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China is seriously working on manned space voyages

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#1 hokkaido53

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 08:43 AM

China is beefing up their manned space program, to include voyages to the moon and Mars.

Here are some details:
http://www.explorema...s-on-mars-china

Questions for discussion:

Shouldn't the U.S. being doing likewise?
Why isn't the U.S. doing likewise?

#2 rdandrea

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 09:39 AM

1. Yes
2. Record deficits

#3 ColoHank

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 10:22 AM

When the Chinese finally reach the Moon, they'll only be duplicating a feat that was accomplished multiple times five or six decades earlier. And then, like the USA, they may conclude that further missions there really don't offer much payback. Getting safely to Mars and back is much easier said than done, and it doesn't hold the promise of much reward other than a fleeting sense of accomplishment and national pride (though I hasten to add that a few samples of fossils would be a nice bonus). If and when they ever get to the point where such a mission is achievable, their national economy may also be as much in the tank as ours is now.

#4 Joad

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 11:05 AM

Yes, indeed. Even the U.S. government is still talking about manned Mars expeditions. Easily said . . . .

#5 starbux

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 12:09 PM

1. Yes
2. Record deficits


You know, the problem with the discussion of the fiscal limitations of manned space flight today is that it easily comes down to politics, which is taboo here but impossible to ignore.

Without laying blame to specifics, the US has dug itself an economic abyss that it would take a miracle to claw itself out of. I hold extreme pessimism for NASA to actually have the resources to get humans to Mars in my lifetime.

China may not have as many original concepts as the US/Russia, but as long as they aren't dragged down with the rest of the world economy they may be humanity's best hope for colonizing space, as they have not squandered their resources as the US has (not going into specifics here).

My ultimate hope is that private enterprise will finally get a foothold and fulfill its potential, leaving tax-funded agencies like NASA as obsolete relics. And for scientific probes, if the tax money isn't there anyhow, why not have a consortium of entities like the National Geographic Society, Discovery Networks, and others solicit donations from the public for specific space missions (again talking unmanned science for now)? I know it's not conventional thinking, but if NASA disappeared tomorrow, why not? I'd donate (more than NASA is currently getting from my taxes), and I'm not rich.

#6 Sean Cunneen

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 03:14 PM

At one of our recent club meetings, one of our member made presentation of micro-gravity's effects on the human body. In short, let the Chinese do it. Space is not for humans.

I like the recent push towards privatization. I haven't seen this much interest in rocketry/baloing/spaceflight in decades!

#7 Rick Woods

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 10:25 PM

Well, let me be the first to say "good for them"! Why should an ambitious manned space program by the Chinese be viewed as some sort of failure by the US? What is everyone thinking here?

The US went to the Moon, then lost momentum. The Russians have stayed in space through thick and thin, but never went past LEO. It's time SOMEbody took the next step, and right now, China has the industrial and scientific infrastructure to pull it off. Why not them?

Human space exploration is a race-wide thing (do the words "We Came in Peace for All Mankind" sound familiar?) China is filled with humans. Maybe it's their turn, and I say Godspeed. We did ours, and maybe we'll do it again. If they can do it too, all the better.

#8 llanitedave

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 01:09 AM

Let's try to keep the politics out of it, difficult as that may be. So far, I don't think it's been over the line.

Personally, I think deficits are an excuse rather than a reason for our hesitancy in space. If there was a national consensus to do it, we'd find ways to do it in spite of the economic conditions. A number of years ago, when the economy was humming, the U.S. still wasn't committing to any bold exploration. After all, space exploration is really cheap compared to the benefits it returns. It's convincing the voting public of the legitimacy of those benefits that's difficult.

#9 ColoHank

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 09:20 AM

After all, space exploration is really cheap compared to the benefits it returns. It's convincing the voting public of the legitimacy of those benefits that's difficult.



Please list all of those "legitimate" benefits and assess their values (in terms of dollars or whatever) so we unconvinced voters can judge for ourselves whether human space exploration is worth the expense. For the sake of comparison, it would be instructive also to list the cost/benefit ratios of alternative means of exploration.

#10 lightfever

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 11:06 AM

Hank,

The benefit of a manned mission to Mars would be in the millions of young people inspired by this grand undertaking and want to become scientist and engineers. Most of these young people would go into other enterprises and do great things and come up with new ideas that would expand our economy and again make us leaders in innovation. It is penny wise and pound foolish to not think big and inspire people with exciting endeavors. We lack funds because of bad policy and a stalled economy, grow the economy and the money spent on these missions will be small compared to the rewards. Neil Degrasse Tyson makes a great case for this. I have children in their teens and early twenties and they see their future as grim, they see this country declining, they are bored and feel uninspired.

#11 dyslexic nam

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 11:39 AM

FWIW, I also think that there would be more than a "fleeting sense of accomplishment" brought about by a successful manned mission to Mars. The NASA moon landings were widely viewed as a monumental achievement in human history, and inspired a generation of people. I believe that a mission to Mars would have the same magnitude of impact.

#12 lightfever

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 11:47 AM

:waytogo:

#13 Joad

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 11:48 AM

I am genuinely puzzled by the social claims being made here. The generation purportedly inspired by the Apollo program is the so-called Baby Boomer generation (of which I am a member), and that generation came of age (and into power) precisely during the period when manned space exploration in the United States came to an end, and also during the period when the United States at least came to appear to be in the decline lamented in this thread. So it could be argued that the Apollo program was a dead end in social terms.

Of course it is more complicated than this. No single phenomenon can be responsible for the course of a nation, and planning to go to Mars is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for national revival. That's what my real point is.

#14 lightfever

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 12:31 PM

Two companies that came from that generation Apple and Microsoft, their net worth dwarfs the spending on NASA and I don't think their contribution to society can even be calculated.

Speaking of my own life, the Apollo era was a life changing time, the way things are going it seems like my kids will face nothing but disappointment.

#15 Andy Taylor

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 12:37 PM

After all, space exploration is really cheap compared to the benefits it returns. It's convincing the voting public of the legitimacy of those benefits that's difficult.



Please list all of those "legitimate" benefits and assess their values (in terms of dollars or whatever) so we unconvinced voters can judge for ourselves whether human space exploration is worth the expense. For the sake of comparison, it would be instructive also to list the cost/benefit ratios of alternative means of exploration.


What it all boils down to is there is no net expense.

Only the hardware goes into space - the money stays on earth.

The cost of a mission is almost all wages. A mission or supplier employee then pays his taxes, buys cars, pays rent, buys groceries etc. This all returns to the economy.

What a bargain - the economy is stimulated, we get a new generation of engineers etc, employment for a LOT of people, the actual hardware itself and more leads on new technologies.

More of an investment. :smirk:

#16 Shadowalker

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 01:37 PM

Only the hardware goes into space - the money stays on earth.


No, no... Not true. Prior to launch we load each rocket with as many hundred dollar bills as they will hold. We blast all of that into space, never to be seen again. Why do you think space travel is so expensive?

#17 Joad

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 01:38 PM

Exactly the same thing can be said about any form of public spending, and at the moment there are very powerful forces in the U.S. that are weighing against public spending.

#18 dyslexic nam

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 01:56 PM

Of course it is more complicated than this. No single phenomenon can be responsible for the course of a nation, and planning to go to Mars is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for national revival. That's what my real point is.


But this thread/mission isn't about reviving US national pride. It is about a relative newcomer to the "space race" potentially taking a huge leap in the commitment to exploration and in the process advancing the state of the art. And while I have no real evidence to back it up, I have a sneaking suspicion that Chinese success in something like a Mars mission would be a massive boost to national pride in that country (as well as elevating their nation's profile globally).

I don't pretend to understand the factors that went into the current malaise when it comes to funding space exploration, but I shudder to think of what the state of NASA would be without the early inspirational achievements of the Apollo missions. It is no coincedence that your presidential candidates frequently dole out ambitious space exploration goals in their effort to engage voters - these lofty aspirations are still the type of undertakings that inspire folks.

#19 ColoHank

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 02:36 PM

If today's kids are genuinely bored and uninspired, and if the only thing that will lift them out of that malaise is a manned mission to Mars, then they and their parents really need to look in the mirror. We just finished a couple of decades of Shuttle missions, the ISS is still staffed and orbiting, the HST and a host of other robotics are exploring the far reaches of the solar system and the universe beyond, and, for reasons unknown, those endeavors apparently haven't stirred youthful imaginations and ambitions to the extent some folks on this forum would like. But a return mission to the Moon or a mission to Mars would change things? I doubt it.

All along, we've also been cranking out plenty of really bright scientists and engineers, many of whom have opted, instead of designing space hardware or exploring the human genome or whatever, to make piles of money by developing sophisticated hedge-fund marketing algorithms on Wall Street.

The vibe I get is that a relatively small number of people with an abiding interest in manned space travel are put out because everyone else doesn't share their passion, and they somehow think that's indicative of a greater societal ill. If it's so important to them, then why did they choose to pursue careers in other fields?

#20 Shadowalker

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 02:52 PM

If it's so important to them, then why did they choose to pursue careers in other fields?


Some of us did.

#21 Jarad

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 02:52 PM

Well, some of them did pursue careers in space exploration. We have several who are regular posters here.

As for return on investment, the biggest bits are probably the technology developed for space exploration that found application on earth (microwave ovens, velcro, the general push to make all the electronics lighter and more efficient, etc.). Most of these returns are more long-term than short-term.

As for inspiration, I think that we can be inspired by Chinese achievements in space as easily as by U.S. achievements. In some ways, the competitive instinct may make space achievements by another country more inspiring than by our own. I think Congress will be likely to ignore a call from a President of either party to spend lots of money on NASA, but if China actually starts sending equipment to Mars to prepare for a manned landing, you will see Congress demand that we catch up.

As for a push to Mars, right now I think we need to take some incremental steps first. I would like to see more money put into space exploration, but there are a lot of other priorities that need funds, too.

Jarad

#22 jonbosley

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 03:29 PM

Man space exploration in the US is now being out-sourced to Space-x etc, I don't see that changing in the near future.

Its to late now but a few years back Armstrong could have run for president and more then likely of won, got the budget and put the US on Mars.

#23 Andy Taylor

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 03:40 PM

Man space exploration in the US is now being out-sourced to Space-x etc, I don't see that changing in the near future.


That's my point - they see it as an investment in their future with an unknown but potentially high pay off.

Private investors is the way to go. They can think outside the box by being able to hire the best minds.

A new industry that employs 1000s.

Whats not to like about that?

#24 Shadowalker

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 03:50 PM

Man space exploration in the US is now being out-sourced to Space-x etc, I don't see that changing in the near future.


Well, if by exploration you mean routine launching of people into orbit, then yes. But I don't see that part as exploration. That is what hopefully become routine access that can be purchased. By individuals, groups or government.

Routine Operations... That is not what NASA does well. Shuttle, as wonderful a machine as it was, was terribly inefficient and expensive.

NASA needs to do Exploration. The way I would see such an human exploration project now would be for NASA to contract out the heavy lifting. Design and build the habitat modules, earth departure stages, landing craft, return vehicles, etc., but don't get bogged down in attempting to develop systems that replace Shuttle. Contract out moving the gear and people from earth to low earth orbit. NASA needs to do NEW things. Let private companies develop new ways to do what's already been done.

Anyway, that's my opinion and I speak for myself, not NASA.

#25 Skip

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 04:05 PM

Speaking of SpaceX, I think an interview that was recently linked here with Elon Musk said that he has Mars in his sights as well. IIRC, he indicated he would do that in concert with NASA. I think he mentioned 2030 or 2035 as his vision. I believe the thread was something like, "It Would Be Cool to be Born on Earth and Die on Mars"?






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