While I enjoy watching Trek and B5 and others, I certainly don't
expect spaceflight to be *exactly* the way they describe. Chances
are, it'll be entirely different.
What draws me to SF is that it's the literature (Yes, I read more
than I watch...) of the *possible*. It shows us the potential that
human knowledge and curiosity can accomplish. It tells us that it's
OK to dream, and even more to try to build on them.
After all - without the dreams of Archimedes, we wouldn't have the
steam engine. The dreams of Galileo paved the way for the 747 and the
Airbus. Jules Verne gave us the submarine and Apollo.
On Tue, 14 Oct 2003 23:40:10 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@NOSPAM.rogers.com (Len Lekx)
Just a head-lice nymph here.. Uh, it was Hero. Archimedes dabbled,
but it was really Hero.
"The discovery of the steam-engine.
Although there are indications that Archimedes and Philo made some
simple use of steam, the discovery of the steam engine definitely
belongs to Hero. In the history of mechanics, the rotating device
invented by Hero is known as an aeolipile or steam sphere or wind
ball. The principle was very simple: a large sealed cauldron of water
was placed over a source of heat. As the water boiled, steam rose into
two pipes, between which was pivoted a sphere. Jets of steam escaped
from the sphere through two L-shaped outlets, sending it spinning
around at great speed. This remarkable device was used in many
different mechanisms and constructions, but was never developed to the
point where it became as important a discovery as Papin's
steam-powered piston in 1681. This was largely because the power of
steam was considered a paradoxical phenomenon and not a dynamic state.
Nonetheless, the repeated discovery of the power of steam, from
Leonardo da Vinci with his 'architron', a steam cannon based on an
invention of Archimedes, to Papin and his pressure cooker, owe much to
the ancient Greek mechanical engineers: Archimedes, Philo (who
invented a steam siren for lighthouses) and Hero, not to mention
Philomenes, who in 250 BC built a steam pressure vessel very like that
of Papin, although without the latter's safety valve. Papin
corresponded with Leibnitz, who had translated Hero's work on
pneumatics, in which he describes his aeolipile. This is just one more
indication of the Greek contribution to the discovery of the steam
Tod "Where have all our Heroes gone!?" Hilty
The gas core nuclear fission rocket could offer Isp
in the 3000-5000 second range (i.e., about 20x that
of conventional chemical propulsion). There's nothing
about the concept that goes beyond presently known
physics, although the engineers are a long way from
figuring out how to make a working one.
"If the problems of such engines are impressive, it is because we are
finally discussing the class of energy control which could make true
(Max Hunter, _Thrust Into Space_)
On 14 Oct 2003 16:59:45 GMT, email@example.com (RayDunakin) wrote:
NERVA will get us around the solar system efficiently. So
will fission-powered arcjets or ion drives.
It's true that our *current* level of technology is too primitive
to allow us to cross the gap between stars in less than generations,
but technology ALWAYS improves.
This is all something that I've been doing a lot of thinking about
lately. Speaking as somebody who's written and published quite a bit
of science fiction (including Star Trek) I'm at least well qualified
to comment on that side of it. <g>
I love Star Trek, but Star Trek is, at this point at least, clearly a
science-fantasy, a tecno-fable, not any kind of credible projection of
the future. It's highly unlikely that humans will ever zip casually
around the universe in self-contained ships, meeting bumpy-forehead
aliens left-and-right, spreading the American Way as we go.
Even if we develop the unknown (and as far as we know now, impossible)
physics to do it, the people of that time are likely to be culturally
(if not physically) more alien to us that those bumpy forehead guys.
Trek fudges, not only to get the magic technology needed, but to make
the characters somebody that Joe and Jane America can understand and
None of that is a criticism of Star Trek. Its function (and really
the function of most sf) has NEVER been to literally project the
future. To create hope and optimism for it, perhaps, but not to
predict it. (Ultimately, Star Trek will probably have INSPIRED far
more technology than it predicted, flip-phones, PDAs, voice-control,
touch panel displays, big screen television, etc.) The best Star Trek
stories are usually rooted firmly in the human condition, and most
Star Trek aliens are walking metaphors for human failings and
Now, flip that around. Saying interstellar exploration by our
descendants won't happen the Star Trek way is not to say it won't
happen. But Star Trek is very representative of a school of thinking
that has clear limitations: put a bunch of regular human beings in a
can with some food and water, wrap them in shielding, and kick them
away from the planet with the biggest damned rocket you can build.
When they get there, drop them down on the planet (where necessary,
sealed in a high-tech Zip-lock bag to seal in freshness) and let them
walk around gathering rocks.
That line of thinking got us to the Moon, and it could get it back.
It can probably get us to Mars and the asteroids. It could get us to
a comet. It might get us to Mercury, if we ever really wanted to go
there. At a stretch, it might get us to some of the moons of Jupiter,
or MAYBE, maybe Saturn. But that's about it.
Going beyond that, and probably even going that far, requires
rethinking EVERYTHING. It means using the right models, and asking
the right questions. Now, if you think this sounds like I'm going to
be one of those "send another Voyager or Viking-type probe and keep
people safe on Earth" types, you'd be wrong. I think we need to
explore the solar system (and the universe) in the most complete and
personal ways possible, but that may not mean the obvious.
Like I said, ask the right questions. First question, what does it
mean to go to another planet. Rewind. Trick question: who was the
first man to walk on the Moon? Answer: Nobody. Neil Armstrong never
walked on the moon. He walked on the inside of a boot made in the
good-old U.S.A. He touched the inside of his gloves. He breathed
bottled-in-America air. He had a great view out the visor of his
helmet, and he experienced it in a way none of us is ever likely to,
but he was only THERE by certain loose definitions. More correctly he
was in a piece of HERE that he took along with him.
Realistically, none of us is ever likely to make it to the Moon, or
even orbit. Most of us would like to, but most of us would be
satisfied to share the experience remotely, living it through the
people who do go there. It's the same indirect enjoyment we get from
watching a program on Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. We want to
get as close to experience as we can, but we don't actually have to
HAVE the experience.
Fast forward. Ocean explorer Robert Ballard is taking a scientist
down into the depths of the ocean in a deep-diving research sub, as he
has many times before. But he notices that the scientist isn't
looking out the window. He's looking at a TV screen connected to a
camera outside, because the view is simply much better that way. It
suddenly occurs to him, what are they doing there? The best route
between HERE and THERE in this case isn't a portable piece of HERE
with a tiny window, its a wire connected to a camera and a robot arm.
Ballard's "better way" is to built sophisticated robots under direct
human control, that can be operated from a distance, sometimes from a
"mother" submarine on the ocean bottom, but more often by people on a
ship floating on the much safer and more comfortable (though not
COMPLETELY safe or comfortable) surface of the ocean.
Ballard's robots aren't much like our current unmanned spacecraft.
They're sophisticated and flexible, able to carry out diverse tasks
under immediate human control. They're direct extensions of human
consciousness, a different way of being there without being there.
Not as good as standing on the ocean floor and picking things up with
your own hands, but usually a better compromise than sitting in a tin
can looking out through a 6" porthole.
So, in the short term, a better way to explore the solar system might
be to follow the Ballard model. Send people to the Moon or Mars
without a lander. Let them operate sophisticated robots from orbit.
Even after they leave (and before they arrive) the robots can still do
useful work, though not as effectively as with human guidance, and not
as effectively sharing the experience with the operators (and the rest
of us). Even while they're there, one operator might be able to
handle half a dozen robots, shifting from one to another as they
reached interesting sites, took on especially complicated tasks, or
when problems needed troubleshooting. Other times the robots could
operate independently, or under the control of operators back on
Later, after the basic exploration has been done, the most interesting
sites have been mapped (and possibly after surface bases, fuel plants,
and water sources have been established by robots) then you can send
down people. But in the mean time, you've accomplished a huge amount,
at greatly reduced cost and risk to people. When you do send people
in person, you do it in the safest, most effective, and worthwhile way
One attractive aspect of this approach is that it doesn't require and
Apollo level of commitment or decades of development to get us back to
the Moon, and for some real exploration, not just as a stunt with
scientific trappings. With some level of national commitment, I think
it could be done (adapting mostly off-the-shelf hardware and designs)
in five years. Mars is more difficult, but I suspect that this
approach might cut costs by half and vastly reduce the risk, with far
greater returns. With a full Apollo-level commitment you might be
able to launch in a decade, or with a lesser funding level, in two.
Moving on, think of all the other places in the solar system that
aren't accessible because of temperature, pressure, or radiation, the
surface of Venus, the inner moons and atmosphere of Jupiter, and so
on. This same approach makes exploration of these places a much more
Of course, this approach only takes you so far. Barring
breakthroughs, humans like us may be too fragile and short-lived to
make it to other stars. Humans like us. But as we've seen, getting
there, being there, experiencing there, may not necessarily be a
matter of delivering a couple hundred pounds of still-warm meat.
There may be other ways to extend our consciousness, or to make
ourselves more suitable for the trip. Things like computer
consciousness, genetic engineering, bionics, nanotechnology. Maybe
we'll send robot surrogates so like us that they be like twins, or
children to us. Maybe we'll find a way to put ourselves into the
machine. Maybe we'll make ourselves long-lived, or graft our brains
to the machine so that we don't need the huge overhead of life
support. Maybe we'll harden our bodies against radiation, or change
them so we can turn them off for a few hundred years between planets.
Maybe we can build a ship that grows its own crew of humans after it
arrives at a distant star.
We've got a long time to think about these things (there are plenty of
places to explore, things to see, and yes, places to live in the solar
system to keep us busy for centuries at the very least), and they may
or may not be possible or desirable. But unlike Star Trek's warp
drive or Star Gate's wormholes, none of them require breakthroughs in
physics or modifications of physical law as we know it.
On Tue, 14 Oct 2003 20:32:34 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@NOSPAM.rogers.com (Len Lekx)
Some very good points but I have a problem.
Saying that armstrong did not walk on the moon is like saying I did not walk
into the movie theatre tonight because I never took off my shoes.
My fear about using robots is that it will come down to us ONLY using robots
and eliminating the human part all together.
How many places has discovery channel people been where they did not remove
their shoes. did they therfore not technicall GO their ?
Its different. The REASON that guy on the sub used the TV was because the
VIEW WAS better. the elumination outside the sub enviroment was not within
the limits of our optical instruments (otherwise know as eyes)
IT IS on the moon.
IT IS in space
IT IS on mars.
Using tools to help is one thing. using tools to replace is no fun. and that
is what it comes down to FUN. Exploration. Experience.
Seeing someone else do it will never compare to actually DOING IT.
if that were true their would only be ONE participant in anything on this
ONE car driver ONE Pilot ONE Swimmer ONE runner ONE tennis player ONE rocket
WHy do I need to build and fly my Cuda RCRG glider.
I can watch George Gassaway do it and do it much better than I.
Because its not the same thing.
I can almost guarentee I will NEVER leave this planet. but if even the
SMALLEST opertunity presents itself you can bet your ass I am going to take
I want to see this planet from space. the pictures I have seen are beyond
beautiful. I can not imagine how wonderful it would be to ACTUALLY see it
with my own eyes all around me. Short of visiting other planets of meeting
other intelligent life I can not imagine anything being more amazing to me.
I can see it on a TV from a camera or I can see it on a TV from a computer
CGI generating machine.
whats the difference. ? in a few years the CGI etc.. tech will be advanced
enough that NO ONE will be able to tell the difference. its "fake" in some
enviroments (deep ocean) you have no choice (practical choice at least) you
NEED tools to enhace out limited senses.
but emulation or remote viewing can never replace ACTUAL experience. thats
like saying that I did not need my Dog since I could just let you tell of
your experience with a dog. its not the same thing.
you say but what about practicality what about feasibility or affordability
SCREW THEM ALL My life is not defined by those things. as far as I know I
only get one. I do not want it to be a "simulation"
Just my opinion.
Two weeks ago I went to a talk by Gene Cernan, the "Last Man onthe Moon".
One of the things he pointed out about the manned missions to the moon: If
Apollo-11 had been an unmanned lander it would have crashed in a field of
Bob Kaplow NAR # 18L TRA # "Impeach the TRA BoD"
>>> To reply, remove the TRABoD! <<<
Kaplow Klips & Baffle: http://nira-rocketry.org/LeadingEdge/Phantom4000.pdf
www.encompasserve.org/~kaplow_r/ www.nira-rocketry.org www.nar.org
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