DailyDirt: Commercial Astronauts

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Canadian "rockstar" astronaut Chris Hadfield, who just returned from the International Space Station, says he's retiring. (Yep, he's the guy who performed David Bowie's "Space Oddity" in zero-g while orbiting the Earth.) While he may be retiring from the Canadian Space Agency, he may not be done with spaceflight just yet, as he sees commercial spaceflight as a real possibility. In the past decade, several private commercial spaceflight ventures have been seriously developing and testing their own spacecraft, and eventually "commercial astronauts" will be needed to help run commercial space missions and space tourism flights. Here's some of the latest news in commercial spaceflight. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.
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Filed Under: a4h, astronauts, chris hadfield, iss, manned space exploration, x prize
Companies: armadillo aerospace, bigelow aerospace, boeing, nasa, spacex, stratolaunch, virgin galactic, xcor

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2013 @ 5:22pm

    We need a new propulsion system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, 13 Jun 2013 @ 5:58pm

    There are NO new propulsion systems.

    Bored with the usual "this is hardly surprising" fare, so going to risk being entertaining, not that you kids will enjoy me outlining the practical problems.

    Anyhoo, reason no one has even been back to the moon is because it's orders of magnitude more difficult than just near space as the fool Rich "space tourists" are going to. You must reach escape velocity, and that takes nearly a Saturn Five rocket for even zero payload, just to lift itself: only a TINY fraction of the original weight can get to escape velocity. To land on the moon requires MUCH fuel for braking, necessitating larger and heavier booster, and the numbers rapidly worsen.

    Just because going to the Moon has been done with literally national resources squandered doesn't at all imply that private corporations can duplicate the feat, even for a small robot. Physics problems don't get easier with experience, can only be solved with brute force.

    NASA skipped robots on the moon because the incremental costs of going on to Mars are quite low, besides that we've confirmed the Moon is a dusty vacuum utterly hostile to life. As we now know about Mars. It's sheer lunacy that the Moon will EVER be occupied for more than a couple days, let alone Mars, be another couple orders of magnitude more difficult. We is doomed to stay on the planet absent some utterly unsuspected breakthrough, not a glimmer of which is now present, no matter how much Star Trek you've watched.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ThatSpaceGuy, 17 Jun 2013 @ 9:15am

    New propulsion systems

    So to list a few of the newest propulsion systems there is the DreamChasers liquid rubber and nitrousoxide, The electric "impulse" drive used to deliver many of the mars missions, The microwave drive also involved in mars missions. The aluminium furled mars return rocket proposal, and oh so many others.

    The problem with most of these new propulsion systems is:
    1)the low specific impulse of chemical rockets for extended use (the dream chaser drive does allow provide solid power on and off repeatedly which is limited to only a few propulsion designs but still has a limited amount of burn time overall)

    2)the low per second power of non-chemical rockets.
    Electric drives like the Impulse drive and microwave drive run long but could never lift from the surface of the moon let alone earth.

    Feel free to notice the possibility of using both. (I do)

    Here is one posssible way we could go to mars (or further).

    -Use a pegasus style air launch to reduce the first stage costs and get the basic parts into higher orbit (Stratolaunch).
    -Add the ability to combine launched materials and fuels to build the second stage higher up out of the gravity well (international space station)
    -Include the electric drives currently used to sustain orbits of our larger satillites to increase range

    Such a planned steped system could alow some very nice exploration in our near future.

    Just remember that having a way to physically place the weight on another planet does not complete the trip.

    We have been studying the effects of near-weightlessness on human bodies for years now and they are formidible. So to are the effects of radiation outside of the earth's planetary magnetoshpere.

    The need to keep humans warm, fed, watered, and breathing are the only parts we have any real experience with and the catestrophic results of pushing human bodies into the radiation storm of outerspace without having a functioning magnetic shield to protect them does not bear up under clear headed thought.

    I loved star trek too but I know that there is a lot more work to be done if those technologies are to become more than scripted dreams.

    So I say "If you want to go then you'd better get to work".
    Make those radiation shields.
    Build that atmosphere recycler.
    Create ultra-dense renewable food sources (even star trek created a magic food dispenser).

    When you have all of those, then you can talk about how propulsion is your limit.

    Because we can and have moved the metal, but we would be moving a corpse if we did it with humans before we make the trip safe to take.

    Please keep dreaming. But please also consider becoming part of making the things you want to see in the future a reality by getting that advanced degree and working toward the technologies need to bring those dreams to life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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