About Me

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Deep South, United States
Consultant, inventor, mentor, chess coach,. Current projects involve No Till Farming and staving off blindness due to cataracts among other projects. I also do confidential ghost writing (without taking any published credit. My current blindness makes me put this on hold for a while. I should have one eye working again in about four months. Fact, fiction, all subjects considered. I have heard My daughter Jennifer is alive. I would love it if she were to contact me here. I understand she would like to know me. I have sent a message by circuitous route. I can only hope. My posted Email works as well. We have four decades to catch up on.

This blog has been up for more than a year. The intent was to generate dialogues about serious problems and ideas. It has been almost exclusively a monologue. I have not been looking for large numbers of participants.

I would be quite happy with a few dozen imaginative, creative, thoughtful and inventive people who wish to address serious problems and issues. If anyone has any ideas about how to attract such a talented group I will certainly pay attention. I am not as computer conversant as I would wish. Anyone who could help in this regard would find me receptive to sharing my skills in other areas.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Failure and Success

we are ALL misguided to one extent or another. The medical ideas of Galen held sway for many centuries, and were largely worthless, dangerous, or deadly.

Our mistakes are important to our ultimate progress, but only if and when we recognize them. If instead we embrace the mistakes as we so often seem to do, disasters proliferate.

Politics IS bewildering! But it is because so many of its' participants are extremely bewildered in contrasting ways. And they often believe fervently that their perspectives are the only rational ones, and that those on the other sides of the question are completely wrong. Things are rarely that simple.

I have stopped trying to characterize myself as a liberal or a conservative. I have come to believe that the two party system falls short of the needs of the country. But our politics are formed by complex issues and our responses to them.

We have many different crises to deal with, not just politically, but environmentally and across the spectrum of human needs. In the larger scheme of things, within our very disasters lay the potential keys to our future.

The immensity of the World Wars of the twentieth century, the incredible carnage and waste, the suffering, the direct devolution into our present strife, the roots of our eventual (possible) success(es) are within these disasters.

Before I go on with this thought, it just occurred to me that, just as numbers of readers are sharply reduced once posts are scrolled off into archives, the same sort of reductions occur with regard to comments and replies. So before continuing I'm going to copy this and put it in the main body of the blog.

In my view, the single most remarkable thing of our time is the fact that we have gone into space. Humans have gone to the moon. We have landed robots on other planets and made close approaches to the most distant planets and their satellites.

These things most assuredly would not have happened, but for the frictions generated because of the wars and the potential for even more disastrous, even final conflagrations. This is so obvious I won't even prove the point.

The efforts of the two Superpowers both in the Space Race and the mad dash toward nuclear oblivion resulted in one of the superpowers failing economically, with the other trailing perhaps only a few decades behind.

And with the downfall of the one and the multiple and ongoing disasters in international diplomacy of the other, we took our eye off the ball and allowed our space efforts to stagnate. Why is this so important? Specifically because of all the problems that we MUST deal with. Global warming and all the associated problems. Overpopulation, famine, disease, pollution, and last but not least, fanaticism in all its' many guises.

Today there are three main schools of thought about how to proceed with the space program. Only two of them have much prospect to happen. I favor the third, which unfortunately has little likelihood of happening.

The first is to establish a permanent colony on the moon. There are a plethora of problems with this, but also some very attractive possibilities. Very costly, with the potential profits, far, far off in time.

The second is to land on, explore, and ultimately set up some communities on Mars. This is considerably more ambitious, much, much more costly, and with the potential profits for humankind far further in the distant future. In other words, these two options are likely to stall and stagnate because the require such sustained sacrifice, in exactly the same way that the space effort has stagnated over the past few decades. I am not forgetting our great strides on this frontier, but in the seventies the prevailing view was that we would be much further along in space exploration, and might even have had a lunar colony by now.

Of course all of the accomplishments in space are inspiring! And the profits, in terms of advances in many of the sciences and the practical advances that have been made possible, indirectly due to the space effort are too numerous to list. But it is not obvious to the politicians and their constituents. And the space effort has been enormously more expensive than expected, or than it should have been. And since all the spin offs do not seem at first glance to be space related, and because so much of the funding has been squandered, and there is little prospect for immediate profit, we are stuck financially between a rock and a hard place.

Let us go to the third option, the one I favor. It is getting virtually no attention in the debate. I favor missions to the Amore (earth approaching) asteroids. The mining of said asteroids, and the ultimate hollowing out of the asteroids providing space for human habitation, space for industrial production too potentially polluting on Earth, and ultimately, even farming on a large scale.

Just touching on a few of the positives of this option which are really important: These asteroids, by comparison to Mars or the Moon have virtually NO gravity, comparatively speaking. That is not an inconsequential thing. To get a single kilogram off the Moon or Mars costs many thousands of dollars. We must live with the extremely deep gravity well of the Earth. We have no choice. It is where we are. The gravity wells of the Moon and even Mars are far more shallow but are still far (by thousands of times) greater than the minuscule gravities presented by the Earth-approaching asteroids. So getting there from Earth is expensive. Sending cargo back from them is VERY cheap by comparison to the Moon or Mars.

Now let us look at the cargo value. Many, if not most of these asteroids are very high in metals of the Platinum family. The fact is that in terms of near term payoff for our investment, this is the only real viable option. Instead of going into more detail, The floor is open for debate and discussion.


adamlp said...

I like the asteroid mining concept. I was not aware that several were rich in platinum.

As a further advantage to that suggestion, the entire industry could be mechanized. Specific mining robots could be developed alongside specific cargo-hauling robots.
That sort of system would have two extreme incentives:
Firstly, even in the face of catastrophic failure there would be no human life in jeopardy. Second, the profits could be directly reinvested in streamlining the system and simultaneously advancing space exploration. Significantly, asteroid mining could become a corporate industry. Although corporations are prone to corruption, when there is a profit to be had corporate research can be astounding. This would also spark the flame of competition. Competition was very influential in the early days of the space program. In fact, the space race even had far-reaching effects on national education.

I know that there are currently projects devoted to landing various types of rovers directly on asteroids. If I remember correctly, NASA has successfully hit an asteroid with a rover. Additionally, automatic navigation (by stereoscopic vision) is being researched for these purposes. I think the critical point will be developing a robot capable of landing on an asteroid and then taking off again. This could be accomplished in many different ways. For instance, a sort of catapulting robot could be landed permanently on an asteroid which could then be used to give cargo robots a boost off the rock.

This has become a bit of a freeflowing ramble; I'll quickly summarize.

I am in favor of asteroid mining. I think there is great potential for profit in the corporate sector. This potential for profit would give opportunity for competition. I believe this competition for space technology would provide a dramatic boost to humanity's overall space exploration capabilities.

There has been some success with landing rovers on asteroids. Currently, asteroid landing is a hot topic of both academic and space-program interest.

As a closing remark, I'm completely unaware of the legal processes involved in opening space to corporate endeavors. I suspect some related legal issues have already been solved considering the number of satellites which are both developed and owned by non-governmental corporations.

anthropositor said...

Some interesting notions and brainstorms here.

Actually many of these asteroids have the entire platinum family of metals, not to mention several more prosaic but still very useful metals which could be smelted on the asteroid or adjacent to it.

Because the gravity is so inconsequential, I am not sure that a catapaulting system would be the most effective propulsion system in practical terms. But varieties of catapaults have been proposed for the moon which might well be practical.

Call me old fashioned, but I really do like the idea of humans being intrinsically involved on the scene to work in coordination with the machines.

To keep costs down, the current mainstream thought is to do without humans because of the extra costs of life support and so on. On the short term this is certainly the way to go.

But in the long run, in terms of inspiration and motivation, sending robots to space does not hold a candle to putting people up there.

Ultimately, if humanity does not get off Earth in substantial numbers, we have all our eggs in one basket. We are subject to extinction with a single catastrophic astronomical event like the impact of a single large asteroid or comet. (Or a single idiotic nuclear event). Or a single plague which becomes uncontrollable.

Machines are not pioneers. We are the pioneers. We are the risk takers. No number of robots on the Moon equals one Neal Armstrong putting his own footprints in the regolith regardless of the great risks and danger.

By comparison Sputnik was nothing more than a hurtling paperweight.

Antonio Larrosa Diaz said...

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anthropositor said...

Muy muchas gracias, amigo Antonio. Mi espanol es un poquito.

Although I was an illegal alien in Mexico when I was fourteen and picked up quite a bit of Spanglish, the most important linguistic skill I acquired was how to speak English with a Spanish accent well enough to fool American tourists into believing I was a Mexican teenager.

Clearly, from your remarks, you are much more conversant in English than I am currently in Spanish. I have probably lost 90% of the Spanish I knew when I was a boy, from disuse.


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