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Archive for the ‘habitats’ category: Page 84

Aug 26, 2012

BEO-HSF again

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

This essay was posted last year, removed, and is back with small changes. Enjoy.

I became interested in Beyond Earth Orbit- Human Space Flight by way of a college paper I helped my wife research some years ago. Her project for an ethics class was nuclear weapons. I stumbled upon the book “Project Orion, the true story of the atomic spaceship” by George Dyson and was hooked. I had been a science fiction fan in my youth but like most people I thought space operas were only to be realized in the far future. Project Orion changed my worldview. Since then my made up mind has been unmade several times concerning most of the “common knowledge” floating around about space flight in this 21st century. Much of what is generally believed to be true about our space program is made up of recent hearsay used to hype products that further a business plan. When I read these infomercials endlessly repeated as fact I get pretty upset, mostly because exposing these “facts” as false advertising almost always results in vicious attacks. The private space cult fanatics disgust me and I will not apologize for my hard feelings about these people. They mislead, obfuscate, and insult and dogpile anyone who disagrees with their dogma.

It was a slow step by step process but I came to realize the path to the stars is a narrow one. I found the U.S. space effort, described as being on “the flexible path”, to be going nowhere. There is no Flexible Path. The path to colonizing the solar system is narrow indeed due to the laws of physics and materials science. Science fiction movies have conditioned the public to believe such natural laws can be violated and technology that breaks these laws is possible and immanent. This attitude has led to much waste and many tragedies in the past decades and there is soon to come great disappointment over breakthroughs that are far easier said than done. By way of political contributions and backroom deals, the flexible path scheme came into existence as a way of making money for a small group of investors looking to cash in on public ignorance of technology through influence peddling. It is a convoluted and confusing story and perhaps the best way to make the truth clear is to start at the desired end and work backwards.

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Aug 24, 2012

How to Build a Spaceship again

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

This essay was originally posted last year and is now back with small changes. Enjoy.

The first decade of the 21st century ended with human space flight nowhere near to fulfilling the predictions made at the beginning of the space age. Not even close. Just as the Vietnam war robbed the space exploration budget, the end of the century found vast public funds, a truly mind boggling amount of treasure, spent on the cold war toys that have yielded guaranteed huge profits for the military industrial complex. Many of these incredibly expensive weapon systems do not work as advertised and very few of them have any application in the present war on terror. 911 did not stop the money flowing to new super fighter planes and missiles designed to shoot down other missiles. The promise of space was in truth sacrificed for the profits of the weapons industry. The expected moon bases and colonies on Mars were never funded and no human being has escaped earth orbit since the last Apollo mission. The underfunded space shuttle completely failed to provide the cheap lift and multi-mission capability that was never really possible to achieve. The showpiece International Space Station is little more than a 100 billion dollar collection of tin cans flying in endless circles.

Over a quarter century wasted and the human race seems in large part to have accepted the end of the space age. Despite a collection of old and new inferior lift vehicles incapable of accelerating a spacecraft to escape velocity, there is endless hype concerning the privatization of space and the bright future these for profit enterprises will bring about. The single point of failure in these schemes is the false miracle of fuel depots in space. These orbital gas stations will supposedly enable all the missions that previously could only be accomplished by a Heavy Lift Vehicles like the Saturn V. Cryo fuel storage and transfer is at this time a myth and has never even been attempted due to the extreme difficulties involved. It is simply a smoke screen to disguise defeat. We are not going anywhere if we stay on this path. The only hope for human space flight is the realization that deep space travel may at any time mean the difference between humankind surviving or disappearing forever. If this truth cannot unlock the vast resources required then we are sealing our collective fate. The Spaceship is the only insurance against extinction. Safeguarding the entire human race is the ultimate military mission, yet is completely ignored by our leaders and the defense industry. The inevitable asteroid or comet impact and the threat of a 100 percent lethal plague are with us right now. We as a species are playing a game of Russian roulette. We truly do not know when, but we know what is coming.

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when it is explained that disastrous impacts only occur an average of once every several million years. The key fact never discussed is impacts are random. An impact could occur tomorrow, and again the next day, and it would just be a blip on a curved line representing the immensity of geologic time. No one would be left to exclaim, “WOW! What were the odds of that happening?” In the same way the threat of engineered pathogens is ignored, overlooked, or scoffed at in the hopes it will just go away. Just as there is little than can be done to stop seasonal flu, there is very little that could be done to stop such an airborne plague once it begins. Naturally evolved pathogens always leave a certain percentage of survivors but an engineered virus does not follow that rule. We are led to believe there is no defense, but we are being decieved and there is nothing further from the truth.

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Aug 24, 2012

The Fermi Paradox and Silent Planets

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823150403.htm

In a recent comment John Hunt mentioned the most probable solution to the Fermi Paradox and as more and more planets are discovered this solution becomes ever more troubling.

Whether civilizations are rare due to comet and asteroid impacts- as Ed Lu recently stated was a possibility- or they self-destruct due to technology, the greater danger is found in human complacency and greed. We have the ability right now, perhaps as hundreds or even thousands of other civilizations had, to defend ourselves from the external and internal threats to our survival. Somewhat like salmon swimming upstream, it may not be life itself that is rare- it may be intelligent life that survives for any length of time that is almost non-existent.

The answer is in space. The resources necessary to leave Earth and establish off world colonies are available- but there is no cheap. Space travel is inherently expensive. Yet we spend billions on geopolitical power games threatening other human beings with supersonic fighters and robot missile assassins. The technology to defend civilization as a whole from the plausible threat represented by this “Great Silence” will cost us no more than what we spend on expensive projects like vertical take-off stealth fighters and hyper-velocity naval rail guns. But it is not the easy money of weapons; it is the hard money of vehicles and systems that must work far from Earth that is unattractive to the corporate profit motive.

Atomic spaceships capable of transporting colonists and intercepting impact threats are the prerequisites to safeguarding our species.

Aug 11, 2012

Water and Bombs again

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, counterterrorism, defense, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

This essay was posted previously last year and removed and has appeared in abridged form in the European Space Safety online Magazine and can also be found on Yahoo voices.

Several dates are cited as marking the beginning of the space age. Sputnik, October 4th, 1957, Yuri’s day April 12th, 1961, and the first successful V-2 launch by the Nazis on October 3rd, 1942, to name a few. Some prefer December 21st, 1968, when human beings first escaped the Earth’s gravitational field on Apollo 8. When studying the events that allowed man to leave Earth, future historians may agree on a date not generally associated with space flight. July 16th, 1945 was Trinity, the first nuclear weapon test. Stanislaw Ulam, a 36-year-old Polish mathematician who helped build “the gadget”, visited ground zero after the test. Ulam later conceived the idea of propelling a spaceship with atomic bombs. Near the end of his life the eccentric genius stated the idea was his greatest work.

When considering nuclear propulsion, it must be understood that space is not an ocean, though often characterized as one. The distances and conditions are not comparable. While chemical energy has allowed humankind to travel across and above the surface of Earth, the energy required to travel in space is of a different order. Water, in the form of steam, was the agent of change that brought about the industrial revolution. Fossil fuel, burned and transformed by steam into mechanical work, would radically change the world in the span of a century. What is difficult for moderns to understand is not only how limited human capabilities were before steam, but how limited they are in the present in terms of space travel. The psychological limits of human beings limit space journeys to a few years. Chemical propulsion is not capable of taking human beings to the outer solar system and back within those crew limits. The solution is a reaction one million times more powerful. Nuclear energy is to the space age as steam was to the industrial age.

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Mar 18, 2012

Establishing an Off-Earth Back-up of the Biosphere

Posted by in categories: biological, existential risks, habitats, lifeboat

What would it take to create and later revive a representative biosphere from frozen stores located on the Moon?

The costs of launchers is getting low enough that we can reasonably imagine the establishment of a lunar base well within NASA’s spaceflight budget.

With the discovery of ices on the lunar poles, astronauts could provide their own life-support indefinitely (water, oxygen, food, and fertilizer). While living in a sheltered habitat, they then immediately proceed to establish other basic processes to step-wise become increasingly independent of supplies from Earth (e.g. producing their own metals and glass).

Given the increasing independence of the small colony, one begins to consider if additional steps could be taken to achieve a fully independent small colony to serve as a backup for the human species should a catastrophe destroy humanity (e.g. a large asteroid or our own self-replicating technology).

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Feb 10, 2012

The Greenland Ice Sheet Melt: Irreversible Implications

Posted by in categories: economics, engineering, existential risks, habitats, sustainability

It is of course widely accepted that the Greenland icesheet is melting at an alarming rate, accelerating, and is an irreversible process, and when it finally does melt will contribute to a rise in sea levels globally by 7 meters. This is discounting the contribution of any melt from the West Antarctic ice sheet which could contribute a further 5 meters, and the more long term risk of East Antarctic ice sheet melt, which is losing mass at a rate of 57 billion tonnes per year, and if melted in entirety would see sea levels rise by a further 60 meters.

In this light it is rather ‘cute’ that the site here dedicated to existential risks to society is called the Lifeboat Foundation when one of our less discussed risks is that of world-wide flooding of a massive scale to major coastal cities/ports & industries right across the world.

Why do we still continue to grow our cities below a safe limit of say 10 meters above sea level when cities are built to last thousands of years, but could now be flooded within hundreds. How many times do we have to witness disaster scenarios such as the Oklahoma City floods before we contemplate this occurring irreversibly to hundreds of cities across the world in the future. Is it feasible to take the approach of building large dams to preserve these cities, or is it a case of eventually evacuating and starting all over again? In the latter case, how do we safely contain chemical & nuclear plants that would need to be abandoned in a responsible and non-environmentally damaging procedure?

Let’s be optimistic here — the Antarctic ice sheets are unlikely to disappear in time scales we need to worry about today — but the Greenland ice sheet is topical. Can it be considered an existential risk if the process takes hundreds of years and we can slowly step out of the way though so much of the infrastructure we rely on is being relinquished? Will we just gradually abandon our cities to higher ground as insurance companies refuse to cover properties in coastal flooding areas? Or will we rise to a challenge and take first steps to create eco-bubbles & ever larger dams to protect cities?

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Feb 6, 2012

The runaway greenhouse reversal: Cooling Venus

Posted by in categories: chemistry, existential risks, futurism, habitats, space

As we all know, Venus’s atmosphere & temperature makes it too hostile for colonization: 450°C temperatures and an average surface pressure almost 100 times that of Earth. Both problems are due to the size of its atmosphere — massive — and 95% of which is CO2.

The general consensus is that Venus was more like that of the Earth several billion years ago, with liquid water on the surface, but a runaway greenhouse effect may have been caused by the evaporation of the surface water and subsequent rise of greenhouse gases.

It poses not just a harsh warning of the prospects of global warming on Earth, but also a case study for how to counter such effects — reversing the runaway greenhouse effect.

I have wondered if anyone has given serious thought to chemical processes which could be set in motion on Venus to extract the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The most common gas in the Universe is of course hydrogen, and if sufficient quantities could be introduced to the Venusian atmosphere, with the appropriate catalysts, could the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere be eventually reversed back into solid carbon compounds, water vapor and oxygen? The effect of this would of course not only bring down the temperature, but return the surface pressure, with 95% of its atmosphere removed, to one more similar to that of Earth. Perhaps in adding other aerosols the temperatures could be reduced further and avoid a re-runaway effect.

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Feb 3, 2012

My case for Mars

Posted by in categories: habitats, space

There has been a lot of discussion about a lunar colony or at least a base as a precursor to sending humans to Mars. The advantages cited are its proximity to Earth, the use of telerobotics for construction, and the fact that we’ve been there before. My position is that it would be far easier to establish a self sufficient colony on Mars with existing technology.

One thing everyone agrees on is that local resources will have to be used. We now know that There has been a lot of geological and hydrological activity on Mars that has segregated and concentrated useful ore bodies that can be exploited with current extractive technology. One type of mineral of interest is the occurrence of iron and magnesium carbonate formations on the surface. Magnesium carbonate is easily converted by heating to magnesium oxide, the primary component of a type of cement that I am researching as a construction material for Mars. The widespread occurrence of sulfate salts also gives reason to believe that metal sulfide ore bodies are also available there. This type of ore can easily be refined with simple electrolytic equipment. The same metal refining on the Moon would require grinding and processing basalt with a lot of heavy equipment.

I would argue that Mars also has a more friendly environment. First, it has higher gravity than the moon, at 38% of Earth’s gravity. This may prove to be significant in minimizing the health effects of reduced gravity. The higher gravity would also aid in many industrial processes such as ore separation and concrete consolidation. Mars also has an atmosphere, however thin. While 4 to 8 millibars may not sound like much, it is enough to burn up a lot of micrometeorites before they reach the surface, reducing the danger of micrometeorite damage. It may also help reduce the danger of galactic cosmic rays, but that will need to be tested. One thing that is certain from my own research is that the thin atmosphere is enough to allow magnesium oxychloride cement to cure before a significant amount of water has evaporated from it, and prevent boiling during the curing process. On the airless Moon, this type of cement would boil violently and the water would evaporate before it would cure. The total lack of atmosphere on the Moon would preclude the use of any cement that depends on water for curing.

Dust will be the biggest challenge to machinery in either place, and I argue that it is much less of a challenge on Mars. We have already studied lunar dust, and it is composed of fractured particles that retain sharp edges and points, with no mechanisms for smoothing the surfaces such as wind or water movement. This makes Moon dust very abrasive to machinery (and air seals) and very irritating to human tissues on contact. Mars has annual wind storms that blow dust around the planet, and has had flowing water recently in it’s history. This would serve to smooth out Martian dust particles to something more closely resembling the kind of material found on Earth, which we can more easily deal with. As further evidence, we have had rovers survive multiple dust storms and keep operating. I would say this is as much a testament to the Martian environment as it is to NASA engineers. Additionally, the dust has been found to be largely magnetic, meaning that magnetic filtration could be used to keep it out of habitable spaces.

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Jan 30, 2012

The Difference Between a Lunar Base and Colony

Posted by in categories: existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, space, sustainability

Recently, Newt Gingrich made a speech indicating that, if elected, he would want 10% of NASA’s budget ($1.7 billion per year) set aside to fund large prizes incentivizing private industry to develop a permanent lunar base, a new propulsion method, and eventually establishing a martian base.

THE FINANCIAL FEASIBILITY OF A LUNAR BASE
Commentators generally made fun of his speech with the most common phrase used being “grandiose”. Perhaps. But in 1996 the Human Lunar Return study estimated $2.5 billion from NASA to send and return a human crew to the Moon. That was before SpaceX was able to demonstrate significant reductions in launch costs. One government study indicated 1/3 of the cost compared to traditional acquisition methods. Two of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavies will be able to launch nearly as much payload as the Saturn V while doing so at 1/15th the cost of the same mass delivered by the Shuttle.

So, we may be at the place where a manned lunar base is within reach even if we were to direct only 10% of NASA’s budget to achieve it.

I’m not talking about going to Mars with the need for shielding but rather to make fast dashes to the Moon and have our astronauts live under Moon dirt (regolith) shielding while exploiting lunar ice for air, water, and hence food.

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Jan 16, 2012

Post Einsteinian Language?

Posted by in categories: biological, complex systems, cosmology, economics, education, ethics, evolution, futurism, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, humor, media & arts, philosophy, policy, rants, scientific freedom, sustainability, transparency

Twenty years ago, way back in the primordial soup of the early Network in an out of the way electromagnetic watering hole called USENET, this correspondent entered the previous millennium’s virtual nexus of survival-of-the-weirdest via an accelerated learning process calculated to evolve a cybernetic avatar from the Corpus Digitalis. Now, as columnist, sci-fi writer and independent filmmaker, [Cognition Factor — 2009], with Terence Mckenna, I have filmed rocket launches and solar eclipses for South African Astronomical Observatories, and produced educational programs for South African Large Telescope (SALT). Latest efforts include videography for the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town October 2011, and a completed, soon-to-be-released, autobiography draft-titled “Journey to Everywhere”.

Cognition Factor attempts to be the world’s first ‘smart movie’, digitally orchestrated for the fusion of Left and Right Cerebral Hemispheres in order to decode civilization into an articulate verbal and visual language structured from sequential logical hypothesis based upon the following ‘Big Five’ questions,

1.) Evolution Or Extinction?
2.) What Is Consciousness?
3.) Is God A Myth?
4.) Fusion Of Science & Spirit?
5.) What Happens When You Die?

Even if you believe that imagination is more important than knowledge, you’ll need a full deck to solve the ‘Arab Spring’ epidemic, which may be a logical step in the ‘Global Equalisation Process as more and more of our Planet’s Alumni fling their hats in the air and emit primal screams approximating;
“we don’t need to accumulate (so much) wealth anymore”, in a language comprising of ‘post Einsteinian’ mathematics…

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