IAC 2016 - Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species


Caine

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Currently the International Astronautical Congress (iac2016) is being held in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The event is being livestreamed. Of special interest, at least to me, is the SpaceX talk to be held tomorrow about the technical challenges in creating a Mars colony. This particular talk can be viewed live on http://www.spacex.com/mars in approx. 26 hours from now (6:30-7:30PM UTC).

SpaceX said:
SpaceX Founder, CEO, and Lead Designer Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for sustaining humans on the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.
More information can be found on the SpaceX reddit thread about the event.
 

Klumpen

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We have to get a colony in another solar system sooner or later, Mars won't suffice.

Is anybody reminded of Babylon 5, where the Mars colony at some point has the same problems as USA had back then in the independence wars? ^^
 
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kuru

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Pff, Mars. I'd rather see the Moon figured out already. Explore that dark side. Also drill down and show us what it's made of.

As for posting loosely-related logos, here's one from a Sci-Fi novel series I adore

opa.jpg


Shields and lasers are bollocks. Have some armor and gauss rounds instead!

Edit: BTW, go and read Blindsight. Mr. Watts has it all figured out. We just need space zombies and vampires, that's where it's at.
 
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ekianjo

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We have to get a colony in another solar system sooner or later, Mars won't suffice.

Is anybody reminded of Babylon 5, where the Mars colony at some point has the same problems as USA had back then in the independence wars? ^^
Other solar systems ? Very unlikely until we figure out how to even go that far, and worse is that there is close to no info about other solar systems until you get there. The incentives are not great.
 

Klumpen

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Other solar systems ? Very unlikely until we figure out how to even go that far, and worse is that there is close to no info about other solar systems until you get there. The incentives are not great.
Yep, I wouldn't bet anything on it either.
Humanity will most likely vanish before it's able to do that.
 
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sulu

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Of special interest, at least to me, is the SpaceX talk to be held tomorrow about the technical challenges in creating a Mars colony.
I think the main problem is still, that we haven't understood how to manage a self-sustaining biosphere. The "Biosphere 2" project [1] has failed on two occasions and I think we'd need something similar working on Mars.

But quite frankly, I think Mars is the wrong target if the goal is to colonize another planet. It might be a good playground some day (let's say in a hundred years if our civilization lives that long), but it's inability to sustain a stable atmosphere makes terraforming a quite pointless endeavor. And I think some sort of earth-like environment should be the goal, at least long-term.
In our own solar system, I think the Jupiter moon Europa is much more interesting. Jupiter's gravitational forces should provide quite some heat and it is believed that Europa has a giant ocean underneath its ice shield. So the basics for sustaining (marine) life should be there, maybe even life itself. All we need to figure out is how to live under water (anyone remember "Seaquest DSV" ;) ).


Other solar systems ? Very unlikely until we figure out how to even go that far, and worse is that there is close to no info about other solar systems until you get there. The incentives are not great.
I think getting there might be possible in principle. The problem is staying there.
I thought about this some time ago:
If we build some space stations in Earth's Lagrange points that collect solar power and feed it to giant lasers, and somehow manage to build a spacecraft with a deflector that can stand the lasers long-term, it might be theoretically feasible, to propel the craft to speeds that reach Proxima Centauri in a reasonable amount of (spacecraft local) time. If we also manage to adjust the thrust the lasers generate to give the craft a constant acceleration of 0.5 to 2G, then the lasers would even provide a form of artificial gravity in the spacecraft.
I haven't done the calculations, because you need to do this relativistically (with Newton you'll end up with a final speed like 3c, which can't be right), which I'm currently not up to.
The real problem is, that there's no way to stop the craft at Proxima Centauri. Just switching off the lasers won't do it, as inertia would carry the craft on indefinitely (most SciFi shows are totally unrealistic in this point). I don't believe swing-by maneuvers can solve this. So the craft either needs to have it's own drive just for braking, which I believe would make it too heavy, or we need to get laser stations to Proxima Centauri first (chicken or egg dilemma).


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2
 

Klumpen

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I think the main problem is still, that we haven't understood how to manage a self-sustaining biosphere. The "Biosphere 2" project [1] has failed on two occasions and I think we'd need something similar working on Mars.

But quite frankly, I think Mars is the wrong target if the goal is to colonize another planet. It might be a good playground some day (let's say in a hundred years if our civilization lives that long), but it's inability to sustain a stable atmosphere makes terraforming a quite pointless endeavor. And I think some sort of earth-like environment should be the goal, at least long-term.
In our own solar system, I think the Jupiter moon Europa is much more interesting. Jupiter's gravitational forces should provide quite some heat and it is believed that Europa has a giant ocean underneath its ice shield. So the basics for sustaining (marine) life should be there, maybe even life itself. All we need to figure out is how to live under water (anyone remember "Seaquest DSV" ;) ).


I think getting there might be possible in principle. The problem is staying there.
I thought about this some time ago:
If we build some space stations in Earth's Lagrange points that collect solar power and feed it to giant lasers, and somehow manage to build a spacecraft with a deflector that can stand the lasers long-term, it might be theoretically feasible, to propel the craft to speeds that reach Proxima Centauri in a reasonable amount of (spacecraft local) time. If we also manage to adjust the thrust the lasers generate to give the craft a constant acceleration of 0.5 to 2G, then the lasers would even provide a form of artificial gravity in the spacecraft.
I haven't done the calculations, because you need to do this relativistically (with Newton you'll end up with a final speed like 3c, which can't be right), which I'm currently not up to.
The real problem is, that there's no way to stop the craft at Proxima Centauri. Just switching off the lasers won't do it, as inertia would carry the craft on indefinitely (most SciFi shows are totally unrealistic in this point). I don't believe swing-by maneuvers can solve this. So the craft either needs to have it's own drive just for braking, which I believe would make it too heavy, or we need to get laser stations to Proxima Centauri first (chicken or egg dilemma).


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2
I don't think we'll get around building ships with a self sustaining environment (fed by sunlight on the way) and traveling for generations, at least to reach the destinations to build such propelling and breaking points if they someday long after that become feasible.
 
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sulu

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If you're talking about interstellar ships then "fed by sunlight" might be a problem. Even at Mars' distance from the sun you only get half the sunlight that you get on Earth and it gets even worse pretty quickly (it's a quadratic relationship between distance from the sun and solar radiation per area).
Once you reach Pluto, the sun is little more than just any other star, and at that point you haven't even reached 1‰ of the distance to the next star.
 

Klumpen

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If you're talking about interstellar ships then "fed by sunlight" might be a problem. Even at Mars' distance from the sun you only get half the sunlight that you get on Earth and it gets even worse pretty quickly (it's a quadratic relationship between distance from the sun and solar radiation per area).
Once you reach Pluto, the sun is little more than just any other star, and at that point you haven't even reached 1‰ of the distance to the next star.
Yeah but you should gather as much energy on any part of the way as possible, I guess.
 
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sulu

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To collect solar energy, you need to carry increasingly inefficient solar panels. At some point (I guess somewhere in the vicinity of Jupiter) they become just dead weight. You could jettison them at that point, but I think it would be more efficient to have some kind of previously stationed refuel craft (essentially a fuel tank with thrusters) rendezvous with your actual payload craft.

But the truth is, that most of our energy storage technologies are incredibly inefficient when you think in terms of interstellar travel. You need way to much volume or mass to store the energy you need to carry. The only current technology I see that might be up to the task is nuclear fission. And that's only to power the spacecraft systems, not to propel it.
The probes we sent into the outer solar system are powered by RTGs for a reason. Solar panels are only used in the inner solar system.
 

Klumpen

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At some point (I guess somewhere in the vicinity of Jupiter) they become just dead weight. You could jettison them at that point
Which would fit the current state of things.
Want to find humans? Just follow the trail of junk.
But the truth is, that most of our energy storage technologies are incredibly inefficient when you think in terms of interstellar travel.
Same goes for our propulsion systems and about everything else. At this point it's all just science fiction anyway since humanity barely just made it out of the stone age (mentally not even this far).
 

Caine

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I think the main problem is still, that we haven't understood how to manage a self-sustaining biosphere. The "Biosphere 2" project [1] has failed on two occasions and I think we'd need something similar working on Mars.
Unfortunately this is true. However, the planned timescale is about a decade. A lot can change in a decade these days. It will probably be a couple years later. NASA estimated 2030 ~ 2035 if I recall correctly.

In our own solar system, I think the Jupiter moon Europa is much more interesting. Jupiter's gravitational forces should provide quite some heat and it is believed that Europa has a giant ocean underneath its ice shield. So the basics for sustaining (marine) life should be there, maybe even life itself. All we need to figure out is how to live under water (anyone remember "Seaquest DSV" ;) ).
True, though the distance is not easily neglected.

By the way, a new spacex video on the Interplanteary Transport has been put online already:


<edit>Quite an interesting presentation. Though Q&A was cringe worthy. Lots of horrible questions.
I am a bit disappointed (but not surprised) that SpaceX only has plans for the transportation part and not the actual habitats. I am not sure how he expects enough people to be willing to go to Mars if there are not actually any concrete plans for the colony itself.
</edit>
 
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levi

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Other solar systems ? Very unlikely until we figure out how to even go that far, and worse is that there is close to no info about other solar systems until you get there.
They know more than the did a few years ago. These days they can identify exoplanets and even work out if they're likely to host life. Although on that respect, I suspect they just mean it's in the goldilocks zone, which they can probably get it if they can estimate its diameter and it's orbital period.
 
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However, the planned timescale is about a decade. A lot can change in a decade these days. It will probably be a couple years later. NASA estimated 2030 ~ 2035 if I recall correctly.
A decade isn't a lot of time in astronautics.
For something to actually work out on a real mission in ten years, you should know now how to do it. The next decade is basically just bug fixing.
So if you want to build a an artificial biosphere on Mars in ten years, I'd expect to have something like a SUCCESSFUL five-year test here on earth already done. If you want to have a mission in the 2030s then we should have this test running right now, and it should at least look promising to succeed.

I am a bit disappointed (but not surprised) that SpaceX only has plans for the transportation part and not the actual habitats.
Actually, I appreciate that they stick to what they already can do.

I am not sure how he expects enough people to be willing to go to Mars if there are not actually any concrete plans for the colony itself.
I think (or rather hope) that Mars One is a total scam. I'd be willing to sign up for something like that, but only if the problems of living on Mars were solved in principle. So back to the biosphere problem.


They know more than the did a few years ago. These days they can identify exoplanets and even work out if they're likely to host life. Although on that respect, I suspect they just mean it's in the goldilocks zone, which they can probably get it if they can estimate its diameter and it's orbital period.
What can be done is to estimate the size of a planet, it's distance from it's star and in theory it would be possible to get very vague info about the composition of a planet's atmosphere.
We already know the spectral class of the star, and from the planet's size and distance from the star we can guess the planet's mass and main composition.

We have a systematic error in our search methods. With our current equipment we'll mainly find big planets that are very close to their stars. So most of the planets we've found are "Hot Jupiters", but that doesn't necessarily mean that most exoplanets are Hot Jupiters. What we're actually looking for are earth-like planets (or a little bigger, so called "Super Earths"), ideally orbiting G-type stars (like our sun) in a distance of about 1AU. But the Kepler telescope isn't really up to that task. So when we find Super Earths in the habitable zone of a star they are usually orbiting red dwarfs, whose habitable zone is much closer to the star due to the lower radiation the star emits.
This however brings two problems for a planet:
1. The average radiation of the star might be lower, but anomalies in the star's output will affect the planet much more than the same type of anomaly would affect the Earth at its higher orbit.
2. Due to the low orbit, the planet will likely be tidally locked to the star. So it always faces the same side to the star, just like the moon always shows the same side to earth. This means there will be huge differences in temperature on the planet. There might be acceptable temperatures in the twilight zone, but if the planet has an atmosphere then there will be incredibly strong winds and at some point all the atmosphere would likely freeze on the dark side of the planet.
 

kuru

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^sounds like sombody knows their space stuff!

Isn't our moon pretty much unique in its' properties and just as necessary for the life we have here as the sun itself?
I'm still fascinated by the fact that the moon can eclipse the sun so perfectly. And that the craters are so shallow. Luna is such an intriguing beast.
 

ekianjo

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They know more than the did a few years ago. These days they can identify exoplanets and even work out if they're likely to host life. Although on that respect, I suspect they just mean it's in the goldilocks zone, which they can probably get it if they can estimate its diameter and it's orbital period.
We have no good model on how life emerges, let me recall you.
 
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sulu

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^sounds like sombody knows their space stuff!
Well, sort of. I've always been interested in astronomy, I'd consider myself a trekker and I've worked for a brief period for the German Aerospace Center.

Isn't our moon pretty much unique in its' properties and just as necessary for the life we have here as the sun itself?
Yes, it is pretty unique (as far as we know). There is a theory that it formed out of the debris from a collision of a mars-sized planet called "Theia" [1] with earth in the early times of our solar system. This would explain why it has a very similar composition like Earth's crust.
Our big moon plays a big role in stabilizing Earth's rotational axis and. By reducing earth's precession the moon stabilizes our long-time climate.
Many biological rhythms on earth are tied to the tidal phases, which are of course mainly influenced by the moon. Biology isn't really my field of expertise and I don't know if a tidal cycle is really crucial for life, but it life on earth would have certainly developed differently without it.
And just like earth has stopped the moon's rotation due to tidal forces, the moon has slowed down and is still slowing down earth's rotation. So days get longer over time. A hundred million years ago, when dinosaurs were living on earth, a day was likely only 23 hours long.

I'm still fascinated by the fact that the moon can eclipse the sun so perfectly.
We're actually very lucky, that we can see this effect. The moon doesn't orbit earth in a circle or ellipse, but it spirals away from it. The distance between earth and moon increases roughly 4cm per year, which is about the same as the atlantic ocean gets wider each year due to plate tectonics or the amount our finger nails grow. So if we would have lived some million years ago, a full solar eclipse wouldn't let us see the sun's corona as a ring, because the moon's apparent size would be too big. And in a few million years the moon will appear too small to cover the sun completely.

And that the craters are so shallow.
I think that is, because most of the deep craters were formed when the moon's core was still liquid. So they were flooded with lunar lava. This is also why you see bright and dark areas on the moon. The dark so called "mare" are exposed fields of lava, while the bright parts are covered with dust.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theia_(planet)
 

levi

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We have a systematic error in our search methods.
Well, even so it's quite incredible for me to think of what's already been achieved in my adult life, and it boggles me slightly to think of what more will happen to the research in the near future.

The moon stuff's interesting too. If you wind the clock back the spiral would suggest at some point that it came from the earth. Doing some back of a fag packet calculations, I reckon that would intercept the earth's surface somewhere under 10 giga-years ago, which according to wikipedia would put it well into the dim and distant pre-geologic past before the earth had a crust or a magnetic core, and was just a seething ball of molten rock. Although my rough visualisation of things suggests that if we scroll back to the point of inception, it came relatively screaming out of the stocks compared to today's 4cm a year, so it's possibly a fair bit more recently than that.

But my fag packet's too small to work that one out.
 

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We have no good model on how life emerges, let me recall you.
It is created. It doesn't emerge from some sort of primordial ooze, billions of years ago. @kuru said it best - "Isn't our moon pretty much unique in its' properties and just as necessary for the life we have here as the sun itself? I'm still fascinated by the fact that the moon can eclipse the sun so perfectly." There is a divine hand at work. These things don't ALL happen by serendipity.
[doublepost=1475129105,1475128940][/doublepost]That being said, micro organisms can flourish with water and little else in the most extreme temperatures imaginable. There are tiny bacteria living inside rock, miles beneath our surface, but that's NOT "life" to me.
 
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