Saturday, March 17, 2007

Orbital Outposts....Idea gaining ground

A lot of activity is brewing on the lunar race and space tourism. All the countries having requisite technology are in the plans(either short term or long term) to setup a base either in moon or mars. The lunar race comes after a lull of almost 35 years when US first launched its mission to moon. That was the peak of the cold war. The recent developments however are not the cold war race, rather a show of technological prowess and space tourism is encouraged on its commercial viability.

The race to set up a colony on moon has over shadowed the fact that humans still have to perfect the technology to safe long space journeys. Rather we need to focus our energies which can give us some short term successes, which would boost our efforts for long term plans.
Already the ISS (International Space Station) has proved that its is very costly to even host a facility in LEO (low Earth Orbits). we are still unable to even service ISS efficiently. The space shuttles even after flying for so many years cannot be completely reliable for transportation services. The lunar race will rather put financial strain on all the participant nations. When we are still not able to service ISS, is it worthwhile to use those energies for lunar race, just for the reason that it holds water. The rational given for such a race is that it will augment the resources of the humans. are the costs involved in such expeditions justified when we still need not even know about our own planet completely.

If we really feel that the space crunch on our planet can be solved by further expeditions in space, we need to look out alternative low cost options rather than facing uncertain issues in lunar race.

My Recommendations :
The outward expansion of humans will be possible only if we master the art of space travel, conquer the fears of space difficulties, remove the limitations of physics in development of inter-stellar travel. This all will be possible not by launching a mission to moon or mars but rather perfecting the tech to reach low orbits effectively and efficiently.
We should have more low earth posts like ISS where more developmental work can be done and technologies for further travel could be developed. we could have many benefits by having an orbital outposts like :
  • Able to more efficiently observe the incoming dangerous asteroids or meteorites.
  • The development of physics in an completely new environment, which will help us understand space more better and improve our instruments for further travel.
  • Mining of incoming meteorites for resources.
  • Space tourism can help to develop more efficient technologies to launch hman in low eartn orbits by involving private sector. (which is already happening). what further can be done is part the profits of such space tourism companies needs to be shared incommon pool so as develop further technologies.
  • Space crunch will be solved with less resources as compared to costs involved for setting up bases on moon or mars.
  • Space travel from space to moon or other planets will be very cheap as most energy is required to escape from earth's gravity which will almost missing while travelling from one space-point to other.
  • Solar energy can be more efficiently converted into energy as no atmosphere is present.
  • Development of fuels and rockets in space will help earth get rid of GHG(green house gases) generated from launching of these rockets on earth.
  • Such colonies will also help to deflect some (though miniuscle) of the suns ultraviolet rays and help to cool the warming earth.
I see a ring of orbital space colony which will look like saturn's ring from far off. If anybody has seen movie called "Starship Troopers" can understand what kind of space colony am I envisaging.

Well all the above stated developments will take some time but if the resources now used for moon and mars are diverted towards these causes, then the amount of time required can scaled down dramatically. The foremost requirement is to involve private sector in this so as help reduce costs.

If the world does not rise to these facts let it be so, India should instead focus on the above said achievements so that it can reap the benefits and also make profits from it. If we have a orbital posts, they can be good stopover for flights to further travels. So instead using our energies for long travel, lets harness it towards more relevant objectives.....

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