, say) are coming in the future - but that's because I think the future will be better than you do. Apocalypse and world doom? I see plenty of challenges, and lots of hard work to be done.

But we'll do it.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:55PM
bravo1102 at 5:38AM, Jan. 7, 2009
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I remember the L5 movement from the 1970-80s, after all the Earth would be unlivable by 2000 with an Ice Age and a 12 billion people population with no ability to feed anyone in First World nations and no fossil fuels remaining.

The reports of our impending doom may be exaggerated.

However, the technolgy exists to build space colonies but the development has proven harder than originally thought and making the space colony self sufficent would require more resources than we thought.

With China going full speed into space maybe they'll be the first to put up a colony to relieve some of their over population. Maybe it'll be an Indian/Chinese co-venture. :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:33AM
StaceyMontgomery at 6:59AM, Jan. 7, 2009
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bravo1102
I remember the L5 movement from the 1970-80s, after all the Earth would be unlivable by 2000 with an Ice Age and a 12 billion people population with no ability to feed anyone in First World nations and no fossil fuels remaining.

The reports of our impending doom may be exaggerated.

However, the technolgy exists to build space colonies but the development has proven harder than originally thought and making the space colony self sufficent would require more resources than we thought.

With China going full speed into space maybe they'll be the first to put up a colony to relieve some of their over population. Maybe it'll be an Indian/Chinese co-venture. :)

I hung out with some of the L5 people in 70s, i don't recall any of them thinking that the Earth would be unlivable by 2000, or anything looney like that. So we experienced them very differently.

As for your idea that space colonies would relieve over population pressures - i do not think that holds up very well. Space colonies are one thing, but moving enough people into space to affect the overall population is hard to imagine. I think We will have space colonies LONG before we have ways to launch millions of people into orbit.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:55PM
bravo1102 at 7:29AM, Jan. 7, 2009
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I read the books and saw them at SF conventions.

As for the population over crowding thing, I agree with you. However, it was/is a selling point for space colonies. If these are built it will be a money making opportunity and that will be a way to get financial support.

There is a big difference between the reality of what can be accomplished by building space colonies and the sales pitch and promises of what will be accomplished.

How about industry putting dirty manufacturing in space? Get the chemical plants off planet so all the toxic waste can be shot into the sun (along with the atomic waste)

last edited on July 14, 2011 11:33AM
isukun at 9:09AM, Jan. 7, 2009
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A space colony would need more than just people on it to help relieve overpopulation issues. You would need to find ways of making renewable food, water, air, and energy supplies on the station in order for this kind of thing to work and most of those things take up considerable space. Whether on Earth or in space, it's important for us to find a way to balance our needs and those of our environment. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to get large scale space stations to work for us, either.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM
Lonnehart at 2:52PM, Jan. 7, 2009
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I think space colonies could work, but we just don't have the resources yet. Maybe if we tow a large asteroid in and mine it for the steel we need. The colonies would have to be big, and I mean like Death Star big. Huge wheels in space with very thick glass on the inside (or something tougher yet as clear as glass), and the inside of the outer wheel would sport plants, trees, running water, etc… and the whole thing would spin to simulate gravity. Well, that's my opinion anyway.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:38PM
draconia11 at 6:46AM, Jan. 8, 2009
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Personally, I just don't think that space colonization would work. Even if we had the technology to keep people alive in a space colony, the human mind needs certain other thing that can only be found on Earth to stay sane.
I believe that if there were space colonies, there would likely be high rates of crime/suicide/therapy sessions needed.
I mean, just imagine if (in the case of not being able to return to earth/needing to stay in the colony for a long time) you were stuck in a small enclosed colony, and could never just stand in an open space and breathe in fresh air/ feel a breeze.
Maybe it's just me and my rural living, but I don't think I would be able to live there for very long.
It would be cool as a vacation home though! XD
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:14PM
isukun at 7:36AM, Jan. 8, 2009
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I doubt that would even be an issue. In order for a space colony to really work, it would need to be massive and use similar methods of supplying air and water as the Earth does. You would have fresh air, wide open spaces, and even abundant vegetation. In order for any structure to help relieve overpopulation issues, it has to be able to be self sufficient at least when it comes to vital necessities like food, water, air, and energy. Otherwise you aren't really fixing the problem. There isn't any reason why a large enough structure shouldn't have some form of park to help with oxygen production and morale.

Plus, people have a tendency to survive just fine in confined places. It was quite common at one point (and still is in some parts of the world) for people to grow up and live out their lives in a single small town or part of a city. People are adaptable and can get used to just about any environment.

I think a bigger problem facing this sort of structure is where you would put it. As Stacey mentioned, space structures these days aren't that durable. Small structures do fine because they can easily be abandoned or moved if there is trouble, but a large scale structure would be a sitting target with potentially thousands of lives at stake. All it would take is one small sized meteor to take them all out. Something like that in Earth's orbit is an impossibility, we have too much activity up there. I think it is far more likely that we would be colonizing other planets, where the risks are less and damage far more manageable. A meteor hits a space station and it is more likely to cause irreparable structural damage that can put the whole colony out of service while a meteor hits a planetary colony, it may take out a dome or two, but they can be cut off from the rest of the colony while they are repaired and the other domes pick up the slack for them.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM
kingofsnake at 1:33PM, Jan. 8, 2009
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I wish isukun would spend less time arguing the likelihood of space colonies and how many active cars exist in the continental united states and more time drawing comics

That being said, you're absolutely right. If a piece of space debris the size of a pea can take out a space shuttle then setting up on a planet with an atmosphere which can burn up, or reflect that sort of space junk is quintessential. I imagine we'll be figuring out how to terraform mars before we're living in space hotels.

Plus draconia, you're only saying we'd miss earth because you know earth. Someone born on a space station or whatever wouldn't have any problems living there, because they wouldn't know anything else.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:16PM
Lonnehart at 4:12PM, Jan. 8, 2009
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It's true free floating space stations can be hit, but they can also be moved. I think the more immediate problem would be the micrometeors. I don't remember the movie, but it depicted how one crewmember was injured in the hand when a micrometeor hit the station and his finger which was behind the wall. Also, the large size stations could be built kinda like a snailshell so that if one or two sections get hit, everyone could evacuate to the other sections and stay there until the damaged sections can be repaired.

Colonizing planets and even large size asteroids could be a better alternative, though.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:38PM
ozoneocean at 5:56PM, Jan. 8, 2009
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Lonnehart
Colonizing planets and even large size asteroids could be a better alternative, though.
That's the thing. Stations on the moon underground would be pretty safe from most things… Except all those meteor craters on the moon scare me.

Mars is another alternative. You can get people there, you can set up a base. We've got all the tech for it, the know-how etc. It's just very expensive and other projects are more deserving of the time and money it takes to seriously plan and organise a project like that.
-Besides, getting off of Mars again and coming home would be the hardest part, with current technology.

None of it is really viable yet. And the “commercial” space exploitation idea is a bit of a myth. Even the commercial enterprises that work with space now either do so largely on behalf of governments or they're functioning off of the back of 60 years and quadrillions of publicly funded research and development.

But with new tech and more government funding, we'll see what happens. The right tech could mean an explosion in development. All it needs is that initial massive sacrifice of public funds to get started -Relying on private funding would be like trying to start a major business on pocket money, especially since there is no prospect of ever recouping the start-up costs in even the medium term. The idea of using “space tourism” as a business model is just bizarre. It's a way to get investors interested, but apart from that, with the costs involved it simply cannot be viable for anything more than a Concorde-like gimmick.

Something like the space elevator would be a good beginning.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:33PM
Ironscarf at 6:08PM, Jan. 8, 2009
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Lonnehart
Is there anything that space colonization cannot save us from?
A nearby supernova wouldn't do us any favours. In order to spread ourselves wide enough to ensure our survival, we'd have to send people off in spaceships designed to house them and their descendants for hundreds or even thousands of years, depending on what kind of propulsion we can develop.

So far, we don't even have people living in the ocean, which is probably where we need to start, before we can learn how to colonise the moon. At least once we get there, we have a decent launching pad for space - trying to launch from earth is hugely impractical. It's going to take a very long time, if it ever happens.

It ought to happen though. Chances are, there's nobody out there but us.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:02PM
isukun at 8:20PM, Jan. 8, 2009
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I wish isukun would spend less time arguing the likelihood of space colonies and how many active cars exist in the continental united states and more time drawing comics…

Honestly, so do I, but there are a lot of things keeping me out of comics right now.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM
Senshuu at 8:49PM, Jan. 8, 2009
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Frankly, I think all the effort that could be put into making space colonies could be put into making the earth less shitty. :D Seriously, if all that mass of time, energy, funds, and effort put into NASA could be refocused on humanity as it is right now, I think we'd be better off.

Why should such a simple species as us ever need more than the Earth? We can't even take care of things here, apparently.

I've got nothing against space exploration and the discoveries we've made about the stuff up there is pretty amazing and somewhat inspiring (it's all just too cool, in other words), but it hasn't really made that much of an impact in my life… except tempur pedic beds maybe. :D

And I know it;d end up like Wall-E if it ever happened lolz.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:27PM
kingofsnake at 7:11AM, Jan. 9, 2009
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ozoneocean
Something like the space elevator would be a good beginning.

What about a space gun?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_gun

The way I sees it. The real problem is getting enough building materials up there.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:16PM
ozoneocean at 8:13AM, Jan. 9, 2009
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Haha, seems like the gun isn't that workable. That's the idea that helped (in part) give birth to the rocket system in people's minds anyway. It's all ballistics ;)
So that one's already had its day.

Whereas the elevator idea, although it sounds wacky, has a great deal of support and serious study behind it. I'm surprised by the size of its wiki, but then I have been hearing about that one for decades. Many people have put the idea forward. They've even worked out how you'd get the stuff up there…

It'd be a bloody mammoth task, but worth it in the long term. If it worked. Because once the gravity well that we're living at the bottom off isn't so much of an issue anymore, then activities off of this planet actually become feasible. That's when commercial exploitation would work. Once you're not wasting so much energy in such a grossly inefficient way each time you try to get up there, costs comes RIGHT down, not to mention how much safer that would make the process, with less training required off the passengers etc…

As long as people are prepared to throw away that initial colossal investment of money, time and resources to get something like that built.
…And as long as it worked…
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:33PM
kingofsnake at 8:24AM, Jan. 9, 2009
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Yeah, but how do you get a counterweight up there?

Space gun.

I'm telling you dude. Bang bang! Take that SPACE
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:16PM
ozoneocean at 8:44AM, Jan. 9, 2009
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…Conventional rockets :P

It's a funny idea and all but we all know a missile's more effective than a bullet lol!
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:33PM
kingofsnake at 9:34AM, Jan. 9, 2009
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Your face is more effective than a bullet! We'll see who's ideas are funny when I shoot your elevator out of the sky!

USA number one bitches!

Seriously though…

I read a magazine that was saying our goal was to land a man on Mars by 2030. I think that's pretty damn optimistic. Everything takes four times as long as they say its gonna. I agree with Senshuu that space exploration should be pretty low on the human accomplishment goal list right now. If we could move that effort towards stuff like more efficient farming, clean energy, and weather control I think we'd be better off as a species than if we had an outpost on Mars. And the amount of money it would take to build a space elevator right now seems a little frivolous doesn't it? I mean is there really anything to be gained from it except knowledge? Knowledge is great and all. But bringing up the global education rate would probably cost about the same and have better long term results.

Global education just isn't as cool as space.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:16PM
ozoneocean at 10:00AM, Jan. 9, 2009
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You could get a man on Mars today… well, you could launch him, her, them off after all the requisite planning and such, but it wouldn't take 20 years. lol!
We have the tech now, as I said, we've had it for decades. It's getting them home again that's the trouble.

The whole concept behind the space elevator idea is to make space useful. ;)
Not for knowledge, but to actually make it a workable proposition! Ha!

IF the idea worked, then it can help solve some of humanity's problems: all those crazy ideas about farming and mining in space become workable suddenly. All those crazy notions about generating energy up there more easily without the pollution worries etc. All the stuff about relieving population pressures.

You see? That one very ambitious and very unlikely idea isn't so frivolous, at all, it's a means to a pretty good end. Even though it's likely to remain science fiction, as I judge things.

In reality what's frivolous is NOT pursuing grand designs like that and instead frittering resources away in less profitable areas. People will always have their little problems, wars will always be with us, there's never an equitable distribution of resources, never enough people are educated… You think doing what we always do will ever change that? It hasn't since humans became humans. ;)

——————-
I think the idea is as unlikely as you do really. And whatever people do we will still be living and dyeing for whatever reasons, we'll always have the same little and big problems. But if no one spared the resources for the big picture and instead just mostly concentrated on the here and now, people would still be stuck in the dark ages.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:33PM
kingofsnake at 10:56AM, Jan. 9, 2009
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ozoneocean
But if no one spared the resources for the big picture and instead just mostly concentrated on the here and now, people would still be stuck in the dark ages.

I disagree. I think most of the steps that have taken us from then to now have been little ones to resolve immediate concerns. The printing press, the cotton gin, the steam engine, the telegraph, these weren't grandiose ideas, they were practical ones to help alleviate immediate hardships. Its only recently that we've seen stuff, like the hardon collider, that don't have immediate practical application but we theorize would yield practical application later on. Unless I'm forgetting something (which I grant I could be.)

The moon landing was driven by political morale building. But without a real competitor on a global scale US hasn't needed to pursue any other big vanity projects. And now we're broke so they won't be focusing on something like a space elevator which, as useful as it would be (I do agree that it would be quite useful, I'm not arguing against that,) it would still be a pretty risky investment. No other country has really progressed as far as the US in aeronautics, and they all seem to have their own problems at the moment now too. Private enterprises have been making the most interesting advances in this type of tech, and they can't afford the astronomical costs of building a space elevator, and even if they could they'd need to be able to justify the cost against future profits, meaning we'd have Coca cola bottling plants orbiting the earth before we had a hydroponic corn farm. Farming and energy production in space isn't really a practical idea if we can't even do it right on earth yet. Until we have some immediate needs for a space elevator its going to be hard for anyone to get off paper.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:16PM
ozoneocean at 9:25PM, Jan. 9, 2009
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Private plants could never, ever afford the cost of a project like that, or justify it, and thank goodness for that! It shouldn't be in the hands of such short term thinking shopkeepers.

Only governments can afford it because they can afford to waste the money, as they always have, as they do subsidising arms developments etc. Modern air travel wouldn't be at the level it is today without the trillions thrown away on hundreds of military jet projects that are considered worthless every every few years after that tech has been exceeded. Companies like Boeing and Aerobus only exist because of massive government support. And as for advances in aeronautics, the Russians have always been toe to toe with the U.S. Don't let the U.S. nationalistic propaganda fool you ;)

With big expensive projects I was referring to the renascence; a period that gave us magnifficent artistic excess such that we haven't equalled even today. Now we simply could not afford to spend on that scale on all the multitudes of dazzling monolithic projects they did, not with the meaner more careful attitude we have to our resources these days. Not with our individualistic way of thinking about them anyway. :)

——–
I'm not saying that we should, but I wouldn't mind at all if we did. We already have far, far, far too many resources being wasted in utterly frivolous, pointless endeavours that people don't spot because they're not so obvious as something big like space technology:
The most obvious of which is military technology… But less obvious and far more costly is the consumer product cycle:
All those new mobile phones, big screen TVs, cars designed, manufactured, shipped out and sold every year, every month, every day, every second. All the older versions of those products that are surpassed every year, every month, every second. The wasted resources and simple cash that goes into it would likely pay for a few space elevators. lol!
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:33PM
Lonnehart at 9:55PM, Jan. 9, 2009
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They are doing research on those so called “Orbital Elevators”, btw. I wonder if those nanocarbon cables will really hold up to the strain as the numbers seem to suggest. And that's not counting all the numerous things that could go wrong. But it is a good first step. I still think we should “tow” in an asteroid, put it in orbit and hollow it out and using the material to build a big wheel space station… like they used to show me on TV in the early 1980s. :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:38PM
kingofsnake at 11:10AM, Jan. 10, 2009
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I think, fundamentally, we agree OO. I like the comparison of modern space research with the Renaissance movement. I think that's a good one.

The consumer product cycle goes back to private business though. That's not government money that they can reallocate towards a space program, whereas military tech is, but won't be. If your suggestion is “shut down the capitalistic economy and use that money to build a few space elevators” I think you might meet with some resistance on that one. Not that I'm calling you out, comrade, but that's the only way you're getting your hands on that money.

Back in the Renaissance you had churches funding large artistic projects too, it wasn't just governments. But churches don't rake in that kinda money any more. And most of them find space exploration a little threatening. That's why I think its more likely that you'll see private enterprises working towards something like a space elevator before governments. Malls are the new churches. As soon as they can figure out how to make a profit off of it, the Sony orbital elevator will be going up. Governments would have to convince people it wasn't a waste of money, and and that's a pretty big challenge. Then they'd have to keep up the argument throughout the building phase, which inevitably would take far longer, and cost far more than originally pitched.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:16PM
isukun at 4:29PM, Jan. 10, 2009
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The consumer product cycle goes back to private business though.

Not entirely. While some of the early research and development started in the 1800's with independent inventors and researchers, there are also a lot of breakthroughs that began with government funded projects. Radio, television, the internet, satellites, and nuclear fission are some pretty big ones. A lot of what is on the commercial market today can be traced back to government and military projects from the past 150 years. In fact, it's more likely these days to see major advances in technology originating from universities and government funded projects than from corporations and private industry. We love to give corporations the credit when they put the parts together, but in most cases, our modern technology is derived from government sponsored projects, corporations just find different applications for it.

Back in the Renaissance you had churches funding large artistic projects too, it wasn't just governments.

The two weren't always mutually exclusive back then. Churches were more of a governing body back then than they are today, so I don't really see the mall analogy working.

As for the orbital elevator, I can see far more uses for the government and military at this point than for commercial companies. The expense is just too high for a corporation to be doing this kind of work, but it could save the government money in the long run for positioning satellites and conducting research. It doesn't really benefit Sony to do all the research and development on an elevator when four or five rockets can accomplish the same thing for them and they can co-op the costs with other companies.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM

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