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Thread: Pull-factors for human space travel

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    Pull-factors for human space travel

    It would seem that at the moment the only significant pull-factor for human space travel is scientific curiosity. It can for instance be argued that there is no economic incentive for humans to go to Mars and that there probably won't be for a very long time. The same and more applies to inter-stellar travel, where besides the formidable technical challenges involved, there would seem to be even less of an economic or other incentive besides scientific exploration.

    Now, considering all the economic and technical challenges, what would constitute significant pull-factors for human space travel such that progress would be accelerated. For instance, what must be discovered on Mars (like certain minerals for example) that would get humans there in a much shorter period of time than would have been the case otherwise. More hypothetically, if Mars was a more habitable planet (like a second Earth) would humans be there already?

    What about inter-stellar travel? Say hypothetically speaking, that an Earthlike paradise is discovered in the Alpha Centauri system, how big of a pull factor would that be for investing in inter-stellar propulsion research. Or say, two or three Earths are discovered how would that accelerate the pace of developments. What would it take, in terms of pull factor, to make people go from saying "It can't be done" to "How can it be done"?

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    Cheap fuel in space would be a draw. Sure you would have some heavy start up cost but having a "gas station" would make it much less costly than sending fuel up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Cheap fuel in space would be a draw. Sure you would have some heavy start up cost but having a "gas station" would make it much less costly than sending fuel up.
    Which is hy I hope for Planetary Ressources to be successful. If they manage to do what they intend to do they will put up a couple of 'gas stations'.

    Through I guess we can go with a propellant depot for now.

    As for interstellar travel... Time, time, time. You need really high velocities or you need time.

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    Tyson did a pretty good job of talking about this in one of his presentations about his latest book. Unfortunately scientific curiousity has never been a pull factor when it comes to bleeding edge exploration, but rather it's either been militarism, the checkbook, or some combination thereof. Why should we expect space to be any different? Sooner or later somebody is going to unilaterally withdraw from the outer space treaty and make a land grab up there, and sooner or later somebody is going to put up a full fledged warship. It's going to happen eventually.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by aquitaine View Post
    Sooner or later somebody is going to unilaterally withdraw from the outer space treaty and make a land grab up there, and sooner or later somebody is going to put up a full fledged warship. It's going to happen eventually.
    I sort of find it hard to understand why that would happen. It's true that on earth, we see that kind of thing all the time, but nearly always in habitable places. We like to use the word "exploration" to refer to people like Magellan and Cook, but in general they were never going to places that were actually undiscovered. The only place on earth that is basically uninhabitable, the south pole, was never inhabited, and I don't think anybody has every really made a serious attempt to grab it, just because it's too much trouble for what you get. I think the same is true for space. Nobody has ever inhabited it, and it is basically uninhabitable. Since we'd be talking about small stations basically doing mining for fuel and stuff, it seems that if one person has a base at point A, it's just much more practical to set up a base at point B, and I can't really see any incentive for one to attack the other. I know it's difficult to predict things like this, but it's just hard to imagine what benefit would come out of the tremendous investment of an armed space vehicle.
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    Whats a pull-factor?
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    I assume it means something that draws you to something, as opposed to a push factor, which drives you away from something. So for example, religious persecution in England would have been a push factor for puritans to go to America. The existence of delicious turkeys in the new world would have been a pull factor. So in this context, overpopulation on the earth would be a push factor. The existence on Mars of a Tahitian-like island with beautiful fruits and islanders would be a pull factor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wally View Post
    It would seem that at the moment the only significant pull-factor for human space travel is scientific curiosity. It can for instance be argued that there is no economic incentive for humans to go to Mars and that there probably won't be for a very long time. The same and more applies to inter-stellar travel, where besides the formidable technical challenges involved, there would seem to be even less of an economic or other incentive besides scientific exploration.

    Now, considering all the economic and technical challenges, what would constitute significant pull-factors for human space travel such that progress would be accelerated. For instance, what must be discovered on Mars (like certain minerals for example) that would get humans there in a much shorter period of time than would have been the case otherwise. More hypothetically, if Mars was a more habitable planet (like a second Earth) would humans be there already?

    What about inter-stellar travel? Say hypothetically speaking, that an Earthlike paradise is discovered in the Alpha Centauri system, how big of a pull factor would that be for investing in inter-stellar propulsion research. Or say, two or three Earths are discovered how would that accelerate the pace of developments. What would it take, in terms of pull factor, to make people go from saying "It can't be done" to "How can it be done"?
    For this hypothetical, why is it assumed that the 'pull factor' and 'pace of developments', necessarily significantly alters the unreality of human interstellar travel ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I assume it means something that draws you to something, as opposed to a push factor, which drives you away from something. So for example, religious persecution in England would have been a push factor for puritans to go to America. The existence of delicious turkeys in the new world would have been a pull factor. So in this context, overpopulation on the earth would be a push factor. The existence on Mars of a Tahitian-like island with beautiful fruits and islanders would be a pull factor.
    Yes, that's what I'm talking about.

    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    For this hypothetical, why is it assumed that the 'pull factor' and 'pace of developments', necessarily significantly alters the unreality of human interstellar travel ?
    Well, ... what do you mean by "unreality"? Is it impossible or is it possible but non-existent (for humans)? If it is impossible then of course nothing can alter that, but if it is possible then technological progress and sufficient incentive can alter it. Now technological progress requires incentive, i.e. something that makes it worth the investment. So the question I'm asking is what would make it worth the investment in e.g. inter-stellar propulsion research and I'm especially interested in the pull-factor component. For example, the usual arguments like over-population, depletion of the Earth's resources and the Sun going red-giant one day do not count as pull-factors.

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    well NASA is now gearing toward human space travel so we are told.
    So thats the pull-factor.
    I dont think its scientific curiosity though.
    Personally, as a non american that isnt contributing to the NASA budget, i think its a shame as in the short term the best science would be done by extending the robotic programs - i dont really care too much about humans in space unless it is to do science that robots couldnt.
    If i were an american tax payer, i think that maybe the inspirational path of human space flight would be better value for my dollar though. But for that to happen, you really need some firm goal and timetable.
    the ecconomic incentive is to get as many of your kids interested in engineering and sciences, and let them see there are jobs for them to get after yrs ofstudy - if you want to remain the globes head poncho, ya gonna have to do something radical
    Last edited by mutleyeng; 2012-May-22 at 02:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I sort of find it hard to understand why that would happen. It's true that on earth, we see that kind of thing all the time, but nearly always in habitable places. We like to use the word "exploration" to refer to people like Magellan and Cook, but in general they were never going to places that were actually undiscovered. The only place on earth that is basically uninhabitable, the south pole, was never inhabited, and I don't think anybody has every really made a serious attempt to grab it, just because it's too much trouble for what you get.

    Exactly, if there's something worth taking then it's worth protecting. It's never been demonstrated to have much resources.

    I think the same is true for space. Nobody has ever inhabited it, and it is basically uninhabitable. Since we'd be talking about small stations basically doing mining for fuel and stuff, it seems that if one person has a base at point A, it's just much more practical to set up a base at point B, and I can't really see any incentive for one to attack the other. I know it's difficult to predict things like this, but it's just hard to imagine what benefit would come out of the tremendous investment of an armed space vehicle.

    Space has shown to have an unbelievable wealth of mineral resources far above and beyond anything anyone could have imagined, and that will make it worth taking. So how could something like that happen? An conflict on Earth between two space faring powers might cause something like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wally
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I assume it means something that draws you to something, as opposed to a push factor, which drives you away from something. So for example, religious persecution in England would have been a push factor for puritans to go to America. The existence of delicious turkeys in the new world would have been a pull factor. So in this context, overpopulation on the earth would be a push factor. The existence on Mars of a Tahitian-like island with beautiful fruits and islanders would be a pull factor.
    Yes, that's what I'm talking about.
    Ah, I thought it might be more rigorous and I was having trouble imagining how we would weight the coefficients.

    Well, there are resources in space, but they are often also on Earth. I think it would be better for the environment to look for certain elements in rocky bodies in low gravity rather than tearing apart the Earth to get them and inconveniencing the people who live in those spots. So, would that be a push or a pull?
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    People who praise space mining often don't understand the entire process of extracting metals or conceive of a process to do this in space. It's not just refined bars of metal in orbit you know.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    Well, there are resources in space, but they are often also on Earth. I think it would be better for the environment to look for certain elements in rocky bodies in low gravity rather than tearing apart the Earth to get them and inconveniencing the people who live in those spots. So, would that be a push or a pull?
    It seems there are some elements of both push and pull, so I'm beginning to think that it's a bit more complex. For instance the technology-dependence of resource mining is something to consider e.g. it becomes more feasible if we have an efficient means available. So it really only becomes attractive once we have an efficient technological means, but why not develop the technology that would make it a pull-factor? I'm trying to imagine a scenario where human space travel is a central (or even indispensable) component of the economy and not on the periphery, as it currently is. But what would such an economy look like?

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    People who praise space mining often don't understand the entire process of extracting metals or conceive of a process to do this in space. It's not just refined bars of metal in orbit you know.
    I understand that there must be numerous technical challenges and it's probably not currently worth the effort, but what I'm wondering is that under what possible conditions or scenario would it ever become feasible?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wally View Post
    It seems there are some elements of both push and pull, so I'm beginning to think that it's a bit more complex. For instance the technology-dependence of resource mining is something to consider e.g. it becomes more feasible if we have an efficient means available. So it really only becomes attractive once we have an efficient technological means, but why not develop the technology that would make it a pull-factor? I'm trying to imagine a scenario where human space travel is a central (or even indispensable) component of the economy and not on the periphery, as it currently is. But what would such an economy look like?
    That why people have been looking into free-fall specific manufacturing processes, such as "zero-g crystals" to see if there's a killer app for spaceflight that can't be duplicated on the surface. Another possibility is finding rare elements in bulk or in economically useful concentrations. Many of the rare earth elements have the potential to be used in industry at present except their rarity not only makes them expensive, but makes them physically unavailable. Add to this fruits and vegetables grown in free fall with lots of sunlight for novelty. If we can source water and nutrients off-world, we might even make it a net export to Earth once enough green houses are built, farther into the future, which would allow people to let some of Earth's arable land go to wilderness to allow native flora and fauna to once again flourish and increase biodiversity on the planet.

    I'd strongly recommend tourism and entertainment as likely options. Although a lot can be done with CGI, the novelty of real actors in real free-fall might be enjoyed, such as in a space-based reality show ("Survivor: LEO") or competitions (American Gladiators turned "American Epatiers") or sports ("Spherical Dodgeball" or "spherical ice skating" or "cylindrical Soccer") or art performances ("3D dancing"). Scripted TV on the other hand may be harder to convince to send up well-known actors until spaceflight is demonstrated as safer than it has been in the past. And then there are novelties that can be made in space and sold on earth, or given as a form of dividend for purchasing bonds in space ventures or as a "gift" for a donation. People currently spend an obscene amount of money on junk and entertainment, so why not make it junk and entertainment from space?

    Quote Originally Posted by danscope
    People who praise space mining often don't understand the entire process of extracting metals or conceive of a process to do this in space. It's not just refined bars of metal in orbit you know.
    Well, iron-nickel meteorites tend to be ~95% metal, so it arrives practically refined, if not in bar-shape. Since many objects in the solar system lack the hydrological and chemical weathering processes found on earth, a lot of material that was differentiated at some point may still be differentiated, even if part of a rubble pile. This may vary by object, of course.
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    Quote Originally Posted by aquitaine View Post
    Exactly, if there's something worth taking then it's worth protecting. It's never been demonstrated to have much resources.
    I would say that Antarctica has tremendous resources. It has probably a quadrillion tons of fresh water.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I would say that Antarctica has tremendous resources. It has probably a quadrillion tons of fresh water.
    Depends on who you talk to. Other authorities consider it to be a desert.
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  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    Depends on who you talk to. Other authorities consider it to be a desert.
    I'm talking about the ice sheets. I don't think there's any authority who would deny that there are ice sheets in Antarctica. It's said that something like 60% of the world's fresh water is there.
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    A low tech public draw might be a doable pull factor.

    Trick out a regular passenger jet to be a "space launch simulator" complete with fake controls and "view screens". Dress the passengers in faux space suits and give them a really rough ride*. The tickets could be priced in line with a first class ticket. There would have to be a pre-launch and post-launch museum and/or theme park complete with gift shops.

    Someone subset of the patrons may want better and be willing to fund something closer to space travel. The next item would have to better but still limited to what is technology available. A definite boot strap approach.

    *Passenger jets can do some things that passengers can really hate, under control circumstances it could be done safely.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I'm talking about the ice sheets. I don't think there's any authority who would deny that there are ice sheets in Antarctica. It's said that something like 60% of the world's fresh water is there.
    I'm not sure we can consider that a resource though, as it would probably not be economical to use and devastating to the human infrastructure of the planet's surface if you did.
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  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    I'm not sure we can consider that a resource though, as it would probably not be economical to use and devastating to the human infrastructure of the planet's surface if you did.
    I would definitely see it as a resource, because we pay for fresh water generally, and there are many people around the world who lack access to fresh water and would like to get some. So we should just get it from Antarctica.

    What I really meant to say is in response to Aquitaine is that in fact, Antarctica has resources, but as you say, they are not economical, and so nobody is very interested in it. So nobody is very much interested. And I think that is partly the same reason that nobody seems much interested in making a land grab in space, because it is much the same situation. There are surely tremendous resources there, but it is not practical to get at them. I would say that getting fresh water from Antarctica is probably a more reasonable proposal than most of the things we could get from space. After all, there are people in the world who go without water, and getting some to them would be quite kind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I would definitely see it as a resource, because we pay for fresh water generally, and there are many people around the world who lack access to fresh water and would like to get some. So we should just get it from Antarctica.

    What I really meant to say is in response to Aquitaine is that in fact, Antarctica has resources, but as you say, they are not economical, and so nobody is very interested in it. So nobody is very much interested. And I think that is partly the same reason that nobody seems much interested in making a land grab in space, because it is much the same situation. There are surely tremendous resources there, but it is not practical to get at them. I would say that getting fresh water from Antarctica is probably a more reasonable proposal than most of the things we could get from space. After all, there are people in the world who go without water, and getting some to them would be quite kind.
    On the contrary, it's a specious argument. Fresh water can be sourced locally from precipitation, glacial melt, groundwater and from desalination, so it's less an issue of scarcity as it is cost. However, converting antarctic ice to potable water will result in an eventual increase in sea level of around 250-300 ft, causing trillions of dollars in damage. When it comes to space resources, in many cases the materials or conditions cannot be found or duplicated on Earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    That why people have been looking into free-fall specific manufacturing processes, such as "zero-g crystals" to see if there's a killer app for spaceflight that can't be duplicated on the surface. Another possibility is finding rare elements in bulk or in economically useful concentrations. Many of the rare earth elements have the potential to be used in industry at present except their rarity not only makes them expensive, but makes them physically unavailable. Add to this fruits and vegetables grown in free fall with lots of sunlight for novelty. If we can source water and nutrients off-world, we might even make it a net export to Earth once enough green houses are built, farther into the future, which would allow people to let some of Earth's arable land go to wilderness to allow native flora and fauna to once again flourish and increase biodiversity on the planet.
    Yes, zero-G, vacuum and lots of radiation are all hazardous attributes of space, but perhaps they could be turned to good use in some large-scale industrial applications, especially in materials science.

    Well, iron-nickel meteorites tend to be ~95% metal, so it arrives practically refined, if not in bar-shape. Since many objects in the solar system lack the hydrological and chemical weathering processes found on earth, a lot of material that was differentiated at some point may still be differentiated, even if part of a rubble pile. This may vary by object, of course.
    Perhaps we should start thinking on a much larger scale than we're used to here on Earth. What if we start to think on a scale where even the Earth's resources like iron and nickle begin to look very scarce compared to what our industrial needs are? Say for instance that we find a source of iron, like an asteroid, with more iron than we will ever be able to mine on Earth? What kind of industrial needs are we then talking about on that scale?

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    It's worth bearing in mind that space provides great height, stability, clarity, lack of weather, lack of atmosphere, infinite lines of sight, microgravity etc etc. These resources have used for decades -via robots. Planetary Resources Inc plan to try and get a more material kind of resource, also, if I understand things aright, using mainly robots.

    The message my reading gives me is that space resources, tangiableor not, are better 'mined' by machines, with human oversight from a distance.

    The only pull factors I can think of for manned flight are tourism, entertainment (I'm thinking of novel zero-g sports) and PR. But those things could work, if the prices come down enough eventually.

    RE Antartica: I have heard that there are considerable mineral resources there, and that it would be profitable, albeit barely, to mine them, although it would make more sense to mine out easier to get at locations first. I'll try to locate reference.
    In space PR and Politics are as important as engineering and science. And no-one can hear you screaming about it.

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

    Exploring other worlds with people is a great idea, but look at what has happened since the end of Apollo: How much could unmanned exploration (and astronomy) have discovered with all that money blown on paper rockets?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wally View Post
    Perhaps we should start thinking on a much larger scale than we're used to here on Earth. What if we start to think on a scale where even the Earth's resources like iron and nickle begin to look very scarce compared to what our industrial needs are? Say for instance that we find a source of iron, like an asteroid, with more iron than we will ever be able to mine on Earth? What kind of industrial needs are we then talking about on that scale?
    I'm not sure I follow. Are you asking what would we consider doing if we discover an accessible over-abundance? I suspect that even if the mineral "ore" was of a lower grade than found on earth, considering the ability to "pollute" in space by leaving tailings laying around without damaging a living ecosystem, it may begin to replace earth-sourced raw materials in some industries. Or are you asking what we might build with all that material? I suspect we'd be building large space stations and interplanetary spacecraft capable of supporting several thousands of people at a time.
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  27. #27
    [QUOTE=Paul Wally;2019117]It would seem that at the moment the only significant pull-factor for human space travel is scientific curiosity. It can for instance be argued that there is no economic incentive for humans to go to Mars and that there probably won't be for a very long time. The same and more applies to inter-stellar travel, where besides the formidable technical challenges involved, there would seem to be even less of an economic or other incentive besides scientific exploration. QUOTE]


    The bigest incentive should be to safe gaurd the human race. Large moon/mars bases would mean having a large population living off world and if a catastrophic disaster ever took place on earth it would not mean the annihilation of us as a species. I think the history of the earth (What little we know about it) shows we can be wiped out at any time via many means and the term living on borrowed time comes to mind. Once the biggest cost of setting up large infrastructure on the moon is completed the costs go down and bulding larger/safer space craft on the moon becomes possible. Also once you find a fuel source off world you can build more powerful conventional fueled rockets and cut down the travel times to and from mars and other planets/moons. History shows what can be done when money is not the main issue eg the moon landings but now spending the same sort of money is seen as unjustified and is too much of a hot potato for governments to handle. There are lots of scientists that still think big and have the abilty to take us forward into space and beyond but the people who control the money think much smaller these days.
    Last edited by GravityDrive; 2012-May-29 at 08:18 AM.

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    so how do you convince a politician of that though.
    I mean, they have a duty of care to the people that elected them (assuming democracy).
    It would seem a rational argument that if they are going to spend money on space, asteroid deflection would be a greater pull that securing the future of humanity by spreading them out in the system, at the expense of the people that elected them, who would be toast.
    Your problem is you have to convince populations that you have a case, not just the politicians, because they can legitimately claim they have no mandate to do that from the people they represent.
    A scientist just has to justify their funding - its a lot easier to have noble ideals

  29. #29
    Yes convincing the politicians and the people they are supposed to represent is the number one issue to gaining the funding needed for anything. The cold war was good for somthing at least because the push to get to the moon first drove the space program along much faster. Most humans can not see past there own little world and wont look at the bigger picture until faced with somthing that forces the issue eg war or disaster but by then it might be too late to do anything. With chinas push for space we can only hope it drives others like the once mighty americans back into the space race.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GravityDrive View Post
    Yes convincing the politicians and the people they are supposed to represent is the number one issue to gaining the funding needed for anything. The cold war was good for somthing at least because the push to get to the moon first drove the space program along much faster. Most humans can not see past there own little world and wont look at the bigger picture until faced with somthing that forces the issue eg war or disaster but by then it might be too late to do anything. With chinas push for space we can only hope it drives others like the once mighty americans back into the space race.
    I think the focus should be on convincing the people. Once they are convinced, the politicians will follow. People see past their own little world all the time, it's called entertainment. People who want space access need to use that.
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