Re: SPACE: Economic Role for Manned Space Stations

Ross A. Finlayson (
Sun, 18 Jul 1999 00:54:53 -0400

Spike Jones wrote:

> > wrote:Is there a near-term role for manned space stations?...I'd
> > be
> > especially curious to hear the thoughts of younger folks who may well not be
> > infected so strongly with the "space station meme".
> Greg, as sad as it sounds, it may be our generation only that is turned on
> by the space station meme. I have yet to find a person under 25 that is
> all that excited by it. Perhaps the low earth orbitting station is an idea
> whose time is passed. You and I grew up with the same pictures in
> the encyclopedia, the same books no doubt. I recall seeing the first
> moon landing as an 8 yr old, and thinking how wicked cool is this whole
> adventure. But I have seen some of the younger crowd, Eliezer for instance,
> diss the whole thing.
> My view is this: even if we get nanotechnology and tinkerbellize ourselves, sooner
> or later, we will convert this whole planet, then this solar system into
> tinkerbellized
> transhumans and supporting infrastructure. Sooner or later, we *must* go
> out there. This is why I am so interested in SETI@home, just so I can
> estimate what kinds of challenges face us, or future transhumans. spike

Well, I'm no longer part of the 25 and younger crowd, but do think there is lots of enthusiasm for space. One example is, founded and run by students.

As far as space station goes, supposedly microgravity is good for growing pure crystals and whatnot, the tradeoff is pure crystal in expensive microgravity vs. more impure crystals in free 1g.

It's good to have a human presence in space, if only in orbit, as it teaches us how the human physiology reacts to this. Mir probably yielded a wealth of information about this, being that it was the satellite where humans have spent the most time in space, if I am not mistaken.

I am encouraged by Freedom, the joint venture space station. Now it is called "International Space Station."

It was on this list that someone is discussing planetary formations on planets in this solar system besides Earth that appeared manufactured. I know that on some stitched images I have seen of all the planets and moons some have areas that are not seen.

Nanotechnology is coming, it's just an extension of the rapid pace of microminiaturization in general. I say that knowing somewhat the unique properties afforded by molecular scale assembly.

Back to the subject of this thread, maybe the most economic imperative of manned space is to enable the next level of manned space, where when due to Malthusian pressure or hopefully blatant curiousity humanity must expand its sphere to space, and learn to live in hostile or vacuum environments. Humanity does pretty well on the planet, inhabiting arctic deserts to equatorial jungles with a pleasing variety within the species. It seems only natural that within some time, maybe hundreds of years, there will be self-sustaining pockets of humanity on Mars and beyond.

For all there various life-support requirements, more so than any robot, humans are much more flexible in terms of retasking or action in the face of uncertainty. We hope the Space Station is the bed of a large variety of possible projects, and a team of robot arms most likely would not be sufficient. To the extent that they are, there should be an unmanned complement to any manned presence.

Someday, the first human baby will be born off the planet. In the mean time, we have some kind of racial imperative to expand our base of population beyond the planet. The first small steps we have seen over these last forty or fifty years, with man going to the orbit around this Earth, and several times to its satellite, are just that. We have sent our robotic minions to the other planets in our solar system. We have even broadcast a radio beacon into the sky towards stars far away, however wise or not this might be.

We look for others. Since time immemorial when the stars were campfires in the sky of others, to the expanding realism of Galileo and Kepler, to today's Hubble and Arecibo, man has always kept an eye to the sky. We listen to the background radiation, hoping or not to find some other intelligence. According to the Drake Equation, the chance of an ET intelligence is not so small, but then again, we know not how large it is, and can not say definitively whether or not there is.

What we do have is a body of recent literature about humans and humans issues in the future. "Science fiction", it is called, or sometimes "speculative fiction." Anyways, about ETI's, when we find them, we can ask them about quantum mechanics. That is, if at that point the ETI is developed enough to consider us aliens as anything other than magical. It's interesting to consider us as the most advanced race in the galaxy.

About this wave-particle duality of nature and Feynmann diagrams about them, I know little, but am glad that above the molecular level it seems quite deterministic. Beneath that it is being probabilistic cloud.

Space Station? It's good. To look at the federal expenditures of tax dollars, I am thinking there are other things that could be eliminated long before it.

Well, that is my missive at this time. Buongiorno! Pax,