Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spaceship Mixup: Orion vs. Orion

Not so long ago, in a solar system really near you, the Supranational Authority was up to Hooda-knows-what. Let’s see if you can figure it out.

Some interesting nonsense that played out in three nearly sequential issues of Aviation Week & Space Technology recently involved confusion about a name, the designation of a current NASA project to build a spaceship of exploration called Orion and the name of a late 1950s/early 1960s program, also called Orion, to build a nuclear rocket with a payload on the scale of an aircraft carrier’s displacement, 100,000 tons vs. 100 tons for the proposed U.S. Space Launch System and 16 tons for the defunct Space Shuttle. Reader “A” in the letters column of June 30 offered an observation that, if the nuclear ship’s funding had survived the 1963 test ban treaty, it would have taken us “to Alpha Centauri and back twice by now.”

That’s a bit of poetic license, but it stirred the pedagogical instincts of a retired astronaut who replied based on the capabilities of the chemically-fueled spaceship, the other Orion (riding atop the Space Launch System), with its maximum velocity of 10 miles per second. His conclusion: it would take 55,800 years for the journey. We heard about it in the July 21 issue. Aviation Week went out of its way to emphasize the lecture with a halftone screen under the text and an actual algebraic equation and everything.

Finally, a reader from Hong Kong set the record straight in the July 28 edition with data from a 1968 Freeman Dyson article in Physics Today, pointing out the nuclear Orion’s 6,000 miles per second top speed. The article is available online at ow.ly/zt7jm.

In the middle ‘70s NASA made light of Gerry O’Neill’s space colonization ideas, citing the enormous mass that would have to be lifted into orbit. Of course, O’Neill had emphasized the need to obtain materials from the moon, not Earth. I have often thought that governments (and other devious types) intentionally introduce confusion about things they don’t want discussed. Now I think it again. Can you cite other instances of the same behavior?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New White Paper

A new white paper by SpaceFarers Corporation examines how to establish a spacefaring civilization without government intervention by turning space technology development into a popular form of entertainment linked to sustainable living on Earth. The current view of the future produces an emphasis on sacrifice and austerity. In the proposed ethic, the most fundamental freedom is the freedom to leave. Our research indicates that promoting this freedom through a specific form of entertainment will produce sustainability with prosperity on, and off, the earth. The customary way to leave a civilization as recently as 1900 was to head for a frontier, defined as an isolated region of resources without proprietors and with anonymity for new arrivals. The absence of frontiers is termed enclosure, manifesting as a constellation of symptoms in common with “isolated confined environment syndrome,” including depression, anxiety, and anger. This is a global phenomenon, a fatal cocktail of emotions requiring a frontier formation response. We maintain that the only accessible and fully functional frontier at this time is the solar system. The white paper postulates that (1) enclosure results in reproductive failure of the enclosed population, producing senescence followed by collapse and (2) no mitigation can happen on the required scale unless a large segment of society views space frontier formation as fun. The first premise has been tested and found to be arguably true in rodents. SpaceFarers is implementing, a test case for the second premise blending science, technology, craft, and performance art. We are looking for collaborators. The paper is posted online at the SpaceFarers web site, www.AlienLandscapes.biz/tospci.html.