Posted tagged ‘space exploration. exploration ethic’

EXPLORATION’S DNA: The Questing Thread

October 27, 2010

Nowhere in the annals of human history will you find that explorations were one-man acts. Yes, a single individual may ultimately get the major credit, but a total research into the events of an exploration will show a long human chain of both supportive and discouraging actions. People supply that support as well as discouragement and all contribute to the success or the failure of the exploratory event. We should never settle for a history or biography that does not show that thread of human involvement in a given epoch. As the title of this blog article announces, we believe this interaction comprises exploratory DNA.

As we all know, DNA is the thread of all life. It exists in unique form in every type of life in existence here and throughout the universe. Oh yes, there is life out there. Logic, the very orderly happenstance of how life began and developed here, and the fact that it just cannot be exclusive to just one planet in an entire universe establishes that fact. If the preceding were not true, most likely we humans would have never made it. And it is this latter acknowledgement that also applies to exploratory events. Without that unique supportive chain, most likely those historic events would have never transpired. So we perceive an exploration DNA that we term, the “questing thread.”

We are all a part of the questing thread, and it is also a part of us. In several earlier blog articles here, I have referred to the exploration ethic; an inborn drive to explore. It remains with us throughout our lives, but like some aspects of DNA, our lifestyle, our cultural and natural settings can impede some of its benefits; and so it goes with that urge to explore. Some of us respond in different ways to support and benefit from that questing drive. It is vital and a critical part of humankind’s evolution. Regardless, we have a duty to not let this inherent drive be diminished or fully stifled.

A current and classic example of Exploratory DNA is our space exploration program. The history is long, glorious and eloquent. On the surface there are a host of brave heroes as scientists, engineers, astronauts and, last but not least, all of those support personnel. They are the critical DNA elements who enable a gallant few to carry all of us many steps further into the future. They sustain and keep together the questing thread. This is not easy, and the thread is often exposed to attempts to sever it or to starve it out by diminishing political and fiscal support. This is what is happening to this program now. It poses a critical threat to all those elements, especially the support staff who are the ones that keep the entire program alive and healthy. It should be obvious that we cannot let the questing thread be severed or disassembled. Should this come about, then a major influence in human evolution will have been lost.

No, do not think you are not part of that thread. Unless you are running, blindfolded and backwards into a dark, dark past, you are a vital part of it. It is your interest, your personal support, your cheers and well wishes that boost the energy of the questing thread. Do not lose faith, do not turn away; instead reach out and enrich the DNA by pulling newcomers into the thread. Do it today, and do it especially on the first of November when once more the thread comes alive raising all our hopes and putting tremendous power back into our Exploration DNA.

CREDIT:

Image of natives guiding French explorers in Indiana. Courtesy Wikipedia> http://bit.ly/cRXR8o

The cartoon image of DNA is from: http://www.familyhistory101.com/dna.html

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SAILING THE CELESTIAL SEA – A Reprise.

October 9, 2010

This is a reprise of and earlier editorial blog which seems very relevant to today’s times.

Yes, we have celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the science of modern astronomy and the telescope, but we are also celebrating our bold steps across the threshold of the space sciences. We have stopped crawling and are now considering our next real steps into the space environment. We should reflect and rejoice.

As spectacular as our accomplishments have been they are furtive when compared to where we shall be going. Like youngsters taking their first steps, we need to be mindful of that parental warning: “Don’t Rush It.

What’s Ahead? In the “mid-distant” future, manned space exploration will be limited to this solar system.  Now, that is not a bad thing.  Not only are we going to find important answers to how life develops on planets, but we are also going to learn about the entire process of planet and solar system formation.  Yes, man will land on Mars, and probably one or more of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.  We will also explore the asteroid belt and actually develop mining operations on some of them.  None of these activities are overnight events.  We are talking trilllions of dollars and millions of hours for the design and development of efficient and safe space exploration systems. All of this is incredibly healthy for we Earthlings both financially and intellectually.

Going Deep Into Space: Well, what about deep space?  Is the Kepler Mission a waste of time and money? The answer should be obvious, it certainly is not.  Our exploration of deep space is going to not just blossom it is going to explode when we finally find life bearing exoplanetary systems.  There will be that dreamed of and prized “first contact.” It will be entirely and uniquely robotic, and will remain that way for a long, long time. Don’t despair, the kind of contact I am talking about will represent almost unimaginable breakthroughs in robot design. It is time to use the science-fiction concept of cyborgs to understand this process.

A New Improved HAL: With apologies to that legion of science fiction writers, I predict we completely discard those ideas of a “pasted” together man and machine cyborg.  In reality we will develop totally safe and sane “Hal-like” robots that are directly, intimately linked to a specially selected and trained astronaut team. The team are astronauts because they are in space, but not deep space.  They reside in a satellite complex located in, for example, the L1 or L2 orbital points around the Sun. These astronauts are the command, control and communication unit for the robot team in deep space.  This is necessary to escape the communication and control barrier of the Earths atmosphere. It also allows the full usage of an expanded Deep Space Network (the key space communications network).

To listen to what the robot team in the image above are playing, you may click here.

How that program will work is the topic for another My Celestia article.  The image on the left above is simply an example of a real robot team that was developed by Toyota as a demonstration.  Are they playing music?  Yes they are.  Are they playing in a coordinated manner?  Yes they are.  So, in this respect it is a very limited example of the kind of robotics we will develop for our deep space visits.  We can venture this. The robot team will operate on the most advancedneural network artificial intelligence that, like HAL, is very human and beyond in its capabilities and response to the ET environment they are visiting.

The Bottom Line: There is always a bottom line and in this case to bring this multiple space exploration program into reality there needs to be some big, big changes.  First the NASA team needs to become a full-fledged NASA-Industrial Complex.  Don’t let that frighten you.  This coordinated activity is the only way we are going to really get out there properly, safely and soon. For this to happen, NASA needs to get its act together.  Please, they have done marvelous, amazing and courageous things in their history, but now they have stepped into a much bigger role that needs an entirely new program and fiscal management paradigm

The above is not going to be an easy process, and there are many out there who rather shoot NASA down than realize that NASA and its industrial/scientific partners are one of the key elements of both our growth and future stability.  Space is the next (not the last) frontier and we are a nation that has built itself on our exploring past frontiers.  It has worked well, and this time we stand to move humankind far more forward and beneficially than has ever been done before. Most importantly, the new partnership is an international one that is far more comprehensive than the ones NASA has now.  This extends the growth and stability factor around the world.  In short, it spells FUTURE.

Now, who among us wants to deny the future?  Come aboard and let’s go sailing. The universe awaits us.

IMAGE CREDITS:  Robots: Toyota Corporation and REUTERS May 4, 2008

Astrophoto: Waddell Robey/Slooh.com 2008


THE VOYAGE OF GLIESE 1 – Part 2 – Why Bother?

October 4, 2010

The Milky Way Galaxy - Our local universe.

This is the last segment of a blog series on exploring the new exoplanet GL 581g. Here we will discuss some other important considerations and then spend a little time on the overall challenges of deep space exploration. Most importantly we will think more on when, if ever, humankind will take that giant step away from Earth, our solar system, and even our galaxy. For those who ask, why bother, we need to reply seriously and recognize that they may have a valid point.

Our Sun with Milky Way stars up to 20 light years away. Click image to enlarge.

The image above is of our Milky Way and is from An Atlas of The Universe (see Credits for more information). It clearly and graphically emphasizes the immense distances that are involved in any deep space explorations. In fact, our envisioned exploration of GL 581g is actually a pretty short distance by comparison. The image also underscores the possibility, at this point, of a very large number of Earth-like exoplanets to be discovered and explored within just our galaxy. Explorations beyond this seem almost unimaginable, but attainable.

The image above and on the right, also from An Atlas of The Universe, better illustrates where we (our Sun) is in relation to our galaxy. The red dwarf GL 581 and its exoplanets lie just outside the extreme limits of this graphic. They are at 20.3 light years distance from our Sun. They are not shown on this graphic or others in this atlas.  Regardless you can gain an appreciation for the distances involved from Earth.

The above examples of galactic distances supports our plan to continue telescopic investigations of GL 581g before launching a robotic mission to the exoplanet. We envision that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) with all of its special instruments will enable us to more positively confirm the habitability (life support potential) of the exoplanet.

O.K. so what if the JWST finds that GL 581g is not really a good Earth-like candidate for the robotic exploration? Well, like we stated in our first blog article on the Gliese 1’s voyage, the JWST and the spacecraft are flexible in that both are able to detect and explore, respectively, other stars with exoplanets in our galaxy. Additionally, we have yet to even scratch the surface of all the data the Kepler space telescope has provided on stars with potentially habitable exoplanets.

I remember that now, and I can see what you mean, but do we spend the time and money now on all this special space equipment (telescopes and spacecraft)when we may find an ideal candidate closer to home? Our guess is we will eventually find some closer to home, but also know that we believe that it is important to start and continue these deep space explorations now. To simply wait, is like slamming on the brakes in astrophysics and astronomy; even Galileo managed to work around that sorry state. In other words we cannot let that happen for the sake of our very intellectual and human evolution.

There is a strong possibility that life-forms from other planetary systems have explored or are exploring our galaxy and the universe. No, we are not talking about UFOs. What we are saying is that (a) we believe we are not alone, (b) that there are intelligent life-forms out there as intelligent or more so than we are and are just as dedicated to exploration as we are, and (c) some of these life-forms may have detected us in about the same way we have detected GL 581g. All of this would indicate that they may explore our solar system in about the same way we are planning on doing with the GL 581 system.

Well, couldn’t that exploration by them be in the form of UFO’s.? I am not sure I am happy with the idea. All that stuff that is published and talked about on TV makes that sound dangerous and threatening. We think if there has been any visits by ET they have been distant and difficult to detect. As for flashing lights and high-speed, glowing flying-saucers, well that is exciting sci-fi, but if they got that close, we feel they would stop and knock at our doors. We are not ready to accept and agree with Stephen Hawking’s warnings that ET will be aggressive and dangerous.  On the other hand if ET has visited us and has observed our warlike natures he may have scooted on away – permanently.

Some folks have real doubts about the existence of life elsewhere in our galaxy and the universe. They think Earth is unique and a product of spiritual creationism. They sincerely say, why bother? The really wonderful thing about our nation is the ability for any person to believe and espouse anything they want in both philosophy and theology.  The history of humankind is filled with moments where entire cultures and nations have been controlled by those special beliefs.  At the same time, we cannot close our eyes to the science that stands before us, and we must also accept the obligation to explore, discover and explain all that phenomena.  It is our opinion that those efforts produce a new level of reassurance and evolutionary glory that enriches rather than defies any given theology. Who does not, upon looking up into the night sky, become filled both with awe and a sense of oneness will all that surrounds us. For us, that is a warm, reassuring and sustaining experience that also prods us to keep on exploring and explaining.

Wow, that is quite a viewpoint. Do you think some folks are more frightened than offended by all this scientific exploration? Thank you, and that is a good question.  We do not have any idea about the ratio of those offended to those frightened by all that science and exploration uncovers and explains or tries to explain. We can see where this can be disturbing when we cannot come up, immediately, with clear and precise answers. At the same time, that very difficulty increases the demand for us to find clear and precise answers. We call this exploration.

In answer to the question, why bother? First of all it is not a bother, it is, as I hope we explained throughout the Explorology blog,  an imperative. Yes, we are still seeking the answer to how life developed here and expectedly everywhere in the universe, but as we get closer to that answer and as we find the presence of life throughout our galaxy and beyond we are fulfilled and enriched. It is like we are responding to an inborn quest to find answers and in doing it, we literally expand who we are and why we are probably here. That to us is the one and only real answer to why bother.

The prospect of eventually, robotically, visiting GL 581g and its neighboring exoplanets or some other candidate exosolar system is both exciting and demanding. If we should find life in some form on that planetary body then we have moved one giant step forward in understanding the glory, wonderment and promise of life throughout this universe. We, therefore, chose to bother!

CREDITS:

The images from An Atlas of The Universe are the result of very dedicated work by its creator Richard Powell and are made possible here by the permissions included in the Atlas’s Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.  You may click here to visit the Atlas site.

THE GLIESE EXPEDITION – Only Very Young Astronauts Need Apply

September 30, 2010

GL581 (Red Dwarf) - Exoplanets too distant to be seen.

Yes, extra-solar GL581g has been discovered as a definite Earth-like exoplanet. It could very well have an atmosphere and water; important life support ingredients.

Unofficial comments about a future mission to GL581g are already filling social networks. The key questionis will that expedition ever happen? A large chorus quickly shout YES, but a more sullen, conservative audience expresses resistant doubts.  Well, lets join the “can do” crowd and see just what it would take to visit the Red Dwarf and its string of planets; especially GL581g.

First there is the matter of distance. GL581 and its solar system is 20 light years away. That converts to 117,572,507,463,672.14 Miles. This is not just an around the corner distance. Current spacecraft and propulsion systems would not carry humans that distance unless we used sci-fi science and put the explorers in deep freeze for years and years.

Oh, well then lets just forget it. NO! Read on to see what can be done.

What about time-lapse? Considering the distance cited above we need to be able to make the journey at near the speed of light . Assuming we could achieve a propulsion system that could provide a thrust equal to 2/3 the speed of light (199841.653 km/s) which converts to 447,032,987 miles per hour, we could achieve this speed. It would take us 30.2 years to reach GL581.

Oh, well, see lets just forget it! NO! There is still more to consider. Please read on.

Warp Drive or what propulsion system? You can forget sci-fi science warp drive stuff at the moment and instead think about a propulsion system that could supply constant acceleration such as an expansion of the VASIMR propulsion system concept. To help you understand this take some time to understand acceleration, velocity and speed.  Any good physics text on motion should give you all you would need.

O.K, so we could get there in less than 30 + years? Not in the beginning. It is best to plan around that time factor.

Nuclear Power (Fusion) is a must. To reach the desired state of constant acceleration and to sustain it we need an energy source that can support the expedition for longer than twice the one-way flight time (We do plan to come back to report our discoveries). Right now the type of energy source that could be installed and operated in a spacecraft does not exist. There are many critical breakthroughs that must be achieved for this to become a reality. Roskosmos of Russia is working on nuclear power propulsion and NASA did once, and must start again – NOW!

Humph, most folks are scared silly of nuclear power so is that even something we should think about? YES!  We just need to grow up to where we can manage nuclear energy responsibly and safely.  The U.S Navy does it all the time, so….?

The spacecraft design. Unlike the concept of Earthship I, a spaceship under constant acceleration will create its own artificial gravity that will offset the effects of long-term exposure to weightlessness and the associated physiological effects on astronauts. Obviously in addition to the aforementioned propulsion system, the spacecraft must be designed to accommodate a crew over an extended journey. Protection from cosmic effects (radiation, meteor strikes, supernovae events, and black holes are serious hazards). Entirely new design criteria must evolve and should be aided by the spacecraft designs we have made and will develop for exploration of our own solar system.

Well seems to me we should consider the first voyage based on a totally robotic crew. This could enable us to do out first exploration more safely and at less cost. YES, that is correct and is in the plan.

Good, now who is going to foot the bill for all of this? The U.S. Congress? NO, not entirely. The only way this is going to come about is through an international effort that is represented by a formal international space organization that shares in all aspects of the expedition.  To see what we mean review again the details in Part III of the Earthship I blog article.

Mission 1 of the Gliese Expedition will be a robotic mission that will allow us to assess many factors involved with a very long-term, deep space exploration. This will be a less expensive first start and will also give us time to fully organize the development of the International Space Organization. Unless we can assure this new spacefaring unity and comradeship, our success in deep space exploration will be extremely limited.

O.K., so what is next? Well we have a lot more to present and to discuss with you so we are going to do at least one follow on blog article that will present our ideas about that first, robotic , voyage to GL581. We urge you to plan a return visit (in a view days) for our presentation of The Voyage of GLIESE 1.

CREDITS:

Astrophotograph of GL581 – Red Dwarf. Courtesy of Waddell Robey and Slooh.com. (See copyright notice on the image, please).

 

 

YOU, ME AND CASSINI: Vicarious Exploring

September 25, 2010

Saturn! Lovely Saturn! My favorite of all the planets in our solar system; after Earth, of course. How wonderful it would be if we could explore Saturn the way the spacecraft Cassini is doing it. Well, who says we can’t? In fact, we are; some of us just don’t know it.

All we need to do is step aboard the Internet and link up with the many official sources that share with us all of Cassini’s exploratory ventures. No space suits required, and if we become weightless it can only be due to something unusual about our seating arrangements or our refreshments at home or the nearest Internet Cafe’.

Getting to know you: Like any serious explorer, we must become as knowledgeable as possible about both our destination and the spacecraft we will be depending upon to get us there. For Saturn, a Google search on her name will produce a bountiful list of information sites. My favorite and the most informative, in my opinion, is here at “nineplanets.org”. It gives you all the vital information about Saturn, including a glorious image of Saturn taken by none other than Cassini. This site also includes a listing of other sites that provide more commentary and information about this beauty.

An equally important requirement is that we need to know everything we can about the spacecraft we will be depending upon for our explorations. In this case Cassini started as Cassini-Huygens, and we need to fully understand why the double name and its significance. Both NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) have websites devoted to Cassini, but I prefer ESA’s site because of the very informative background information it provides. I suggest you select the link for the ESA site to learn the details about our exploratory spacecrafts. Notice I am now using the plural for spacecraft because Cassini started out as Cassini-Huygens and you need to go to the link to fully understand why.

An explorer’s diary today is a set of very important and highly technical data that is vital to our getting to really know Saturn and her many moons. In the days of early explorers this data was often in the form of a daily log or diary in which observations and experiences were recorded and described. We can share in all of this by simply using Google to track Cassini and survey the list of links Google provides. We can also receive regular diary updates by joining Twitter and by following @CassiniSaturn. Using these resources we will soon be a fully involved member of the exploration team.  Yeah, I know we are here at home, but so is everybody else except that wonderful spacecraft and its roving camera eyes. For now this is a good as it gets. Well, there is one exception; telescopes.

Do it yourself exploring is a possibility by becoming an amateur or professional astronomer. In both cases you will be using a variety of telescopic devices to study not just Saturn but the universe.  This is fine and is encouraged, but it will be different than what we can learn by following the data trail of exploratory spacecraft such as Cassini.  For the amateur who has limited telescopic access, following Cassini and the many other research spacecraft out there puts us right up there with the explorers. What they find is shared with us. The thrill of discovery is a bit secondhand, but it is still immense.  This latter experience can also be ours with regular access to some high quality telescopes. For the do it yourself explorer here are three good links to excellent telescope sites that will give you first hand contact with the celestial sea. (1)GRAS, (2)LightBuckets, and (2)Slooh. Costs vary and rules for access and processing also vary. Now there are other similar sites and Google will give you a listing, but I have experience with both GRAS and Slooh and found them excellent resources.

Summary: Well, I do both, using telescopes and riding along with Cassini. Because of Cassini’s immediate proximity to Saturn and her moons, I find the real thrill comes from riding along with her. A clear example is Cassini’s most recent venture into Saturn’s auroral environment as seen in this link.  For me, and for now, nothing helps me explore Saturn better and more intimately than Cassini.  Why don’t you come aboard? I promise you will never forget a moment of your time spent with Cassini and Saturn.

CREDITS:

Image of Saturn and Cassini spacecraft – artists rendering courtesy of NASA/ESA/JPL

ISO: In Search Of A Schroedinger’s Cat

September 8, 2010

That segment of the Hippocratic Oath that calls for doctors “to do no harm” should not be relegated only to that profession.  It most certainly should apply to explorers.  Connected to this extended ethic is the scientific conundrum associated with Schroedinger’s Cat. Is the cat there, and is it alive or dead? In determining the answer we may very well impose circumstances that kill the cat or was the cat already dead? You may select the link above for more specifics on the cat and Herr Schroedinger. Our intent, here, is to make the point that in our explorations we should always strive to not kill the cat.

This ethic should apply to all levels of exploration; personal, scientific, and commercial. We are slightly more mindful of this imprimatur than in the past, but we are far from being perfect in our exploratory behaviors. To stress our point we will select three broad exploration areas and discuss the ethic within their respective contexts. The three areas are: Space Exploration, The Search for Life, The Search for Valuable Resources.

Space Exploration: We are doing pretty well here. We do not launch into space or to other planetary bodies without making sure that our spacecraft and our astronauts do not carry with them anything Earthly that may be harmful to our space neighbors or the broad environment of space.  Similarly, we also are careful to not bring back to Earth any foreign element that may be harmful to our environment.  Most importantly as we begin to extend our explorations from A (asteroids) to Z (some yet discovered Earth-like and habitable planetary body), we need to intensify these precautions.

Most importantly we must take extra precautions to not be overcome with the false hubris of the indomitable human. Past explorers have often suffered from this syndrome with resulting dangerous and often fatal encounters with foreign environments and life-forms. Does this mean we must be timid, overly cautious souls? Absolutely not, but it does insist that we proceed with caution and respect for the new domains we are investigating. This historically, has definitely NOT been a glowing reputation of our human predecessors. We must set a new and lasting example.

The Search for Life: What a glorious and exciting undertaking. Right now, with exception of some sampling from Mars and the Moon, we are exploring this planet for the answers to how life began. Scientists of many disciplines are involved in these explorations and generally they are most careful to not kill the cat By this we mean that we seek to study without disrupting or harming the source of our research or its environment. This is a practice that we must make certain follows us when we finally land humans, again, on the surface of a member of our solar system.

Are we perfect in the above precautions? Unfortunately we are not, and there will be instances where we repeat those accidents. We should learn from each incident and use it to guide us away from repeating these insults upon the foundations of life. Since we do not yet have all the answers and the key one of how life really started, we need to increase our cautiousness so that we do not obscure or alter those key pointers to life’s beginnings.

The Search for Valuable Resources: To live, to prosper and to continue to evolve we must attend to our well-being. This effort has evolved into a large and widely variable we generalize as commerce. This is very good and very bad. The good, all of us know about and appreciate. We also are very familiar with the bad, but often allow our attachment to the good to cause us to ignore the bad. We have certainly experienced a significant example of this in the late Summer and early Fall of this year (2010).  Most importantly we have clearly seen the impact of bad commerce on the well-being of ALL life-forms on this planet; from microbes to humans.

Commerce will actively and expansively enter space. This is good, and will be of benefit to all of us. What is not good is if that expansion continues to produce those bad outcomes. In order to prevent them we need to start here on Earth developing more effective ways to ensure that we eliminate those bad results.

No, we do not stop commerce, for that would stop us, but we can definitely create effective and HONEST systems that ensure that commerce does no harm, and does not kill the cat! This will cost each of us a bit more from our pockets, but it will buy us safety and peace of mind by making sure we fund commerce in such a way that it cannot be bad.

Most likely the money will be in the form of taxes, and the incentive to commerce will be a choice of investment help or serious fines and financial loss.  The latter hurts not only commerce, but it hurts us because we depend upon it to employ us and provide us with services and products that we need and want. There is absolutely no excuse for allowing commerce to kill the cat and thereby do harm to us. In space exploration this is critical, and we need to start now to develop systems that insure and support this policy and behavior.

So this exploration ethic must be expanded and sustained. In this regard, we close with a quote from Planetary Scientist, Dr. Sara Seager’s book, Is There Life Out There?

“When and if we find that other Earths are common and see that some of them have signs of life, we will, at last, complete the Copernican Revolution – a final conceptual move of the Earth, and humanity, away from the center of the Universe.  It will be a humbling, transformational experience.”

CREDITS:

We are pretty certain that the cat in the image is not Herr Schroedinger’s, but this is obviously a cat who is unhappy in his environment. This is a human environment not his.  This striking image is courtesy of Found at this site: http://bit.ly/b9qRk6

NO FAIL EXPLORATIONS

September 4, 2010

In general, throughout humankind’s history the only explorations that have drawn and kept our attention are those that are great successes. Certainly, there have been many of them, and each has moved humankind forward in our evolution. Some of the failed expeditions did grab our attention because we came to closely identify with the explorers. This is certainly the case in all of NASA’s many expeditions, of which, thankfully, there have only been  limited failures.

Most exploration programs and the people who are involved are bold and very courageous. This basic ethic should not change. Now that we are nearing the challenges and opportunities to explore more of our solar system, missions that involve astronauts need to concentrate on factors that enhance success of each mission. That is right, “we emphasize the positive”..[to]..” eliminate the negative.”

Part of the emphasis process is to design missions that allow the exploration team to assess their new environments and to progress in an orderly, highly scientific manner. Let’s take everyone’s favorite expedition; putting humans on Mars. Well we will do that, but to do it successfully and with a high degree of new discoveries we should consider a step by step approach. No, these would not be baby steps. Each sub-mission, if you wish, would be directly related to the key mission of landing astronauts on Mars.

In two related blogs, we present ideas and viewpoints that directly deal with both spacecraft and astronaut well-being such as the effects of weightlessness.  The concept of a “built-in-LEO” spacecraft/space-station we have proven with the ISS, and to expand upon that would be one of those sub-mission steps. This would be particularly true if the new spacecraft/space-station was a blend of the ISS and the super shuttle we previously discussed in the “spacecraft” link above.

Another and related sub-mission step would be the inclusion in the spacecraft design provisions of an antigravity module that would address the need to protect the crew from exposure to long duration weightlessness. This same design challenge should and would be expected to address the issue of strong cosmic radiation on both crew and equipment.

Considering just the sub-missions above, we can easily envision the creation of a true spaceship that, in essence, becomes an exploration vessel in the same tradition as its centuries earlier seagoing exploration vessels. In this concept, the combo super-shuttle and spaceship design becomes our operations base whether the target is Mars, the Moon, or one of the other planetary bodies.  This concept was presented earlier is a related blog series (Parts 1-5) OF ASTEROIDS AND ASTROBOTS.

We accomplish in these primary sub-mission the creation of both the concept of a spaceship exploration vessel and the development of an exploration strategy that uses our super-shuttle space-station as the base of all our exploratory operations.  No longer does each mission have to be launched, expensively, from Earth. Only crews and supplies are launched in regular scheduled supply missions by commercial space contractors. Additionally, our exploratory vessel becomes a temporary space-station that orbits a target planetary body during a long-term and extensive robotic and human study of the planet. Mission durations will be extensive because crews will spend more time within the spaceship than on the planetary body thus reducing exposure to hazardous conditions.

Spacecraft Docking At Space-station

Successive sub-mission steps are performed, as required, to set up the temporary, orbiting space-station base at a selected solar system site. Additionally, excursions by both robots and astronauts onto the planetary body include more sub-mission steps. Importantly no efforts are made to establish a permanent base on a planet until the first full-length exploration mission has been completed and data and research results fully evaluated. One expected exception will be the creation of a permanent International Lunar Research Park as envisioned by The Moon Society.

So, is this concept really an assurance of a no-fail exploration policy? What it does is represent a planned best effort to emphasize the positive and to reduce the known impact of hazardous conditions. The aim is safe, extended exploratory missions that are highly productive. In all cases, failures can occur, but the concept is to anticipate them and to significantly reduce their impact when they do happen.  This is not a new concept. This very anticipatory operations plan dates all the way back to history’s earliest exploration missions. We, today, are just modernizing that policy and making it more effective and productive.  We want all of our exploration projects to be beneficial to and remembered by all humankind.

CREDITS:

Jupiter and two moons:  Astrophotograph by the author.

Image of spacecraft docking with space-station. Courtesy cohga.net, Flickr, http://bit.ly/ck9S63