The recent ending of the Shuttle programme has been seen as the end of an era, it is not being replaced by anything anytime soon and may not be replaced at all given that those united states are broke. When NASA was first formed, it was a hive of innovation and activity, the people there were ambitious and had big dreams, within a decade of being established it had got men to the Moon and there was talk of going to Mars. Similarly the Soviet space programme did much in the first few years of its life and then, well as with so many government programmes, they became make work projects, instead of innovative programmes.
Since the Moon landings, we have had many interesting missions, mostly unmanned exploration of Mars by the rovers, the Saturnian system by Casisni, the Voyager missions and the recent New Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres. As much as these unmanned missions do, they don’t really seem to be as dramatic as manned missions, and it seems that we will not see any manned missions anywhere other than near Earth orbit anytime soon.
I have mentioned the Orion project that was developed at NASA in the fifties, this project was binned in favour of the Apollo project and has been all but forgotten since. If we could update the Orion project, perhaps using thorium instead of uranium or plutonium, we could see missions, manned and unmanned to the outer reaches of the Solar System that could be carried out on timelines closer to weeks and months, rather than years and decades as it currently is using conventional chemical fuels.
But is it good to see NASA wound down? I think it is, if government had been in control of mobile phones, can one ever imagine the development of things such as the smart phone? Could you imagine the drop in price of payment plans? Unlimited free texts, three hundred free minutes of talk time, free wifi, 1bG of 3G et al. Can you imagine the government being in charge of computers? Would the laptop ever have been invented? Would we have seen tablets and 2TB hard drives?
Whilst the free exchange of ideas in the free market can push innovation, force technological progress and take chances, in government bureaucracies the opposite is the case, too many people are afraid of good change, they resist anything that could be dangerous, there is an attitude of being careful and not rocking the boat, waiting until one can retire. NASA is the latter.
It is my hope that the shrivelling of the bureaucratic space agencies, we will see the beginning of innovative entrepreneurial space exploration and exploitation. There is much that could be good and healthy about getting off this world which has become overly regulated, over governed, over controlled by the deadening hand of bureaucrats, it could be a chance for people to escape the persecution and oppression of the incestuous elites, it could be a chance for people to create new homes on new worlds and could become a new age of discovery, a new age of unrivalled wealth creation.
I have been an avid reader of Centauri Dreams for a while now, the idea of being able to explore new worlds and new star systems is one I’ve been facinated with for some time. Whilst most of my life I accepted that there would be little in the way of space exploration any time soon, and not much in my lifetime if any, I was astounded to come accross Centauri Dreams and read that theoretically we have the ability to explore space in a much more rapid way then we have been doing upto now, and one that could work out cheaper!
Something called Project Orion was established in the first years of NASA, it was led by some very clever and ambitious men, Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson. Their plan was to send a large rocket into space using nuclear power, literally small nuclear bombs causing the lift needed to get it into space, once in space an Orion spacecraft could jet it’s way to Mars in a few days to a few weeks, depending on how fast one wanted to go, and to the outer reaches of the Solar System and back in a little under a few months.
This would have been ready to test in the early sixties and could have, if there had been some political will, been in space by the time the Apollo programe apparently reached the Moon. Only it wouldn’t have stopped at the Moon, Dyson was writing about reaching Saturn in the seventies and further out in the eighties. The ships could have been huge, anything from 800 to 8,000,000 tonnes, which is a bit more ambitious then the now defunct Shuttle programme, it would have been a realistic way to get into space and begin a new expansion of our frontiers. As was, the politicians werent interested and decided to go for the Apollo Programme which got them their Moon landings and that was that, because space has never been about doing something, it was all about politics and show.
Nuclear power could be used even now to power exploration of a new frontier, it could give us a place to move to, a place to flee from the coming dark age of world totalitarianism, but perhaps that is why only governments can access nuclear technology, and why governments have opposed private attempts to reach to the stars?
Another interesting point, is that the very same nuclear power, could take us to Alpha Centauri, with the technology we had fifty years ago! Well, I’m sure there are problems with this as we don’t really know whats between us and Alpha Centauri, if we were to travel at up to one tenth the speed of light, which is apparently feasable, we could get there in forty years or so, if we were to wait until we could get a better system of nuclear propulsion, we could up that to twenty or thirty or maybe even fifty percent?
Then Alpha Centauri could be a decade or so away, and take into account Einstein’s Twin Paradox and it may seem like a lot less time to the travellers!
And all this is possible, but we have seen our treasure wasted on ‘Diversity’ and ‘Multi cultural’ programmes, on tackling ever increasing poverty and depravity, more money on pensions and government bureaucracy and ever increasing, ever more expensive wars, instead of allowing people to dream big and make a go for it! All the wasted time and effort on those things which can’t be mended, and which we are now suffering ourselves, whilst up there, possibly, could be where our future lies and where could have been our present!