One of the challenges facing the Congress before the end of year should be logged is passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) along with the remainder of the 2017 Federal Budget. One of the items NASA and the rest of the “space is the future” groups, count us a select few from amongst them, is that within the (NDAA) is the finalization for the American purchases of so-called RD-180 rocket engines from Russia. These engines are essential for launch of America’s Atlas V rockets, themselves essential for placing highly expensive and uniquely capable satellites in deeper orbits. While this expenditure is necessary in the immediate future, it is a situation which screams for remedy. It is difficult to believe and should be embarrassing that the United States is dependent upon the Russians for the very rocket engines required to lift United States deeper space elements, including military surveillance orbiters, as well as transporting American astronauts and all supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). How utterly embarrassing this situation is. Whatever happened to the spirit and concept from the Administration of President Ronald Reagan where it was demanded that all military inventory down to the individual components be manufactured in the United States and the Defense Departments not be dependent for anything greater than bananas from outside the United States, well, maybe pineapples too as there is only so much farmland in Hawaii. The space components should be another vital area where the United States need be self-reliant and hopefully incoming President Donald Trump is made aware of this disgrace and is willing to go the extra mile and set this as one of his higher priorities. This should be a priority of at least one of the newer space companies who are invested in producing boosters, especially heavy lift boosters for the first two base stages for lifting payloads into space for building on the Moon, Mars or even simply larger structures as will be required before deep missions into the Solar System, let alone eventual interstellar missions can be even thought about, let alone planned.
The world, preferably starting with the United States, need place space based infrastructure higher up in their items of importance as the very basics of platforms, Moon Bases, Asteroid and Comet intercept networks, mining of Asteroids and planetary moons, newer and more advanced space telescopes including extreme-size optical telescopes requiring their components to be constructed in space, Space Wheel and finally a series of space docks designed for the specific varieties of future space vehicles including a series of multi-generation deep interstellar colony ships. These ideas and builds are presumed to be in place in the hopefully not too distant future but also the sooner they are planned for, the sooner they can become a reality. There is no reasonable argument which can be made against world governments, and some nations independently such as the United States, Russia, China and any other nation with the foresight, preparing for the future where mankind extends its curiosity to the stars and beyond as if the human race is to have a future, such exploration and eventual settlement will become a necessity. We hope Israel might either be partnered with a reliable ally or attempt one independently in cooperation of another nation so as to utilize their infrastructure as a between staging area to make such a venture more readily accomplished. We can hear some already arguing that there is already far too much treasure as measure in the billions of dollars wasted on the impossible dreams of a future with mankind in space. Star Trek was a television and then movie fairy-tale with no possibility of ever becoming reality. We covered this argument not long ago in our article titled, “How Bad do Americans Want to be First in Space?”. To cut to the chase, one main point in the article is that the NASA budget has been under one percent of the total budget for most of their existence and never reached as high as two percent even when shooting for the Moon landings, so any cut made to the NASA budget would be negligible and a complete wasted effort and only weaken the United States in the process.
We would like to take a somewhat different tack in this article rather than repeat the previous article just for the sake of change. We have already more than sufficient repetitions of certain vital and specific agreements, treaties and events as is want to occur when one spends an inordinate amount of writings on similar subjects as the news of warrants. Any reasoned discussion about the necessity for space travel will admit that it is an eventuality which will be required for the continued existence of the human race. Arguments can be made that it will not be urgent for as far as one can reasonably plan, but even this assessment may be in error. The geologic record points to a distressing cycle of major extinction events with them reoccurring approximately every twenty – six – million – years due to comets or other objects from deep out of the Solar System. With an even higher percentage, actually nearly unanimous, consent of scientists the Earth is well overdue for just such an event. Most cosmologists and astrophysicist also think they know that the event will be caused by a comet. Their debate comes over whether the comet will have originated in the Kuiper Belt or the Oort Cloud. There are a number of means for testing for the origin of comets with one being their orbital plane. If a comet has an orbital plane well outside that of the Solar System then it can be assumed that its origins were from the Oort Cloud. Comets sharing their orbital plane with the Solar System are more of a challenge as they could originate in either source. The greater the variance from the orbital plane of the Solar System the higher the probability of origins in the Oort Cloud while those falling very close to the orbital plane of the Solar System need closer observation. Velocity is another determining factor as those comets originating from the Oort Cloud will likely have a far greater velocity originating two-thousand-times further from the Sun than those from the much closer Kuiper Belt. These comets fit into two main families, the short period or Kuiper Belt comets and the long period comets or Oort Cloud comets. Within the Solar System measurements are often made in standard units known as Astronomical Units (AU) which is the mean distance of Earth from the Sun, or about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). The Kuiper orbits between 30 and 60 A.U. from the Sun while the Oort Cloud orbits from 50,000 to 100,000 A.U. surrounding the Sun. The Kuiper Belt is a toroidal mass of icy bodies ranging from dust sized ice crystals to dwarf planet sizes approximately the size of Pluto with some potentially twice that size. The cross sectional shape would best be described as a flattened oval which would measure thirty Astronomical Units lengthwise with a height of around one to one and a half Astronomical Units. The Oort Cloud is a giant sphere fifty-thousand Astronomical Units from the closest pieces to the furthest reaches. The size and other characteristics of the Oort Cloud are all theoretical as it has not been directly observed and most of what we believe we understand was figured from the mathematical calculations made from long period comets. A better understanding of this strange and mysterious body of objects is just another reason on the list of things to be learned once we make our way out into the cosmos.
The best argument for starting to move into space and doing so immediately has to do with these extinction events caused by space rocks, be they meteor or comets. Almost any system devised to deal with these threats would be far more effective being launched from orbit or based on the Moon when mass drivers and lasers are considered. Detection is also more readily established when telescopes are not required to peer through the relatively thick atmosphere of mother Earth. Where having a nice blanket of air surrounding the plant is great for breathing and life in general, it is a detriment to optics which plays havoc both with their ability to even detect objects and then again when determining their absolute trajectories. Both of these pieces of information are vital in determining the threat level if any. The sooner we have the proper array of telescopes gaining good coverage of, at the very least, the tracking ranges for the short period comets and referencing triangulation for accurate mapping of their trajectories, then the sooner we can set about discovering which ones pose the greatest of risks and then can work at mitigating such threats. This will require planning and the building of laser pulse cannons used to obliterate threats which still manage to sneak up on us and long duration firing laser artillery which can be used to nudge objects to new and safer trajectories. The laser pulse canons will likely be solid laser which send a burst of potentially incredible power for as long as the lasing material lasts and once the core element is lased, it requires its replacement between firing. These are the variety of lasers which are capable of near atomizing targets which is perfect for any long period comets determined to be a potential threat as due to their speed we may only get a half dozen shots at it if that. The long period comets will be one off encounters as they are less likely to reach the inner Solar System and when they do they are unlikely to return in anybody’s life span thus we would only have the one-time encounter where it may threaten the Earth. Further, their excessive speed would render trajectory altering options unusable due to lack of time to influence its directions and also limit the options as at such speeds we could never manage to place a gravity tractor near it which would remain in close proximity. A one-off high energy pulse or, if trajectory alteration was an absolute must; an electronic rail-gun would be another potentially useable and proven alternative. Whatever system was utilized, it would be required to be space based or Moon based, definitely not terrene as anything used from Earth would be compromised by our blanket of air.
Another reason for making the jump into space would be for making the Earth safer from its inhabitants, named humankind. Our wars have been getting more frequent, more violent and escalating where another World War is not out of the question. We know the next World War, be it whatever number from three to twelve you wish to give it (some claim that a war between the Western World and the Islamic nations coming together forming a Caliphate for the sake of Grand Jihad and the final realization of Allah’s promise of world conquest would simply be World War I claiming it started in the Seventh Century, and they have a point), that war may very well be the final war where human beings were at the top of the food chain. It was Einstein who answered the question of what the weapons of World War III would look like saying, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” The validity of Einstein’s answer could be debated from this day forward to doomsday or until World War IV as until then we know not what will remain available, but his inference is sobering enough to anybody who believes that their lives in this world are important, not necessarily more important than the world to come, but at least of a measurable value in living and not simply a means to die well assuring your place in the world to come. What are frightening are those groups who insist that they are the sole possessors of absolute truth and that all others must be bent to their will and accept all that they believe as to believe any other way is such an abomination that those holding different beliefs must be destroyed utterly and completely down to the last man, woman and child. Those who stand that theirs must be the sole dominant, if not only, views permitted and that their leadership must be obeyed by every last soul in existence, space offers a respite to these kinds of threats and might make those holding these thoughts to realize they can no longer strike everyone and make all come to their system and surrender to their superiority. Space is the ultimate high ground which Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thucydides, Abraham, King David, Joshua ben Nun, Napoleon Bonaparte, General George S. Patton, General William Tecumseh Sherman, General Robert E. Lee, and virtually every other military mind throughout history believed was vital to victory. Space grants the holder complete control over the terrain as all terrain is readily reachable by them while they remain virtually invulnerable. The best example one can give is that the time a projectile aimed with accuracy at an Earth-bound target from the Moon is measured in hours, while the time for any projectile launched from Earth at that target on the Moon is measured in days. One projectile is almost guaranteed not to be intercepted while the other is woefully vulnerable to interception. That is the advantage of owning space and the Moon and stations in orbit.
The reasons for taking the time, efforts, investments and material to establish an initial permanent presence in space with a workable area designed for the practical exploitation of space for most of the energy requirements and raw materials are legendary and lengthy. Humans have stridden for a presence in space since the idea for the Tower of Babel. Time has not weakened that urge for most of us; unfortunately there are those who would rather buy votes than actually serve their constituents through actually accomplishing something beyond self-served greed. Instead of making that third million through all the illegal for everyone else but not for thee insider-trading that takes place by Congress-critters why not actually think about the future of the nation, the people, the entirety of humanity, oh, wait, I asked Congress-critters to think, my bad, sorry. Perhaps someone new to their staff might think, yes, that might be possible, and then slip papers to them to sign explaining it will get them thousands of votes. Get a number of junior staffers to do the same across the House of Representatives and then the Senate and who knows, the media might make fun of the idea and that way President Trump will most definitely sign such legislation with little regard for the content, after all, if the media hates it then it must be good for the United States. Perhaps make a big White House East Garden in the Spring with manicured garden in full bloom (because the plants were planted in full bloom mere hours before and then the gardeners sat nervously watching in case a single pedal fell to the ground) with rocket scientists in the required white lab coats and slide-rulers in hand and notepad in the ready and President Trump with Vice President Pence and the head of NASA all smiling as the challenge is put forth (without warning anybody because Melania Trump had just told him about it a few hours earlier) to place an operating and self-sufficient Mars Base by 2035 sending it off as the next great step following the footsteps of that great experiment which President John F. Kennedy had set as the challenge of that time, this is the challenge for our time. By the time all the screaming and impeachment for signs of insanity has failed, who knows, we might be half way to that base on Mars. The first thing we have to test is whether Martian soil, dust, dirt, whatever covers a fair part of the planet and is blown around like a Saharan dust storm, is capable of supporting Earth plant life with watering and if not exactly what else is necessary. This should have been part of the plan since day one. We have tested for if life had existed and by doing so we should also have tested for amount of compatibility with Earthen soils and what is missing for making it great for growing foodstuffs such as wheat, vegetables, possibly even fruit bearing trees in time. Mars turned green with greenhouses. Perhaps the scientists and agronomists from the United States could work with Israelis and between them develop special hybrids which could survive on Mars with minimal shielding from radiation, smaller amounts of water as the Israelis have developed for the Negev, capable of thriving on recycled wastewater which is another area of Israeli expertise, and possibly survive and thrive in lower temperatures by hybridizing the plants with winter wheats and lettuce which already are capable of colder temperatures. Once they have grains then all that is required is water, yeast and hops and large tanks to make beer and the heat generated, it will necessitate very active yeast, can warm the plants. Once there is Martian brewed beer there will be people ready to go to Mars just to try the beer, well, maybe not tens of thousands, but hundreds will do for a start. One more set of items is that it has been figured that if the right asteroids are selected the people mining it could make millions of Euros, Dollars, Shekels and the variety of precious materials from iron-nickel asteroids to some which hold gemstones, rare earth materials, silicon, germanium, crystals and things we have yet to discover. There are also many very anticipated and desired items which can only be manufactured in space and other things which would be of far higher quality with almost no defects such as crystals and computer storage disks. Space is a frontier with opportunities but we need to go there first and set up the bases for operations.
Finally, there are those who claim that we should simply allow private individual, small groups and corporations go and build everything necessary to carry out all these great new ventures in space. They point to the Mayflower as a prime example of the new world being developed by private interests. That is not the entire truth, and these people know this. Governments set up the structures required to operate in the new world. The initial discoveries were all financed by the crowns of the nations who came starting with heavy investments by Spain, then France, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands and more. The governments built the docks such that everybody had access, equal access. The government built the roads in time but yes, the paths were worn by colonial people getting from A to B but eventually A to B was paved by government. Space is the same. The initial space docks will be placed next to a large spinning double or triple wheel with room for additional wheels which can be added by private ventures and the central hub will also be expandable and all of this adds more for people and corporations to invest. The roadways to the Asteroid Belt will be strewn with largest asteroids used as ports where the government makes certain assurances such as it does not get destroyed by that other large rock over there and making the place relatively safe even from people mixing not so amorously with other people. Claims on asteroids and property will need to be regulated and licensed with enforcement. Property rights are one of the most basic necessities to allow for wealth production. The “shipping lanes” will need to be protected such that it will require armed government vessels and strict guidelines on actions and their relative permissibility. Much of this will be done as a work in progress but the world has experience in such ventures and hopefully can avoid shooting one nation at another. Think of the alternative that people suggest. What would be the opportunity for say Westinghouse or Sony or other companies if the main space station and its docks were the General Electric Space Station and docking facility. How would things work for all involved or wishing to be if the Moon base was Citibank Moon Base? If companies were to own the main facilities and infrastructure then they would control who got to go where and very soon there would be a horrific situation where it would simply become untenable. At that point government would need to step into the breach and then when places were either forced to be accommodating or were replaced by government there would be lost money by the original investor who would be claiming they were only trying to make good on the largest investment the corporation had ever ventured upon. Their argument would be they would be financially destroyed if they did not eventually turn a profit. Such acrimony and the potential to lose everything if you did not toe the government line would make every other company shy from space. Without the central structure being initially government and for everybody’s use there would be little if any progress. Put in a dock and some infrastructure and then have bids on space in the space station, sell apartments, a hotel, everything any decent small town on the Interstate provides and that would be the private partnership with government and then you have respected property rights and universal access and from there a whole bunch of happy campers. That is the other reason government must take the initial steps and then if they build it the rest will come.
Beyond the Cusp