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My home internet was down from Wednesday night until late Thursday afternoon. Thus, without my normal information conduit, I nearly missed the space shuttle launch. Luckily I checked Twitter via my phone and was able to catch the broadcast on HDNet with 5 minutes to spare. I realized that this would be one of my daughter’s only chances to see a space shuttle launch, so I made sure she sat in for the broadcast. She’s turning four in a couple of weeks, so I was pretty pleased with the 3 minutes of attention she was able to devote to the event. There were plenty of OOH’s and AHH’s and “ARE THEY REALLY GOING INTO SPACE?” and such during the ignition sequence, but just as the booster rockets dropped she asked to go play frisbee outside. She asked of we [mean she, my wife and I] were also going to space today. I wondered for a minute if she might be able to tell her children or grandchildren yes to that same question. Or maybe such questions will be rendered irrelevant due to the unfavorable outcome of the Robot Wars. [Unfavorable for filthy humans that is. Long live the robots!]

I’ll be uploading HE Podcast #80 later tonight [Friday night] [UPDATE: HERES’S THE LINK] and we talked quite a bit about the shuttle launch and various other space related events of import throughout our lives. I’ll update this post with a link once it’s available. Make sure to listen if you want to find out what movie made me decide NOT to be an astronaut when I was around 10 years old.

COMMENTERS: Let’s make it a space exploration free for all. What should we be doing next? Better space planes? Commercial space flights? Moonbase? Mars mission? Or should we just watch Moon, Moonraker, Mission to Mars, Red Planet and Apollo 13?

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38 Comments

  1. According to my DoD sources (read: nothing) the next step will be orbital bombardment platforms. Since the weaponization of space is prohibited, it will be labeled as just another GPS sattellite. In reality, it will carry super-dense tungsten rods which, when released from orbit, could impact any target with the force of a 200 mT. Since there are no explosives used, the destruction can be blamed on space debris or a purely coincidental meteor impact.

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  2. My nearly 5 year old daughter asked me exactly the same questions. :)

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  3. I wish I was an astronaut. That would be really cool.

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  4. Actually, Steve, the treaties just say no *nukes* in space. Project Thor would be legal – the only reason it hasn't gone ahead is that our military, like all those before it, is excellent at preparing for the previous war they fought. Not so much for the next one.

    Incidentally, according to my sources, the humans will win the Robot Wars, although Laura will lose her eyes and need bionic replacements…

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    • Actually, the treaty in question (the Outer Space Treaty) bans nuclear weapons and "other weapons of mass destruction" from being placed or used from space. That's one reason the military hasn't done it. The other reason is that since we have earth-based nukes, it's a lot cheaper and easier to just nuke cities with ICBMs/SLBMs/nuclear gravity bombs than to screw around with orbiting weapons. "Preparing for the last war"… probably not so much.

      Wikipedia has more on the Outer Space treaty.

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      • Not only the cost and ease of it, but also the fact they don't want to be the ones responsible when one of their satelites goes rogue and crashes to earth, taking out a major city.

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  5. My father works at NASA Ames research Center (He'll be at Dryden when Discovery return incase they land at Edwards to handle some of the post landing ops stuff) so I'm able to get some pretty interesting insight on NASA plans for the future. With the recent advances in commercial space flight they are currently looking to contract out the transport of astronauts to and from the ISS. This development will likely reduce the cost of launches as the necessary equipment will become more mass produced.

    As far as the moon, the Constellation program was going to seek to return us to the moon, but it got cut. Realistically we probably won't be going back to the moon unless the DOD wants to spare a little of their $670Billion budget for it. It would have been very cool so see a moon landing in my life time but oh well.

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    • Ya know, if they stopped trying to turn other countries into moonscapes, we could get back to the real thing

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  6. I was in Florida for the original STS-133 launch date. So disappointed it was pushed back (repeatedly) and I had to fly home.

    I foresee commercial flights to orbit and back for the next few years, to get crew back/forth to the ISS and for touristy fun. Eventually, we need a moon base as a stepping stone before going to Mars.

    There needs to be an international agreement to keep off the historic sites (Apollo and others).

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    • I sincerely doubt we're going to see much in the way of touristy fun in orbit. Current cost to get to LEO: $10,000/kg. Which is going to put this seriously out of reach of all but the very richest tourists. And there's really nothing even on the drawing board that would reduce that cost by much.

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  7. Moon landing's lame. We should be landing on the Sun! Just think how quick your solar powered calculator would run there!

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    • don't forget to launch at night

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  8. Pardon me for my boringness but I think before we delve too much into more space flight, we really need an energy plan. Like… rocket ships shouldn't have to run on oil or oil derivatives since we're nearly out of it. And we need new and better "stuff" to build ships out of. Lighter and more durable, all rolled into one. Cheaper would be lovely, too.

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    • I'm pretty sure the shuttle runs on Liquid Oxygen and hydrogen

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      • Hydrogen is just a really short Hydrocarbon!… without the carbon!

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        • SUSTAINED!

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        • While I don't know the source of the LH that NASA uses for rocket fuel, hydrogen is not generally found roaming freely. The easiest and least expensive source for obtaining hydrogen by itself is via the cracking process used for refining crude oil into various products. So it's pretty likely that the short hydrocarbons powering the space shuttle came from longer ones.

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          • Although, there are a few very intresting projects looking at cracking water (using nucear reaxtors, solar power etc.) so if we just put more effort into those we could easily produce the necessary hydrogen without oil. And when oil reserves got lower oil derives H2 will be too expensive so solar or nuclear hydrogen will begin to replace it.

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            • It's really easy to do with an electrical current (getting hydrogen from oxygen), and also produces pure oxygen at the same time in the exact right ration. I'd be surprised if they do it any other way.

              Electrochemistry ftw!

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    • NASA have been working on other drives for a while now, but sadly the Solid boosters and Liquid Oxygen/Hydrogen mix rockets are the best way of getting off the ground. Once you're in space you have options like the Ion drive and stuff like that, but the biggest hassle is lifting something that heavy with enough force to achieve proper escape velocity.

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  9. I think we should focus on everything wrong with this rock before we go landing on other rocks.

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    • Do you really mean that saccharin BS or are you just practising lines to try on cute arts majors at the college bar?

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      • Be nice. Keep it civil.

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      • My saccharin BS? What the hell does that mean? My sugar substitute BS? What the hell?

        Oh, and I'm not in college dick. I'm saying that there are enough problems here on Earth where the money we throw into NASA could be used for other things here. I'm not saying to do away with NASA, I'm saying there's an area we can make some cuts and not hurt the general public.

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        • See my reply to the original poster. This is your only warning to keep it civil and be nice. This isnt your typical corner of the internet where everyone has a "who can be a bigger jerk" contest.

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        • A fair amount of NASA's budget is, in fact, used to solve problems here on Earth. NASA built and maintains the Earth Observing System, a collection of Earth-orbiting spacecraft used to study the Earth. It built and maintains SDO and other solar-observing spacecraft, which are used to predict solar weather (which can endanger communications here on Earth.) NASA built and launched a number of weather sats for NOAA. NASA builds and maintains TRMM, a spacecraft this is used for predicting hurricanes. And NASA is also involved in aeronautics research, to improve aircraft.

          Yes, some of NASA's other activities do not directly improve life on Earth. But when in history has mankind ever solved all the problems at home? Do we even know how to solve all the problems? If we always wait for utopia at home, we will never achieve anything. And that means ceding the initiative to other countries, such as China, India, and the EU, that are willing to step forward. That initiative in exploring and doing new things is ultimately what allows us to improve life at home, in much the same way that the exploration of the Americas done by Western Europe in the time of Columbus led to the centuries-long advancement of Western Europe.

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    • Personally I'd rather have the other rocks to be able to get away from people who trash this rock

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  10. What's wrong on this rock? You talking about that "Climate Change" con job? There's nothing wrong with the "Climate" that I can see. The parts of the world that are flooding or buried in snow are just paying for their sins. That's why the North Pole is melting – no sinners there, just elves. The whole thing is just a plot by Al Gory to build another stupid "Internet". If we hadn't listened to him, all our electronical media today would be on Cable TV and we wouldn't need Facebook and Angry Twitter. Those so-called "scientists" are just lying liars who make money telling lies about how things "evolved" millions of years before God ever bothered to create anything. The Big Bang? Totally the work of perverts. And all those medical lies: telling us you can't get AIDS by dressing like a fag. And ignoring the obvious fact that every abortion creates a fetus ghost like Casper who haunts uppity unmarried women. If that's not true why are they all such bitches? Those "science" people just keeping honest people from making an honest fortune making homeopathetic cures from tap water. So why trust them to leave Earth? With their record it is so obvious that "moon landing" was fake, not to mention those phony "blue marble" pictures. Where I live, it's brown as far as the eye can see – where's the brown, you fakers? They're probably even lying about that "round earth" business… how come nobody can see the stick that runs through the earth on all those "globes" they put on teachers' desks. Now the teachers – they're all in on the conspiracy. That whole "slavery" thing was made up just to make God-fearing Southern Men look bad. So many lies… the earth can't be round anyway, it'd be too hard for the turtles to keep on their backs – it would've fallen off a long time ago, and it hasn't has it? I mean, it's got to be turtles, there's no other reason for them to exist, know what I mean? Those "scientists" are all evil Muslims trying to inflict the Sharia Law of Gravity on us good Christians and half-good Jews! No, it's time to stop this phoney "outer space" stuff and use that rocket fuel for its true God-given purpose – NASCAR.

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    • Ok, I'd like to see a comedian recite that entire speech you wrote in one breath during a comedy special, or on TDS/TCR. That would be impressive.

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      • Well, I know I couldn't…

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  11. Excuse me… I left my laptop open to this page out on my front porch while I got a sandwich and when I came back this weird homeless guy was standing over it… did he do anything?

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  12. Space-related milestones in my life: Apollo 11, baby (yeah, I'm old). I had just turned 5, watched it on our black & white Zenith, and I will never, ever forget it.

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  13. Long live my Robot Over Lords, that said Im just waiting for China to make cheap "reliable" space travel practical they have to run out of room for people eventual. I can see it now lead paint on the Lunar Modual, GHB in the air filters, and poison tainted Tang.

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  14. There is still a bunch on earth that we need to see and discover before we set our sites to far into space, places like the bottom of the ocean. I mean if we don't find a way to get to the very bottom and handle the pressure, how else will we build hidden underwater homes to survive the nuclear end times and robot take over?

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    • too add to that note, the reason I say we hide under water and not in space from the robots is simple, robots could build themselves with weird jet propulsion systems to escape earth and chase after us, but everyone knows robots are just fancy electronics, and water and electronics no matter how fancy tend to not mix. Besides if they did find a way to the bottom of the oceans to our under water homes, we could just sick the radioactive nuclear tainted sharks that we tamed via weird mind helmets after them.

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      • Don't forget the frickin Lasers. ^_~

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  15. I'll wait for the elevator, thank you

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