Space Exploration & Astronomy

Discussion in 'Taylor's Tittle-Tattle - General Banter' started by Smudger, Oct 11, 2019.

  1. Smudger

    Smudger Messi's Mad Coach Staff Member

    I know we have several disciples on the forum. In the year we celebrate the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon some sad news the death of cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. The first man to walk in space and a consummate space artist who when he looked down on the Earth felt a profound change in his view of the world as a whole. That indeed applies to nearly everyone that has gone into space and looked back at the Earth for what it is.

    He would have been the first man in space but for his middle class intelligentsia background. The politicians favoured the selection of Gagarin who was a metal worker and whose parents had been farmers and of the proletariat.

    Here he is interviewed by NASA about his recollections of that space walk.

    He was also immortalized in 2010 the book and film, with his name used as that of the space vehicle taking the Soviet team to explore the monolith around Jupiter.
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  2. Maninblack

    Maninblack Reservist

    Not to denigrate the personal bravery, skills and character of Leonov and other astronauts at all, but I must admit I see virtually all space exploration a a colossal and repulsive waste of money. Granted it might help divert an asteroid from smashing into the Earth and destroying it, but as the last one was 63 million years ago the chances of that happening are minimal. Are the billions upon billions that have been spent on space exploration really worth it on a cost/benefit analysis? Do we really need to know what a Soviet team might find on something going around Jupiter when billions of people on this planet are starving, 1 in 5 don't have access to clean water and climate change is threatening our own planet? What they aiming to discover that will justify the cost?

    Space exploration started as more of a political 'my dad's bigger than your dad' spat between the superpowers trying to show off to each other during phases of the Cold War and whilst there is cooperation between the world's space agencies nowadays, why does India spend billions on space research when hundreds of millions of its own citizens live in abject poverty? Knowing how a black hole works might be fascinating but do really we need to know, given the costs? We can't do anything about it. It's all very well scientific knowledge developing to find out what we COULD do, but where is the balance of whether or not we SHOULD do these things?

    I am more than happy to be disavowed of my perspective if anyone can show me that the benefits to humanity really do outweigh the costs, but even after googling & studying the pros & cons I will take a lot of convincing!
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  3. I think you should start worrying. The last two to hit Earth - causing the Popigai and Chesapeake Bay craters - did so in quick succession a mere 35 million years ago.

    Time is running out for the world's rich 1% to find a bolthole.
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  4. lowerrous

    lowerrous Squad Player

    It's pretty simple - if (or when) an asteroid hits Earth then there could be zero people, rich or poor, unless we've managed to inhabit another planet.

    The benefit is avoiding humanity's extinction.
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  5. UEA_Hornet

    UEA_Hornet First Team Captain

    Surely similar arguments could have been made at any time in human history as we’ve explored the planet and spread out?
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  6. lowerrous

    lowerrous Squad Player

    Yep, by narrow-minded, overly conservative people that have likely ended up on the wrong side of history.
  7. WillisWasTheWorst

    WillisWasTheWorst Its making less grammar mistake's thats important

    On the balance of probability, humans will be extinct long before the next asteroid hits earth.
  8. WillisWasTheWorst

    WillisWasTheWorst Its making less grammar mistake's thats important

    Mrs Willis was fortunate enough to meet Valentina Tereshkova at a function a couple of years ago, when she was on a visit to London. Another real pioneer. The cosmonaut exhibition put on at the Science Museum at the time showed the capsule and other equipment she used in space. Truly a case of “Here am I, sitting in a tin can.”
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  9. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    You can't deny our inquisitive nature. It's part of our psyche.

    I think you need to distinguish what can be found out by manned space exploration, unmanned space exploration, big telescopes in all of the visual, infra-red, ultra-violet and other electro-magnetic spectra and the scientists who work on the data and entirely theoretical physicists and mathematicians. I'm not going to look at all the costings in detail but I'd hazard that my categories above are in decreasing order of decent from hideously expensive to relatively less so. With big projects like the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the particle accelerators at CERN perhaps bucking the trend. Those relative costings are of course of great importance.

    I.m.h.o., we should park manned space exploration for the time being. It is indeed hideously expensive and we've been to the moon (largely for the reasons you've suggested), shown we can do it and been inspired by it. Well at least I was when, as a 16 y.o., I sat up all night in 1969. So, been there, done that and, certainly on a cost/benefit analysis, not worth repeating in the immediate future.

    Any need to continue to keep men orbiting the earth on a permanent basis? Can't see it really. But there are engineering advances. Maybe not 'hidiously expensive' though? Missions to repair Hubble? Sure. Orbiting satellites for various reasons? Sure.

    Next out is Mars. There'll be no teams going to Jupiter any time soon. Black hole investigations are undertaken here. A return manned mission to Mars would be prohibitively expensive, take years and what extra raw scientific benefit would it provide over the various unmanned missions other than to bring back some big bags of rocks? Nice to have maybe but at what cost? Of course there'd be huge advances on the engineering and human survival fronts. But again too costly.

    It would also be extremely dangerous although I'm sure there'd be plenty who'd sign up for it. But if we sent some brave souls off on a 'wing-and-a prayer' only for them to be 'lost in space' then that would hardly be 'inspiring' for the rest of humanity. But the Apollo missions were also extremely dangerous and the Apollo 13 'rescue' was a triumph.

    Personally, I'd hold off on 'men on Mars' until some new propellant (not a hydrocarbon based one) could be found to get them there and back quicker. Probably something along the lines of some sort of 'nuclear engine'. Warp drive would be even better! Something able to provide an acceleration closer to the speed of light anyway. Journey time to Mars? Three to 22 minutes depending on relative orbits! Better than being stuck on the M.25 then! Something like that would open up the whole solar system and beyond.

    I don't currently see the point in sending men to do a job that machines could do equally well other than 'if it's broke maybe they could fix it'. In addition, maybe a one-way mission would be more justified. Setting up camp rather than coming home. I bet there'd be lots who'd take up that offer too.

    Anyway, like you, I don't think a manned mission to Mars would be justified on cost grounds alone at the moment. I'd like to see everyone on this planet have access to clean water, nutritious food in their bellies, a roof over their heads, access to decent health facilities and education to age 16 first. And for us to have taken measures to slow (and preferably reverse) global population rise, sorted out climate change (associated), stopped chopping down the rain forest (associated), halted the sixth mass extinction (associated) and rid the oceans of plastic (associated) i.e., learnt to behave ourselves and got 'harmonious'.

    As for unmanned exploration? Yes fine. The machines and instruments are getting more reliable (some very clever and innovative) so keep sending those 'probes' out to the edges of the solar system and beyond. We do have to satisfy our curiosity.

    Bigger and better land-based telescopes? Yes absolutely. Was Hubble justified? Yes absolutely. The mission to 'fix the mirror' was a fantastic bit of ingenuity. The images have been quite marvellous and inspirational uncluttered as they are by atmospheric distortion. It's a fantastic tool for the exploration of the universe out to its furthest reaches. I understand the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is due for launch in 2021 and will be even better. Bring it on.

    As for CERN I'm not so sure. Hugely expensive and very theoretical with legions working there. It does traverse, underground, the Swiss/French border though which is non-Schengen. Might Boris propose something similar as an alternative to the 'Irish backstop'?

    In summary, I'd say that manned spaceflight wouldn't currently be justified, not least on cost grounds, until we've sorted out a few problems closer to home. But I'd justify all the rest and the salaries of all the physicists, engineers, mathematicians and other scientists who work on nearly all of the various projects.

    We have to follow our natural curiosity and inquistiveness. It's a very large chunk of what makes us human. We can't help being clever either. If we didn't have these qualities then we'd still be living in caves.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
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  10. Bwood_Horn

    Bwood_Horn Squad Player


    Those approximately 30 million years cycles of mass extinction events have always looked suspiciously periodic to me...

  11. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    Interesting. I wasn't aware of this supposed 30Ma periodicity until you raised it and I then subsequently googled it.

    The big ones are:

    Ordovician/Silurian 450-440 Ma
    Late Devonian 375-360 Ma
    Permian/Triassic (the real biggy) 252 Ma
    Triassic/Jurassic 201.3 Ma
    Cretaceous/Paleogene 66 Ma

    Not much periodicity there then.

    However, it seems that some in the field do point to a 30Ma cycle when smaller events are included. Others disagree. Like you, I'd be sceptical. I'm no statistician but it would surprise me if something predicated on essentially rare and random events would be cyclical. Unless there was some 'thought' behind them! But I guess the planet's internal workings could be cyclical.

    Anyway, thanks for the tip. International break musings :)
  12. Bwood_Horn

    Bwood_Horn Squad Player

    A couple of my friends were Space Scientists (UKC had a very good dept.) and I remember discussing this at lunch one day when we were all postgrads. As we're 'in' a spiral galaxy that's rotating (and expanding) I remember them saying that 'something' 'interacting' cyclically with our solar system with a 30Ma periodicity wasn't beyond the bounds of plausibility but conversely our evolution has programmed us to be extremely cognitively aware of patterns that might not actually be there...
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
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  13. Smudger

    Smudger Messi's Mad Coach Staff Member

    Indeed there may be a periodicity where objects in deep space undergo perturbations as we pass around the outer edges of this galaxy.

    As to the why bother explore and the cost of it all. I would argue that the benefits lie in the technological advances made. In as NASA like to call it the spinoffs. The study of space medicine, of materials research, energy conservation, miniaturization and so on and so forth. Growing food on space vessels may well impact on growing food here.

    And the previous explorations across Earth such as the Spanish in the Americas where unfortunately they destroyed the last of the great Mesoamerican cultures were conducted in times of dire straits for the Spanish population in terms of food supply. It is up to the politicians (and therefore I would argue technocrats are far better suited to the policies we need to advance into the future) to eliminate social problems where they fail singularly from whatever part of the political spectrum they come from. Billions are spent on frivolities anyway.

    I would also be vehemently against the cuts to funding to pure research. It is often from what seems esoteric studies that major breakthroughs have come . Game theory for instance or the rubidium laser. This point is argued for example strongly in that excellent film Contact.

    Ultimately you could say it's all pointless depending on the mass in the Universe but while we are here lets make a fist of it shall we and push the boundaries. I would expect advanced robots with real intelligence to start journeys into space, terraform suitable planets and then humans could follow in time. Remember we are talking on a scale of tens of thousands of years which of course we always struggle to comprehend. Here I am sitting on the beach of a very Earth like planet with a moderately higher gravity on Wednesday the 14th of June in the year 205556 CE.

    Most people and indeed politicians cannot comprehend how lucky we are here in the first place to savour the glory of the cosmos. And how fragile it is. After we have solved the issues of avoiding a mass extinction involving ourselves we also ought to focus on a more comprehensive watch on the skies. When Lembitt Opik brought this up in the HOC he was mocked but for once he actually made a decent point. It won't be much fun getting hit by an even moderate sized asteroid. Had the bolide exploded above London a mere couple of hours later rather than over Tunguska I think opinions and policies today would be very different.
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  14. Diamond

    Diamond Squad Player

    I'd highly recommend a read of a brief history of everything.
  15. StuBoy

    StuBoy Forum Cad and Bounder

    Do you use Sat Nav, a phone, a computer, buy anything off the internet or watch/read the weather forecast and make plans to do things based off that? Is climate change a concern to you at all, if it is would you like to understand more in order to help preserve the planet?

    If you answer yes to any of the above, then you should appreciate space exploration and it’s continuing benefits to you and other humans.
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  16. Maninblack

    Maninblack Reservist

    Most of the things you list only really enable the already relatively well off in this world live more comfortable (lazy) lives whilst at the same time providing opportunities for companies to sell us stuff that we don't really need and polluting the planet in the process. Space exploration isn't feeding the starving around the world and the gap between rich & poor is growing. Sending satellites into space to orbit the earth to track weather has some use, but I can always look out the window. Isn't the sky getting crowded with junk & unused satellites now anyway?

    Depends on what we mean by space exploration I suppose. I'm talking about sending rockets to the moon & beyond. Absolutely no point whatsoever apart from satisfying curiosity and these ventures are the most expensive by far. Of what benefit is knowing whether or not water might have been on Mars millions of years ago compared to the benefit of using that money to solve some of this planet's problems now?
  17. Bwood_Horn

    Bwood_Horn Squad Player

    All well and good - it's not the scientific/technological 'will' that's holding up tackling our own environmental, economic and social problems on earth but a political 'will'.

    Also, FWIW I want to make three personal observations:
    1. Not one single person who's been into space and seen our planet from orbit has come back a climate change denier or dismissive of earth's environment concerns.
    2. Trump ordered all of NASA's earth observation work stopped and to focus on space (because of NASA's politically 'unhelpful' published results/data).
    3. The minute the first Martian 'sea-shell' is found it will give a fantastic boost to awareness of what's in store with us or, conversely, if that 'sea-shell' is never found it should be a warning that what we have here is extremely precious and has to be looked after.
  18. UEA_Hornet

    UEA_Hornet First Team Captain

    If you put your ear to a Martian sea shell, do you think you'd hear Mars bars?
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  19. cyaninternetdog

    cyaninternetdog Forum Hippie

  20. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    I suspect that the technology to anticipate, destroy or divert an incoming asteroid will exist a long time before we 'inhabit another planet'. That capability is already being worked up.

    We could 'stand and fight' rather than 'running away'. And it would be very much less expensive.
  21. lowerrous

    lowerrous Squad Player

    We can do both.
  22. So all Devonians died out in the Paleozoic era ? Thought we still had a couple on this forum ?
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  23. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    I think that most on here have agreed that manned space travel out to the moon and beyond is currently a poor use of human resources and consequently unjustifiable but defended pretty much everything else. That was my line anyway.

    And as Borehamwood has pointed out, our current inability to solve the great social and equality global issues of the day (well forever really) isn't down to a lack of resources. It's down to a lack of political will to do so. It wouldn't really be all that expensive. It would require a collective will and 'sharing'. In no way is continued 'blue sky' scientific endeavour incompatable with solving these problems. They're not mutually exclusive. In fact pure science as then applied will assist in solving them. You can't have 'applied science' without having something to be applied first. If Crick & Watson hadn't identified the DNA double-helix then we wouldn't have extended that knowledge to understand the concept of the 'selfish gene' which is our current problem. We should resist its 'siren calls'. Currently we seem unable to do so. So, with our unique knowledge, can we 'buck' the evolutionary imperative? That is our challenge.

    In addition, if you deny the best of our 'cutting edge' scientists their curiosity (which is the thing that drives them in the first place) and overly constrain them by making narrow and blinkered funding decisions driven by politicians and an overly rigourous concern around what should be 'appropriate for public funding' then you won't get the best out of them. In fact, they'll probably not enter the field in the first place. Which would be a pity. Be careful what you wish for. I'd far rather give them more 'free rein' to pursue their interests.

    StuBoy has pointed out a number of benefits to you. You poo-pooed them. Well I've been in a number of up-river Gambian villages where the kids are wearing their synthetic materials Barca, Manure, Arsenil and Cheski shirts (not at £70 a pop mind), talking on their mobiles and watching the 'big match' on the one and only village bar TV. And they looked (and were) happy because 'science had arrived' and with big grins on their faces (no Boris phrases from me - I danced and partyed with them) despite still only having the one clean water pump in the middle of the village next to the bar. So don't knock it.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
  24. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    Currently, we should just do one.
  25. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    This is the nub of it. I would really, really like to know if liquid water existed on Mars millions of years ago and indeed if it still exists beneath the planetary crust right now. Because I'm innately curious. Because I'm human. To deny that curiosity renders us less than human. So, if I can't justify the expense of sending someone there to find out I can justify sending a 'bag of tricks in a tin can' or a robot.

    Should this discovery have practical benefits down the line that would be great. If it didn't then it would still have been worth it. Just to know.

    And, associated with this water we might find evidence of past life or even current life. Wouldn't that be just wonderful? To have cast-iron proof that we're no alone?

    You are also guilty of the crime of 'hypothecation'. That if you didn't spend money on one thing it would necessarily be spent on something else of your choice. It probably wouldn't be. More likely, it would be squandered on something less noble. Until we get our collective political act together.
  26. Maninblack

    Maninblack Reservist

    Wishful thinking I suppose! I think you're right that the money would be squandered on less noble causes. Increased salaries for MPs and their expenses I imagine.

    As for water on Mars, if it ever were discovered it really would be no more than a passing interest to me. My curiosity is more directed towards the human condition where it costs virtually nothing to sit around engaged in philosophical discourse (ie. talking b0ll0cks about stuff to which there is no scientific answer!)

    PS. Hypothecation isn't what it sounds like it should mean!
  27. hornmeister

    hornmeister Administrator Staff Member

    Already here m8 seen a 1998 documentry. Think Bruce Willis was in it.
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  28. Imho we just need to invent a decent low level warp drive and activate it at the exact moment some random inquisitive alien race happens to be skimming the edge of our galaxy on some kind of trek across space.
  29. Sahorn

    Sahorn Reservist

    If they find seashells on Mars, it’s exciting to know we’d only have to wait 3 billion years before they evolve into beings with whom we could communicate.
  30. Sahorn

    Sahorn Reservist

    I was told to do one once.
    I had the choice of standing and fighting but chose the option to run away which I thought would cost less.
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  31. Just before Brexit concludes.
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  32. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    So two scenarios then.

    1. Seashell found. An extraordinary moment showing 'we are not alone'. Not something we could have communicated with though and I'm assuming it was the 'highest life form' discovered there. I'm not sure it would say much about 'what's in store for us'. For that you'd need to know why life died out on Mars and why its evolution was halted. Maybe something cataclysmic or something more gradual. We, as sentient beings, have the ability to recognise a problem, certainly gradual, but possibly cataclysmic as well and potentially deal with it. Or, as would seem to be the case currently, accelerate it.

    2. Seashell not found. Or presumably no evidence of any other life either. I'm not sure that would say much at all really other than that life never developed on our second nearest planetary neighbour and probably not in the rest of the solar system either. It wouldn't indicate at all that life, and intelligent life as well, might not be abundant throughout the cosmos. We should surely already know how precious what we have here is and our responsibility as 'stewards'. Although currently it would appear that perhaps we don't.

    What I'm most interested in is the search for intelligent life throughout the Milky Way. The internationally collaborative Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) programme is ongoing largely, but not exclusively, via the medium of radio teloscopy looking for radio signals that could only have been instigated by intelligent beings.

    The famous Drake equation gives some indication of how many intelligent civilisations there might be currently existing in this galaxy and comes up with a figure of 1000 to 100 million. It was proposed at the first scientific meeting of SETI in 1961. The seven variables within it are incredibly variable as variables go hence the huge range in the prediction. 1000 would still be quite a lot though! The fact that the SETI programme has yet to find anything tangible though has cast a bit of doubt on the Drake prediction. There are 100-400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

    Mind you, it's a prediction for intelligent life so 'seashells' on Mars wouldn't count. By definition, any prediction around non-intelligent life should give a greater number than the Drake equation. Presumably parameters around temperature, atmosphere, mineralogy and liquid water etc. would apply. The presence of free oxygen wouldn't necessarily though as some terrestrial organisms can respire anaerobically and there are whole ecosystems around 'black smokers' along mid-ocean ridges that utilise H2S rather than oxygen, a gas that is extremely toxic to us.

    So SETI's found nothing yet. But it could do this evening. Exciting times!

    Well about half a billion years actually.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  33. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    Quite! Having googled it it would appear to be an accountancy term as I guess you were suggesting. I could swear I've seen it used loosely in the sense I meant though. Or maybe another similar word I can't put my finger on? Also starting with h?
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  34. Sahorn

    Sahorn Reservist

    I misread the graphic - of course, only half a billion, that’s a relief..
  35. CleyHorn

    CleyHorn Reservist

    Hypothecation. Googled it again. I was right. It can refer to the earmarking of taxes for specific projects.

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