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posted by cmn32480 on Sunday January 24 2016, @12:24PM   Printer-friendly
from the time-to-invent-the-Botany-Bay dept.

The recent demonstrations of successful rocket recovery by Blue Origin and SpaceX herald a new era of space exploration and development. We can expect, as rocket stages routinely return for reuse from the fringes of space, that the cost of space travel will fall dramatically.

Some in the astronautics community would like to settle the Moon; others have their eyes set on Mars. Many would rather commit to the construction of solar power satellites, efforts to mine and/or divert Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), or construct enormous cities in space such as the O'Neill Lagrange Point colonies.

But before we can begin any or all of these endeavors, we need to answer some fundamental questions regarding human life beyond the confines of our home planet. Will humans thrive under lunar or martian gravity? Can children be conceived in extraterrestrial environments? What is the safe threshold for human exposure to high-Z galactic cosmic rays (GCRs)?

http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=34781


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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday January 24 2016, @03:24PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday January 24 2016, @03:24PM (#293956)

    >We can expect, as rocket stages routinely return for reuse from the fringes of space, that the cost of space travel will fall dramatically.

    Been doing this for 35 years... what's new here?

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  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24 2016, @03:48PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24 2016, @03:48PM (#293963)

    It wasn't even usable, let alone reusable. 14 good people died because of fundamental design flaws in the space shuttle.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Sunday January 24 2016, @05:51PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 24 2016, @05:51PM (#294012) Homepage Journal

      That is pretty silly, really. The shuttles completed quite a number of missions before suffering a loss, and a number more missions after. Now, I'm not going to waste time defending the space shuttle program, because I disapproved of it from the minute I heard of it. The whole idea of a space jeep replacing deeper space missions was repulsive to me. The shuttles were overhyped, overly expensive, and ultimately proven to be not as reliable as hoped. Despite all of that, they added value to the space program.

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25 2016, @02:49AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25 2016, @02:49AM (#294189)

        OK, I'll rephrase: The space shuttle was not usable without unacceptable loss of life. Therefore it was retired. Reusability doesn't factor into that statement.

        Call me flamebait, but it's true.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday January 25 2016, @02:49PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday January 25 2016, @02:49PM (#294345)

        The only thing I "hate" the shuttle for is sucking up the entire US manned space program for 30 years. It was a good ship, yes with problems - and perhaps the Russians have done it (space taxi) better with the Souyz, though I remember more than one "hard landing" for those - at least the crews survived those mishaps.

        Being the single manned program, every time people got into panic mode it put major shocks through the East Coast Florida economy. I'm glad we're moving on, but wish we could have seen fit to develop and deploy the "next big thing" before retiring the shuttle.

        Precision powered landing recovery is a nice step forward, something the 1950s sci-fi flicks all assumed we would be doing, it's a good path to pursue, but I'm not sure it will be the single best path for lowest cost of operations. For that, we really should be looking toward the space elevator, but again, not abandoning all other programs in the meantime while we work out the presently impossible aspects of that scheme.

        --
        Україна не входить до складу Росії.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26 2016, @08:04AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26 2016, @08:04AM (#294835)

          Buran didn't need a crew. Still, the soviets only saw fit to fly it once.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24 2016, @04:37PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24 2016, @04:37PM (#293981)

    The majority of the launch thrust for the space shuttle came in the form of two giant solid state rockets. Solid state rockets are basically like giant firecrackers. You set them off and a reaction of the 'solid state' matter inside begins resulting in an uncontrollable detonation. Even if these things had been recovered in tip top shape it would take enormous refurbishing to get them back into launch condition. And NASA was getting them back in anything but tip top shape. What NASA was getting back from the ocean was basically two giant steel tubes that'd been bashed on impact and then had the salt water have its way with them. NASA has never publicly elaborated on their reuse procedures for the RS-25s that were mostly responsible for orbital maneuvers, but suffice to say they weren't being put back up anytime soon after use.

    Comparing the space shuttle to what we're doing today is inappropriate.

  • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Sunday January 24 2016, @11:14PM

    by Gravis (4596) on Sunday January 24 2016, @11:14PM (#294119)

    A multistage (or multi-stage) rocket is a rocket that uses two or more stages, each of which contains its own engines and propellant. - wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

    the shuttle used an external tank and boosters that were expended with every launch. the shuttle is not a rocket stage.

  • (Score: 2) by novak on Monday January 25 2016, @06:32AM

    by novak (4683) on Monday January 25 2016, @06:32AM (#294221) Homepage

    No, not really. When the space shuttle landed, it was entirely gutted, and the engines were overhauled in a process that was ultimately more expensive (in terms of dollars per pounds to orbit) than just building a new vehicle. The reason for this was two fold:

    First, the shuttle as a vehicle was never really that efficient. The insane weight of something the size and shape of the shuttle made it handy for really heavy payloads but poor for just taking up a few crew and some supplies for experiments.
    Second, the engine actually flew to space and back. That's a lot of stress, on reentry. The amount of parts that have to be replaced as a result really hurt the cost because a lot of stuff actually has failed.

    The SRBs were recovered too but what does that really save? A solid fuel booster is very inefficient anyhow in terms of ISP (thrust per weight flow rate of propellant).

    As far as "falling dramatically," you may be right that falling dramatically is an overstatement. I don't think the fall in price will be "dramatic" (at least for those not in the industry) until we either:
    1) focus on much cheaper fuels like in some hybrid rockets (which will need to be developed to get sufficient mass flux to matter for real launch vehicles)
    2) we develop a moderately high speed SCRAM first stage which saves a massive amount of oxidizer and fuel.

    Simpler engine systems such as pressure fed systems do make a difference though.

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    novak