Volunteering for an Exploration into Mediocrity

The title of this article in the Guardian looked great “Space Exploration Volunteers Wanted (The catch? It’s a one way ticket)” but the authors must have had a deadline to meet for today’s Apollo 11 anniversary or else not be too interested in the subject, because they jump all over the place. The interesting part of the discussion was with John Olson, Nasa’s director of exploration systems integration :

A senior Nasa official has told the Guardian that the world’s space agencies, or the commercial firms that may eventually succeed them, could issue one-way tickets to space, with the travellers accepting that they would not come back.

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The Future of Space Flight

Take a look at these interesting questionaires being used by the ESA for an upcoming seminar on the future of spaceflight.

They are trying to start a discussion about realistic, upcoming as well as fantastic dreams for the future of space.  This is a good way to go about it I think, until we know what it is we really dream about we can know how to choose from what is possible or how to push beyond the just possible.

One of the questions was along the lines of, if you had one thing to say to the designers of future space flight systems what would it be?  Here’s what I said:

Keep your mind open, think beyond government centralized control, think beyond scientific goals. Think of the internet, the blogosphere etc, how that exploded in a short time once people were enabled with technology. How could we enable small governments, corporations even groups of committed individuals to harness technology for use in space or even to explore space? Computer power is available, the knowledge is available. Committed groups of people exploring for their own goal may be willing to take risks and reap rewards that government programs never could. As space scientists and engineers how can you enable this kind of revolution?

Russia to approve new Moon rocket

Well apparently Russia doesn’t like being left out of the upcoming Moon party and they have approved a new Moon rocket.  Frankly, I find the push to get everyone back to the Moon is a badly motivated.  I’m hugely in favour of increased exploration of space, both robotic and manned, but is the Moon the best way to advance?

I think we should have set up a Moon base long ago and that such a base would be fundamentally more interesting and useful than the current space station.  It mightn’t have been cheaper mind you, its a long way to the Moon compared to low Earth orbit.  But it would have been more exciting and allowed for more people and more science to happen if we had a solid moon base instead of a rickety floating one.  I know there is micro-gravity science to be done too, but that could mostly be done in shuttles or other experiments.  After all these years it is only now that the space station is complete enough and soon will have room for more crew that real science can be done around the clock.  As it is now the current few astronauts are busy just maintaining the systems.

But I digress.  The planetary society recently released its plan for a bold new future in space and exploration of the Moon is in there, but as an optional addition.  They encourage NASA to allow other nations just getting their feet wet in space, like China, Japan and even Europe, to do the Moon bit. Meanwhile, the more experienced US program should push beyond the Moon, out into interplanetary space with missions to near Earth asteroids.  These missions would be exciting, scientifically useful and …well exciting!  And they would give some real preparation for the real goal of human space exploration which should be putting some bootprints on Mars.

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