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> Fancy A Trip To Space?, and I don't mean the welsh puppykicker.
Ashbless
post Oct 4 2004, 07:45 PM
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QUOTE
SpaceShipOne wins X Prize for trip into space
The U.S.-built SpaceShipOne has beaten two Canadian teams to win the coveted $10 million US Ansari X Prize, after a successful second blast into space.   



So, affordable space travel in our lifetime. What are people's thoughts?


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Pab
post Oct 4 2004, 10:13 PM
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I think I want links



I read a book that said NASA had spent $800,000 develloping a ballpoint pen that would write in 0 gravity when a pencil would work just as well. I know its nit-pickable, but it does illustrate a point.


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Polocrunch
post Oct 4 2004, 10:21 PM
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QUOTE (Pab @ Oct 4 2004, 10:13 PM)
I read a book that said NASA had spent $800,000 develloping a ballpoint pen that would write in 0 gravity when a pencil would work just as well. I know its nit-pickable, but it does illustrate a point.
*


Yeah, I heard that one too. I think the pen could write on absolutely _anything_ though - any surface, and in a huge range of temperatures and conditions, and it didn't need sharpening (sharpenings are pretty dangerous in Space). So it wasn't such a waste of money, but $800,000 is probably excessive. I just hope that the technology developed can be applied elsewhere.
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Wetflame
post Oct 5 2004, 12:12 AM
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Wait a second... you can use a pen upside down, so why can't you use it in zero g?
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Ashbless
post Oct 5 2004, 12:14 AM
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Linky goodness:

http://news.google.ca/news?q=SpaceShipOne&...tab=nn&oi=newsr

http://www.xprize.org


As for the pen it's possible. The reason things would need extra design is no gravity.


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EvilSpork
post Oct 5 2004, 12:41 AM
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The pen?

http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/004840.html

No.

Yes, it was invented, but you can still use a normal pen..
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sjbbandgeek
post Oct 5 2004, 03:15 AM
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I heard the winning team was funded by a co founder of microsoft.
10 mil isn't very much when it comes to space travel.
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Jonman
post Oct 5 2004, 12:13 PM
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QUOTE (sjbbandgeek @ Oct 5 2004, 04:15 AM)
I heard the winning team was funded by a co founder of microsoft.
10 mil isn't very much when it comes to space travel.
*


Yeah, Paul Allen. He's known in his home town of Seattle for spending buttloads of money on bizarre projects, often for the public good. The Seattle Experience Music Project is a bonkers building...see picture links below. He's a bit of a celebrity in Seattle.

Pic 1

Pic 2


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Ashbless
post Oct 7 2004, 08:25 PM
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I think it was attempted for the glory of it.

However, the point was that it may bring space travel closer to being possible for the average person. Do you think that it's possible or even something people may want?


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FishFace
post Oct 7 2004, 08:51 PM
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The English team was StarChaser - we all think it's pretty mean that it's a private venture, but that Scaled Composites got Microsoftie funding. While we had to scrabble for cash!
(They bought the prize, effectively)

Oh, well - there's presumably plently of room for different companies in the business, so hopefully StarChaser will still be able to have a go. Plus the opportunity of more competitions similar to the X Prize.


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Pab
post Oct 7 2004, 09:57 PM
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My only problem with space travel is that we just ain't gonna be able to go anywhere that's any use ... I mean ... let us not fool ourselves that the time will come when we all move to another planet, cos it aint gonna happen ... and I have yet to hear of propulsion that can even 'one day' get us anywhere in any practical time-scale. I didn't used to think like this, but I do now. :·(


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CommieBastard
post Oct 7 2004, 10:06 PM
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QUOTE (Pab @ Oct 7 2004, 10:57 PM)
My only problem with space travel is that we just ain't gonna be able to go anywhere that's any use ... I mean ... let us not fool ourselves that the time will come when we all move to another planet, cos it aint gonna happen ... and I have yet to hear of propulsion that can even 'one day' get us anywhere in any practical time-scale. I didn't used to think like this, but I do now. :·(
*


You remind me of the man who said, in the 1930's I believe, that there was nothing left to be invented...


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Pab
post Oct 7 2004, 10:39 PM
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I know what you mean, and I hope i get quoted ... but mate ... there are some interestingly difficult barriers to break .. things with the word 'quantum' and stuff ...

JONMAN : speak to us


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Ashbless
post Oct 8 2004, 04:25 AM
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The fact that it takes months/years to get to anything in the solar system perhaps? Never mind outside our little system.
The bits we can get to have troubles like a lack of proper gravity, air, water and food. These little lacks do make 'em a trifle unattractive as vacation spots but hey why not try to go anyway?


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Jonman
post Oct 8 2004, 06:30 AM
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QUOTE (Pab @ Oct 7 2004, 11:39 PM)
I know what you mean, and I hope i get quoted ... but mate ... there are some interestingly difficult barriers to break .. things with the word 'quantum' and stuff ...

JONMAN : speak to us
*


Alright then.

I'm answering because Pab begged me to. Apparently, he thinks I'm Richard Branson combined with the bastard lovechild of Steven Hawking and Buzz Aldrin. Which, of course, I am, but keep it to yourselves. I also work with very mundane propulsion systems, and read too much sci-fi, which qualifies me to sound like I know what I'm talking about, without really having a clue.

So, first issue. Conventional linear travel (i.e. no space-time bendy nonsense) has some limitations. Let's assume that we had a space vessel which could take 10 passengers around in space (not an implausible idea). Let's imagine a propulsion system that's efficient, safe and reliable. Solar sails are a spacetravel buzzword at the moment - they're a big surface which essentially uses the force of photons (tiny wee chunks of light even smaller than M&Ms) hitting it to push the craft along, much like a sail (hence the name). While on the one hand, it's 'free' propulsion, i.e. requires no fuel, it's bloody slow to accelerate. So for the purposes of sending humans anywhere within their own lifetime, useless.

So, what about something a bit more 'active'? Ion drives, which work on the same theory as a rocket, but waaaay more efficiently, may be possible. However, we run into the fundamental problem here. Acceleration. The closest star to Sol is Proxima Centauri, which is 39,900,000,000,000 km away. A suitable acceleration for an interstellar craft over a long period would be around 1g (~9.8 m/s/s , for argument's sake, let's call it 10m/s/s). This would also conveniently provide an Earth-like gravity for our travellers. However, this acceleration could only be sustained for half the distance, as you're going to need to turn around and start decelerating at the same rate so you're not doing an appreciable fraction of the speed of light by the time you arrive at your destination.

The problem lies in the fact that it's going to take you a very very very long time to get to your destination. We're talking decades, if not longer (can't be bothered to do the math and figure out an actual number). One factor to consider is the relativistic effects though - as the vessel reaches speeds close to the speed of light, thanks to very complex physics that I really don't have a clue about (blame Einstein), time aboard the vessel will actually slow down, so the crew will experience less time. So, subjectively, the journey would be appreciably shortened for them, maybe down to the order of 20 years (picking a number out of the air). And then the same amount for the journey home. It's pretty mental.
Still, there's an enormous amount of logistical problems. Fuel for the propulsion system, provisions for the crew, life support, reliability of hardware (and software for that matter) over a long period of time, exposure to cosmic radiation out in between the stars - there's an awful lot of limiting factors.

Suggested reading on this topic - Titan, by Stephen Baxter, and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell - both deal with innovative solutions to these problems in the context of a sci-fi story. Both deal as well with a further and perhaps more fundamental problem - the psychological impact of such a journey. Going all that way would be no good if by the time you got there, all the travellers are raving loons.

The more feasible solution lies in the more exotic realms of physics. Now we're talking about bending spacetime and wormholes and all that hoo-haa. If I remember it right, spacetime is a stretchy rubber piece of 4 dimensional paper. No, honestly, it is. Planets and anything with mass is a ballbearing you drop onto the paper, which distort the surface of spacetime. It's theoretically concievable that you could somehow influence spacetime to bend sufficiently so that your piece of paper 'folds', so that two areas of the paper that used to be distant (think oppposite edges) are now touching. You jump from one to the other, then release spacetime back to it's original state. Bad-a-bing, it's a form of teleport, or hyperspace or whatever nonsense word you want to use to describe it. The mechanism by which you'd need to do this might involve momentarily creating a black hole (which is a stupidly massive thing in a stupidly small space - the stupidly high mass-density causes the rubberness of spacetime to distort a stupidly massive amount, and.... 'beam-me-up'), which has problems of its own. Like destroying everything within a thousand miles of it. The kind of technology to reliably and sustainably achieve this isn't even a twinkling in the imagination of Mr Branson himself yet. But maybe one day.

So, having poo-poo'd the whole idea, the light at the end of the tunnel lies in the incredible rate of progression of scientific knowledge, and technological know-how. Sure, it's mindbogglingly impossible to attempt such an undertaking now, but look back a hundred years - as the chapter of Victorian society closed, less than 10 years after Marconi thought it would be a good idea to invent radio, who really though that in 68 years, a man would be falling over on the moon and talking through the same intagible medium to a bunch of men back on the ground?


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mooooooooooopo
post Oct 8 2004, 11:44 AM
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It's semi-OT, but am I the only one worried by the fact the rubber sheet analogy for gravity and space time and suchlike requires some kinda meta-gravity to pull the ball bearings down to cause the depressions in the rubber sheet and to cause the ball bearings to roll into them...blink.gif


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FishFace
post Oct 8 2004, 02:42 PM
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The problem is that the ball on sheet idea is for two spacial dimensions, with the vertical (stretch of the rubber) being time. In reality, there're three spacial dimensions, but it's hard to imagine how this + the fourth (time) warps, because we're built to visualise three dimensions.


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El Nino
post Oct 8 2004, 05:14 PM
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Well I say that if the moon landings were faked then this is just a ploy by NASA to get some more interest and money out of people but if it's true I'd like to go if it actually happens in my life time purely for the experience.


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artist.unknown
post Oct 8 2004, 10:56 PM
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QUOTE
Yeah, I heard that one too. I think the pen could write on absolutely _anything_ though - any surface, and in a huge range of temperatures and conditions, and it didn't need sharpening (sharpenings are pretty dangerous in Space). So it wasn't such a waste of money, but $800,000 is probably excessive. I just hope that the technology developed can be applied elsewhere.

The glossy folding insert here says that it uses pressure, not gravity. I bought one of those pens at Kennedy. And you know what? It's crap. -.-;;


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Spacehappy
post Oct 10 2004, 08:48 PM
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We are in a way one step closer to faster space travel like Jonman said "ion engines"

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994412

And i always thought that sub orbital flights were faster and and more fuel efficient than standard air flights?. So these home made ships could possibly make it cheaper and faster to get where we are going.
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jexx
post Oct 11 2004, 01:48 PM
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i wanna go to space lol
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