USA & Russia To Make Moon Base

Golly, in the midst of all the Loony Side Of Left going Bat Shit Crazy over anyone who ever talked to a Russian or drank Vodka, we have this news (bolding by me):

September 27, 2017 16:22 GMT

U.S., Russia To Cooperate On Lunar Base, Orbiting Station

The U.S. and Russian space agencies have announced a new collaboration to build a space station orbiting the moon, a rare glimpse of bilateral cooperation amid bitter tension between Washington and Moscow.

NASA and Roscosmos said in statements released on September 27 that the two entities had signed an agreement to work together on a project that will eventually serve as a “gateway to deep space and the lunar surface.”

NASA has dubbed the long-term project the Deep Space Gateway, a multistage effort to explore, and eventually send humans, farther into the solar system.

The two countries’ space agencies will cooperate to build the systems needed for both the lunar-orbiting station and a base on the moon’s surface, Roscosmos said.

Golly! Maybe there IS some hope after all. A lunar base and a lunar orbital way-point opens up all sorts of opportunities. It may be a few decades after 2001 before it’s done, but at least we’re headed back to the Moon, at last…

Details and schedule ought to be interesting. I also find it interesting that they have both an orbital and a stationary portion. That implies staging in orbit for various destinations…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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31 Responses to USA & Russia To Make Moon Base

  1. andysaurus says:

    Did you ever read “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert A Heinlein? Computing power seems to be coming up to that sort of level now. Economic and social pressures investigated in that book set many of my political views. TANSTAAFL!

  2. cdquarles says:

    Andy, I have read it and a lot of the other works of Robert Heinlein. I’ve also read a lot of Isaac Asimov’s, too; still, the Heinlein stuff tended to be more realistic, in my opinion.

  3. A C Osborn says:

    Arthur C Clarke was also the godfather of the current Satellite systems, another good read.

  4. Lionell Griffith says:

    If enough people guess enough things often enough, eventually someone will be right. Then all you have to do to be a successful prophet is to forget the times your guesses were wrong. Rinse, Repeat, and Profit.

    Interestingly, the internet works against the forgetting part. Becoming a successful prophet is increasingly more difficult. You actually have to be right most of the time. Perhaps this is why the climate prophets are in full panic mode.

  5. D. J. Hawkins says:

    Both Heinlein and Asimov had better batting averages than, say, Jeane Dixon.

  6. Larry Ledwick says:

    Interesting that this development occurs shortly after China announces that they plan on going to the Moon. I suspect Russia realizes it can’t let China have uncontested access to the Moon and Russia cannot afford to go there alone so a mutually beneficial partnership with the US keeps them in the game.

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    Larry; kind of interesting. The Russians and Americans realize the difficulty and cost of such an effort in a moon adventure, so are reluctant. The Chinese being ignorant, believe they must undertake this for status as a world power. I don’t know of any value of a moon base that is worth the cost of such an effort of putting people on the moon or Mars. Robots are far easier and cheaper. Even better there is no support or return necessary.
    Now if an electric space drive is perfected that equitation would change…pg

  8. Lionell Griffith says:

    “Both Heinlein and Asimov had better batting averages than, say, Jeane Dixon.”

    How does that change what I said? It doesn’t.

    Full disclosure: I read everything I could get a hold of by Heinlein and Asimov and nothing much by Jeane Dixon. I found them hugely entertaining and very mentally stimulating while Jeane Dixon was flat, monochrome, and excruciatingly boring.

    Heinlein and Asimov focused on writing and selling good stories about probable technologically based what if futures. Some wildly imaginative and some realistic extrapolations. While Jeane Dixon wrote a boring advice column about boring problems of boring people. As a consequence, it is to be expected that they would have a much higher hit rate for novel technological devices than Jeane Dixon.

    Being an inventor and engineer for most of my life, I find ideas to be worth a dime a hundred weight and pitifully easy to find and write about. The hard part is coming up with an idea that can be translated into a functional reality. Then turning it in to a product that can be sold for a profit.

    It is very easy to come up with an idea about something that you don’t have to build and make do what you say it will. Consider the following story: “I came up with a million dollar idea. All you have to do is give me a million dollars and it’s yours.” “Can you show me that it works?” “No but when you give me the million dollars I will start working on it.” “No thanks. Not interested. Come back when you can show it works as you say it will. Then I will give it some consideration.” In other words, an idea by itself isn’t worth much unless and until it is made real.

  9. DonM says:


    When I see the news of a “maybe-soon-future moon base”, and I catch my subconscious associating it with freedom & liberty, I realize I was also significantly impacted by the book.

    But I think I liked Heinlein because I was already a tanstaafl adherent & not the other way around.

  10. bruce says:

    I am always surprised at the number of people who so ardently believe living on Mars is the goal.
    I see that goal as being possible but so difficult to make liveable that it’s something for their great grandchildren. Whom I would think will have little interest.
    btw, you can throw in all the otherwise sharp individuals predicting mankind needs to get off the earth. Even if they are only talking in a “protect the human species” way, where a hundred baby makers venture out into the void.

  11. p.g.sharrow says:

    bruce; You would have to include me as one of those that want to move humans off planet.
    HOWEVER! present technology is not up to that as of yet. We must master mass/inertia and gravity first. Roman Candle drives and weightlessness is too dangerous, slow and damaging to human physiology for extended use. We really need an Electric based drive. A project that I have set aside for the last 3 years to do other things. hopefully this winter it can be resumed…pg..

  12. bruce says:

    for the sake of adventure or because the earth can’t handle us?

    The thought of 40 to 400 years in space is a little off putting for me.

  13. p.g.sharrow says:

    After living on Naval Ships for 4 years I can understand the attitude necessary for space existence. Most can not tolerate it. I certainly would not want to be a spacefarer and have no wish to go “out there” even for a brief trip. However as an inventor and engineer the challenge of getting it done has interested me since the mid 1950s. Human evolution requires that it happen….some day, but interstellar space is a VAST place even at translight speeds! Human colonizing of other planets is not a great idea but colonizing space is a necessary next step of evolution.
    The management of mass/inertia and gravity, electronically, is the only solution for true space travel that I can see, Tesla and Einstein spent their lives in seeking out the answers for that problem.While they may have failed, they did move our understanding of the forces of the Universe. Modern understanding of physics still has many flaws that must be corrected before the solution are realized.
    After a series of visions 30 years ago I began my quest for the solution and a friend remarked that my unique talents might make me suited for that challenge. So like many others I began this inquiry as time and money permits…pg

  14. Soronel Haetir says:

    I suspect this is as much (or likely more) a way to justify budgets than a proposal that is actually going anywhere. The moon race was sold on nationalism grounds, I really don’t see that working for this moon base/orbiting station idea – especially if it is going to be a multi-nation effort in cooperation with the Russians.

    There needs to be a much better reason than “it would be neat” in order to justify the kind of budget ruination that this would entail if carried through. And honestly, if that kind of justification were forthcoming there would likely be private interests there first. As far as I am aware there is very little that makes the moon an interesting destination other than the fact that it is close. The one resource idea I’ve seen is He3 for fusion reactor fuel, but given how anything nuclear is such a bugaboo …

    I also agree that anything beyond geosynchronous orbit isn’t likely to be developed – especially for habitation – so long as we are stuck using chemical rockets or ionic drives. But then if gravity is ever understood to the point where it can be manipulated without actual mass or simulated by acceleration everything changes. However, I see that as a very big ‘if’.

  15. I love you guys. You read Heinlein, Azimov, Niven, Pournelle and many more. Isn’t it amazing how many of their crazy ideas have come true?

    Most of the time I agree with “p.g.” but I have to take him to the woodshed for this comment:
    “I don’t know of any value of a moon base that is worth the cost of such an effort of putting people on the moon or Mars.”

    OK, I agree that Mars is way too expensive for what is likely to be achieved. However a colony on the Moon has a much greater chance of success and the cost will be twenty times less. So what are the benefits?

    Number one is that we will learn how to survive on airless bodies and that will enable us to exploit minerals that are rare on Earth. See this gritty movie starring Sean Connery:

    Number two is the development of a source of electric power that is light enough to be transported to the moon on rockets. IMHO this will be a “Generation IV” MSR (Molten Salt Reactor) that burns fuel 100 times more efficiently than the ~1,000 nuclear reactors currently operating on Earth. You can bet that such a reactor will find many application on Earth.

    Stephen Hawking was working on his Ph.D. while I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University. In general I support him because he is “Our Guy”. Looking back I used to support Fred Hoyle and his “Continuous Creation” theory that turned out to be wrong.

    Recently I have been riding an emotional roller coaster. I loved it when Hawking suggested that humanity could improve its chances of survival by developing space travel. Then I was underwhelmed when he proposed a light sail that would accelerate a small object to 0.2 of light speed.

    I find Larry Niven’s vision of space travel based on Bussard ramjets much more plausible:

    If Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is correct it is possible to travel to the center of our Milky Way galaxy (27,002 light years) in less than 11 years without exceeding the speed of light:

    That may sound a little weird but it is a direct consequence of Einstein’s theory that says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. If the velocity of light in a vacuum is a constant it follows that length, mass and time must be variables. While that may make your head spin, the experimental evidence to date supports Einstein’s hypothesis.

    I was mortified when Hawking suggested that the USA withdrawing from the Paris climate accord would cause a disaster but that is not relevant to this discussion.

  16. bruce says:

    horacio am I, governed by what I understand. A poor daydreamer with nothing to show. While other plot courses through the heavens with nothing but vapor, may they be right for with them is the sleep of the heavens.

  17. p.g.sharrow says:

    The camel says that “I have to take pg to the wood shed, for his comment on human habitation of the moon and Mars.” …
    Go for it ;-) wouldn’t be the first time I took a beating for my opinions.
    I know of no UN-obtainium on the Moon that would be worth the cost of maintaining a Human inhabited base. The Moon represents a very hostile environment for human existence. Now a robotic mining operation is much more likely to provide materials for nearby space constructions. The moon gravity well is much less deep then the Earth’s and would have value for that.
    An electronic drive would make the lift from the Earth’s surface much less expensive. Less then twice the cost of aircraft transportation. One “G” of acceleration is about 60hp per 1000pounds and will result in trans-light speeds in 40 days. That is in normal space, As you approach light speeds the mass/inertia involved would warp the space around it.
    From my earliest days I consumed every Si-Fi novel and short story that came my way. Even today I watch movies and TV shows of space based Si-Fi. Drives my lady nuts as I point out the fallacies in physics that are portrayed in the story line. “How can anyone enjoy this with this nit picking of the details.” I don’t know , must be a mental defect…pg

  18. A C Osborn says:

    I agree GC here PG, the advantage of the moon base is purely for raw materials a it’s much reduced gravity well. Combined with simple Linear Magnetic Accelerator launch systems is the way to build large structures in space.
    I don’t think robots are advanced enough to handle that kind of complexity yet, but could be used for a lot of the heavy work though.
    I have also read many SF books in the last 50+ years and one of the best for Solar System development is James S Corey’s “Expansion” series.

    PG, I am fascinated by the fact that you are looking in to an “Electronic Space Drive”.
    Have you looked at Roger Shawyer’s EMdrive, it has been reproduced by the Chinese and validated by NASA.

  19. philjourdan says:

    Well, I was going to comment on the politics, but found that the SF Authors discussion much more entertaining (I am an avid followers of the SiFi Greats).

    I agree with GC on “MoonBase Alpha” (not the TV series however). The simple dynamics of the fact of less gravity and virtually unlimited raw materials indicates it could be a giant space station.

  20. p.g.sharrow says:

    A C Ssborn:
    also many other postings..;-).. putting my money where my mouth is…pg

  21. p.g.sharrow says:

    A C Osborn; in the 1920s T Townson Brown discovered that when he charged a Crooks Tube, a kind of precursor of a CRT, it would move in the direction of the positive charged plate as also would a plate capacitor. When he demonstrated the effect to his collage professor a paper was created on this “Biefield-Brown effect. The charging of the fields warp the die-electric of the atomic structure. That is the center of being, Electron Shell, has it’s center of mass, Nucleus, moved off center due to the electrostatic fields involved. This warpage is the energy storage involved in capacitance. The higher the voltage applied the greater the warpage that occurs. The faster the voltage spike takes place, the greater the kick, acceleration that results. Later Brown got lost in pursuit of ion-drive development and never advanced his original discovery… pg

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    OK, FWIW, I read EVERY science fiction book in my home town library. Stopped in just about every day on my way home from school (walking in those days) as it was about 3 blocks from school and home on the line… Every author mentioned, plus the magazines. Analog? was it?

    Per Moon vs Mars vs “whatever”:

    You want any off planet city to be in a gravity field so folks don’t turn into boneless jellyfish, but not one so deep it is expensive to enter and exit. Moon is great, Mars is OK. You want loose enough soil to be able to build UNDER it easily (both are OK). You want a source of air and water (Mars is much better than the moon). Close enough to the Earth for rescue (at least in the early days) a big feature (moon much much better).

    What’s it good for? Building Space Stuff. $10,000 / lb to orbit means making ANYTHING from stuff already in space is more valuable than mining gold… Even just bags of water and dirt shielding. Now the Moon has lots of Titanium, so making “space stuff” out of Titanium would be a big win (even if hard). Iron and magnesium and aluminum even more common and easier to work.

    As a base to mine asteroids, it’s a great place, but an orbital station around Mars even better as a way point. There are asteroids that are likely mostly platinum group metals. Think $1000 / ounce in ton sized chunks… Just deorbit and cash check…

    So what I’d be expecting to do “up there” is to first establish a small base to prove the tech and systems needed, then start making that “stuff” and tech from things up there. Then start mining and fabrication. Some launches are a $Billion or so by the time you reach orbit. Ship up some wafers and fab the things on orbit with the bulk of the materials from the moon or asteroids, you could pocket $Millions easy. We can already 3D print rocket motors and casings…

    Also figure the advantages of radio astronomy done from the backside of the moon… no Earth Electronic Smog to filter out…

    I can see lots of stuff worth doing on the Moon, Mars and orbits of both.
    (Not to mention the obvious drop rocks on N. Korea ;-)

    Start with R&D, then mining and materials, then space craft and structures fabrication. Side businesses in botanical gardens and farming and “small animals”. Miniature goats can digest most of the stuff from farm plants that we can’t, make more milk / volume than just about anything else, and are tasty… Plus make decent fleece and leather for some of them. So even less stuff shipped up at $10k/lb.

    Once we’ve got 10,000 people off this rock, all sorts of stuff will start happening and making a lot of sense. Orbital habitats being one of them. (O’Niel structures).'Neill_cylinder
    Hard to justify at $10k/lb from Earth, easy at Moon to orbit delta v with a maglev launcher… Then all of the local solar system becomes “home” at quite reasonable costs and workloads.

  23. gallopingcamel says:

    “One “G” of acceleration is about 60hp per 1000pounds and will result in trans-light speeds in 40 days.”

    You may have dropped a decimal point or two. One “g” corresponds to 9.81 m/s^2 or 1.03 c/year^2. Thus in a Newtonian universe it take 0.97 years to reach light speed. As “Ethan” points out, if you start on January 1 you will reach light speed a few days before Christmas:
    View story at

    If Einstein is right one “g” for one year (ship time) gets you to a velocity of 0.712 c.

  24. Larry Ledwick says:

    Interesting point which frame of reference to you use to compute the times, ship time or launch site time.

    I terms of space exploration from earth, I think the most important time reference is earth based time (when should dinner be ready for the returning astronauts). ;)

  25. p.g.sharrow says:

    missed it by “.” this much!. LoL Actually in an Electronic drive you would feel little of the acceleration as the mass, you included, would “fall’ forward in the direction of the acceleration…pg

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    @G.C. & P.G.:

    The problem is getting the “fuel” to accelerate for a year at one G… Even Nuclear power has issues at those power levels. Maybe one could use anti-matter… Even beaming power to your craft has issues, as any photons from the front slow you down while those from the rear arrive with ever less net energy.

    BTW, having seen drag races with about 1000 lb cars and speed measured in Gs, I’m pretty sure it’s more like 600 HP / 1000 lbs than 60. Otherwise my old slow Diesel would be giving me about 1 G of acceleration ;-)

    Oh, if you have never been to a drag race, go at least once. Those rails are the fastest thing you will see. Faster than aircraft carrier catapults. The power they dump out is incredible and the whole stands vibrate. The engine is rebuilt after each run, that lasts just a few seconds. The fuel is a nitromethane mix that nearly fills the cylinder as a liquid lump. At the end of the run, it is Dieseling on the hot stumps of the melted spark plugs. From floored to end of run is about 900 revolutions of the engine…

    So want to know how to reach 1 G? Ask a drag racer. Then figure out how much nitromethane you need to do that for a year ;-)

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    Looks like it’s 6 Gs

    one*tree*hill ♂
    11 Aug 2012 13:50
    drag racing acceleration put into perspective

    /* One Top Fuel dragster outfitted with a 500 cubic-inch Hemi engine makes more horsepower (8,000 HP) than the first//
    /4 rows at NASCAR’s Daytona 500… //

    /* Under full throttle, a dragster engine will consume 11.2 gallons of nitro methane per second; a fully loaded Boeing//
    /747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate but with 25% less energy
    being produced. //

    /** A stock Dodge Hemi V8 engine cannot produce enough power to merely drive the dragster’s supercharger. (Note: the new Chrysler Hemi is not a true hemi. It is only a “Hemi” because Chrysler has the trademark on the name and chooses to call this engine a “Hemi”) */

    /* With 3000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into a near-solid form before ignition. Cylinders run on the verge of hydraulic lockup at full throttle.. /

    /* At the stoichiometric 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture for nitro methane the flame front temperature measures 7050 degrees F./

    /* Nitro methane burns yellow. The spectacular white flame seen above the stacks at night is raw burning hydrogen, dissociated from atmospheric water vapor by the searing exhaust gases. /

    /* Dual magnetos supply 44 amps to each sparkplug, which is typically the output of an electric arc welder in each cylinder./

    /* Spark plug electrodes are totally consumed during a pass./

    /*After 1/2 way thru the run, the engine is ‘dieseling’ from compression and the glow of the exhaust valves at 1400 degrees F. The engine can only be shut down by cutting the fuel flow…. /

    /* If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in the affected cylinders and then explodes with enough force sufficient to blow the cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in half!! /

    /* Top fuel dragsters reach over 300 MPH +… before you have completed reading this sentence. /

    /* In order to exceed 300 MPH in 4.5 seconds, a dragster must accelerate an average of over 4 G’s. In order to reach 200 MPH well before reaching half-track, at launch the acceleration approaches 8 G’s. /

    /* Top Fuel engines turn approximately 675 revolutions from light to light! /

    /* Including the burnout, the engine must only survive 9000 revolutions under load. /

    /* The red line is actually quite high at 9500 RPM. /

    /* THE BOTTOM LINE: Assuming all the equipment is paid for, the pit crew is working for free, & NOTHING BLOWS UP, each run will cost an estimated $1000 per second. /

    /0 to 100 MPH in .8 seconds (the first 60 feet of the run) /

    /0 to 200 MPH in 2.2 seconds (the first 350 feet of the run)/

    ///6 g-forces at the starting line (nothing accelerates faster on land) /

    /6 negative g-forces upon deployment of twin ‘chutes at 300 MPH /

    /An NHRA Top Fuel Dragster accelerates quicker than any other land vehicle on earth. . Quicker than a jet fighter plane…. quicker than the space shuttle…. or snapping your fingers!! /

    /The current Top Fuel dragster elapsed time record is 4.420 seconds for the quarter-mile (2004, Doug Kalitta). The top speed record is 337.58 MPH as measured over the last 66’ of the run (2005, Tony Schumacher). /

    /So, in summary… Let’s now put this all into perspective: Imagine this…. You are driving a new $140,000 Lingenfelter twin-turbo powered Corvette Z-06. Over a mile up the road, a Top Fuel dragster is staged & ready to ‘launch’ down a quarter-mile strip as you pass. You have the advantage of a flying start. You run the ‘Vette hard, on up through the gears and blast across the starting line, and pass the dragster at an honest 200 MPH…. The ‘tree’ goes green for both of you at that exact moment. The dragster departs & starts after you. You keep your foot buried hard to the floor, and suddenly you hear an incredibly brutally screaming whine that sears and pummels your eardrums & within a mere 3 seconds the dragster effortlessly catches & passes you. He beats you to the finish line, a quarter-mile away from where you just passed him. Think about it – from a standing start, the dragster had spotted you 200 MPH…. and it not only caught, but nearly blasted you off the planet when he passed you within a mere 1320 foot long race !!!! /

    /That my friend….. is acceleration! /

  28. catweazle666 says:

    /The current Top Fuel dragster elapsed time record is 4.420 seconds for the quarter-mile (2004, Doug Kalitta). The top speed record is 337.58 MPH as measured over the last 66’ of the run (2005, Tony Schumacher). /

    Sorry Chief, that’s out of date!
    Worlds Fastest 1/4 mile ever on dragstrip 3.58 secs @ 386 mph (621.61 km/h)

    But they aren’t half as spectacular since they stopped spinning their wheels.
    I saw the first AA/FD dragsters when they came to the UK in 1963 and 1964, unbelievable at the time, first time 200MPH exceeded on land in Great Britain.
    The times have roughly halved and the speeds almost doubled since.

  29. A C Osborn says:

    p.g.sharrow says: 2 October 2017 at 7:05 pm
    A C Ssborn:
    also many other postings..;-).. putting my money where my mouth is…pg

    pg, absolutely fascinating, both your’s, Simon’s and Mike’s theories.
    I love it when people thnk outside the box of current Physics.
    I have noticed EM digs up lots of “forgotten/hidden” stuff as does Tim Cullen at Malaga Bay.
    As I have said to EM before Science seems to have gone backwards in a lot of respects and I think it is due to current dogma around the Big Bang and reluctance to look at the Electric Universe and the work that Tallbloke relates on Celestial Mechanics. (not that I believe all they say either).
    There seems to be a lot less “breakthrough” science over the last 70 od years, it all seems to be just refining what is already known and invented.

  30. gallopingcamel says:

    “The problem is getting the “fuel” to accelerate for a year at one G… Even Nuclear power has issues at those power levels. Maybe one could use anti-matter… Even beaming power to your craft has issues, as any photons from the front slow you down while those from the rear arrive with ever less net energy.”

    While nuclear fission produces a few million times more momentum per pound of fuel than hydrogen/oxygen rockets, Robert Bussard showed that was not enough for inter-stellar travel. Nuclear fusion is better by a factor of 10 but that is not enough either.

    Inter-stellar travel will require (as you suggest) anti-matter which implies matter annihilation. Given that I am of a nervous disposition traveling on a vessel with anti-matter fuel is too scary. The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) causes protons and anti-protons to interact. That may be safe on a small scale but the process is far too dangerous for a large scale application such as the propulsion system for a space ship.

    Inter-stellar travel is possible if you can convert matter into energy with an efficiency of 100%. While we can do that today in the LHC it is not a process that can be readily scaled up. That prompted me to invent the PAR (Proton Annihilation Rocket). The PAR coverts protons into photons. Using the PAR in conjunction with Robert Bussard’s ram scoop one could reach the center of our galaxy in about 10.6 years:

    As one gets older one measures time in terms of breakfast, lunch and dinner instead of hours minutes or seconds, so I understand what Larry Ledwick is talking about when he said:
    ‘”I terms of space exploration from earth, I think the most important time reference is earth based time (when should dinner be ready for the returning astronauts)”

    If an astronaut traveled to the galactic core and then returned to Earth to report what he had found the round trip would take 40 years assuming three months was spent observing the galactic core. While the astronaut became 40 years older, the planet Earth would be 54,006 years older which means that the astronaut would have missed almost 20 million dinners.

  31. A C Osborn – yep, pg’s disc project could be very interesting. There’s also Richard Banduric’s Electric Space Drive where it seems to work (and has theoretical backing) but needs testing in space to really find out whether it’s pushing against stuff around it or is pushing against *nothing* instead. Testing on Earth in vacuum (or in air for pg) could give a false positive result from reactions against the vacuum chamber or nearby material.

    On the conversion of environmental heat to electricity, I’m finally in a position to fabricate devices and test them. I’ve been testing out Phil Hardcastle’s METTEC idea for the last few weeks, and we’ve found that the workfunctions required are not practically attainable with Nickel/Nickel Oxide so we’re testing out alternative materials. We should have some data in the next few weeks/months as to whether the designs practically work and match the predictions. I’m helping Phil since, if we can prove it works, he’s got a backer who will put a lot of resources into making it work better and commercialising it – gives a fast track to cheaper energy for all. Since the output of both the METTEC and IR-PV will depend on the 4th power of absolute temperature these should also give us a way to convert any available nuclear power into electricity at 100% efficiency, which would be useful for space drives that only need electricity to make them run. Though this isn’t as dramatic as using antimatter, it is still a 100% efficiency at turning mass into kinetic energy (though you’ll need more mass to start with since only a few percent of your initial mass gets converted).

    Getting 0.1g for a long trip would shorten the trip time dramatically, and aiming for 1g won’t shorten the trip time by another 10 times so not really worth it in practical terms unless it’s easy to achieve. The astronauts would thus need a centrifuge on board to keep their bodies working OK. And of course some very good shielding against cosmic radiation and the blue-shifted radiation from in front….

    Once we’re out of the Earth’s gravity-well, moving things around takes a lot lower power, and it looks like asteroid mining is financially viable at the moment even with one-use rockets, so with re-usable lifting vehicles it will be very profitable. The big step is getting off the planet in the first place.

    There’s no shortage of people who’d want to go on a one-way trip to Mars. Maybe the majority won’t be suitable for one reason or another, but they are there. According to Chris Hadfield, the chances of an astronaut dying in action are around 1 in 38, and there’s again no shortage of people who’d want to do the job (he had around 8000 people apply for his competition to become an astronaut, IIRC). I think we’ll thus get out into space and build habitats just as soon as it becomes physically possible, and with a bit of luck within our lifetimes.

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