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Archive for the ‘habitats’ category: Page 68

Feb 6, 2012

The runaway greenhouse reversal: Cooling Venus

Posted by in categories: chemistry, existential risks, futurism, habitats, space

As we all know, Venus’s atmosphere & temperature makes it too hostile for colonization: 450°C temperatures and an average surface pressure almost 100 times that of Earth. Both problems are due to the size of its atmosphere — massive — and 95% of which is CO2.

The general consensus is that Venus was more like that of the Earth several billion years ago, with liquid water on the surface, but a runaway greenhouse effect may have been caused by the evaporation of the surface water and subsequent rise of greenhouse gases.

It poses not just a harsh warning of the prospects of global warming on Earth, but also a case study for how to counter such effects — reversing the runaway greenhouse effect.

I have wondered if anyone has given serious thought to chemical processes which could be set in motion on Venus to extract the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The most common gas in the Universe is of course hydrogen, and if sufficient quantities could be introduced to the Venusian atmosphere, with the appropriate catalysts, could the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere be eventually reversed back into solid carbon compounds, water vapor and oxygen? The effect of this would of course not only bring down the temperature, but return the surface pressure, with 95% of its atmosphere removed, to one more similar to that of Earth. Perhaps in adding other aerosols the temperatures could be reduced further and avoid a re-runaway effect.

Continue reading “The runaway greenhouse reversal: Cooling Venus” »

Feb 3, 2012

My case for Mars

Posted by in categories: habitats, space

There has been a lot of discussion about a lunar colony or at least a base as a precursor to sending humans to Mars. The advantages cited are its proximity to Earth, the use of telerobotics for construction, and the fact that we’ve been there before. My position is that it would be far easier to establish a self sufficient colony on Mars with existing technology.

One thing everyone agrees on is that local resources will have to be used. We now know that There has been a lot of geological and hydrological activity on Mars that has segregated and concentrated useful ore bodies that can be exploited with current extractive technology. One type of mineral of interest is the occurrence of iron and magnesium carbonate formations on the surface. Magnesium carbonate is easily converted by heating to magnesium oxide, the primary component of a type of cement that I am researching as a construction material for Mars. The widespread occurrence of sulfate salts also gives reason to believe that metal sulfide ore bodies are also available there. This type of ore can easily be refined with simple electrolytic equipment. The same metal refining on the Moon would require grinding and processing basalt with a lot of heavy equipment.

I would argue that Mars also has a more friendly environment. First, it has higher gravity than the moon, at 38% of Earth’s gravity. This may prove to be significant in minimizing the health effects of reduced gravity. The higher gravity would also aid in many industrial processes such as ore separation and concrete consolidation. Mars also has an atmosphere, however thin. While 4 to 8 millibars may not sound like much, it is enough to burn up a lot of micrometeorites before they reach the surface, reducing the danger of micrometeorite damage. It may also help reduce the danger of galactic cosmic rays, but that will need to be tested. One thing that is certain from my own research is that the thin atmosphere is enough to allow magnesium oxychloride cement to cure before a significant amount of water has evaporated from it, and prevent boiling during the curing process. On the airless Moon, this type of cement would boil violently and the water would evaporate before it would cure. The total lack of atmosphere on the Moon would preclude the use of any cement that depends on water for curing.

Dust will be the biggest challenge to machinery in either place, and I argue that it is much less of a challenge on Mars. We have already studied lunar dust, and it is composed of fractured particles that retain sharp edges and points, with no mechanisms for smoothing the surfaces such as wind or water movement. This makes Moon dust very abrasive to machinery (and air seals) and very irritating to human tissues on contact. Mars has annual wind storms that blow dust around the planet, and has had flowing water recently in it’s history. This would serve to smooth out Martian dust particles to something more closely resembling the kind of material found on Earth, which we can more easily deal with. As further evidence, we have had rovers survive multiple dust storms and keep operating. I would say this is as much a testament to the Martian environment as it is to NASA engineers. Additionally, the dust has been found to be largely magnetic, meaning that magnetic filtration could be used to keep it out of habitable spaces.

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Jan 30, 2012

The Difference Between a Lunar Base and Colony

Posted by in categories: existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, space, sustainability

Recently, Newt Gingrich made a speech indicating that, if elected, he would want 10% of NASA’s budget ($1.7 billion per year) set aside to fund large prizes incentivizing private industry to develop a permanent lunar base, a new propulsion method, and eventually establishing a martian base.

THE FINANCIAL FEASIBILITY OF A LUNAR BASE
Commentators generally made fun of his speech with the most common phrase used being “grandiose”. Perhaps. But in 1996 the Human Lunar Return study estimated $2.5 billion from NASA to send and return a human crew to the Moon. That was before SpaceX was able to demonstrate significant reductions in launch costs. One government study indicated 1/3 of the cost compared to traditional acquisition methods. Two of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavies will be able to launch nearly as much payload as the Saturn V while doing so at 1/15th the cost of the same mass delivered by the Shuttle.

So, we may be at the place where a manned lunar base is within reach even if we were to direct only 10% of NASA’s budget to achieve it.

I’m not talking about going to Mars with the need for shielding but rather to make fast dashes to the Moon and have our astronauts live under Moon dirt (regolith) shielding while exploiting lunar ice for air, water, and hence food.

Continue reading “The Difference Between a Lunar Base and Colony” »

Jan 16, 2012

Post Einsteinian Language?

Posted by in categories: biological, complex systems, cosmology, economics, education, ethics, evolution, futurism, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, humor, media & arts, philosophy, policy, rants, scientific freedom, sustainability, transparency

Twenty years ago, way back in the primordial soup of the early Network in an out of the way electromagnetic watering hole called USENET, this correspondent entered the previous millennium’s virtual nexus of survival-of-the-weirdest via an accelerated learning process calculated to evolve a cybernetic avatar from the Corpus Digitalis. Now, as columnist, sci-fi writer and independent filmmaker, [Cognition Factor — 2009], with Terence Mckenna, I have filmed rocket launches and solar eclipses for South African Astronomical Observatories, and produced educational programs for South African Large Telescope (SALT). Latest efforts include videography for the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town October 2011, and a completed, soon-to-be-released, autobiography draft-titled “Journey to Everywhere”.

Cognition Factor attempts to be the world’s first ‘smart movie’, digitally orchestrated for the fusion of Left and Right Cerebral Hemispheres in order to decode civilization into an articulate verbal and visual language structured from sequential logical hypothesis based upon the following ‘Big Five’ questions,

1.) Evolution Or Extinction?
2.) What Is Consciousness?
3.) Is God A Myth?
4.) Fusion Of Science & Spirit?
5.) What Happens When You Die?

Even if you believe that imagination is more important than knowledge, you’ll need a full deck to solve the ‘Arab Spring’ epidemic, which may be a logical step in the ‘Global Equalisation Process as more and more of our Planet’s Alumni fling their hats in the air and emit primal screams approximating;
“we don’t need to accumulate (so much) wealth anymore”, in a language comprising of ‘post Einsteinian’ mathematics…

Continue reading “Post Einsteinian Language?” »

Jan 15, 2012

Access to Space: It’s as Cheap and Easy as it will get for a Long Time

Posted by in categories: habitats, space

Throughout most of our lifetimes, there has been a lot of talk and speculation about Human colonies beyond Earth. I personally grew up reading about how we would send people back to the Moon, then to Mars and beyond. We would establish settlements and on other planets and build spacious habitats out of metals mined in the asteroid belt. We would send our grandchildren to the outer planets on nuclear powered rockets and reap the bounty of the Solar System!

All we need is cheap and reliable access to space. The Space Shuttle was going to launch every week and only cost $20 million per launch. It would ride atop a carrier craft above the atmosphere where it would blast into orbit, deliver it’s payload and any passengers, and glide back to earth, to be refit, refueled and mated to it’s carrier plane for it’s next trip a few weeks later. It just had to be approved by Congress, which they did: after making it one of the biggest jobs programs since the New Deal. The Space Shuttle had been repurposed from a space transport system to a massively expensive vote buying scheme. The extreme decentralization and patronage, to the point of leaving a Krushchev era Soviet planner in shocked amazement, drove the per launch cost close to a billion dollars by the time the program was finally shut down.

At least we have cheap and reliable Russian Protons now that the Soviet Union has fallen and the Russians are desperate for hard currency, except that they aren’t really that cheap or reliable. Well, we have some startup companies who are going to get us into space on the cheap using old NASA surplus hardware (Huh?). Only in the past decade are we seeing any real practical alternatives, in the form of Dot Com billionaires putting their own money into spacecraft development. The most promising is SpaceX founded by Elon Musk. He has had his eye on Mars for a long time and finally developed a cheap rocket that will soon carry humans into space. He did so by using the same technology that has been available for the past three decades, only without the political interference, and shown how cheap space travel can be. The base price: $53 million for a cargo capacity comparable to the Space Shuttle. Interestingly, this amounts to around $20 million in 1980 dollars. We are finally at the point we were supposed to be 30 years ago!

Unfortunately, it looks like this is about as good as it will get any time soon. The Space Elevator is going nowhere, with the laws of physics getting in the way and all, not to mention the problems posed by micrometeorites, space junk, and monatomic oxygen if it does get built with some as yet undiscovered wonder material. Theoretically, carbon nanotubes have the strength needed. Maybe. With no significant safety margin. Other alternatives such as space guns and space piers have the same problems of prohibitively massive initial costs, fragility, and they are still useless for carrying people into space due to either long travel times (= high radiation exposure) or high acceleration.

Continue reading “Access to Space: It's as Cheap and Easy as it will get for a Long Time” »

Jan 11, 2012

Wildlife Sanctuaries in Eco-Disaster Areas

Posted by in categories: ethics, habitats, nuclear energy, sustainability

It was with great satisfaction that I watched a recent (Horizon?) documentary on the wildlife, wolf population and introduced endangerd species flourishing in the Chernobyl district in the abandonment of the area by mankind 25 years ago — with most not willing to hunt in the area for fear of contracting radiation poisoning. One wonders if this will be the template for the future, that eco-disaster areas will be abandoned to become our new wildlife sanctuaries. Or is it morally wrong to designate such areas as wildlife sanctuaries and wilfully expose the animal kindom to such levels of radiation?

After Fukushima the world was reawakened to the real danger of fault tollerance at nuclear power plants — but as a relatively clean technology is surely here to stay. Is there a need for a more inclusive debate on the location of such reactors to areas that are a) less likey to suffer natural disasters but b) also provide a suitable follow-on purpose in the event of area abandonment due to radiation. Opinions welcome.

Sep 13, 2011

Economics and Survival: An In-space 2-for-1 Bargain

Posted by in categories: economics, existential risks, habitats, space, sustainability

There is growing recognition that the Moon is the logical next step for sustainably opening space to human settlement. It is now confirmed that both lunar poles contain appreciable quantities of ice containing water and also carbon and nitrogen containing compounds. Since the Moon is always only a 3-day trip away, it easily beats low-gravity asteroids as the most economic place to mine water ice. Similarly, since the Moon has only a 3-second roundtrip communications delay, teleoperated robots could mine and process the lunar ice at a fraction of what human miners would cost. That ice, brought back to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) could establish a new space economy including on-orbit refueling, boosting large communications satellites to GEO, sending tourists around or even to the Moon, and facilitating NASAs Beyond Earth Orbit activities. So the Moon is a great place to develop economic in-space resources.

But, what does all of this do with survival?

Amongst those people who understand extinction risks to humanity, it is generally recognized that an off-Earth, self-sufficient colony would go a very long ways to ensuring the survival of humanity as a species. An orbiting colony would not be a good choice because, if the Earth’s biosphere were contaminated with an ecophage, the Earth itself would not anymore be a source of supplies, and Earth orbit contains no resources except for sunlight. Mars, an asteroid, or a distant moon could be a location for an off-Earth colony, but all of these would be considerably more expensive to establish than on the Moon. For those of us who think it prudent that we should purchase “insurance” against the extinction of humanity sooner rather than later, the least expensive location makes the most sense. So the Moon is a great place to establish a colony for the purpose of survival.

Interesting, so the Moon is the best place for both economics and survival. Perhaps the two could be combined into a single program. But, in the Age of Austerity, it is unlikely that our governments are going to fund a large new space program. So how can this be done economically?

Continue reading “Economics and Survival: An In-space 2-for-1 Bargain” »

Apr 2, 2011

A (Relatively) Brief Introduction to The Principles of Economics & Evolution: A Survival Guide for the Inhabitants of Small Islands, Including the Inhabitants of the Small Island of Earth

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, complex systems, cosmology, defense, economics, existential risks, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, lifeboat, military, philosophy, sustainability

(NOTE: Selecting the “Switch to White” button on the upper right-hand corner of the screen may ease reading this text).

“Who are you?” A simple question sometimes requires a complex answer. When a Homeric hero is asked who he is.., his answer consists of more than just his name; he provides a list of his ancestors. The history of his family is an essential constituent of his identity. When the city of Aphrodisias… decided to honor a prominent citizen with a public funeral…, the decree in his honor identified him in the following manner:

Hermogenes, son of Hephaistion, the so-called Theodotos, one of the first and most illustrious citizens, a man who has as his ancestors men among the greatest and among those who built together the community and have lived in virtue, love of glory, many promises of benefactions, and the most beautiful deeds for the fatherland; a man who has been himself good and virtuous, a lover of the fatherland, a constructor, a benefactor of the polis, and a savior.
– Angelos Chaniotis, In Search of an Identity: European Discourses and Ancient Paradigms, 2010

I realize many may not have the time to read all of this post — let alone the treatise it introduces — so for those with just a few minutes to spare, consider abandoning the remainder of this introduction and spending a few moments with a brief narrative which distills the very essence of the problem at hand: On the Origin of Mass Extinctions: Darwin’s Nontrivial Error.

Continue reading “A (Relatively) Brief Introduction to The Principles of Economics & Evolution: A Survival Guide for the Inhabitants of Small Islands, Including the Inhabitants of the Small Island of Earth” »

Nov 11, 2010

What’s Your Dream for the Future of California?

Posted by in categories: education, events, existential risks, futurism, habitats, human trajectories, open access, policy, sustainability


California Dreams Video 1 from IFTF on Vimeo.

INSTITUTE FOR THE FUTURE ANNOUNCES CALIFORNIA DREAMS:
A CALL FOR ENTRIES ON IMAGINING LIFE IN CALIFORNIA IN 2020

Put yourself in the future and show us what a day in your life looks like. Will California keep growing, start conserving, reinvent itself, or collapse? How are you living in this new world? Anyone can enter,anyone can vote; anyone can change the future of California!

California has always been a frontier—a place of change and innovation, reinventing itself time and again. The question is, can California do it again? Today the state is facing some of its toughest challenges. Launching today, IFTF’s California Dreams is a competition with an urgent challenge to recruit citizen visions of the future of California—ideas for what it will be like to live in the state in the next decade—to start creating a new California dream.

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Apr 14, 2010

Technology Readiness Levels for Non-rocket Space Launch

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, engineering, habitats, human trajectories, space

An obvious next step in the effort to dramatically lower the cost of access to low Earth orbit is to explore non-rocket options. A wide variety of ideas have been proposed, but it’s difficult to meaningfully compare them and to get a sense of what’s actually on the technology horizon. The best way to quantitatively assess these technologies is by using Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). TRLs are used by NASA, the United States military, and many other agencies and companies worldwide. Typically there are nine levels, ranging from speculations on basic principles to full flight-tested status.

The system NASA uses can be summed up as follows:

TRL 1 Basic principles observed and reported
TRL 2 Technology concept and/or application formulated
TRL 3 Analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof-of concept
TRL 4 Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment
TRL 5 Component and/or breadboard validation in relevant environment
TRL 6 System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment (ground or space)
TRL 7 System prototype demonstration in a space environment
TRL 8 Actual system completed and “flight qualified” through test and demonstration (ground or space)
TRL 9 Actual system “flight proven” through successful mission operations.

Progress towards achieving a non-rocket space launch will be facilitated by popular understanding of each of these proposed technologies and their readiness level. This can serve to coordinate more work into those methods that are the most promising. I think it is important to distinguish between options with acceleration levels within the range human safety and those that would be useful only for cargo. Below I have listed some non-rocket space launch methods and my assessment of their technology readiness levels.

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