I recently posted this on the only two other sites that will allow me to express my opinions;
I see the problem as one of self similarity; trying to go cheap being the downfall of all these schemes to work around human physiology.
When I first became interested in space travel several years ago I would comment on a couple blogs and find myself constantly arguing with private space proponents- and saying over and over again, “there is no cheap.” I was finally excommunicated from that bunch and banned from posting. They would start calling me an idiot and other insults and when I tried to return the favor the moderator would block my replies. The person who runs those two sites works for a firm promoting space tourism- go figure.
The problem is that while the aerospace industry made some money off the space program as an outgrowth of the military industrial complex, it soon became clear that spaceships are hard money- they have to work. The example of this is the outrage over the Apollo 1 fire and subsequent oversight of contractors- a practice which disappeared after Apollo and resulted in the Space Shuttle being such a poor design. A portion of the shuttle development money reportedly went under the table into the B-1 bomber program; how much we will never know. Swing wings are not easy to build which is why you do not see it anymore; cuts into profits.
The easy money of cold war toys has since defeated any move by industry to take up the cause of space exploration. No easy money in spaceships. People who want something for nothing rarely end up with anything worth anything. Trying to find cheap ways around furnishing explorers with the physcial conditions human beings evolved in is going to fail. On the other hand if we start with a baseline of one gravity and Earth level radiation we are bound to succeed.
The engineering solutions to this baseline requirement are as I have already detailed; a tether for gravity and a massive moonwater shield with bomb propulsion. That is EXACTLY how to do it and I do not see any one else offering anything else that will work- just waffling and spewing about R&D.
We have been doing R&D for over half a century. It is a reason to go that is supposedly lacking.
When that crater in Mexico was discovered in 1980 the cold war was reaching it’s crescendo and the massive extinction it caused was overshadowed by the threat of nuclear weapons. Impact defense is still the only path to all that DOD money for a Moon base.
Excerpt: “Galactic cosmic radiation poses a significant threat to future astronauts,” said M. Kerry O’Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and the senior author of the study. “The possibility that radiation exposure in space may give rise to health problems such as cancer has long been recognized. However, this study shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”
It appears when Eugene Parker wrote “Shielding Space Travelers” in 2006 he was right- and all the private space sycophants claiming radiation mitigation is trivial are wrong.
Only a massive water shield a minimum of 14 feet thick and massing 400 tons for a small capsule can shield human beings in deep space on long duration missions. And since a small capsule will not have sufficient space to keep a crew psychologically healthy on a multi-year journey it is likely such a shield will massive over a thousand tons.
This mass may seem to make Human Space Flight Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (HSF-BELO) impractical but in fact it is not an obstacle but an enabler. Nuclear Pulse Propulsion using bombs to push a spaceship to the outer solar sytem becomes more efficient the larger the ship and this amount of water is useful in a closed loop life support system.
Lighting off bombs in the Earth’s magnetosphere is not acceptable and this points to the Moon as the obvious place to launch nuclear missions and also to acquire the water for radiation shielding. The Space Launch System (SLS) is the human-rated Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) with a powerful escape system that can safely transport the required fissionables to the Moon.
2013 may be the year of the comet and the year of the spaceship if the two goals of protecting the planet from impacts and establishing off world colonies are finally recognized as vital to the survival of humankind.
A half century after being developed, nuclear pulse propulsion remains the only practical system of interplanetary travel. What is required to launch a bomb propelled mission to the outer solar system? Well, first you need.…..bombs.
There is no shortage of bomb material on planet Earth. The problem is lack of a vehicle that can get this material to the nearest place a nuclear mission can be launched; the Moon. For over a quarter of a century a launch vehicle capable of sending significant payloads (and people) to the Moon has been lacking. The Space Transportation System, aka the space shuttle, was a dead end as far as exploration due to the lack of funding for a Sidemount cargo version.
Now we wait on the SLS.
Only this human rated Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) with a powerful escape tower will be suitable for transporting survivable packaged fissionables to the Moon. It is not only the fissionables that are required; hundreds of tons of water from lunar ice deposits are necessary to fill the radiation shield for any such Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Lunar Orbit (HSF-BELO).
Eventually lunar resources can be used to actually construct atomic spaceships and also the thorium reactors necessary to power colonies in the outer system. It is the establishment of a beam propulsion infrastructure that will finally open up the solar system to large scale development. This will require a massive infrastructure on the Moon. Such a base will serve as insurance against an extinction level event wiping out our species. As such it deserves a full measure of DOD funding. Like that trillion dollars that is going to be spent on the F-35 stealth fighter over the next half century.
Only monthly Heavy Lift Vehicle launches of payloads to the Moon can be considered as a beginning to a true space program- where Apollo left off. There is no cheap and there is no flexible path.
“The more anxiety one produces, the more the discussion there would be about how real and how possible actual existential threats are.”
John Hunt recently queried me on what steps I might take to form an organization to advocate for survival colonies and planetary defense. His comment on anxiety is quite succinct. In truth the landing on the moon was the product of fear- of the former Soviet Union’s lead in rocket technology. As we as a nation quelled that anxiety the budget for human space flight dwindled. But the fear of a nuclear winter continued to grow along with the size of our arsenals.
Interestingly, at the height of the cold war, evidence of yet another threat to human existence was uncovered in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico in 1981; Chicxulub. But even before the dinosaur killer was discovered, perhaps the greatest threat of all to humanity was born in 1973 when Herb Boyer and Stanley Cohen created the first genetically modified organism. The money to answer both of these threats by going into space continues to be expended by the military industrial complex.
Mile wide rocks in space and microscopic organisms on earth are both threats to our existence, but the third and undoubtedly greatest threat is our own apathy. Why do we expend the tremendous resources of our race on everything BUT keeping it from going extinct?
The answer to this important question is our own fear of death. As I have written previously, we are as individuals in the predicament of a circus freak on death row. It is a bizarre yet accurate characterization. None of us expect to live forever, but then we do not expect to die tomorrow either. We are in limbo between certain death and temporary life and cannot face the reality of the first while obsessing over the banalities of the second.
Examples of our determination to stay distracted can be found in the babbling of gravity modifiers, CERN doomsday prophets, and various other fruit flavored contributors to this blog. We desperately want to believe in UFO’s, conspiracies and fantastical solutions so we do not have to face the disquiet we experience whenever we pass a funeral home or graveyard. I am happy to pummel these idiots with the harsh language they deserve- especially when they destroy the credibility of sites like this which are trying to accomplish something worthwhile.
So I am thinking there is so much anxiety being monopolized that there is little market left for me capitalize on. Something different is required; as Bill Gates advised young entrepreneurs recently, “Don’t do what I did.” It has all been done and no clever marketing or deceptive advertising is going to build cities on other worlds. Space tourism is not going to save us- if anything it is a dangerous waste of time and money.
What is required is a popular culture renaissance that can focus the energy of several generations in a single direction. The uniqueness of this crossroads in history can be found in considering the nearly unbelievable difference in the level of scientific knowledge today compared to a half century ago. There is nothing more evident to the mature members of the western world than it’s age- our standard of living has brought about fewer children while the less fortunate parts of the world have accelerated their reproductive rates. Disparities in wealth and standards of living are stark evidence of the circus freak scenario. Very few of us are aware that there is a possible escape from this death sentence we are all born under. A standby of science fiction for decades has been the freezing of human beings for space travel. To delay death indefinitely and be resurrected when a cure for a disease or old age is found is a familiar concept. The parallels with Christianity are unmistakable.
We, as in my fellow human beings who were born around 1960, are seeing the culture we grew up in fade away as no other generation ever has. We lived through decades of threatened nuclear holocaust only to see our hoped for space age future dismantled by consumerism and profiteering. Personally, I find the presence of skulls everywhere to be the most poignant and disturbing portent of things to come. The veterans who fought in World War II and were everywhere when I was a boy would never have allowed this emblem of the Nazi SS to become so popular. It was the symbol of ruthless and murderous force as being the only meaningful feature of reality. 60 million human beings were killed in the fight against the evil it represents. And now it is back.
To counter to the present lack of vision I would like to introduce an agent of change in the form of a idealized past age. What better ideal than the movement that conquered fascism originally? Christianity did in fact conquer the Roman Empire- and as it is said we are all children of Rome, then we are also children of the carpenter from Nazareth. A technological analogy that can be discerned when considering the original Christianity and the modern world is the Gladius and the Atom Bomb. The Romans learned the fine points of using their infamous short swords by watching gladiators fight to the death- a funerary tradition they inherited from the Etruscans they assimilated. The training of professional gladiators was applied to the military and made “Drill a bloodless Battle and Battle a bloody Drill.”
The sword made the Roman Empire and Christianity inherited this prize. The Atom Bomb has kept modern civilization from World War for over a half century- but so far there is no great social movement that will inherit this mighty construct before it falls into a new dark age. The Fermi Paradox points to the possibility that this empire could well be the last; there will be no more cycles of civilizations rising and falling if we become extinct. If so then this really may be the end of the world- with no need to throw away reason in favor of the Book of Revelation.
What is most curious is that while the sword had no utility outside of murder, the Atomic Bomb holds the power to transcend this arena of earth and allow humankind to populate the galaxy. If this civilization can survive to travel to new worlds then the last empire will have risen- the last because it can never fall again.
So, to form a society of believers in life, in the future of the human race, the goals must be clear and easily understood;
If the human race is to survive, the individual must have some hope of surviving. The immediate need is a way to delay death and that procedure is practically a reality with advances in cryopreservation.
If the human race is to survive, new worlds must be found and colonized. The immediate need is for survival colonies off-world and atomic spaceships to establish those colonies and defend the earth from impact threats.
If the individual and the race as a whole is to survive, action must be taken. The immediate need is an organization to take money in and distribute it to the corporations and politicians that can direct the massive governmental resources necessary to accomplish a great rescue with cryopreservation and to construct spaceships to establish off world colonies and deflect impact threats.
Figuratively, metaphorically, the Christians conquered the old empire and the Astronomers who harness the power of the sun will inherit this empire. Since the more catchy titles have been taken by religious cults, I suggest the organization that will initiate action be called,
The Society of Christian Astronomers
My first call is for the money to copyright the title of the society and a brand I have in mind.
I have been corresponding with John Hunt and have decided that perhaps it is time to start moving toward forming a group that can accomplish something.
The recent death of Neil Armstrong has people thinking about space. The explosion of a meteor over Britain and the curiosity rover on Mars are also in the news. But there is really nothing new under the sun. There is nothing that will hold people’s attention for very long outside of their own immediate comfort and basic needs. Money is the central idea of our civilization and everything else is soon forgotten. But this idea of money as the center of all activity is a death sentence. Human beings die and species eventually become extinct just as worlds and suns also are destroyed or burn out. Each of us is in the position of a circus freak on death row. Bizarre, self centered, doomed; a cosmic joke. Of all the creatures on this planet, we are the freaks the other creatures would come to mock- if they were like us. If they were supposedly intelligent like us. But are we actually the intelligent ones? The argument can be made that we lack a necessary characteristic to be considered truly intelligent life forms.
Truly intelligent creatures would be struggling with three problems if they found themselves in our situation as human beings on Earth in the first decades of this 21st century;
1. Mortality. With technology possible to delay death and eventually reverse the aging process, intelligent beings would be directing the balance of planetary resources towards conquering “natural” death.
2. Threats. With technology not just possible, but available, to defend the earth from extinction level events, the resources not being used to seek an answer to the first problem would necessarily be directed toward this second danger.
3. Progress. With science advancing and accelerating, the future prospects for engineering humans for greater intelligence and eventually building super intelligent machines are clear. Crystal clear. Not addressing these prospects is a clear warning that we are, as individuals, as a species, and as a living planet, headed not toward a bright future, but in the opposite direction toward a dead and final end.
One engineered pathogen will destroy us forever. One impact larger than average will destroy us forever. The reasoning that death is somehow “natural” which drives us to ignore the subject of destruction will destroy us forever. Earth changes are inevitable and taking place now- despite our faith in television and popular culture that everything is fun and games. Man is not the measure of all things. We think tomorrow will come just like yesterday- but it will not.
The Truth about Space Travel is that there are no stargates or warp drives that will take us across the galaxy like commecial airliners or cruise ships take us across oceans. If we do wake up and change our course, space voyages will take centuries and human expansion will be measured in millenia. We will be frozen when we travel to distant stars. And this survivable freezing will mark the beginning of a new age since being able to delay death by freezing will completely transform life. The first such successful procedure will mean the end of the world as we know it- and the beginning of a new civilization.
Though unknown to the public, the atomic bomb and then the hydrogen bomb marked the true beginning of the Space Age. Hydrogen bombs can push cities in space, hollow moons, to some percentage of the speed of light. These cities can travel to other stars, such as Epsilon Eridani with it’s massive asteroid belt. And there more artificial hollow moons can be mass produced to provide new worlds to live in. This is not fiction I am speaking of but something we could do right now- today. We only lack the procedure to freeze and successfully revive a human being. It is, indeed, stranger than fiction.
In Beam Propulsion we have the answer to bending the rocket equation to our will and allowing millions and eventually billions of human beings to migrate into space. Just as Verne and Wells made accurate predictions of the decades to come, we now are seeing the possible obvious future unfolding before our eyes.
But the most possible and probable obvious future at this moment is destruction. The end of days. Unless we do something.
You and I and everyone you know is involved in this. Let’s get started.
What will it take before the public realizes that we are on the endangered species list as long as we have no defense against impacts?
If the “golf ball sized” exploder had been another Tunguska and London was incinerated it might become quite clear that we need to get into space in a big way.
Will it take a major disaster? The unfortunate truth is that a rock or snowball just a little bigger than what might wake the human race up- might also render our species extinct.
This essay was posted last year, removed, and is back with small changes. Enjoy.
I became interested in Beyond Earth Orbit- Human Space Flight by way of a college paper I helped my wife research some years ago. Her project for an ethics class was nuclear weapons. I stumbled upon the book “Project Orion, the true story of the atomic spaceship” by George Dyson and was hooked. I had been a science fiction fan in my youth but like most people I thought space operas were only to be realized in the far future. Project Orion changed my worldview. Since then my made up mind has been unmade several times concerning most of the “common knowledge” floating around about space flight in this 21st century. Much of what is generally believed to be true about our space program is made up of recent hearsay used to hype products that further a business plan. When I read these infomercials endlessly repeated as fact I get pretty upset, mostly because exposing these “facts” as false advertising almost always results in vicious attacks. The private space cult fanatics disgust me and I will not apologize for my hard feelings about these people. They mislead, obfuscate, and insult and dogpile anyone who disagrees with their dogma.
It was a slow step by step process but I came to realize the path to the stars is a narrow one. I found the U.S. space effort, described as being on “the flexible path”, to be going nowhere. There is no Flexible Path. The path to colonizing the solar system is narrow indeed due to the laws of physics and materials science. Science fiction movies have conditioned the public to believe such natural laws can be violated and technology that breaks these laws is possible and immanent. This attitude has led to much waste and many tragedies in the past decades and there is soon to come great disappointment over breakthroughs that are far easier said than done. By way of political contributions and backroom deals, the flexible path scheme came into existence as a way of making money for a small group of investors looking to cash in on public ignorance of technology through influence peddling. It is a convoluted and confusing story and perhaps the best way to make the truth clear is to start at the desired end and work backwards.
If the end goal is new worlds for humankind to inhabit, the earliest practical portrayal of a possible new world was in the 1929 work, “The World, The Flesh, and The Devil”, by socialist John Desmond Bernal. I must say I am no socialist (or capitalist), but I am someone who is often unhappy with people at either end of that spectrum. Space is not about politics- it is about survival. More than just surviving- thriving. Human beings need earth-like conditions to thrive and a artificial hollow moon as described by Bernal can provide those conditions.Though the sphere proposed by Bernal does not address artificial gravity, the hollow sphere concept does, if spun, allow for earth gravity on the inner surface at the equator. Hollow spheres in space can provide habitats for thousands, millions, perhaps even tens of billions of people. Space is big, with quite large quantities of rock floating around and plenty of solar energy waiting to be exploited. And tens of thousands of icy comets. Solar energy and low gravity resources in the asteroid belt mean that building on a much larger scale than we do on earth is practical. While we construct thousand foot supertankers and skyscrapers with some difficulty in earth gravity, the same masses of metal and concrete in space can form a shell many miles in diameter with many times less energy expended.
The most interesting fact of all about Bernal spheres is that building them is not any kind of futuristic science fiction undertaking in terms of materials and engineering. The sphere is the strongest shape and the energy to melt and refine ore and the various rocks and ices are available, and so there are no apparent showstoppers. Fill a Bernal sphere with comet water and air and spin and humankind has created a new world to live in. Enclosed worlds capable of traveling for centuries to other star systems when the time comes. While we have the technology, amazingly, to build such hollow moons right now, we lack only a single medical procedure to allow for star travel- revivable cryopreservation. This one key piece of technology, which also breaks no laws of physics, is all that holds the human race back from colonizing the galaxy. This future is not the hyperspace or warp drive or stargate fantasies the public has in mind. Though slowboats do not lend themselves well to screenplays and formula blockbusters, they are exciting to those who understand what is possible in the near future, in just a matter of decades. But before these new worlds can be manufactured, probably near the end of this century, humankind must first establish an infrastructure in deep space to enable that industry.
To live in space is different than just surviving a visit. Missions based on how much radiation and zero G debilitation a human being can survive are certain to fail. Providing earth radiation levels and gravity is certain to succeed. Radiation is the first killer, and lack of gravity as a debilitator is the second made even worse by the first. To set up an infrastructure that will allow colonies and eventually migration requires spaceships and these radiation and hypogravity hazards cannot be avoided. The only guaranteed shield against the heavy nuclei component of cosmic radiation is mass and distance. The only practical spaceship shielding is 14 or more feet of water. The only way to propel this much mass around the solar system is with nuclear energy. Nuclear activities in earth orbit are not acceptable. Lifting thousands and eventually millions of tons of water into earth orbit are also not plausible. This path of reasoning leads to the moon where nuclear activities are permissible and there is water. The only way to get to the moon is with Heavy Lift Vehicles like the Saturn V and the future SLS. The only way to transport fissionables to the moon safely is with Heavy Lift Vehicles. And this is where the private space agenda rears it’s ugly head. HLV’s and anything needing massive governmental resources, such as nuclear energy, are blasphemy to the private space cult. While their dogma preaches that cheap lift can be had with smaller kerosene rockets with a high launch rate, they go on to enable missions beyond earth orbit by way of fuel depots and transfer in space. For a scientifically ignorant public this all makes sense. But it is the kerosene-hydrogen disconnect that exposes the private space flexible path as a business plan to fool taxpayers into subsidizing a Low Earth Orbit space tourism industry for the ultra-rich.
Liquid hydrogen does not store well and is very difficult to transfer. It is difficult on the ground but in space it has never been done because it is such a nightmare. The entire transfer system and receiving tank have to be pre-cooled with liquid helium and a perfect pre-cool is physically impossible. This generates liquid hydrogen boil-off that must be re-liquified- which generates the exo-thermic form of hydrogen- that generates more boil-off. Compounded by space radiation and zero gravity effects, this is all a real mess that no one wants to talk about. Like radiation shielding, it is a topic avoided by private space advocates to the point of hurling insults. Not only is hydrogen hard to handle on the ground and much harder to deal with in space, an engine burning it requires a turbopump ten times more powerful than one for a kerosene engine. Which is why kerosene is hyped by private space as such a wonderful propellent- because both handling hydrogen and using hydrogen engines is much more expensive and cuts into projected profit margins. So why does the orbital fuel depot and transfer concept specify liquid hydrogen? If kerosene is so much better then why bother with liquid hydrogen in orbital fuel depots? Because there is no substitute for hydrogen Earth Departure Stages when it comes to escaping earth’s gravitational field. Using other propellants multiplies the size of these stages several times. Any human missions Beyond Earth Orbit not using liquid hydrogen Earth Departure Stages look like Battlestar Galactica. Because of the Apollo program and every study done on any BEO missions, private space knows they cannot claim otherwise and get away with it. So private space advocates avoid this subject like the plague. Since it is not practical to store or transfer liquid hydrogen in space a direct launch out of orbit, like the Apollo program, is required. The laws of physics have not changed since the 1960’s. Since the inferior lift vehicles advocated in the flexible path are only capable of boosting a few tons at a time out of orbit, Heavy Lift Vehicles become necessary. Thus, there is no substitute for a HLV with hydrogen upper stages. There is no cheap; space flight is inherently expensive.
The resources necessary to build an infrastructure for BEO-HSF are unavailable to private space. HLV’s sending packaged fissionables to the moon are completely out of reach of “entrepreneurs” claiming the flexible path will open the solar system to colonization. In fact, private space claiming they are the future of space exploration is a lie, a deception being used to acquire taxpayer support for space tourism. Forty years of space stations going in endless circles at very high altitude is a dead end. The space tourism industry wants this truth suppressed and portrays LEO stations as the cutting edge of “exploration.” The justification and source of funding for BEO-HSF is impact defense and survival colonies. The DOD is spending vast treasure on useless cold war toys that guarantee huge profits for the defense industry. Just as the new space movement is all about deception, so the the DOD is guilty of neglecting the most vital mission of the U.S. space program; safeguarding the earth and the human race.
This essay was originally posted last year and is now back with small changes. Enjoy.
The first decade of the 21st century ended with human space flight nowhere near to fulfilling the predictions made at the beginning of the space age. Not even close. Just as the Vietnam war robbed the space exploration budget, the end of the century found vast public funds, a truly mind boggling amount of treasure, spent on the cold war toys that have yielded guaranteed huge profits for the military industrial complex. Many of these incredibly expensive weapon systems do not work as advertised and very few of them have any application in the present war on terror. 911 did not stop the money flowing to new super fighter planes and missiles designed to shoot down other missiles. The promise of space was in truth sacrificed for the profits of the weapons industry. The expected moon bases and colonies on Mars were never funded and no human being has escaped earth orbit since the last Apollo mission. The underfunded space shuttle completely failed to provide the cheap lift and multi-mission capability that was never really possible to achieve. The showpiece International Space Station is little more than a 100 billion dollar collection of tin cans flying in endless circles.
Over a quarter century wasted and the human race seems in large part to have accepted the end of the space age. Despite a collection of old and new inferior lift vehicles incapable of accelerating a spacecraft to escape velocity, there is endless hype concerning the privatization of space and the bright future these for profit enterprises will bring about. The single point of failure in these schemes is the false miracle of fuel depots in space. These orbital gas stations will supposedly enable all the missions that previously could only be accomplished by a Heavy Lift Vehicles like the Saturn V. Cryo fuel storage and transfer is at this time a myth and has never even been attempted due to the extreme difficulties involved. It is simply a smoke screen to disguise defeat. We are not going anywhere if we stay on this path. The only hope for human space flight is the realization that deep space travel may at any time mean the difference between humankind surviving or disappearing forever. If this truth cannot unlock the vast resources required then we are sealing our collective fate. The Spaceship is the only insurance against extinction. Safeguarding the entire human race is the ultimate military mission, yet is completely ignored by our leaders and the defense industry. The inevitable asteroid or comet impact and the threat of a 100 percent lethal plague are with us right now. We as a species are playing a game of Russian roulette. We truly do not know when, but we know what is coming.
Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when it is explained that disastrous impacts only occur an average of once every several million years. The key fact never discussed is impacts are random. An impact could occur tomorrow, and again the next day, and it would just be a blip on a curved line representing the immensity of geologic time. No one would be left to exclaim, “WOW! What were the odds of that happening?” In the same way the threat of engineered pathogens is ignored, overlooked, or scoffed at in the hopes it will just go away. Just as there is little than can be done to stop seasonal flu, there is very little that could be done to stop such an airborne plague once it begins. Naturally evolved pathogens always leave a certain percentage of survivors but an engineered virus does not follow that rule. We are led to believe there is no defense, but we are being decieved and there is nothing further from the truth.
Spaceships can intercept impact threats and deflect them with nuclear devices. Spaceships can carry the people and equipment to construct permanent self-sustaining colonies in the outer solar system that will survive any plague on earth. The vital importance of building such craft is obvious. But Beyond Earth Orbit Human Space Flight (BEO-HSF) cannot be accomplished with a few expendable rockets. While complex weapons systems are easy money for industry because they do not have to work, Spaceships are hard money because they must work. Human beings must adjust their worldview concerning what is expensive and what is worth the expense. To understand the difficulty in building one, we must first define what a Spaceship actually is.
The entertainment and documentary film industry has conditioned the public to think of any craft that carries human beings beyond the atmosphere as a spaceship. A better definition would be a vehicle designed to carry human beings outside low earth orbit (LEO) while providing artificial gravity and radiation protection equal to earth. In addition, a ship makes crossings and changes course so a true ship of space would necessarily be able to travel to other bodies in the solar system. Travel to the moon does not qualify as a true crossing to another body due to the short distance compared to other destinations. Such a quick trip can be made without the gravity and shielding required for interplanetary flight. Another feature of lunar travel is the ability of chemical propulsion systems to accomplish these missions. Due to gravity and radiation solutions, a Spaceship traveling deep space has no propulsion option except nuclear energy. While travel in the inner solar system may use solar power for life support and other systems, nuclear propulsion is still required. Due to the lack of inner system destinations, nuclear power, as well as nuclear propulsion, must be included in defining the true Spaceship.
At this point in history the technology exists for only one form of nuclear propulsion; nuclear pulse (bomb propulsion). This fact is generally unknown to the public and is given little serious consideration in the popular press. Nuclear explosions pushing a ship through space does stretch the imagination, but no more than the idea of heavier than air flight did in the 19th century, even into the first years of the 20th. The difficulty in nuclear propulsion is not the engineering. Billions of dollars of classified weapons research would reveal exactly how to build such a system. It is not how, it is how to build and operate the system well away from the earth. Nuclear materials are an environmental hazard without equal. For this reason transporting and assembling the fuel and components of any nuclear power and propulsion system is the first obstacle. It is overcome by virtue of the previously mentioned body that can be reached with just chemical propulsion; the moon.
As with the Apollo missions of the last century, the moon can be reached on a direct trajectory with a Heavy Lift Vehicle. Such a vehicle, using human rated components, an escape tower, and specially packaged fissionables able to survive a launch failure or reentry, is the only practical method. While a worst case nuclear accident in earth orbit is unacceptable, the potential risk of contamination in lunar orbit is acceptable. Thus, the first problem in building a Spaceship is solved. Nuclear power components and the fuel for nuclear propulsion can be transported by HLV to the moon for assembly and preflight testing. The heaviest parts of the Spaceship are the massive pusher plate the nuclear pulse reacts against and the crew’ s massive radiation shield. The Earth Departure Stages (EDS) that boost the moon bound payloads out of earth orbit to their destinations, can be converted into the double hull of the Spaceship crew section that holds the liquid shielding, and also the structural members of the tower assembly used to absorb the shock of the pulse bomb detonations. The moon facilitates one of the two high mass necessities and can eventually supply the other.The first massive component, the radiation shield, can be supplied immediately in the form of water derived from lunar ice deposits to fill a double hull crew section. Until they are locally fabricated, the Spaceship pusher plates, or “pushers”, will have to come from earth by HLV in thin sections one at a time and stacked to form each ship’s heavy pusher.
The HLV at launch with a wide thin disc mounted at the nose and with side mounted SRB’s will be vaguely familiar to many science fiction fans. There is some resemblance to the starship Enterprise. How many such discs will have to be launched and later stacked to build an all up pusher remains to be seen. Eventually monolithic pushers can be manufactured from lunar materials. Until that time the pushers will have to come from earth in slices with multiple HLV missions. Considering the mass and energy involved, the schemes proposing human space flight by way of smaller cheaper rockets and “gas stations is space” are laughable. There is no cheap; space flight is inherently expensive.
A shock absorbing tower structure mounting a massively shielded crew section coupled to a nuclear reactor and bomb storage section, a massive pusher, and a tether system to generate artificial gravity complete the Spaceship. Using the hundreds of tons of water making up the radiation shield for growing bio-engineered organisms can sustain a closed loop life support system with an endurance of several years. A bomb propelled ship can attain velocities far above those possible with chemical propulsion and enable expeditions to the moons of the outer planets. The slug of matter that is superheated by the bomb and converted into the plasma that actually pushes the Spaceship can be obtained in situ from those distant moons in the outer system. By carrying a percentage of bombs without the mass of plasma slugs, speed and range is extended. This method of extending range was proposed in the original Project Orion. Spaceships can also transport thorium reactors, with fuel derived from lunar thorium ore, to these distant moons enabling permanent colonies to be established. Over 100 bodies in the outer system are large enough to anchor colonies.
During powered flight, when the reactor is shut down and both sections of the ship are joined, a tower structure would be used to decellerate the composite section during bomb pulses. Projecting far ahead of the pusher at the end of the tower, the composit ship section at the front would stroke backward like a descending elevator toward the plate. This system would lower the acceleration forces on the crew and equipment to the level of an aircraft carrier jet catapult launch. When coasting, the Spaceship would spit in half and reel out the engineering section and crew section opposite each other on long tethers to generate artificial gravity by spinning both sections around the pusher as the axis. The spaceship’s nulcear reactor can then be run without the need for very heavy shielding due to the several thousand feet of separation from the crew section. When the tethers are deployed for cruising, one half of the tower would fold against the pusher and reel out the tether with the crew section, and the other half of the tower would do the same in the opposite direction with the nuclear section of the ship. seperater lengths of tether payed out from the split tower can be adjusted to balance the two spinning masses. During coast the crew would look out through viewports separated by14 feet of water and view a slowly rotating star field.
Science fiction has instilled the idea that Spaceships and large scale space exploration is centuries away. In fact, we are perfectly capable of colonizing the solar system with present technology. With a single advance in medical technology- the ability to freeze human beings and then successfully revive them- we would also be immediately capable of travel to the stars. Such a cryopreservation procedure violates no laws of physics and is already used on a smaller scale with sperm and ovum. With this in mind another existential threat to humanity must be appreciated at –the risk of the writer being considered paranoid or delusional. Physicist Stephen Hawking has warned of a possible threat from alien civilizations. Indeed, if we lack only a single technological advance to be capable of star flight, alien civilizations could have already made this advance and embarked on missions of colonization to other stars. The danger is that our world was selected for alien colonization many centuries ago. Unlike the dramatic combat found in science fiction novels and movies, the most likely invasion would take the form of comets steered toward earth as a method of sterilization. Just as we are capable of diverting impact threats away from earth, this capability also entails arranged impacts. An advance alien force would probably sanitize the earth of most indigenious life and plant invasive micro organisms from their native ecosystem. When the alien colonists arrive centuries in the future and are revived, they would find a world already adapted to their biology and ready for introduction of flora, fauna, and settlers. This conversion process may be common in our galaxy. The millions of planets now confirmed to exist only increase the likelihood.
From discussing building the first Spaceships and off-world base on the moon, to the subject of preparing for alien invasion seems a fantastical and inappropriate leap. It is no more incredible than the other unbelievable features of the universe- from super massive black holes to past ages on our own world that saw the end of the dinosaurs.
In a recent comment John Hunt mentioned the most probable solution to the Fermi Paradox and as more and more planets are discovered this solution becomes ever more troubling.
Whether civilizations are rare due to comet and asteroid impacts- as Ed Lu recently stated was a possibility- or they self-destruct due to technology, the greater danger is found in human complacency and greed. We have the ability right now, perhaps as hundreds or even thousands of other civilizations had, to defend ourselves from the external and internal threats to our survival. Somewhat like salmon swimming upstream, it may not be life itself that is rare- it may be intelligent life that survives for any length of time that is almost non-existent.
The answer is in space. The resources necessary to leave Earth and establish off world colonies are available- but there is no cheap. Space travel is inherently expensive. Yet we spend billions on geopolitical power games threatening other human beings with supersonic fighters and robot missile assassins. The technology to defend civilization as a whole from the plausible threat represented by this “Great Silence” will cost us no more than what we spend on expensive projects like vertical take-off stealth fighters and hyper-velocity naval rail guns. But it is not the easy money of weapons; it is the hard money of vehicles and systems that must work far from Earth that is unattractive to the corporate profit motive.
Atomic spaceships capable of transporting colonists and intercepting impact threats are the prerequisites to safeguarding our species.