Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So Many Spaceports, So Few Spaceships


This article talks about the political and strategic reasons why there are so many spaceports around the world. I want to address why these spaceports aren't being utilized more. For me, it boils down to this, we are currently more interested in launching rockets than spaceships.

To me, a rocket is not a spaceship. You may use a rocket to launch a spaceship, like the Shuttle, but even that is a flimsy excuse for a spaceship by my standards. Although, my standards are kind of high, so that's probably my fault. I guess I expect too much from the human race.

It's 2009, and we're still lighting fireworks to get to space. I would love to poll anyone over 70 and ask them what they thought space travel would be like in 2009 (or in that area) when they were 20. I bet you'd find that many of them expected us to be on the moon or Mars already, launching every day like the airline industry.

So, we have all of these spaceports, but no spaceships. Where are all of the spaceships? Why are we so underdeveloped at a time when we should be using space to unify, form a focal global goal, and work together to achieve it? This could be a global effort, something to boost local and global economies. I'm not talking about a utopia here, because problems will exist as long as humans exist. Life is hard, some people suck, make the best of what you can. Yet space offers a unique focus, without limits, to propel our world in a direction of expansion, exploration and growth.

I truly believe that this is one of those points in human history that will be recorded as a turning point, for better or worse, in humanity. I do hope and pray for the best, as I am the eternal optimist even though I possess a cynical approach to current events. I guess I'm just tired of the B.S. and wish for a wake up call to refocus us.

For me, that wake up call is simply a common understanding that the human race cannot survive on Earth alone, and that no matter what we do, space on Earth and its resources are finite, but our ability to reproduce is not. Expansion off world is the only solution. At some point it will have to be addressed.

So the question remains, where are all the spaceships?


Monsal Varga said...

I agree 100% on this one.

As an answer to when/if humankind will start the move outwards, I'm afraid I'm not so optimistic as you consider yourself. I regret to say, but you'll probably have to wait until the next asteroid or comet passes so, but so much close to Earth. Then politicians will crap on their pants, and money and other resources will appear as in a kind of magic.

You talk about asking the elderly what were their visions of the future, but don't go that far: what were your own ideas, what was the future that we believed in?

Man, here in Europe there was this tv series "Space 1999" about Moonbase Alpha. How nostalgic I feel about that would-have-been future...

If you have the time, follow this http://www.space1999.net/

khaleroo said...

You are going to see a spaceship design.
-Khal Shariff,
CEO of Project Whitecard
Selected as 1/3 companies to create the NASA MMO.

Douglas Mallette said...

Khal - I want in! :)

Norman Copeland. said...

Well truefully I think errors have been decided because of a national incentive to give publicity of science the front kudos of a development which instrisically is still fighting to be recognised as a serious practice. I have suggested to astronomers viewing from Hawaii that atmospheric vapour {from volcanic heat and sulphur rising vapour} would contribute to poorer quality viewing, I have suggested to santa monica astronomers the same consideration when these universities and government funded schemes receive funding they want to be seen as doing it in an exceptable location, but, truefully as with rocket launch sites, weather conditions surely must be the main contributer to its location choice, furthering atmospheric conditions consideration, with a swift changing planetary climatological environment, for this subject of lots and lots of spaceports, I believe the verdict is a good one.

secretdeveloper said...

First I must preface this by saying that I am in no way a rocket scientist, so this may be a foolish question. That being said:

Why DO we have to use rockets to get to space (meaning like the space shuttle)? Why can't we just build a 'plane' that can 'fly' to higher altitudes? I mean, eventually you'd get to space, right?

Again, I'm sure there's an obvious answer to this one but it's bugged me for a long time.

Douglas Mallette said...

secretdeveloper - It all boils down to air, which of course space has none of. Any engine, be it lawn mower or jet, runs on combustion. For combustion to work you need three things: spark, fuel and oxygen. The higher you go the less oxygen you have to intake and so poof...no more combustion, ergo no more thrust. It's "fall like a brick" time.

Also, for wings to generate lift, you must have thick enough air to generate a pressure difference between the bottom and top of the wing. If you don't have thick enough air to fly though, you don't generate a pressure difference, because there aren't enough air molecules to be effective. No lift, no fly.

Rockets aren't designed to fly liek planes of course, so there are no lift issues, and they carry what they need with them. Spark you can make rather easily, liquid hydrogen is the fuel and liquid oxygen provides, well, the oxygen. lol.

Solid rocket motors follow the same principle. The "solid" contains the fuel and oxidizer in one thing. When you light it, it runs itself until it runs out, which is why you can't really turn solid rockets off.

The shuttle doesn't even really fly. It glides back to Earth, and badly at that. If it misses the runway, there's not enough wing to generate enough lift to "pull up" and swing back around like a glider would. The shuttle MUST land the first time, every time, or else it's a bad day for NASA.

Hope this helps.