Letters to Paul again

“The more ambitious your space aspirations become, the more it makes sense to look carefully at using space resources. To me, this gets to the real debate behind the debate. Arguments over whether to use lunar resources or not really break down into one’s long-term desires for space—permanence versus transience, space-based versus Earth-based, pioneering and residence versus junketing and “just visiting,” opening up space for all versus exclusivity and restricted access.” Excerpt from Paul Spudis’ lunar resource blog.

What “we” as a nation aspire to accomplish in space is what continues to condemn Human Space Flight to the role of a political football. “We” want something for nothing but there is no free lunch; there is no cheap. Any large public works project is roundly damned by that increasingly manic tea party fraction of the population that considers government the great satan. There are NO such projects in existence except military programs. The last notable program was the Texas supercollider. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_Super_Collider

Instead of unlocking the mysteries of physics we bought the space station to nowhere.

It is true that politicians support projects that bring jobs to their constituents or money to their re-election campaigns. It is also true the captains of industry pursue projects that yield the highest profits for shareholders and this is how they keep their jobs. Politicians are theoretically public servants while the public in reality serves industry. Picking out the two salient parties in this arrangement we find the public is made up of the many citizens and shareholders count as the far fewer wealthy elite. The “permanence” and “pioneering” is to be found with the many and the “exclusivity and restricted access” is to be found with the few.

In regards to space the last great prophet of the many was Gerard K. O’Neill, who initiated the space colonization movement in the 1970’s. The prophet of the few is that person who need not be named whose enthusiastic followers currently dominate the discussion about space exploration. Most of those who read my short explanation of reality have found themselves automatically lining up their opinions to the right or the left. “We” have been conditioned to do this and it must be understood that leanings in either direction have little or nothing to do with space exploration except as to how this bias is exploited by those with an agenda. Follow the money.

The first card that is always played in such discussions is to brand the person speaking about “the collective” a communist or socialist or bleeding heart liberal or something equivalent. The second card is the tea party “scream cheap” declaration that any collective action is simple theft from the individual and criminal taxation. The third card is the cult of personality that calls on everyone to just trust that entrepreneur who has taken on the world and is a gifted genius beyond our understanding.

Take those three cards off the table and let “the real debate” begin.

      • “-specifically on refining and smelting metals on the Moon.” Excerpt from Paul Spudis’ Lunar Resources blog.

        Fabricating multi-thousand ton alloy discs hundreds of feet across on the Moon would be the beginning of a golden age of space exploration. The larger the “engine” in a pulse propulsion system (it is actually just a big dumb piece of metal) the more efficient it becomes. Isp’s soar into the tens of thousands as the discs approach a thousand feet in diameter. The reason is simple; a hydrogen bomb is simply a fission bomb of a certain size with deuterium and tritium added. A few teaspoonfuls of these elements and the power of the bomb doubles and triples.

        A half a century after Freeman Dyson and Ted Taylor studied the concept of these real life flying saucers it is still largely unknown to the public. Due to the counter-intuitive aspects of using nuclear weapons to push a spaceship through space it is usually overlooked in any survey of propulsion systems. This is the very definition of ironic as it is the only practical off-the-shelf means of interplanetary travel for the foreseeable future. It could be used to lift truly immense payloads off the surface of the Moon.

        The first is to use robots as companies like Moon Express are exploring. It is possible that semi-expendable robot landers will be able to ferry water up to empty upper stages in lunar polar frozen orbits. If this proves practical then a thriving industry in cislunar space can be established without even landing humans on the Moon again.

        The second is to find super large lava tubes theorized to exist in certain areas. These tubes may be very large- so large that small cities can fit inside them. This would allow humans to move right in with inflatable structures but would require human-rated landers. Because these tubes are not likely to exist near any of the polar ice deposits then a way to transport water from these polar regions to the tube sites will also be required.

        The third avenue was proposed by Gerard K. O’Neill and had a minimal human presence on the lunar surface using electromagnetic rails guns to launch vast amounts of building materials into cislunar space for constructing artificial spinning hollow moons. The ice on the Moon may make this even easier by using Jules Verne gas guns to fire large payloads of ore and water towards space factories.

        Ideally all three avenues will be exploited and support each other. Eventually beam propulsion would be used for travel in the vicinity of the Moon and finally to enable millions to migrate to space colonies from Earth. The SLS is the first step and succeeding iterations of Super Heavy Lift Vehicles will eventually generate thrusts triple and quadruple that of the original.

        “Do we intend to operate in the current mode of custom-built, one-off missions or should we instead develop a robust, continuing space-based transportation system, one that can be used to accomplish a wide variety of missions and activities?” Excerpt from Paul Spudis’ article in Air and Space Magazine.

        Dr. Spudis mentioned “one piece of an overall space strategy that is currently in complete disarray”, and that “one piece” that has always really bugged me.

        If the private space god had started with something larger than the maritime equivalent of a canoe I would probably be a true believer. But…..the reality is the building block of this NewSpace “revolution” is a very low-powered mediocre engine that severely limited anything that could be accomplished from the start. We can see the consequences of this in a vehicle that violates the KISS principle 27 times over. I would add the miracle of propellant crossfeed is the guarantor of the optimistic payload and that feature does not appear to be forthcoming.

        When I was 11 years old NASA studied that one piece of an overall strategy that I believe is critical to any effort to expand humankind into the solar system. The present 5 segment SRB at 3.6 million pounds of thrust is the most powerful booster on Earth- but a reusable booster surpassing this awesome device with a much higher thrust and Isp is what is needed.
        I call it “the methane monster.”



About billgamesh

Revivable Cryopreservation Advocate
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