Re: shuttle disaster
On Mon, Feb 03, 2003 at 06:52:21AM -0800, Cam Ellison wrote:
> * Paul Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
> > On Sun, Feb 02, 2003 at 03:46:04PM -0600, Nathan E Norman wrote:
> > > I really don't see how that can be true (though where is that orbiting
> > > hotel, anyway?)
> > Though replace the Howard Johnson's that sat across the space station
> > lobby from the Hilton with a Tim Hortons. 8;o)
> > If you don't get the joke, you're not Canadian enough and you need to
> > try harder.
> That's the next rrroll-up-the-rim contest prize -- a trip to the
> orbiting hotel. ;-)
Yeah, but we need something better than the shuttle to get there.
Even without the two tragedies, there's still the problem that the
shuttle (or any rocket) uses vast amounts of energy to transport very
small masses; and the energy is all lost, there's no way of recovering
it on the way back down and you have the problem of trying to stop it
burning the spacecraft up as well.
I like the idea (Arthur C Clarke, Iain M Banks and doubtless others)
of what you can do with a material with very high tensile strength: a
space elevator, "sloir than a rokit or whatevir but mutch moar
efishint". An orbiting mass somewhere outside the geostationary orbit
is anchored to the Earth with a cable. You can then use it as the top
end of an elevator mechanism, with counterweights of course. You can
use the Earth's rotational energy to slingshot spacecraft off the top
of it, and recover that energy when they return.
Another invention which is more-or-less essential for useful space
flight is a power source with a much higher energy density than a
chemical rocket - fusion, direct matter-to-energy conversion,
extracting the zero-point energy (warning: may destroy galaxy).
For satellite launching, the current idea seems to be to develop a
Jules Verne cannon.
Personally, I think that the space programme in its current state of
development is frequently trying to run before it can walk, and
consumes money which would be better spent on famine relief.