RealSpace or NoSpace

RealSpace or NoSpace

By Gary Michael Church

The 1967 Apollo 1 fire was the key event leading to the end of the 1st space age before it really began. Anticipation by the aerospace industry of astronomical profits came to an abrupt end in one afternoon. It was not the three fatalities that doomed the space age, as aviation mishaps every year before and since result in hundreds of civilian deaths. The realization that space was going to be hard money would be the catalyst that shifted the focus of industry. The problem was that cold war toys generating vast revenues did not really have to perform as required and spaceships had to work as advertised. Concerning Human Space Flight, there are no false promises or rigged tests bringing in money because actual space travel cannot be faked. Industry chose the easy defense money. Despite recent public relations efforts proclaiming a new age of cheap lift the reality has not changed.

There is no cheap.

At the end of 1968, 22 months after Apollo 1, Apollo 8 left the gravitational field of Earth. Human beings left Earth orbit on December 21st to orbit the Moon and the space age began. Four years later the space age ended when Apollo 17 splashed down on December 19, 1972. The Apollo 8 mission lasted six days, Apollo 10 eight days, Apollo 11 another eight days, Apollo 12 ten days, Apollo 13 five days, Apollo 14 nine days, Apollo 15 twelve days, Apollo 16 eleven days, and Apollo 17 twelve days- for a total of 83 days. Those nine missions over four years totaling a week short of three months Beyond Earth Orbit were the space age. Very soon a half a century will have passed since human beings left Earth. A repeat of the Apollo 8 mission is tentatively scheduled for 2023 but the future of the under-funded and highly criticized Space Launch System is in doubt. These SLS critics are almost all NewSpace fans with an Ayn-Rand-in-Space libertarian worldview.
The current circumstances surrounding Human Space Flight are complex and addressing the situation beyond the scope of an opinion column. However, some progress may be made by clarifying the terminology involved in discussing space. Such conversations are often a confusing mess due to years of the relevant terms being used ambiguously in misleading infomercials. Revised definitions are a must-have for sorting out exactly what is happening.  OldSpace is used disparagingly to describe the aerospace “giants” that have passed on public works projects in space in favor of defense dollars. NewSpace is used to signify  entrepreneurial efforts to make space pay-off for private investors by way of “cheap lift” that outbids supposedly corrupt aerospace concerns. These two descriptors are often disputed or modified so transcending and clarifying with a third and fourth are in order.
“RealSpace” is a likely third term designating a set of definitions arguing against “NoSpace.” The fourth term describes the results of OldSpace and NewSpace efforts since Apollo. The first RealSpace definition moves the boundary of “space” from the present Karman line altitude of 62 miles to Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) at 22,236 miles. The second definition classifies space platforms and spacecraft as essentially different constructs than space stations and spaceships. A “space station” is properly a minimum-healthy-cubic-foot-per-person compartment providing a near-sea-level radiation environment and artificial Earth gravity Beyond Low Earth Orbit (BLEO). Mating a propulsion system to a large enough station would in effect make it a “spaceship” capable of interplanetary travel Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO).
The third RealSpace definition regards space “travel” as necessarily a BLEO/BELO activity. Due to the distances involved, exploring the solar system with humans will require nuclear energy, multi-year missions, and spaceships of a size that, at this point, provoke shock and automatic denial. Due to the radiation problem any long term human presence BLEO will require massive shielding realistically well over one thousand tons for even a small crew. Again, this seemingly impossible requirement provokes shock and automatic denial. Especially outraged are NewSpace enthusiasts whose entrepreneurial visions do not include massively shielded, state sponsored projects. Space travel in the cislunar sea between the Moon and Earth is a risky activity using spacecraft without adequate shielding and must eventually end when true spaceships become available.
A basic guide to the requirements for any RealSpace activity can be gathered from three sources; the magazine article by Eugene Parker “Shielding Space Travelers”, the book “Project Orion, the true story of the atomic spaceship” by George Dyson, and the work of Paul Spudis that half a decade ago revealed the ice resources at the lunar poles. This “Parker-Dyson-Spudis continuum” is the key to any real progress in space exploration and colonization. In 1976 “The High Frontier” by Gerard Kitchen O’Neill was published and this book proposed artificial hollow spinning moons constructed from lunar material as the only practical form of space colonization. O’Neill’s conclusion that no natural bodies in the solar system are suitable for colonization still holds true. Space solar energy was also proposed in this work as the economic driver of colonization and, 40 years ago, the cure for global warming.
The present zeitgeist is to accept the media’s portrayal of LEO and Mars as the “logical” goals of U.S. and international space efforts. NewSpace marketing and NASA public relations are largely responsible for this farce and reversing those effects are a critical first step. The best course would be to abandon both the LEO and Mars dead ends and focus exclusively on lunar resources and Super Heavy Lift Vehicles. Entrepreneurial efforts presently directed at reuse by landing back the lower stages of smaller vehicles would best be redirected into lunar lander development. Unless the next U.S. administration drives change, OldSpace and NewSpace will continue to generate NoSpace for decades to come. The U.S. DOD budget is proof that America has the resources necessary to change direction and begin a second space age without end.


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The NewSpace Flim Flam

By Gary Michael Church

The recent 15 year “celebration” of the ISS drove me to comment on a certain forum and once again, I have been banned. I have been persona non grata on all of the popular space websites for several years now.

The ISS is the “jobs program” the NewSpace mob is always screaming at the top of their lungs about. It is a statement about how stupid they think the public is that the jobs program they wail and gnash their teeth about is actually their own sacred cash cow. Without the ISS there would be no SpaceX or NewSpace. The Flim Flam trapping the U.S. in LEO is made clear by the infographic at the top of the page which explains the energy required to lift radiation shielding from the surface of the Moon to GEO.

The present situation concerning space travel is this- there is only one place to go and that destination is the Moon. LEO is not really space, it is basically a 3 hour drive straight up. The real edge of space is GEO, 23,236 miles up. The radiation environment above LEO in real space means no extended human presence is possible without massive shielding. Short of lifting thousands of tons of plastic or tapwater out of the deep gravity well of Earth, the only place offering a radiation sanctuary is the Moon.

There are actually immense lava tubes that a small city could fit in theorized to exist under the surface of the Moon. Unfortunately, while we have spent billions on science probes to every planet in the solar system (and the space station to nowhere) we do not know where these ready made sanctuaries are in our own back yard. Human beings can dash across the quarter-million-mile-wide cislunar sea between Earth and the Moon but if they get caught in a solar particle event, a “storm”, they will suffer profound life-shortening or fatal radiation exposure.

Robots can possibly create a sanctuary in lunar orbit by way of robot ice harvesters that land on ice deposits and ferry water up to empty rocket stages. When these stages are partially filled with several hundred tons of water they become a radiation sanctuary. Attach a cable system between two such stages and spin them and an Earth gravity and near-sea-level radiation environment exists where a human being can survive indefinitely with no ill effects. These true space stations should be the bare minimum result of several hundred billion dollars and decades of investment. It follows such stations are the precursors to any true spaceships.

Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) any human missions will require a several thousand ton water-filled spinning construct and for pushing such a conveyance around the solar system chemical propulsion is essentially useless. Only nuclear energy will work and LEO is the worst place to acquire shielding, assemble, test, and launch any such nuclear mission. To go anywhere we must go to the Moon first.

LEO and Mars are a dead end on one hand and an impractical fantasy on the other; the only path to space is the Moon and that is not “flexible.”

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Storms in Space

Could get ugly. Better stock up on .22 rimfire.

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image: National Geographic voices

image: National Geographic voices

The rest of the planet is ready to go to the Moon but due to a years ago campaign contribution from an internet entrepreneur it appears the U.S. will have to be dragged kicking and screaming. When an FAA official makes the President’s official policy look stupid…..What’s next?

Perhaps revisiting some questions posed by a past study:

“Key Questions to Guide the Plan for Human Spaceflight-
The Committee identified the following questions that, if answered, would form the basis of a plan for U.S. human spaceflight:

1. What should be the future of the Space Shuttle?
2. What should be the future of the International Space Station (ISS)?
3. On what should the next heavy-lift launch vehicle be based?
4. How should crews be carried to low-Earth orbit?
5. What is the most practicable strategy for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit?

The Committee considers the framing and answering of these questions
individually, and in a consistent way, to be at least as important as their combinations in the integrated options for a human spaceflight program.”

Yes, it was definitely the framing that mattered most in my view.

1. The future of the shuttle should have been a cargo version without the orbiter. From day one. A key failure, perhaps THE key failure of the entire shuttle program. This failure was compounded into a complete disaster for Human Space Flight when the Sidemount option was rejected.

2. The future of the ISS should have been to decommission it as soon as practical. There was and is nothing more to learn after decades of LEO space stations. It goes around and around a couple hundred miles up and eats billions of tax dollars a year for no result. LEO is a dead end. Space really begins at GEO, 22,236 miles up.

3. The next Heavy Lift Vehicle should have started with developing reusable pressure-fed boosters as originally proposed for the shuttle. The less attractive option was to continue development of the SRB’s with the 5 segment version. Yet another failure.

4. Crews should NOT be carried to LEO but should instead go directly to a radiation sanctuary in orbit around the Moon, eventually under the surface of the Moon, and ultimately to a GEO sanctuary to await transfer to a fully shielded cislunar ferry (an Aldrin cycler). There was never any point in having people in LEO after Apollo 8. No point at all.

5. The ONLY “practical strategy” for Beyond Earth Orbit exploration was to acquire space radiation shielding from lunar ice, assemble, test, and launch nuclear propelled true spaceships from outside the Earth’s magnetosphere- from the Moon. Both LEO and Mars are non-starters. The Moon is the only path to space and that is not flexible.

NewSpace proponents have completely misled and misinformed the public concerning the realities of spaceflight.

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Before it is Censored

Since just about everything I post on other blogs gets removed the only recourse to keep my opinion from being disappeared is to post it somewhere where it cannot be deleted. That would be here. Unfortunately I cannot cite the article or comment I am commenting on or replying to as I have been “warned” against doing so.

October 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm · Reply

I suggest a grass roots campaign to re-fly the Apollo 8 mission in 2018, a half a century after human beings first left the gravitational field of Earth; a symbolic restarting of the space age.
October 23, 2015 at 3:38 pm · Reply

(Someone replied that it was a great idea but not very likely to happen)

October 23, 2015 at 4:04 pm · Reply

Well…It’s not probable, but it’s not impossible either. Maybe if the hobby rocket blows up again and SpaceX goes out of business and NASA suddenly decides the space station to nowhere should be decommissioned now- as originally planned- and Mars gets put on the shelf as the “horizon goal” and the Moon becomes the new destination.

If the space agency was honest with the public about the effects of cosmic radiation on astronauts and admitted that Mars is a ridiculous fantasy, at least until a cislunar infrastructure is created, and that the flexible path is not practical- all that is left is the Moon.

Low Earth Orbital assembly using inferior lift rockets is a dead end. It is a hopeless mess compared to just going direct to the Moon with a SHLV like the SLS. The only resource that is going to allow humans to explore further into the solar system is the ice on the Moon. That is the reality that the present regime wants to keep hidden. We can only hope the next President does not have Lori Garver as her space adviser. Might as well rename it the space tourist agency.

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One Trillion Dollars



Thank you Norm Augustine for giving us this piece of junk instead of a base on the Moon. And to continue the earlier letter to Paul:
October 21, 2015 at 10:54 am

At the beginning of the year I commented on a fairly well known blog about the danger of an asteroid or comet impact- specifically, I completely disagreed with the author who was trivializing the danger. There were of course several wishy-washy waffle statements in the article so he could plead not guilty but it was obvious he was portraying it all as a joke. He answered my arguments with a string of replies that were increasingly hostile and insulting until perhaps he realized that was not such a good idea and deleted the entire conversation.

Two weeks later came the Chelyabinsk event.

image: Youtube

image: Youtube

Said author column has since been discontinued but I doubt his “fun with flaming death” article had anything to do with that. Many of the so-called experts who write popular science columns are among the worst liars and deceivers in popular culture media. The almost unanimous support for NewSpace and the flexible path among this bunch of charlatans shows they do not take their profession or integrity as journalists seriously.

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Another letter to Paul

October 20, 2015 at 8:05 am

image at wikipedia; meteor impact

image at wikipedia; meteor impact

“It is difficult for people to envision the immensity of geologic time, as they tend to reckon time spans in relation to their own lives.” Excerpt from Paul Spudis’ article on Smithsonian site.

My own theory is that it is difficult for people to make any decision that does not immediately benefit them. We all know subconsciously we are going to die so most of our thinking is based on getting what we can before that happens- and not much else matters. I used to be skeptical about such subconscious devices until my own participation in rescue missions came back to haunt me.

We take it for granted this world is the way it should be because it is. When someone says the chances of the Earth getting hit by a large comet or asteroid in our lifetime is “astronomically low” then we accept that as not worth any more attention. It is not “we” that say this, it is “I” that reasons I will be dead so it does not matter. And so biological life may be too stupid to survive.

But as Dr. Spudis has done here, if we had lives that stretched across geological time, an indefinite lifespan, then our reasoning would be much different. This is actually not so hard to imagine when star travel is taken into account. The present most plausible method of traveling to another solar system is the “sleeper ship.” In this scenario our bodies are frozen with a process that does not damage cells and the temperature lowered to close to absolute zero. The Starship is propelled to a few percent of the speed of light, probably with a tremendous beam of energy. After a voyage lasting several centuries or even thousands of years, upon arrival the ship slows down, probably using H-bombs, and the crew is revived. The alien solar system is explored and the Starship begins the return voyage. When the crew arrives they have aged perhaps ten years while centuries or millennia have passed on Earth. It would be a reasonable assumption for the crew that while they were frozen a cure for old age would be found.

The people on a Starship would be far more concerned about the future than we are. In some modest lab on planet Earth somewhere a dog or monkey may wake up tomorrow after being frozen- with no ill effects- and then what I just wrote will matter.

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