Re: SPACE: How hard IS it to get off Earth?

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 17 Nov 1999 16:14:53 -0800

Billy Brown writes:
> Eric Watt Forste wrote:
> > Again, if it's going to be functioning in space, with a closed
> > boundary, with living organisms in it, then it *is* a complete
> > ecosystem. The question is not whether or not you need a
> > complete ecosystem, the question is whether the ecosystem you
> > construct will flourish or die.

> No, the question is whether you need to imitate a natural biosystem, or
> whether some functions can be performed by mechanical systems. Your
> arguments notwithstanding, all experience to date suggests that the answer
> is a definite yes.

I'm not talking about imitating a natural biosystem. I'm talking about constructing a closed ecosystem, which is the phrase that we use to describe the kind of systems you are advocating also. My argument has been that there have been only a few closure experiments done so far, and therefore that "all experience to date" is simply too little information to warrant the kind of assertions you are making.

> > The system you describe, a closed system with just a few
> > species, has actually been attempted in early closure
> > experiments. It proved, empirically, unstable. So I don't know
> > why you feel that we already know how to do this when past
> > attempts to do so have failed.

> Exactly who has performed such an experiment, when, and under what
> circumstances? AFAIK nothing of the sort has ever been attempted, because
> no one has ever needed to do it.

Oh, so you're *admitting* that you have no evidence, and that you haven't even studied the empirical results of the various closures that preceded Biosphere 2 (all of which were much less ambitious and closer to your desired criteria). In that case, we are in complete agreement. You're indulging in wishful thinking, and it was misunderstanding on my part to think that you were claiming that the technology already exists and has been tested.

In the meantime, you might want to look into the Yevgeny Shepelev closure of 1961 (try, and you might even find out about other early closure experiments that I haven't come across yet). The history of these experiments is pitifully short and our current ignorance of closed systems (such as our lives will depend on utterly if we are to leave this planet permanently in our current form) is woeful.

I'm arguing that we need more research. If you're arguing that we don't, then please point me to where I can find the empirical results that support your arguments. In this crucial field, the basic scientific research has barely even begun.