Re: SPACE: Beyond Apollo

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sat Apr 01 2000 - 11:40:22 MST

On Saturday, April 01, 2000 6:31 AM Greg Burch wrote:
> writes:
> > This is always true of visionary proposals, whether by science fiction
> > writers or people named Seward. What characterizes the late twentieth
> > early twenty-first century is a remarkable falling back from the dreams
> > the Apollo decades (post World War 2).
> As I've said before here, I am an irredeemable child of Apollo: Apparently
> amount of reasoning can convince me that the effort wasn't worthwhile and
> literally never tire of the story being retold. But, as David Harland has
> pointed out in his excellent recent book on the field geology accomplished
> the Apollo missions, "Exploring the Moon", "In retrospect, it is clear
> Apollo was an element of twenty-first century exploration which was
> drawn forward 50 years and, incredibly, implemented with early-1960s
> electronics technology." (332-33)

Yes. It should be remembered that most space technology is three to five
years behind the leading edge -- most because of testing. (Correct if I'm
wrong here.) Even the Apollo missions were not using the latest and
greatest. Ditto for Galileo, Pathfinder, the Mars Observer, etc.

My point is, space utilization does NOT require really sophisticated
technology. Surely, it can benefit from that, but the Apollo program put
many men on the Moon and brought them back safely to Earth long before Apple
rolled out its first PC.

> He makes this comment in reviewing the
> general plan for building space infrastructure that was almost universally
> envisioned in the mid-20th century, before Apollo, i.e. first the
> establishment of reusable, inexpensive access to space, then an orbital
> station and only then going on to explore and develop Luna and the rest of
> the solar system. I don't think that the people who originally conceived
> that plan, Oberth, Von Braun, Ley, Clarke and others, are or would be
> surprised, therefore, that the supreme effort required to achieve the
> goals was followed by a period of retreat. In the historical context of
> post-Vietnam politics and economics and the slow, steady erosion of Soviet
> power during the 70s and 80s, it seems all the more inevitable. Thus,
> it is not the "falling back from the dreams of the Apollo decades" that is
> remarkable, it was Apollo itself that was remarkable.

I don't think Greg should be apologetic at all for sharing that dream. I'm
a generation younger than him, yet I think it's still a good idea. Granted,
I'm not for government space programs at all, but private ones, YES!

Also, I don't think the whole space age dream failed -- if it even failed;
wake up! there are both public and private space programs!:) -- because of
anything inherent in technoprogress. Rather, the culture changed. After
Apollo, sadly, people on the whole, from my readings (I'm too young to know
firsthand, but perhaps some of the people who were adults back in the 1970s
could fill me in -- and correct me if I'm wrong), became more critical of
visionary technological programs.

Granted, most are hypocritical in their technophobia. A coworker of mine
recently gave me the typical line about humanity moving too fast toward the
future. He drives a brand new Toyota Supra with a spoiler and has a great
stereo system onboard. (Not to mention, he works in and loves IT.) But
this hypocrisy is not a good foundation to build dreams on. It is great for
nightmares, though.

Fortunately, though, the basic cultural optimism still flows forth. A lot
of people in my generation (X) and younger are interested in technology and
the space industry. So there, Greg Bear!:)

> > A lot of people--many of them friends--are working hard to lower costs
> > orbit. NEO is already a proven money maker for some. But as Joe Carroll
> > pointed out, we haven't done the complete closed loop habitat
> > necessary to convince anybody that we can survive for a couple of years
> > space without help from Earth. This is the biological equivalent of
> > lose from suppliers of venture capital; breaking even, paying off
debts, or
> > making a profit!
> I agree, and the "GNR technologies" (to borrow Bill Joy's term) are the
> to solving this problem, as well as the CAtS (Cheap Access to Space)
> Just as a number of technological innovations and a base level of
> prosperity in Europe made exploration and settlement of the New World
> possible (the square-rigged sale and the compass on the technological side
> and the post-Black Death, Renaissance crop rotation and urbanization on
> economic side), so genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics will
> create the background and tool-set for really exploiting the resources of
> solar system. The truth is that 20th century technology just wasn't up to
> the job. Mid-21st century technology will be.

Though I agree GNR will help make CAtS better, if we just took that old
Saturn V design, which, if I'm right, is now unpatented, we could be making
disposable launch vehicles that could put huge cargoes in orbit NOW! We'd
be using a proven technology.

I also don't agree with the self-sustained model Greg Bear and others buy
into. The fist European colonies in the New World were not self-sustaining.
People in Antarctica live for long periods without be totally
self-sufficient. Etc. Surely, living in space is more extreme than these,
but if you can get oxygen from Moon rocks or asteroids, there's no need for
a perfectly closed ecosystem.

The model we should be focusing on is open systems and looking for ways to
get resources to pump into them cheaply. This way, we don't need to do all
kinds of fancy development, testing, and extensive monitoring after
deployment. I'd rather have spare air tanks than rely on an intricate
ecosystem to keep me breathing. (Surely, one could have both, but I think
all of you get my point.:)

My two cents!

Daniel Ust

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