Fall In Love With Space Exploration

March 23, 2020

If you're seriously interested in the topic of space exploration, give Chris Hadfield's Masterclass a try:

Learn about the past, present, and future of space exploration with astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Lessons include topics like: physics of rockets, the International Space Station, leadership in space, astronaut training, spacesuits, spacewalks, and the future of space exploration.

How to start learning about space exploration

Kernel Space Program

Get it. Play it. Love it.

Get these two books as a companion to the game:

Huge percentage of this generation’s aerospace engineers were brought to the profession by this game.

Don't forget to install Realism Overhaul, RSS and RP-0.

Another game I'd recommend is Orbiter 2016.

If you wanna play this game you are forced to learn rocket science and orbital mechanics. Seriously this game doesn't play around and is a great way to learn orbital mechanics and rocket science.

Do not stop playing this game unless you can get to Mars from low earth orbit, land on a landing pad, then return to Earth and land. Once you manage to do that do it 20 times and you know orbital mechanics and rocket science.

What's a good book to learn more about space?

The Very Real Threat of Comet and Asteroid Bombardment by John S. Lewis. Lewis was a planetary scientist for the University of Arizona. Near Earth Asteroids are a super interesting topic and Dr. Lewis' writing style is readable and entertaining.

How the future looks for space exploration?

Our biggest issue right now is the power source. In the inner Solar System you always have the option of Solar but by the time you reach Jupiter you have 3.7% of the light you had in Earth Orbit. RTG's are ok for small systems that use 400-500w but you will need something like a Kilopower Reactor for Shipboard Power to run life support and ships systems in the outer Solar System.

Fuel/Engines: the two primary candidates seem to be SpaceX BFS and Blue Origin's New Armstrong (Believed to be a direct answer to BFS) the Engines will probably be Methane (Raptors and BE-4s). On planets and Moons with CO2 atmospheres you can have robotic missions set up Megapower Reactors (https://ndiastorage.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/ndia/2017/power/Ananth19349.pdf) to run Sabatier Fuel Processors (https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20120001775.pdf) before you send any humans to explore. This opens up all of the outer Planets to refueling on their Moons.

Jupiter - Callisto has a CO2 atmosphere and Water Ice, Callisto's orbits outside Jupiter's Radiation Belt. Europa, Ganymede, and Io orbit through Jupiter's Radiation Belt causing much higher radiation levels than open space.Europa's Ocean may have CO2 dissolved but no actual Exploration under the Surface has happened, any manned missions or Colonies will need to proceed directly into the ocean using the Ice Crust as a Radiation Shield against Jupiter's Radiation Belt. Ganymede has no atmosphere and no other sources of direct Methane.

Saturn - Rhea has a thin CO2 atmosphere and Water Ice. Titan has it own Methane lakes and Water ice.

Uranus - Umbriel may have CO2 and Methane trapped in water ice.

Neptune - Triton has Methane Ice and Water Ice.

Dwarf Planets Beyond Neptune - tend to have both Methane Ice and Water Ice

The Trip itself goes from many months for Mars to hopscotching around the Solar System for many years on end from fuel stop to fuel stop at our current levels of Engine Technology. Massively long trips would require a small fleet of ships in case of emergencies but still at the extreme end of doable until we develop Torch Ships that can produce some portion of 1g thrust for weeks at a time, Scott Manly has an excellent video on travel times around the Solar System using ships with constant thrust. (https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20120001775.pdf)

Space Radiation: Galactic Cosmic Radiation - GCR and Solar Particle Events - SPE will always be an issue but is primarily a matter of shielding. This research on Martian Radiation gives a good breakdown of Radiation hazards. https://spaceradiation.larc.nasa.gov/nasapapers/NASA-TP-2013-217983.pdf Hydrogenated Carbon Composites should be pursued for shipboard shielding along with water storage around select locations.

Food will become an issue on multi year missions. Small effective greenhouses will need to be developed for shipboard use during long missions for a small crew.

My conclusion is - to Colonize Mars and then use Mars as a base to launch future manned missions to Jupiter(Callisto) and the Asteroid Belt from a developed Martian Colony. Since our Moon has no ready source of Carbon to be processed into Methane as fuel for Methane Powered ships, fuel will have to be delivered from Earth beforehand anyway. Lop-G is a waste of our time and of our Taxpayer Dollars and will be unable to operate as a fuel stop. In between the 2 year windows for Martian Missions we can use the BFSs and New Armstrongs to establish bases on the moon and at Lagrange-1. Anywhere beyond Jupiter will need far more unmanned exploration to locate resources, before locations to place robotic fuel processors can be established, and long before Human Exploration.

For a Space Station or a Colony solar is an option with large solar arrays and concentrators such as giant mirrors focusing sunlight on the solar arrays, but any solar power on a Spaceship needs to be stored inside the Spaceship for launch and landing. The BFS architecture uses 2 100kw rated solar panels producing 200kw in earth orbit, since its design is based on operations as far out as Mars generating 44% power or 88kw the BFS probably needs 80kw for full operation. As you move farther out Jupiter has 3.7% solar available compared to Earth so you would need 22 100kw rated solar panels to produce 80kw power. As you move even farther out to Saturn at 10 AU you have 1% solar power available, so you would need 80 100kw rated arrays to produce 80kw power around Saturn. On Mars there will be an architecture installed prior to human arrival with nuclear power available due to global dust storms to power the BFS.

For exploring the outer planets you will rely on pre-installed fuel stations with Megapower Reactors to power the ships while producing fuel, but after initial refueling they will be travelling within the Planetary system and need power on the ground for operations longer that a day or two on battery power. Shipboard nuclear power would require enough radiators to dissipate heat from a 100kw class Kilopower Reactor, these radiators would be much smaller than the 22 Solar arrays needed at Jupiter or the 80 Solar Arrays needed at Saturn.

How can a programmer start working in space exploration?

Strong expertise in C++ and Python will serve you well if you want to work in space field.

And as a side benefit, those 2 languages will serve you perfectly, for game programming as well, if you're into that.

So your education will be like getting 2 for the price of 1!

Once you graduate, and feel fairly confident with Python and C++, the next thing you want to do, is immediately begin applying for entry level jobs in ANYTHING related to aerospace (space or aircraft).

Next take whatever job they offer!

And if you don't get a job offer right away, just keep applying over and over again. One of my friends kept applying for EVERY job opening at a particular aerospace company.

And after 2.5 years of him constantly applying they hired him! The person in the HR department said that she hired him, even though he wasn't fully qualified (didn't have the past work experience they were looking for) simply because they admired his passion and tenacity in never giving up on his dream of working for that company. But he really excelled at the job position they gave him, and worked his way up.

Further, if you can't get a job offer right away, and no one wants to hire you immediately after school, then next try contacting as many managers as you can in the industry, and tell them that you would like to work an internship-position with the company.

Internship means... well... it means you have to work for free for a few months, up to a year... but if that's the only way you can get a foothold, then go for that.

But while you're working your internship, at the same time don't give up on sending applications to other companies, and again: just keep submitting multiple applications for EVERY job offer that is suited to you, at any company you want to work with.

I know a lot of astrophysicists and astronomers who work at various universities around the world, are DESPERATE for people willing to help them code simulations in C++ and Python.

So... once you get comfortable with C++ and Python, you can then contact the head of the Astrophysics or Astronomy department at various universities around the world.

Tell them you are fascinated with space, and that you have some good skills in C++ and Python, and that you want to volunteer some coding time help.

You can then work remotely to help a PhD level scientist in the field of astronomy, which would look amazing on your resume/CV when it comes time to apply for jobs!

Also if you work on one project with that scientist, and they like you, then they'll usually hire you and pay you money for the next project. I don't think they'll pay you a fortune, but at least then you can start getting some money and payment for your work.

FINALLY... once you graduate, you can also consider maybe applying for a Master's degree program at a school in the USA or Canada, just to get your foot in the door, to North America (where a lot of the Aerospace action is taking place now).

But of course, ESA (European Space Agency) also has lots of great projects going on as well.

How can funding NASA help save our planet from climate change

I think there is a significant benefit to be gained in tasking NASA with greater responsibility and funding for devising long term solutions to global warming/climate change and continued habitability on Earth. Some notable focus areas could include:

  • Bootstrapping orbital construction capability with asteroid survey, capture, in-situ manufacturing

  • Developing a functioning laser broom for LEO debris mitigation

  • Constructing solar power satellite constellation infrastructure for beamed power generation

  • Expanded research into Solar Radiation Management technologies for future deployment

  • Continued refinement of life support systems, operations in pursuit of closed-cycle habitation

Meanwhile, continue robotic exploration and aeronautical research to help explore the boundaries of our knowledge until such time it becomes necessary and viable to go there and stay in those regimes ourselves. The ultimate goal should be to make humanity a multi-planet species, but unless anyone can live there sustainably its largely a fruitless effort.

For as inhospitable as the Sahara or Antarctic is, they're both far more habitable than anywhere else not on Mars. If we can't live in either of those extreme biomes for long term, then we can't realistically do the same off-world.

What you give it all up to venture out on a mission for the rest of your life?

So... real life isn't Star Trek.

The thought of space travel is definitely enthralling and I couldn't imagine how wonderful it'd feel to be apart of a movement that theoretically could jettison the human race into a new era, but the reality of space travel is that it's bleak, takes forever, and your chances of dying are exponentially greater than they are here on Earth.

Not only that, but the amount of human contact you'll have will necessarily diminish, and you'll eventually get to a point where (assuming you've made it far into deep space without dying from unforeseen causes or old age), communication won't even be very practical anymore given how long it'll take transmissions to reach you.

You wouldn't be able to go outside and stretch your arms as you inhale sweet air. You'd never see a sunrise again from Earth. You'd never know the feeling of relaxing in the grass or floating in water. You'd never be able to go to the supermarket for food or venture out and do whatever you wanted to do when time permitted. You'd be in an area no larger than your bedroom with, possibly, one or two other people, and given that even with lightspeed travel it'd still take far too long to explore interstellar space, you'd be in for a very, very miserable life.

To me, that's not worth it. This planet isn't without its issues but it's still home, and life here precious only in the context that it's surrounded by a hostile void that would erase everything from existence were it not for our magnetic field and atmosphere protecting us.

Earth shouldn't so easily be taken for granted just because it's already familiar.

If more money was invested in space exploration, how different do you think the world would be?

If the goal is growing our civilization (econmically, scientifically, and geographically) then industrializing the 3rd world was a major step we needed to take. Develping computing and the Internet was a major step. Avoiding a NATO/Warsaw nuclear war was a major step.

We dropped the ball in several areas. We created a dependant class of ungrateful eaters in the West. We believed that we needed to kill our children to control our population. We let militaristic Putin gain control of Russia. We allowed slavery to continue in the parts of the world under Sharia Law, and terrorist attacks are our just desserts for our callous, uncaring negligence. We failed to develop underwater bases, or to explore space.

If we had done better we could have a planet of 15 billion people, united in our desire to expand into space. Our undersea colonies would be the blueprint for underground / undersea colonies on the Moon, Mars, Europa, Pluto, Ceres and everywhere else there is mass that can rest on top of water.

Funding NASA and other space programs would help achieving these goals because of technological breakthroughs. I guess that as the ability to travel to other worlds and to build hospital environments in space improves, humanity will more easily give up on caring for and preserving the Earth. Humanity will move on to colonize other worlds and forget about its reckless and destructive behaviour on Earth and abandon without hesitation the planet that created and nurtured it into existence.

NASA has an economic return of between $8 and $15 for every dollar spent.

I'd be down with doubling (or more!) NASA's budget. As long as they have a mission that isn't going to change. I'm sure they are tired of spending money on a project, only to change it when the president changes.

Here are some facts that explain the scope of our universe

Our universe is about 13.8 billion years old right now.

  • In 4 billion years, Milky Way and Andromeda collide to form a big "Milkdromeda" galaxy. The chances of you leaving the galaxy are very low at this point.

  • In 8 billion, Sol no longer exists.

  • In 22 billion years the Universe will end if the expansion of the universe continues to increase exponentially.

  • In 100 billion years, the expansion of the Universe cause all the galaxies to disappear from the observable universe from our local galactic group. For all intents and purposes aside from the few galaxies around, nothing else exists. You won't be able to leave at this point (the universe, for you at least, contains not much else either way).

  • In 450 billion years, all the 47 galaxies in our local galactic group converge into one big star soup. You should have fallen into the gravity well of a star at this point. The local group contains billions and billions of stars; the supergiant galaxy increases your chance of encountering one.

  • In 800 billion years, star formation in this supergiant galaxy ends.

  • In 1 trillion years, stars stop forming in most galaxies.

  • In 100 trillion years, the last of the stars (usually very small Jupiter sized Red Dwarfs) die out. Only stellar remnants remain. Black holes and white dwarfs roam around encountering nothing. This marks the beginning of the degenerate era. If nothing has killed the universe at this point then this is where it starts dying (the Heat Death scenario).

What are the arguments for space exploration?

Too me it's a mindset, a curiosity and a need to explore, but also a vision of our future and the desire to advance as humans.

I see the opposite in groups such as ISIS. The beheadings and executions don't scare me, but that backwards mindset does. They don't want a future, they want to have power in a world that doesn't question them so they can reign through fear and idiocy.

To me space exploration isn't just about sending rockets to space and discovering the technological advancements, formulas and concepts, but it´s about having that 'mindset' that also trickles down into the other layers of our society.

Artists begin fantasizing about our future and create sci fi books, movies, music and art. Look at recent technological advancements that were inspired by these mediums. Holograms, tablets, stun guns, mobile phones, internet, androids and robots, futuristic cars, nano fiber clothes and so on.

Earth is a part of the universe so we can't stay in our cave and not question that which is around us. Looking up at space gave us the most basic technologies such as watches and the basic principles of momentum and gravity.

There is a lot that we as humans don't even know yet and exploring the universe can give us answers. We just need to ask the questions.

Another thing: research. There's a research station at the south pole. It's cold, nothing around, dark for 6 months straight, no resources, but the point of view is entirely different so it's a unique location to research... whatever it is they are researching over there. Likewise, and even more so, Mars offers a vantage point that is out of this world.

Mars has the most important resource; planets to live on. Right now we have one, and our technology is reaching the point where world leaders are starting to have access to real, unstoppable doomsday devices. We must get to two.

We arent really racing for it, if we wanted to go there we could have already have a base their or at least plant a flag and make an Apollo like mission.

However we will get a lot of technology out of it just because we will be forced to innovate due to the trip requirements.

There will be no big advancements but they wont be small either.

What are the arguments against space exploration?

The universe is way too vast, to the point were space exploration is pointless. The nearest solar system to ours is 10.5 light years away. We can currently travel at 760 miles per hours tops. That is 0,00000113 times the speed of light. Let that sink in, that is 5 zeros after the comma.

It would take a million years to get there, hell even if we could travel 10000 times faster it would still take 800 hundred years. Oh and by the way, that solar system has only ONE planet and is absolutely un-interesting. Can you imagine anything man made surviving that long in space? It would get blown to pieces before it got half the way there.

We have a near infinite power source conveniently parked next to our planet, all we need to do is to stop spending money on pointless space expeditions and focus on making life on earth more sustainable.

Also, anything that could be done on Mars could be much more easily done on earth. There is no miracle terraforming technology, the amount of resources we would have to put towards making the red planet habitable would be prohibiting and could be put to better use on Earth.

The real reason why it’s important is because eventually the planet will no longer be habitable or a large threat from space could make it uninhabitable, be it a gamma ray burst or extinction level asteroid impact and the sooner we start the less chances we allow for going extinct. The second reason is to do science and try to answer long standing questions like are we the only life in the Universe or does life pop up whever the conditions are right and the first place to search is our own solar system. Last but not least is resources, we live on a planet with finite amounts of metals, minerals etc.

The universe is as far as we can tell infinite, each one of us could lord over their own solar system and again the sooner we start venturing outwards the better for accessing those riches. Environmentalists should also be onboard as off planet resource extraction pretty much replaces Earth extraction and exploitation and if done at scale could vastly reduce ground and water pollution. Religious people should also support the effort, more resources means more people which equals more followers and it’s only right that man should explore the heavens left to us by the Creator.

Isn't it sad that we were born in a day and age when we can't really explore space?

I have been listening more and more to Ray Kurzweil and Michio Kaku. Like them or not, both of them have brought up interesting points on the topic of the future. Ray gives estimates and predictions, which may be right or wrong, about humans surpassing our biological limitations on our lifespan. We are a long way from achieving that, but science and technology advances at exponential rate, and the gap that you now see will start to close up quickly.

You have nothing to be sad about. You were born in the perfect time. By the time we are able to fix our biological limitations, you will have had a full life, and many chances to gain more wealth and opportunity in comparison to other generations.. The only thing weighing you back, is dying too early (within the next 20ish years).

Each year that passes, the chances that we will be able to extend our life by just a few years increases. Once technology gets smaller and faster, more doors open up, and we will find a better way to preserve and manage our biological functions as humans. Literally this is the most exciting age to be born into, so I just do not get why you should feel sad.

I don't reddit too much, but everything I have said cannot necessarily be proven without a doubt. But many people do agree that this is generally where things are headed, even if you do not agree with the claims. The uncertainty, and the hope is what makes this present time so awesome.

Just know that most interpretations of what we think the future will be like, are not always spot-on.

There is so much about our own world beyond "the microchip" to be excited about. We live in a truly magical age when our world has been shrunk down in a way that makes most things accessible to most everyone. Watch this, and tell me if you still feel this sense of sadness. I doubt that you will.

If I can get a bit science-fictional on you for a moment... AI is coming. Nothing short of an all out world war will stop it and even that may not be enough. When it arrives... Well, you can expect everything to change. At that point, expecting humanity to avoid an increased presence in space is like expecting a man to buy a car so he can sit in his driveway. We'll be out there, and we'll be looking for ways to move farther and faster than we ever have before just because we can, and because there are things out there we haven't seen.

Cavemen probably believed nobody would ever cross the desert. Then we thought nobody could cross the sea. After that it was flight that was considered impossible and then a landing on the moon.

It took us millions of years to develop culture, from there it took tens of thousands to develop the written word. It took another few thousand before someone discovered the concept of electricity and a few hundred before they could readily generate it. From there it was only a bit over a hundred years before it was readily supplied to the populace and a few decades after that it was in every building in the civilized world. A few decades later and it was being used to process information on computers that cost millions and took up entire rooms just to run simple math equations. A couple more decades and the computers cost thousands and took up a desk. A few more and they cost hundreds, they can access almost the entirety of human knowledge, and they fit in your pocket.

The point is, technology grows exponentially.The first flight occurred in 1903, the first commercial airline opened in 1949. The first man flew into space in 1961, the first commercial spaceflights should be any day now, right on time. There's no reason to believe we'll be confined to this planet for more than the next 50 years and no reason to believe we'll be confined to this solar system for more than 100. And sure, that sounds optimistic, but if you disagree then you're betting against the full weight of human history that says we refuse to stand still. Why would we start now?

Bonus: give this recording a listen

Radiolab ran a beautiful episode on Voyager mission featuring Carl Sagan's wife. It's called 'Where the sun don't shine'. There's something about that episode that makes me go back and listen to it anytime that I am down or depressed.

I sit back, close my eyes, put on my headphones and think about how irrelevant my worries are. But most of all, I think about the love as Carl Sagan's wife describes it and how I think it's the most beautiful little love story I have ever heard.

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