Why we abandoned space exploration in favor of dwelling in dark ages?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Plazma Inferno!, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    During the 60s and 70s almost everything and everyone was inspired by space: science, technology, art, design, culture...
    It was common thought that in the first years of 21st century we'd have at least one habitable colony in our Solar system (Mars). Well, at least I thought so in the 80s.
    These decades had far more progressive thinking than we had it today. It was far more futuristic society than today.
    In 1966, three years before man was on the Moon, NASA’s employed 400,000 people and used more than 4% of the US federal budget.These days NASA spends just 0.5% of the same budget.

    Instead of space exploration, humanity started exploring how to end its existence in most gruesome, savage ways. Instead of colonies on other planets we have a rise of fanatism and stupidity just like in good old dark ages.
    I know there's no simple answer to this question, but I'd still like to know what happened?
    darksidZz and danshawen like this.
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  3. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

    That isn't true (though vague...). The world has generally gotten safer, not more dangerous.
    There is a simple answer: It is expensive and difficult and we don't get much out of it vs the cost.
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    How can you say we have abandoned space exploration? We have a far greater understanding of the universe than in the 60s, we just don't need to go into space ourselves to do it.
    We went to the moon in the 60s and early 70s, but what would have been the purpose of going back since then?
    We have the ISS, a permanently manned station - not exactly on the scale of Kubrick's and Clarke's imaginings but it's still progress.

    As for the level of spending by the US... It was that level because it needed to be to do what they wanted to do. And it wasted an awful lot of that money in bureaucracy and red tape. Now it doesn't need to be as high because there's simply no imperative to manually explore, we can send probes, satellites etc. heck, we landed a satellite on a comet, for Pete's sake!

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    We are exploring.

    We are also getting private companies involved, and development will run faster and with greater progressive thinking than NASA can muster.
    And NASA built the shuttle, which is probably the one thing that held them back and limited their abilities... they ploughed a healthy chunk of their budget into a program that simply didn't offer what they hoped.
    It was intended to cost c.$50bn in today's money for one-off costs and then about $60 million per flight. With 135 missions, total mission costs would have expected to have been $8-10bn, for a total of c.$60bn.

    In reality it cost just under $200 billion.
    And all it did was enable us to reuse a manned-vehicle, when far cheaper options were available.

    But it was still exploration of sorts, and we have learnt so much from that.

    Your notion of space exploration seems to be idealistic, with manned colonies etc. But while they sound good there needs to be a reason for doing them.
    In the 60s and 70s, even in the 80s, before the boom of the PC, the future of science and tech may have been in the large scale things like moon-colonies. But now that we are actually in that future, we can do so much more, cheaper, and without the personal risk of being there.

    If we ever do go back to the moon, or even to Mars, it will likely be as minimal as the early research centres at the poles. There do not appear to be any useful resources on the moon, and nothing on Mars that Earth could economically use. So our exploration is done with probes, with satellites, with telescopes.
    But we have explored. And we continue to explore.
    Just look at the vast array of probes we have launched within the solar system:

    And if you call the communication state of today's world "the dark ages", where social media ensures knowledge is shared quickly, where technology is progressing quicker than ever, then it would seem you have a narrow view by which you judge things.
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Space travel was huge in the 1950's. Newspapers were filled with the idea of creating artificial satellites in orbit around Earth. Human beings were riding in them a few short years later, by the early 60's. I still remember getting up in the darkness before dawn as a child with my family to watch manned-space launches live on TV. It was exciting, it captured the imaginations of people all around the world.

    By 1969, human beings were on the Moon. The movie 2001 kind of captures where everyone expected things to have progressed today.

    Then it just... stopped.

    There were several reasons.

    Part of the reason was the Space Shuttle. It was a glorious piece of engineering in some ways, and we will probably never see anything like it again in our lifetimes. But in its way, it was deadly to space exploration.

    It was supposed to usher in the day of cheap reusable space transportation and everyone expected it to haul components for deep space expeditions into orbit for assembly. But the shuttle was vastly over-complicated and far more costly and difficult to operate than ever expected. It never achieved anything close to the turn-around times and the sortie-rates that had been promised. Given NASA's reduced post-Apollo budgets, it was all that the agency could do to keep it running. So the whole focus of manned space travel came to revolve around the shuttle and putting men into low earth orbit over and over and over again for no visible reason.

    The only big project that it was ever used for was the International Space Station, a boondoggle that was always in search of a mission, basically a political concept, a symbol of human unity in space or something.

    So astronauts were transformed from brave explorers of the unknown final frontier into... space bus-drivers, driving an f'ing shuttle.

    What's more, NASA became more and more bureaucratic and risk-averse. So much was invested in four shuttles that losing one of them would cripple NASA and end its managers' careers. Failure was no longer an option and everything became over-engineered and incredibly costly.

    A perhaps even bigger set of reasons for the abandonment of space travel were the social changes that society was undergoing in the 1960's and 1970's. Interest turned to social engineering and to the dream of ending every imaginable social problem here on Earth. Space exploration became a rival for money that could be channeled into new social programs instead. And since politicians get votes by promising to give their voters free stuff, we know how that went.

    The new generation of young people today just don't care. Young people are supposed to have dreams and ambition, but today they don't. Space exploration? So what? They have cell-phones and "social media". They can text their high-school friends endlessly and share stupid videos of cats, so what else do they need?

    The dream of humanity expanding out into the cosmos was just... tossed away, without any sadness or regret except from a few old-timers like me.

    I live in a brave new world now, a world that culturally speaking I no longer recognize. The abandonment of mankind's destiny out among the stars has been the greatest tragedy of my lifetime.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
    Gage likes this.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The obstacles to sending humans out into space for any significant period of time are so enormous as to be prohibitive. Just look at what they're telling us about establishing a colony on Mars: It would be virtually impossible to ever bring them back, because the industrial infrastructure that builds and maintains all the equipment (including the ship itself!) simply does not exist on Mars.

    But by the same token, the industrial infrastructure that feeds us also does not exist on Mars. Perhaps they could carry enough food to survive for a few years, but building a hydroponic garden requires--once again--more resources than they could possibly have brought from Earth.

    Not only can these people never come home (assuming that we want them to be alive!), but they can't even live anything close to a full lifespan on Mars. If they manage to muddle through a couple of years, before a critical piece of equipment fails or a Martian bacterium starts to eat them from the inside, it would be astounding.

    We will continue sending unmanned spacecraft out into the universe, but it will be quite a while before we can send any humans to establish colonies out there. I'd say that our best bet is to discover an inhabited planet in another solar system, and hope that they have sufficiently advanced technology that can provide our explorers with the things they need, even if the planet itself doesn't have earth-like conditions. Of course, other than that wrinkle, our second biggest problem is that it's at least a ten-year voyage to the nearest exoplanet that might be similar enough to Earth to support human life. We need to build a starship that will support its crew for ten years, and the crew needs to not only have enough air, water and food to survive, but also a rather well-stocked tool kit to keep the ship operating for ten years.
  9. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    I believe we are just experiencing an hiatus with regards to space travel. I actually feel the same way as Plasma Inferno in the OP and Yazata's post just above.
    The two obnoxious variables responsible for this hiatus are politics and economics. I'm now an old fart and I certainly do remember those heady days of Sputnik, Explorer 1, Luna and Apollo, and I always envisaged that we would by now have a permanent presence on the Moon, and even Mars before I kicked the bucket. I havn't quite yet kicked the bucket, but that dream has faded somewhat.
    Still, when the appropriate time comes, [and I'm sure it will] I believe that in better times, we will again go back to the Moon, and we will get to Mars and return safely.
    The Space Shuttle as others have already commented on, was an awesome development and I was sorry to see it shelved....Yes it cost the lives of 14 brave souls in 135 expeditions, but I'm sure each of those souls would still vouch for what great innovations were realised through the Shuttle flights, including of course the launching and repair of the HST.

    The ISS and other space stations that have gone before are equally as notable in man gaining knowledge for further ventures into space.
    All were steps into the permanent colonisation of future planetary bodies.

    Given time, we will have manned ventures to other bodies in our solar system, and again, given the time, even beyond. Yes, we need to fix up a few Earthly problems, and yes we will need politicians with balls, but as I'm rather fond of saying, there is a big wide wonderful awesome Universe out there, and as long as we look after Earth, we have a couple of billions of years to achieve even eventual stellar travel. I don't believe we are going to stagnate on this fart arse little blue orb, until its eventual demise.
  10. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    The heyday of space travel was driven by the Cold War.

    Manned missions to the Moon were great for morale, but not so great for scientific research (at least on a return per dollar basis). Unmanned probes give us a lot more bang for the buck.

    Now that the Cold War is over, we can return to more efficient scientific methods of exploration, and spend the extra money on repairing or own planet.

    It's not a cool or romantic answer, but it's a pragmatic one.
    danshawen likes this.
  11. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Additionally, science is now challenging the status quo about climate change, and it's the business community that controls many of our politicians.
    danshawen likes this.
  12. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    If we only spent 1/10 of the money now wasted on arming every man, woman and child in the United States with a collection of assault weapons, we could be colonizing Mars and Titan with renewable permanent habitats. And the planet they left behind would be a less dangerous place too. Going to other planets takes courage. We seem to have a deficit of courage, but an over abundance of fear.

    Or maybe we could offer supporters of the Islamic state their very own planet, preferably not this one. Then Europe and the United States wouldn't need to be armed to the teeth. Just changing the way we pay for oil would seem to remedy if not solve several problems at once. The rockets don't really need to go anywhere other than to take a steep dive into the moon or self destruct if they were hijacked. Poetic justice for real lunatics so determined to self-destruct.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
  13. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Humans are designed for earth and if they leave they cannot count on what they trust here on earth, ie there perception.

    So they are designed for earth, and humans found this out. You people do not understand how important the earth is to all you.

    Like i said over a decade ago on this board i think, can humans have babies in space. I think there has been studies, and i would think the answer is no.

    Thats your answer. The space race ended before i was born, and they found out this before i was born.
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I'd like to see your calculations.

    Just establishing a colony on the moon would cost a large fortune, and a lot of new stuff would have to be invented to make it possible.

    Building it on Mars might require 1,000 times as much investment, and Titan even greater--again, because of the long distances to be traversed. The artificial environment for life support on one ship would cost a fortune, and there's no way we could get enough people, equipment and supplies to Mars with a single vessel. Much less to Titan.
    danshawen likes this.
  15. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    I'm including the amount spent on purchasing such weapons as well as medical treatment required for injuries and deaths sustained from accidental gunshot wounds, which can be found in Mother Jones (the only publication gutsy enough to publish such statistics). Over the W era alone, it would have been enough money to finance three more moon landings with enough money left over to build two new space shuttles.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The cost of establishing a colony on Mars would surely be at least three orders of magnitude greater than the cost of three moon landings.

    Just getting there is expensive. A much larger vehicle than the moon lander, carrying more people, more fuel, more medicine (how long until they can synthesize more, and what new ailments will arise in a new environment?), more food (how long before they can grow their own in Martian soil?), more communication equipment, building materials and tools (they can't live in that claustrophobic little ship forever), and whatever it takes to deliver babies and raise them.

    The USA is the only nation with a GDP large enough to pull this off, and it would still probably be the largest item on our budget. Especially with the government running it, with their legendary efficiency!
    danshawen likes this.
  17. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


    Which is why I believe that any manned Mars mission should be an International effort.
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  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The GDP of the entire rest of the planet is about six times that of the USA, and none of those other countries is as opulent as the USA. Not to mention, many of them are downright impoverished. All of us working together might just barely be able to pay for a manned Mars mission--the crew lands, spends a couple of months studying the place and comes back. It would probably be ten years before the entire earth's population would accumulate enough of an economic surplus to do it again, and in any case they'd never approve of the austerity needed to pull it off a second time. I don't see humans establishing an actual, self-supporting community on Mars within your lifetime, much less mine--which might stretch for another 20 years if I'm lucky.

    As for exploring exoplanets, I suspect that this will remain within the realm of science fiction for several more generations. If only because it will be a very long journey!
  19. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    That may or may not be the case, but an International effort to Mars would still be highly beneficial just as the ISS has shown how we are able to work together for the benefit of all.
    Like I said anyway, irrespective of those two horrible variables of economics and politics, in time these things will be done, and it would be done sooner as an international effort.
    [Although at this time I will admit being basically an optimist, I do dream of a Star Trek like future for humanity with regards to politics and economics.]
    Most likely true, but again my united Star Trek like future would certainly be the way to go, but again as long as time permits, that too, should be achieved.
    Extra Solar planets exploration, I would put optimistically in around 150 years.
    zgmc likes this.
  20. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    Famous Dr. Robert Zubrin's "Mars Direct" mission, proposed back in the 90s.
  21. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Incredibly ignorant.

    Islam is a peaceful religion. Many violent criminals are Islam just like many violent criminals are Christian and atheist - and American and European.

    Also, many Americans and Europeans are Islamist.

    Rational people protect themselves from criminals, not from religions.
    danshawen likes this.
  22. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015
  23. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    Let's be clear about a few things. Parts of Arab culture are great. Architecture, since the pyramids (unless you listen to Ben Carson). Dubai stands alone as a crowning modern architectural achievement by Arabs in particular. If you can't pay for food in Dubai, it is free until you can.

    What isn't so great? The Islamic orthodox or fundamentalist idea that if there is a tallest building in a city or in the world, there had better be a mosque at the top of it. It isn't even an idea worthy of someone who believes in a flat Earth. It is also idolatry, and of the worst possible kind, which the religion of Islam rather strongly prohibits. Worshiping jihad and the weapons used to carry it out against people of other religious faiths is also idolatry, and breaks the commandment (the same commandments of Christianity and Judaism) about loving your neighbor and not coveting whatever of value it is they may possess, like better sense.

    The idea that all manner of other religious observance is inferior by members of any faith is bad. Teaching intolerance to children should be viewed as criminal, but as Christians are fond of saying, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. If the Westboro Baptist church were put forward as an example of Christian tolerance, it looks like eternal damnation would be a definite improvement.

    I'm converting to Reform Judaism. Thanks for pointing out my momentary transgression. Some habits taught since I was a child are harder to break than others.

    You probably couldn't sell a Mars Olympus Mons mission to ISIS by proposing it as a high place to plant a mosque. It was a stupid idea on my part.

    At least, I don't plan on voting for Trump.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015

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