The reality is that a certain demographic, I call them “The Ayn-Rand-in-Space Cult” are attracted to these forums as a way to shout their ideology from the mountaintops. Their interest in space is only incidental to their libertarian worldview. Anyone with any experience with this knows they are the most malicious toxic bunch on the internet. And they truly believe they are a vast legion of far-right patriots who will see John Galt return in all his glory through the person of rocket jesus. Really.
Those of us with a vision of a bright future for humankind need to speak up or soon we might find ourselves in a new dark age. Fascism is on the march, again.
If you look at the way NASA wrote the specifications for Apollo and had industry design and build it and now give away that power to determine what will be built to corporations and companies like spacex, it is not “odd.”
Unfortunately, this is something that historically has led to failure after failure because the profit motive only seeks…profit. They care very little about accomplishing a mission, that is only incidental and in the interest of future revenues. I see this in the escape systems of the dragon and starliner, which are both inferior to the escape tower concept but were chosen as “moneymakers.”
The Space Shuttle is very interesting in that it is in many ways the opposite of the Saturn V. It was built on the cheap to be cheap and ended up being just as expensive but instead of going to the Moon it just went a couple hundred miles up. That is what you get when making money instead of getting results is the real goal.
This handing billions of tax dollars over to industry is being done in these small chunks of a hundred million or so dollars at a time because…they can get away with it.
Unfortunately, the majority who comment here are in the Ayn-Rand-in-Space Cult and are going to be extremely “critical” of this article. Due to a change in the blocking feature on this board I will happily not see those comments and hopefully they will not see mine and spam accordingly.
I would suggest hydrogen, that thrice damned propellant that NewSpace fans have written volumes about because their favorite company does not use it, as one solution.
The world will not end if hydrogen is specified as the necessary propellent of launch vehicles. In fact, hydrogen produced only with green energy could be mandated for rocket launches. With close to a hundred thousand satellites going up in these megaconstellations this will not stop climate change but it will set the example.
Hydrogen is also the fuel of choice for future airliners. They will be fatter but they will fly just as far. And it follows that green ammonia, if practical, can replace gasoline and diesel in cars, trucks, and even ships, though not in jet engines and rockets due to the inability to filter out nitrous oxide. If nitrous oxide cannot be eliminated then ammonia is not an option and electrically driven options, though less attractive, become the requirement.
If these steps are mandated, made law, then industry has no choice but to start building up alternate energy sources. Solar Thermal with molten salt energy storage is likely the best path, though starting up some of these plants has actually been a problem due to the lower price of solar panels. The fossil fuel industry has of course fought against this kind of changeover, which could have been done decades ago. The Koch brothers being the most notable super-villains.
But even when international regulation is put in place, the challenge is not changing over to a near-zero carbon footprint, it is providing a western standard of living to a population of 10 billion human beings near the end of the century. I believe that challenge can only be met with Space Solar Power by way of lunar resources. That is the main reason I am a space enthusiast
If something is too good to be true it usually is. SpaceX has had success with the Falcon 9 but NOT in proportion to the hype. Not even close. Elon put his foot in the door by promising a cheap ride to the ISS and Obama opened the door the rest of the way and made the mistake of letting him in. And that is pretty much the whole story. Landing back the first stage is, in my view, much like the SRB’s on the shuttle that did not break even. The reality is that if they built the F9 with a single large engine as an expendable it would have resulted in the same costs. This is why Elon is promoting the shiny; F9 has run it’s course. It was a good thing they tried reusability, not a great thing.
Unfortunately, unlike the F9, which likely would have been a success no matter how it was designed due to NASA and the taxpayer paying for it, the shiny has some extremely bad design features. And it is part of an extremely bad business plan (Starlink). Small details can decide success or failure and the Space Shuttle is certainly the perfect example of that. By itself, the shiny might be a good second stage, but that super heavy is a monstrosity that would be better made into two side boosters, and there is no third stage and the chopsticks are a mistake.
A recipe for failure.
I really like your O’Neillian perspective Joseph, and thanks for the civil discourse.
Very rare here.
“Everything in O’Neill’s vision was predicated on the idea that getting stuff out of Terra’s gravity well was too damn expensive & had to get cheaper.”
Not true. If anything can be categorized as “everything” in O’Neill’s view, it was using lunar resources. His vision for the future was predicated on Space Solar Energy as the economic engine of space colonization. He considered this enterprise a state-sponsored public works project. This is antithetical to NewSpace dogma and why Elon considers space solar, “a stupid idea.” He can’t own it so it is stupid is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. Bezos is just another Neoliberal hobbyist until he proves otherwise.
You just started off on the opposite foot. Completely wrong direction in my opinion. Sorry.
“Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?”. The answer was ‘No’. The reason for this is because of the tremendous energy cost-“
No..it had nothing to do with cost. It was about human beings having evolved in one gravity. And then you go on to argue that somehow because O’Neill was mistaken in some way, that NEO’s are better than Luna for resources. No. Where do you get all this stuff? I have dealt with people who take O’Neill out of context and misquote frequently but you are basing everything on the profit motive which indicates you are not really what you are presenting yourself as.
O’Neill’s formula was clear, and while he speculated often, and this is taken out of context by people for their own agenda, he promoted a future based on three things:
1. Space colonies, artificial hollow spinning moons constructed from lunar resources (because no natural bodies can provide Earth gravity).
2. A state-sponsored public works project to provide Space Solar Power to power planet Earth as the economic engine to enable colonization.
3. Using lunar resources to build a Space Solar Power infrastructure and enable space colonization as a solution to poverty and, as he incidentally foresaw, climate change.
” He posited Space Solar Power Satellites as a revenue stream, because the information age was completely unimaginable.”
No. He saw, correctly, that energy is the salient feature of modern civilization. Those who right now are “positing” information instead are not in touch with reality. They are ignoring the human condition on planet Earth. Placing profit first is exactly what Neoliberalism does.