Stephen Hawking just gave humanity a due date for finding another planet

Nov 29, 2016

By Peter Holley

If humanity survives the rise of artificial intelligence, the ravages of climate change and the threat of nuclear terrorism in the next century, it doesn’t mean we’re home free, according to Stephen Hawking.

The renowned theoretical physicist has gone as far as providing humanity with a deadline for finding another planet to colonize: We have 1,000 years.

Remaining on Earth any longer, Hawking believes, places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction.


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167 comments on “Stephen Hawking just gave humanity a due date for finding another planet

  • Is this what Human Kind should do? Leaving the ruined and raped planet behind moving on to new places in order to proceed in the same manner. NO. Same old hybris of homo sapiens sapiens !!! Do humans” have the moral right to conquer other planets as planet Earth was conquered? NO. – There is a long line of blood and destruction all the way as long humans have existed. Why should humans change going into space!? No, the only cure is the extinction of the human race. Fortunately it is just happening.
    [Global Warming, Mass Extinction, Industrial Pollution of the environment, Overpopulation, Religious Disorder, Revitalization of Fascism, the Dead of Classicism, … ]

  • Bengt #1
    Nov 30, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Is this what Human Kind should do? Leaving the ruined and raped planet behind moving on to new places in order to proceed in the same manner.

    It is logistically impossible to move significant numbers of humans off the Earth to another planet.

    Therefore if humans rape the planet, MOST of the human population will have to live (or die) with that.

    It is however probably possible to move a pioneering small group to another planet, and hopefully if that is done, lessons will be learned and the destructive elements who will not or cannot learn, will be left behind.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nearest_exoplanets

    From the total of 3,541 known exoplanets orbiting around 2,656 different stars (as of November 19, 2016), only a small fraction are located in the vicinity of the Solar System. At the beginning of 2016, the nearest 74 exoplanets were confirmed to be located within 50 light-years (15.3 pc),[a] while some 49 other exoplanets had been proposed to exist. Among the estimated 1,400 stars located within 50 light-years, only 40 had been confirmed to have planetary systems with 14 other stars having unconfirmed exoplanet candidates.

    Of course many exoplanets (and for that matter planets in the Solar System), are unsuitable for human habitation, and Earth size planets, cannot be assumed to be Earth-type planets, even if they are in a “Goldilocks Zone”!

  • Once the trick of sustainability is got, there is little reason to move away or far away. I think people living and working at Lagrange points in a very health solar flux, may have to build extensions if there is a bit of a domestic on the surface.

  • Phil: The whole point of having humanity live on multiple worlds is to increase the species chance of survival.. Staying put wont help with that.

  • Bengt: I don’t think it is in the gist of leaving behind a “raped planet”, or such. I think it is more playing the numbers and seeing how the population will grow (nearly exponentially), and knowing that even with the best recycling, and high efficiency technology, that we will overpopulate the earth to a level it just cannot support by the laws of physics. I think given that Hawkins was actually giving too much time. We are already at about 10 billion or so on this planet. In a hundred years, if birth rate was linear and didn’t change, we would still push about 1 trillion on this planet. Given how much trouble we are giving it with 10 billion… I kinda think anything even remotely close to a trillion humans will over tax this planet. Getting to that number would be quick if we keep double at the rate we do now. Even if we corrected and the progression was made more linear instead of exponential… it wouldn’t take to long to overpopulate.

    We really need to research a way to live beyond the earth, and learn to be among the stars. Yet personally think it will take a change in our physical self to do that in the most “natural” way. Not needing air nor food. total conversion to a being that can naturally survive in airlessness and zero G. Able to live off energy more directly (solar power? nuclear food? something like that..) A total redesign of the organism…. Should I pun, but a very very intelligent design. Thoroughly engineered to be the widest range of extremophile, and with a lifespan that easily can be measured in 1000s of years. (not a typo… I did say thousands) I don’t foresee a short cut to space travel and so we need to be able to live for the entire time it would take to sub-light fly to various star systems.

    Suffice it to say that space faring humans would be a new species and creature and technology on to themselves. So much so that it would be hard to consider them humans anymore… all but their roots of where they came from.

  • Jeremy Mone (JarethGK)

    I kinda think anything even remotely close to a trillion humans will over tax this planet.
    Getting to that number would be quick if we keep double at the rate we do now.

    Ecology and population dynamics, suggest that resource depletion and a population crash, would make a steep downward adjustment long before that number was reached.

    At the moment there is a serious risk of global warming feed-backs launching a human extinction event by around 2050!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38146248
    Earth warming to climate tipping point, warns study

    We really need to research a way to live beyond the earth, and learn to be among the stars.

    There are quite a few futurist projects which have ideas on this. – The Hundred Year Starship, Projects Icarus and Daedalus, and asteroid mining for resources. Once off planet mining systems are established, “rock-hopping” across asteroids, moons and comets, could take human bases to the outer edges of the solar System and beyond.
    There are indications of Oort Cloud objects orbiting as far out as half way to the nearest star.
    Some futurist rocket engineers are already talking about travelling at 12% of light speed using nuclear fusion powered ion drives.

    Yet personally think it will take a change in our physical self to do that in the most “natural” way.

    There are certainly Earth organisms which are more suited to space travel than humans, but neither genetic engineering nor evolution, are likely to produce new spacefaring intelligent species anytime soon.

    Not needing air nor food. total conversion to a being that can naturally survive in airlessness

    Our robot space probes already function in high vacuum and strong radiation.

    With an energy source such as a fusion electric drive or generator, food and oxygen can be produced in deep space.
    (Solar power is only useful in the inner Solar System where sunlight is strong enough. )

    Mining asteroids, comets, Kuiper Belt Objects and Oort Cloud Objects can produce oxygen from water ice, and may be also able to produce Deuterium fuel from water ice.
    Metals and other resources could also be mined, once the commercial technology is established.

    Robot mining operations could certainly prepare both supply bases and shuttle rocket vehicles, to launch and boost supplies from mined bodies, to match the the speed of passing cruising interstellar craft.

    Like early humans moving from island to island in the Pacific, colonists could move by generations, progressively further out from Earth, one orbiting mining base at a time.

    and zero G.

    Zero G can easily be overcome by engineering a rotating wheel shaped craft or station, rotating a linear one end over end, or simply by operating a one G thrust rocket engine pushing the habitation unit.

    I did say thousands) I don’t foresee a short cut to space travel and so we need to be able to live for the entire time it would take to sub-light fly to various star systems.

    Interstellar flights are likely to take decades, so the key element is planning and prior research to make preparations in advance along the route, after establishing a suitable destination planet or moon.

    Humans will need to colonise areas and setup economically viable enterprises, within the Solar System first. – In the inner Solar System there are mineable asteroids, along with unlimited solar energy to be tapped. Even at present, there are plenty of commercial opportunities maintaining probes and satellite systems in space around the Earth.
    The outer Solar System is cold and dark, but does have frozen gases, ices, minerals, and metals, which on small bodies, should be reasonably accessible and near the surface.

  • We have Trump, who said “I love war, including nuclear war” and wants to vastly increase military spending. The USA is run by climate change deniers. The Arctic is 20 degrees C above normal. Vertebrates are disappearing at unprecedented rates. I think 1000 years is extremely sanguine.

  • Patrick #4

    I’m all for insurance policies to guard against disaster. Most self inflicted disasters are insured against by being able to live sustainably, recycling material sources and consuming solar energy directly or indirectly. Many natural disasters are more survivable on Earth if we are less interdependent and more self sufficient at the small scale of say a Mars colony.

    If the worst comes to the worst, I have proposed Lagrange (say 4 and 5) as ideal places to live and work off the surface, with low energy costs for travel and many advantages from being in stable but very shallow gravity pockets.

    Planets are pretty fatuous unless we are going to terraform. This is more than a millenial project. Halo is more doable and as much construction as an equivalent housing project on say Mars. The energy flux is much higher too (250% more and constant.)

  • Sorry, 250% more energy than the brief peak of the Martian equatorial hot spot. I reckon an identical PV collector would achieve 1000% more energy collection at the Lagrange point than at an optimal Martian surface location.

    Jeremy,

    Population numbers aren’t going to grow exponentially. Women don’t adore giving birth and much as we adore our kids, we are growing bored with this parenting thing. Look how advanced post industrial countries on the Pacific rim will nosedive in population in the next 84 years…

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson asked a good question: if we can’t, down the road, make an uninhabitable earth habitable, why should we put our hopes in making another uninhabitable planet habitable?

    Mr. Trump hired a climate change denier to head the EPA transition. He should NOT be allowed to govern; that alone constitutes insanity – and/or sadism, an actual desire to hurt humanity. Isn’t there some provision in our constitution or something that protects the rights of citizens from being subjected to the misery of having a deranged person sworn in?

    Something is not right. Something or someone is pulling the strings. I am not a conspiracy theorist per se, but I now suspect that there is some kind of diabolical conspiracy behind all this.

  • The problems on earth and settling on another planet are two separate issues for me. I am fed up with people calling the entire human race parasites and worrying about our impact in the universe. It stinks of thinking of ourselves as bigger and more important than we actually are. Destroying worlds leaves us wanting to a fantastic magnitude when compared with a black hole say. It does not mean we cannot proceed with caution and care but let’s be realistic about our impact. Our Little Rock is struggling because of us but it is such a small event in the grand scheme of things. We are part of this earth and the stars and if we felt more a part of it, we might actually take more care instead of using rhetoric that makes us sound like tenents not really caring how we leave the premises when we move on.

  • Jeremy Mone (JarethGK)

    I don’t foresee a short cut to space travel and so we need to be able to live for the entire time it would take to sub-light fly to various star systems.

    I think hibernation, or humans incubated from frozen embryos, or generation ships, could bridge long duration flights.
    Many ideas have been explored in Science Fiction stories.

  • Alan 4 # 2: It is logistically impossible to move significant numbers of humans off the Earth to another planet.
    Therefore if humans rape the planet, MOST of the human population will have to live (or die) with that.
    It is however probably possible to move a pioneering small group to another planet, and hopefully if that is done, lessons will be learned and the destructive elements who will not or cannot learn, will be left behind.

    The first part sounds reasonable until the bold type qualification came aboard. The proposition that the Earth will be “ravaged” by environmental degradation is not only vague but implies degrees of destruction more than some form of terminal destruction that brings about human extinction. It’s silly to imagine traveling to another planet as an alternative. We could live in space or on another planet only as long as elaborate life-support equipment continued to function. The airless, waterless, lifeless conditions of an unforgiving environment, magnified by extreme cold, heat, and radiation bombardment, “in space” or “on another planet” is lethal to human beings. Logically, logistically there is no hope of living in a death zone.

  • Melvin #14
    Dec 1, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    It is however probably possible to move a pioneering small group to another planet, and hopefully if that is done, lessons will be learned and the destructive elements who will not or cannot learn, will be left behind.

    The first part sounds reasonable until the bold type qualification came aboard.

    This quoted section is simply explaining that in setting up a new base for humans far from Earth, it is possible to make a culturally clean start, leaving much old social, cultural and superstitious baggage behind.

    The proposition that the Earth will be “ravaged” by environmental degradation is not only vague but implies degrees of destruction more than some form of terminal destruction that brings about human extinction.

    It does not necessarily suggest that. Merely that if such a possibility arises, the new base population does not need to import bad habits or destructive thought modes.

    It’s silly to imagine traveling to another planet as an alternative.

    It is indeed, – which why I pointed out that not only is it silly, but it is logistically impossible to move millions of people interplanetary or interstellar distances.
    If Yellowstone was known to be going to erupt, the entire US population could not even be moved to Australia, let alone into space bases!

    We could live in space or on another planet only as long as elaborate life-support equipment continued to function.

    These would have to be based on use of local materials for long term sustainability.

    The airless, waterless, lifeless conditions of an unforgiving environment, magnified by extreme cold, heat, and radiation bombardment, “in space” or “on another planet” is lethal to human beings.

    That is why stellar and galactic “Goldilocks Zones” need to be identified before bases are planned. (see link below)
    For example, there is plenty of water ice and frozen gasses all over the outer Solar System.
    Intense heat is more of a problem than cold.
    Cold can be overcome by heaters and insulation.
    Radiation and small meteorite impacts, can be avoided by living underground.

    Logically, logistically there is no hope of living in a death zone.

    You don’t define a “death-zone”, but I would define it as an area permanently or spasmodically actively hostile to life. – Not simply an area where special life-support systems, radiation screening, power supplies, artificial atmosphere, etc. are required.

    Of course a location capable of supporting a technically advanced space colony or space base for a useful period of time, should not be conflated with a planet or moon, which has the long term conditions for evolving endemic life.

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/424638/astronomers-publish-new-map-of-galactic-habitable-zone/

  • Sometimes I imagine the Earth to be an egg, about to hatch. Or a seedpod about to burst, more like. The same impetus that has driven life to occupy every niche on this planet, drives life to expand off-planet. We seem to be the species to do it, or at least the first one to give it a go. Apart perhaps from microbes small and hardy enough to hitch a ride on comets or asteroid/meteor collision debris, the potential panspermia that may link all life in the galaxy.

    If we are the species to spread our DNA beyond this one planet, we’ll do it by occupying every niche of this solar system, becoming space-dwellers, long before heading off to seek habitats near other stars. Every niche would include the Lagrange points and other convenient orbits, as well as the surfaces of some of the planets and moons. There’s plenty of raw material out there, and plenty of solar energy. Enough to build cities and city-states, and for new generations of our descendants to adapt to living there.

    And much like the early explorers and migrants, setting off for the New World, most of the human population at any time will be the ones left behind. The ability to migrate outwards will continue to provide the New Frontier for the adventurous to boldly go. Pressure to migrate will come from ongoing squabbles over the finite (even if not dwindling) resources back home, even if we’re collectively smart enough to stabilise the population — as opposed to having a natural “stability” imposed by cycles of boom-and-bust.

    The first “starship” won’t be built anywhere near the Earth, and won’t be built by people who’ve ever set foot on the Earth. I predict.

    I’ve read lots of sci-fi, and I find the most convincing presentation of life in the near-future (a few hundred years or so) is to be found in the TV series “The Expanse”.

  • As Isaac Asimov once pointed out, you cannot keep growing regardless of what wonderful technologies might be invented to support that growth.

    If you assume all problems of spaceflight are solved, and sufficient energy and resources are continually found to support an expansion, expanding the human population by just 2% p.a. from a starting point of 10 billion will in just 1000 years yield approximately 4 billion billion humans. A 1% p.a. growth rate will yield “only” 200,000 billion humans.

    Let’s charitably assume an Earth-like world can accommodate 1 thousand billion humans (100x the current population).
    Then in 1000 years, at 1% p.a., we’ll only need to find around 200 Earth-like worlds to populate.

    We have to aim for steady state population (zero growth). We should decide what’s a “desirable” number (which could be less than what we have now, or more, depending on technology) and aim for it.

    Growing without limit will make us hit Malthusian limits long before we get to 1 thousand billion humans on Earth alone, without ridiculously generous Asimovian assumptions about science and technology – which is only a few centuries away at 1 – 2% growth p.a.

    NB: The global growth rate is currently a little over 1%, though it exceeded 2% in the 60s.

  • Evolution driven by competition to breed, so breeding success runs away with itself in favourable circumstances. As proven by Asimov, circumstances can’t be expected to stay favourable forever. If we don’t limit our own population intentionally, other forces will limit it for us, with no concern for how unpleasant that might be for any of us individually. Unfortunately, collectively, we’re not smart enough (yet) to do it the easy way.

  • 21
    fadeordraw says:

    You know, I’m going to try this again. Dr. Hawking’s statement that we need to seek to colonise another planet for sapient survival is all about if we sapient beings continue to grow on the planet as we have been growing. So we grow on the planet the same as plants and animals, as species grow, with our instinct for survival of our species, of our genes, etc. Only we, the smart ones, have overcome, unlike our fellow plants and animals, our growth containments; think food production and distribution, cities, etc., rather than what keeps other plants and animal populations in check. We’re so good at survival that we’re influencing the planet’s atmosphere! We’re really good at growing on the planet so, while our instinct is to always deal urgently with crucial survival issues, like our living on the planet instinct want us to be, we have proven by our expansion on the planet that our survival is not an issue, even a long time from now, and despite US Hollywood life or die propaganda/orientations. But that’s been all based upon our continuing population growth, as per our planetary instinct, as with the same instinct of fellow plants and animals on the planet. So 1stly, if we continue to grow, with our effluence pouring into the atmosphere, devastations will happen, but never such that they’ll threaten the survival of our species; though perhaps the survival of many other plants and animals on the planet. But if we’re going to live more comfortably on the planet on the future, we’re going to have to learn how to live with decreasing our population growth. It might not be possible. But it starts with the understanding that we’re living on the planet the same as plants and animals. And it might very well start with USAers perceiving that their religious believe in capitalistic growth is dependent on population/market growth and that smart ones will come up with comfortable living with negative economic and population growth. Otherwise there will be, as always, human suffering, plant and animal extinctions, etc. The thing is, this is something to be managed with governance, science and communication. It’s not about our species’ survival or some such US Hollywood film. It’s about understand and communicating that we sapiens live on the planet that same, with the same desires, as fellow plants and animals.

  • From the Guardian: “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years,” Hawking told audience members in a public Q&A session ahead of the annual BBC Reith Lectures. “By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.” “However, we will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period.”

    Though I applaud Stephen Hawking for citing global warming, environmental destruction, AI, nuclear war, and terrorism, I’m disappointed that he failed to mention the greatest underlying menace to Homo Sapiens survival: Overpopulation. A global 1.7 children-per-woman average birthrate would reduce a stable population of 10 billion with generational intervals of 30 years down to 3 billion in about 200 years. In extremis total world population could be drawn down to 2 or even 1 billion.

    What Hawkin says in the quote, apart from my demographic interpolation above, is pure Looney Tunes. The article neatly rounds off the prediction frame to “only” 1,000 years in the title line, but the quote itself finds him tossing out the cavalier spread of 1,000 to 10,000 years. As a thought experiment try to propose what will happen in 1,000 years. You can’t do it. Stephen Hawkin cannot do it. Nobody ever born can do it. What is the first variable out of a nearly infinite number of future emergent variables, contingent on an infinite number of unknowns, could anyone plug into the first equation….And necessarily on day one of the longitudinal calculation how could anyone know that first chosen variable is reliable? “It just feels good to yell “1,000 years” just as Japanese soldiers felt good in World War Two yelling Banzai! = “10,000 years.” I hope Hawkin was playing with a gullible press and public that fatuously hung on his every word.

  • I do urge folks to read up about demographics more. Too many hunches and gut feels are being brought to the table here.

    From any reading of population dynamics it is already palpably clear that we are not growing at plague rates. Something has knocked us off that course. Rich, educated women know childbirth hurts and is still dangerous. Morally and financially she has increasingly come to view children as an obligation and expense rather than a biddable asset. She has contraception and at a push, headaches. Men (religion notwithstanding) increasingly have respect, internet porn and carpal tunnel syndrome.

    Population growth depends on Total Fertility Rate, or total live births per woman, and child survival rates to reproductive adulthood. The current survival rates net a positive population growth in rich countries if TFR exceeds 2.1 live births per woman. In poor countries this must be 2.3 for actual positive growth.

    Look at this table of TFR by country and by wealth.

    http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN?

    Take your time and read through to the groupings at the end. Note the shapes of the curves and the numbers reached to date. Note that “low income” means African dirt poor and “very high income” means you and me.

    The take away is stunning. The problem is fixed if we fix poverty and inequality (and kick the worst of paternalistic religion into touch.) Most national population growths in developed countries are due to economic migration. Again the fix is to help the poor, migrant-source countries out of their parlous state.

    Rather than call us a dumb know-nothing species heading for a cliff edge it would be better on a site dedicated to science and reason to direct everyone to how we actually, variously, behave, what we know is actually happening and what are the good levers to pull.

    AGW got right wing push-back as much for the Chicken Little overstatements in the face of insufficient knowledge, leading them to ignore the actual science. Don’t make the coming third world population disaster intractable in the same way.

  • Melvin #22
    Dec 2, 2016 at 2:51 am

    What Hawkin says in the quote, apart from my demographic interpolation above, is pure Looney Tunes.

    Theoretical science and advanced futurist projects, frequently look like “Looney Tunes” to non-scientists who have no idea what they are talking about. Examples of this frequently crop up in the popular press or internet, when discussing physics, biology, and space sciences.

    It is the old, “This is impossible because I have no idea how it can work!”, fallacious argument.

    The article neatly rounds off the prediction frame to “only” 1,000 years in the title line, but the quote itself finds him tossing out the cavalier spread of 1,000 to 10,000 years.

    It is obviously a rough approximation, dealing primarily with the probabilities of events, rather than the time-scales.

    As a thought experiment try to propose what will happen in 1,000 years. You can’t do it. Stephen Hawkin cannot do it. Nobody ever born can do it.

    It is true that PRECISE detailed complex predictions cannot be made, but that does not stop scientists like Stephen Hawking, outlining credible possibilities.

    History is littered with records of unimaginative people, left with egg on their faces from their glib predictions of what science and engineering could not do!

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Incorrect_predictions

    To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth—all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.

    Lee De Forest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, in 1957 De Forest Says Space Travel Is Impossible, Lewiston Morning Tribune via Associated Press, February 25, 1957.

    What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?
    – The Quarterly Review, March, 1825.

    That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.
    – Scientific American, January 2, 1909.

    There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.
    – Steve Ballmer, USA Today, April 30, 2007.

    There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.
    – Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation

    With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.
    – Businessweek, August 2, 1968.

    Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires as may be done with dots and dashes of Morse code, and that, were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.
    – Unidentified Boston newspaper, 1865.

    No “scientific bad boy” ever will be able to blow up the world by releasing atomic energy.
    – Robert Millikan, American physicist and Nobel Prize winner, attributed without citation in “They are saying”, Popular Science 116 (2), February 1930, p. 66

    The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.
    – Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of radio, Technical World Magazine, October, 1912, page 145.

    I do not myself think that any civilized nation will torpedo unarmed and defenceless merchant ships.
    – Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald, Admiral Royal Navy, Strand Magazine, July, 1914, page 20.

    AGW deniers and creationists love making fools of themselves pretending scientists cannot measure or make credible predictions!

    The ones with a full head of omelet, are of course, those who predict that science cannot do things which it has already achieved!

  • Here is the other set of graphs needed to make you a junior demographer.

    http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN

    Like the universal fall in fertility rate is the universal rise in lifespan from the poorest to the richest countries. This is entirely why populations are still growing as rapidly as they are despite the fertility rate drop. These curves are asymptotic and will increasingly flat-top, though poor countries have quite a way to go yet. It will take 2 generations for this to effect to work its way through contributing to the population growth rates.

    China’s prodigious health dividend was mostly got by the end of the sixties, over two generations ago, which is why its persistent low birthrate will only now see a peak population in the next few years and a steep decline thereafter.

  • Alan$ #24: As a thought experiment try to propose what will happen in 1,000 years. You can’t do it. Stephen Hawkin cannot do it. Nobody ever born can do it. It is true that PRECISE detailed complex predictions cannot be made, but that does not stop scientists like Stephen Hawking, outlining credible possibilities.

    There is nothing credible about predicting “mass extinction” projected 1,000 years into the future not grounded in mathematically measured empirical evidence that can be accessed. There is nothing wrong about playing with possibilities of Armageddon imagined in scenarios of nuclear war, fatal atmospheric collapse, or species-lethal pandemics but that is imagination with only a tenuous “what-if” connection to Science. Stephen Hawking knows, or should know this. On other threads we have argued with dubious credibility about the consequences of AGW climate change restricting the threshold of “no turning back” to the next 10, 20, 40 years using data, studies and projections that have degrees of empirical reliability that reasonable people may argue. Only on rare occasions have we daringly referenced the more prolonged iconic period of the 21st century that ends about 80 years from now.

    If Dr. Hawking is serious, I believe he has succumbed to the tropes of popular dystopian science fiction. He voices alarm about formulaic doomsday catastrophes for launching silly Star Trek speculations about colonizing space or other worlds. Science fiction aficionados love this stuff whether depicted on screen or in comic books but most likely it just ain’t gonna happen.

  • Melvin,

    The narrow squeak we had of it 75,000 years ago with the Toba Super Eruption, culling us possibly to a mere 10,000 individuals tells me the good Professor is talking of real possibilities. We should indeed listen and plan. Plenty of others think this including me. Despite the reality TV shows we have lost our hunter gatherer skills pretty comprehensively. In some senses we are less able to survive if we are broken into individuals.

    He was wrong to pose such a stark set of alternatives, but he wanted a big finish to his speech and had little time to expound sensibly.

    Hiking off to remote star systems is no insurance policy at all. It is an adventure or blind desperation. Even nearby planets are mostly hostile and we must put in a lot of effort to live there in any numbers. An asteroid or super volcano devastated Earth may still be the best choice to move to subsequently if we had vacated the surface in modest numbers to live on an artificial satellite to it or as I suggested to the Lagrange locations 4 and 5 on the earth’s solar orbital path. These places are quick, easy and cheap to get to and the latter may become natural work places for processing rare earths and the like from wrangled asteroids. They may be the places we learn to wrangle asteroids or their debris more safely than from the earth.

    https://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/mission/observatory_l2.html

    I’m all for adventuring to the stars but to muddle this with a viable near term (thousand year) insurance policy is silly. We can do lots locally, whilst we build our skills.

    Given Trump and Brexit I’d be very happy to live on Blomkamp’s Elysium right now.

  • phil rimmer #27
    Dec 2, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Even nearby planets are mostly hostile and we must put in a lot of effort to live there in any numbers. An asteroid or super volcano devastated Earth may still be the best choice to move to subsequently if we had vacated the surface in modest numbers to live on an artificial satellite to it

    Most people really do not understand the energy scales or time scales involved in super volcanoes or asteroid impacts.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38019604

    Scientists say they can now describe in detail how the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs produced its huge crater.

    The reconstruction of the event 66 million years ago was made possible by drilling into the remnant bowl and analysing its rocks.

    These show how the space impactor made the hard surface of the planet slosh back and forth like a fluid.

    At one stage, a mountain higher than Everest was thrown up before collapsing back into a smaller range of peaks.

    “And this all happens on the scale of minutes, which is quite amazing,” Prof Joanna Morgan from Imperial College London, UK, told BBC News.

    The researchers report their account in this week’s edition of Science Magazine.

    Big asteroid impacts are not only likely to send ripples through the crust, and generate volcanism, but are also likely to generate tsunamis which circumnavigate the globe!

    or as I suggested to the Lagrange locations 4 and 5 on the earth’s solar orbital path. These places are quick, easy and cheap to get to and the latter may become natural work places for processing rare earths and the like from wrangled asteroids. They may be the places we learn to wrangle asteroids or their debris more safely than from the earth.

    I would suggest that they are also areas for establishing the mining and manufacturing technologies to provide support for taking planet, asteroid, or moon hopping, steps out to the edge of the Solar System and beyond. (As outlined @#6)

    I’m all for adventuring to the stars but to muddle this with a viable near term (thousand year) insurance policy is silly. We can do lots locally, whilst we build our skills.

    . . . and as you suggest here!

  • Recently, my good friend, savroD, suggested we would do better building underwater cities first rather than martian colonies. I think these could have great merit and pay for themselves as resort cum oceanographic institute. They may well survive volcanism and tsunami. Plonked along the Hawaiian chain and snuggled up to Iceland etc. they would live off geothermal energy and smugness.

    So Elysium in orbit, mining and energy intensive manufacturing cities, perhaps in the form of miniature Orbitals at L4 and L5, and clusters of ocean floor cities.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_(The_Culture)

    To repeat my first point, once we have the trick of sustainable living, most apocalypses would become survivable.

    An energy starved Martian Twilight isn’t so thrilling when you can hold your hands close to the various fires.

  • Melvin #26
    Dec 2, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    If Dr. Hawking is serious, I believe he has succumbed to the tropes of popular dystopian science fiction. He voices alarm about formulaic doomsday catastrophes for launching silly Star Trek speculations about colonizing space or other worlds.

    Talking of “silly Star Trek speculations” I am reminded of their communicators when I see mobile phones, and of their “replicators” when I see 3D printers!

    It is well known among space scientists, that there are plenty of amateurs who cannot tell advanced design concepts from science fiction!
    Indeed, some of the top futurist designers also write good quality science fiction – including realistic design concepts!

    Science fiction aficionados love this stuff whether depicted on screen or in comic books but most likely it just ain’t gonna happen.

    As in the examples I give @#24, those unqualified in relevant specialisms, specialists in the wrong aspects of the subject, or who are just unimaginative, run a very high risk of making fools of themselves when they start making predictions of what “just ain’t gonna happen” in science or engineering!

    @#24 – To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth—all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.
    Lee De Forest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, in 1957 De Forest Says Space Travel Is Impossible, Lewiston Morning Tribune via Associated Press, February 25, 1957.

    The Jules Verne reference sounds quite familiarly analogous in regard to your comments on “Star Trek”!

    Meanwhile those with futurist imagination writing somewhat earlier in 1937/38/39/ and 1947:-

    http://www.astronautix.com/b/bislunarlander.html

    British manned lunar lander. Study 1939. Design of the British Interplanetary Society’s BIS Spaceship began in 1937 and was published in January and July 1939.

    Status: Study 1939. Gross mass: 1,000 kg (2,200 lb).

    The purpose of the exercise was to prove that a manned lunar expedition could be designed using existing powder rocket technology. The design was reformulated in 1947 based on information on German advances with liquid propellant rockets.

    So while those with no imagination or research capabilities, were pronouncing Lunar landings “impossible” in 1957, working ideas had been available since 1947, and outline speculative plans from 1937!

    I have already mentioned some serious future concepts @#6, but in the shorter term there are NASA research contracts. –

    NASA awarded the contracts, with a combined value of $65 million, as part of its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships

    (NextSTEP) 2 program to develop concepts for habitats that could be used on missions in cislunar space and eventually to Mars. –
    In 2015, NASA awarded contracts to four companies in the original NextSTEP solicitation for habitat concepts: Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK. Each of those companies won a NextSTEP-2 award as well, which will focus on refining those concepts and building module prototypes for ground testing. (spacenews.com)

  • phil rimmer #29
    Dec 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Recently, my good friend, savroD, suggested we would do better building underwater cities first rather than Martian colonies.

    While I take your point about temperatures and intensity of sunlight on Mars, I would be very sceptical about underwater cities resisting impacts, earthquakes, or volcanic shock-waves. – As any good depth-charge designer is likely to tell you!

    I would also be sceptical about fixed objects on the sea-floor resisting tsunamis. – Ships ride over them in open sea, but interactions with fixed objects are a whole different game!

  • Alan

    The trick is the siting and the depth. Avoid plate edges but near a plate elastic thinning hotspot. Go down a kilometre (only 100 atmos!), compliantly tether and cross your fingers you are more than 500km away from the asteroid strike zone.

    Better off off the planet altogether, but another bolt hole at least for potential survivors of your more everyday apocalypse.

    When my radio (remember them?) squeals and whistles with the solar gusts spiralling down to the poles and making the ionosphere sing, I often think, damn!, some supernova gamma ray beam is sweeping across us, the ultimate antibiotic cleaner resetting our local biological clock to midnight….but then my favourite dreams were of tsunami!

    In Santa Monica overlooking the Pacific, I slept through the Whittier Fault Quake of ’87. I dreamt of the most spectacular tsunami coming in. I loved it….

  • 33
    fadeordraw says:

    So Prof Phil, I would take it that you have yet to read Harari as recommended. Pls don’t pass on further pop charts. And know I know demography. We’re on about the growth and, obviously, evolution of, sapient socio-economic constructs that have led to our species’ effluence actually influencing the planet’s atmosphere. While you old techno farts go on about solutions, as mostly accomplished with previously polluted rivers, and you’re right on with the atmosphere fixes, we’re looking at the sapient growth phenomena from a different, seemingly wider perspective. It’s one where our beliefs changed, beginning in the Renaissance and the ever increasing rise of science and technology, from religious ones to other ones. And one of the other ones was a belief in growth; that the future is good with economic and population growth. So answer the question: would the USA be economically comfortable with a declining population?

  • I’ll post what raw data I think valuable and explain to many people here the problems of understanding say the health dividend in population growth and why it puts a two generation delay in getting the results we need. I’m delighted you are the master of this already. Some aren’t.

    I bought the Harari kindle edition almost immediately. I have dotted through it and relegated it behind Sanders and Pete Singer, Nicholas Epley and Peter Turchin oh and Penrose, which I also didn’t serve well enough first go through. I am not expecting too much from Harari. The early stuff is very familiar and lacked the creatures neuro-psychology to explain its peculiarities which I think essential. The later stuff looked bonkers at times and dogma ridden, but I may be judging it unfairly

    For the last two years I have been developing my first circular economy business that cuts manufacturing to 30% (potentially 90%). Big companies are increasingly going there. As I thought I rather clearly explained the economy can quite happily grow without consuming anything more than energy and if 1.5 trillion barrels of oil equivalent fall out of the sky and can be capture as, for instance, onshore wind more cheaply than the levelised cost of coal (2009 ! Credite Suisse analysis) growth is not an issue.

    My phone with 20MP rear camera eight core microprocessor, HD screen outperforms at a 150 grams my old motorola luggable at a tenth of the material content and a hundred times the functionality.

    The value these days is simply no longer in stuff but the increasingly cunning form of stuff. Make things modular with components lasting ten times as long, more cheaply upgrade-able and on-sellable and the use of stuff can plunge even further….whilst the economy continues to burgeon reflecting the ever greater value wrought by more problems solved.

    Many US tech giants are already mostly service providers. Even GE is moving that way in my area….

    Keep up. The US certainly can……

    A declining population like Japan’s is entirely manageable. I see no problems for the US here. I see the economy can still grow as more problems are solved with clever IP. I think material growth though will tend to be replaced as I indicated last time simply by ever expanding needs that derive from ever expanding problems. Inventiveness seems only to grow.

    Trump can’t keep up. He really doesn’t understand about stuff and why you can’t bring jobs related to stuff back.

  • 35
    fadeordraw says:

    And would the USA be economically comfortable with a declining population?

  • 37
    fadeordraw says:

    So how would a declining US population work? Town and city and country-wise? Politically and socially and culturally-wise?

    How could it be done with ever continuing economic growth? Town and city and country-wise? Politically and socially and culturally-wise?

  • Fadeordraw:…For Your Information

    From Pew Research: U.S. Projections for Population Growth: The nation’s population will rise to 438 million in 2050, from 296 million in 2005, and fully 82% of the growth during this period will be due to immigrants arriving from 2005 to 2050 and their descendants [children and grandchildren].

    High rates of international immigration will keep the U.S. population growing rapidly until at least mid-century and most likely to 2100. There are no signs of population growth rates declining or for significant declines in economic growth (allowing for downturns and competitive losses) for the next 35 to 85 years The relatively young age structure of immigrant populations will replace aging workforce and care for aging population.

  • So how would a declining US population work? Town and city and country-wise? Politically and socially and culturally-wise?

    Why don’t you tell me how you think the problem of an empty piece of dogma is going to spoil things first? Then I’ll re-iterate how services can be essentially limitless until our needs give out.

    I warn you also I’m a mixed economy sort of person. I’ve expounded this before. I do see an expansion in social services, particularly caring for the old and the immediate environment that will become a state funded, primary job for some and at least a token part time job for everyone. The need for manual labour will continue to decline, whatever the population does. Governments must be prepared to legislate for the welfare of folks who would have done these jobs and maintain a rich enough happy service-consuming populace. This ballooning of civil servants should absorb the socially skilled but intellectually less creative. Companies must expect to pay in some way from their increased productivity through automation into the maintenance of this healthy consumer base. (As we might imagine the political cost of creating another dispossessed cohort may prove fatal if we/you can survive this current angry strop.)

    Also with the ability to mass customise I see considerable growth in the bespoke and the personalised. I think adult education will blossom as states realise that this continued investment in the wellbeing and capabilities of it citizens brings a return.

    On the economic front I see trading being nudged by FTT processes from frenetic zero sum gambling towards more assiduous long term investments like those in German banking. Less cocaine and fun gambling pension funds and more hard work assessing real risk and protecting your chosen investments.

    The need for buggy whips was replaced by other needs. Our needs show no sign of running out, though our need of physical materials may be passing through some sort of peak. Recently the (CTO?) of IKEA said he thought we were passing through the moment of Peak Stuff. He was starting to imagine how a company like IKEA could work. He seemed perfectly happy they could. Increasingly companies are moving towards cash stream service models, retaining the asset of the “stuff”.

    The empty dogma is the continued misunderstanding of what wealth may constitute. It wasn’t gold. Fredrick Soddy proposed it was energy, the ability to do work, so he believed oil was the embodiment of wealth. This isn’t at all bad. Whilst prosaic tasks become more and more energy efficient. we may well start to see when energy rich (enough of it just falls out of the sky) that personal flying will make us all Jetsons or in a few hundred years we crowd fund a new Lagrange Four timeshare resort. Richness may well be the ability to do work and capturing more solar wealth is the way to go. Myself I more broadly believe wealth is measured by the number of all possible needs met, problems found and solved. As for problems we seem able to conjure a new one just like that (snap).

    Melvin has pointed out you have a long time to go given immigrants, though Trump may hurry you along. Watching Japan will be instructive.

    (I was up too late and grumpy last night. Apologies for any crispness, fade.)

  • Phil #39: Richness may well be the ability to do work and capturing more solar wealth is the way to go. Myself I more broadly believe wealth is measured by the number of all possible needs met, problems found and solved. As for problems we seem able to conjure a new one just like that (snap).

    The process of moving toward infinite personal and collective wealth for humankind described as meeting “the number of *all possible needs;**all [possible] problems found and solved* sounds pretty dismal to me. The dystopian outcomes of such a system seem boundless. The vision conveys a perverse aspiration to create either a secular heaven or a sealed bubble where the human organism, having virtually all of its needs met -granting the incessant conjuring of new “problems” solved at an accelerating pace by exponentially progressive science and technology – will atrophy into pathetic extinction.

    Bear in mind advances will incrementally automate many service sector or healthcare (doctor and nurse) jobs. Nobody can predict the threshold of automation technology when most of these jobs will disappear from society. After human creativity has reached a self-destructive pinnacle in Artificial Intelligence, the latter will render the former redundant and useless.

    To offer a mundane example. Remember the olden days when we opened a locked car door by inserting and turning a key in the lock, pulling the key out, pushing in a button on the handle, then hefting the door open to slide in then reaching and hefting it again to close it? Today you just push a button on a keyless entry fob and the door unlocks. Mercedes Benz has mechanical assists in opening and closing the door itself. Now, push a keyless entry button and the door opens fully automatically; you slide in and sensors automatically close the door when you are securely seated. But wait! Who pushes buttons anymore? Too labor intensive. Slide your finger across a screen instead. But wait! Dispense with unwieldy external devices entirely Program the vehicle to recognize your exclusive individual voice and simply give a verbal command. That will have to do until the sensor becomes smart enough to read your mind (Of course the car will drive itself when you take off). Over time, the term “door handle” will be worked out of the language and no one will know what it means. Unfortunately, physical and cognitive activity will also descend to a vanishing point.
    Guys and gals, you gonna DIE….. Phil, back to the drawing board, old sport.

  • But everything is always reset. We never feel richer after the first frisson of new tech. We don’t actually feel richer, that’s not how feelings go. Millionaires need ten million to begin to match the thrill of the first million. Soon a billion is no longer thrilling. My ability to see things and do things, bestride the world, eat the finest food, be entertained by the very best on the planet, survive diseases and the tribulations of age hugely outstrips anything King Henry the Eighth ever could buy for himself.

    Yet people have this all as a subtle magic. It is rarely the centre of their lives. The millenials I work with ride bikes, prefer adventuring in the wild (me too me too). They have all the mechanical skills and materials prowess needed to create beauitiful door handles. Technology isn’t anything like inevitable. Great design looks good and is satisfying to do and always will be. Technology for its own sake is …well…vulgar…tacky.

    Unfortunately, physical and cognitive activity will also descend to a vanishing point.

    Weird, disjointed, nonsense.

    I am a firm fan of expert systems. These mental prosthetics greatly extend my abilities to design. AI if its not this is bollocks and always has been. It is human desires born of human aesthetics born of our early toddler experiences filtered through our metaphorical brains, the associative corteces grown only between 0 and 2 years of age and drawn from our secondary and tertiary genetics byproducts that grant an aesthetic response to lips like thus and so, a green sward with just a dotting of shady trees, the sound of running water. AI simply hasn’t the genes or the genitals to do our human creative jobs.

    My notional grandchild will have choices that will hugely exceed mine and she will think little of it. She will be no happier than I on average. No worse. Yet she will see and do more. She will have been granted the best seat in the house to look out from and for a few moments when she contemplates me and Henry the Eighth will come the best, the deepest thrill.

    I think its back to bed for you, Melvin. I think you were having a bad dream

  • phil rimmer #32
    Dec 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    The trick is the siting and the depth. Avoid plate edges but near a plate elastic thinning hotspot. Go down a kilometre (only 100 atmos!), compliantly tether and cross your fingers you are more than 500km away from the asteroid strike zone.

    I am still skeptical!
    A kilometre down is pretty demanding for a pressure hull and to extend that to the size of a city is doubtful.
    It’s been done by the Russians, but it is hard to say if they were pushing their luck even without massive shock waves waves which could be encountered from global calamities.

    https://www.quora.com/How-deep-can-a-large-military-submarine-go

    US Seawolf class attack nuclear subs are tested up to 490m and have a crush depth of 730m. [1] These are made of HY-100 steel.
    [2]
    Russian K728 Komsomolets could operate below 1000m and reach 1300m [3], but it was tragically sunk in 1989. [4-5] In comparison, an Akula class sub has a test depth of 600m. [6] Russian subs are made of titanium. [7]

    A nuclear powered sub could be a bolt hole, but that would raise the question of how long it would need to stay submerged, before it could safely surface and release passengers on to habitable piece of land.

    Better off off the planet altogether, but another bolt hole at least for potential survivors of your more everyday apocalypse.

    Off planet does look like a better option for a chosen few – probably the few who happened to be working on the self-sustaining space mining operation (or whatever) any way.

  • Unfortunately, physical and cognitive activity will also descend to a vanishing point.
    Phil #41: Weird, disjointed, nonsense.
    I am a firm fan of expert systems. These mental prosthetics greatly extend my abilities to design. AI if its not this is bollocks and always has been.

    I’ve always detected a Utopian ambition in your faith in Science and technology. While nothing can stop the march of progress in these fields, nothing can stop such progress from killing us. I look with alarm over the amount of time, young people (yeh, old people too) spend staring at screens on i-phones, i-pads, laptops, computer monitors made ever more seductive, addictive by the accumulation of apps and streaming capacities.

    Perhaps nothing will ever replace human inputs into the network of computers that exponentially control more and more of our lives. Not terribly encouraging are developments that have devised computers to control computers coming on line at a rapid rate. From Scientific American: Gordon Moore’s “law,” which forecasts processor power will double every two years, still holds true a half century later There is cause for concern that Artificial Intelligence may become reality sooner than we think. If AI doubles in computing capacity and miniaturization of components every two years adding nanotechnology to its arsenal, then it may not be some alpha human sitting in the corner office but some machine with sinews wielding malevolent power beyond human imagination. (I seriously consider the possibility that the human brain and body could wind up outsourced to these monstrosities in a century or two with fatal consequences for our species).

  • Alan4 #42: Off planet does look like a better option for a chosen few – probably the few who happened to be working on the self-sustaining space mining operation (or whatever) any way. Which gets me thinking…

    One demographic challenge not yet addressed in our post-apocalypse migration plans for heading into space for parts unknown will be that of sexual reproduction. Unlike past space missions manned mostly by men and a handful of women in their thirties and forties, such an age structure would quickly die off settler populations because of diminished reproductive capacity. Obviously there will be no indigenous women for the male settlers to mate with. With limited carrying capacity aboard the space ships, priority boarding passes will have to be given to females vetted for fecundity around the age of 17. Allowing a year or so for travel time, the majority female cohorts will be coming into their child bearing years upon landing and the smaller male cohorts will have to get to work fast, augmenting interplanetary shagging, to assure a second generation growing in population. The women must understand that our currently cherished practice of reproductive rights must be waived for the sake of continued survival. Each “breeder” woman must be prepared to endure around 10 pregnancies on average to generate a viable population over several generations. (I’m starting to feel like Dr. Strangelove: “Ten vimmin, heh, heh, for each man.”)

  • Sorry, Melvin. You are the one with the Utopian mind cleaving to Moore’s law.

    Micros whilst doubling in density every two years, failed to double in performance after 2000. 2014 has seen the geometry even fail to keep up. Though geometries are planned down to 7nm the 16 down to 14nm has not been proving particularly viable. At 7nm working with so few electrons the performance increments are rather small and become overwhelmed by soft errors. Carbon and compound semiconductors may eke out improvements when developed by lifting speed and adding a higher energy bandgap improving noise performance. But….sadly ….physics has taken us off plan A.

    AI is not going to happen anytime soon, though expert systems with all the biddable compliance of a butler will do well enough.

    Utopian never. I’m a pragmatist. I only sell what technology can do now. This has been the very crux of my arguments against you prevaricators. You do not need to wait for new technology to fully endorse solar PV and wind. All that’s missing is experience and volume.

    This futurology of others, your own included, here has needed tempering to suit me.

    My argument you took issue with was with fade about the need for economic growth. The need for growth is actually bogus. All we need is needs to drive business on. These truly appear to be on some kind of undiminishing law. These business defining needs are increasingly not about technology. Nor did I claim they were, but spoke of new business models of tech companies.

    Utopianism is a shabby attack.

  • phil #45: This futurology of others, your own included, here has needed tempering to suit me.

    The future will be tempered in the furnace of time without regard for what suits “me.”

  • 48
    fadeordraw says:

    Thanks Phil (several entries previous). But I don’t know how we attain a declining population and economic stability; my contention is that nature doesn’t want us to contemplate such; that growth and forever seeking survival is sacrosanct, or so we have evolved to believe.
    The US Census: “Between 2014 and 2060, the U.S. population is projected to increase from 319 million to 417 million, reaching 400 million in 2051”. That’s a 30% increase in some 50 years.
    The US population will age considerably and there are GDP growth concerns over the working-age pollution’s capacity (workforce numbers and the heft of the workplace re: employer-employee taxes) to support non-workforce dependence, as well as that the growing over 60s (non-workforce) population consume/spend less [considerably less compared to their previous (workforce) families and houses expenses], both of these create a significant drag on GDP.
    This is the same demographic drag on the economy which is at issue today in Japan, which interestingly has a declining population. And I agree with you that we need to keep a close eye on lessons learned from Japan’s future economic experiences. And the same remedies, such as selective age-related immigration, are mentioned. No one talks positively about making a declining geo-political population economically work.
    Rather all point that the link between economic and population growth is actually about the growth of worker and consumer bees.
    As for how would a declining US population work? Town and city and country-wise? Politically and socially and culturally-wise? And could it be done with ever continuing economic growth? Town and city and country-wise? Politically and socially and culturally-wise?
    These questions are proposed because you have contended that population and economic growth are not linked. That the US could economically do just fine with negative population growth, though given the projected pace, achieving that would be extraordinary, from the perspective of planet living, is just what we’re looking at, what I think needs looking at.
    My continued observation is that understanding sapient population growth is critical to somehow, someday achieving planet homeostasis. You can come up with technological marvels to clean-up the sapient effluence in the planet’s atmosphere, even take us to non-carbon economies (and it’s important that you do that), but our continued population growth will only mean other, really difficult to manage, issues involving that we’re living on a planet.
    So you could look to Africa and Asia and all that stuff. But the US hitting 400,000,000 at a 30% growth rate over 50 years! Let’s discuss that; what could we agree that that emission could be reduced by?
    Note: Canada and, in the ‘90/’10, G-8 European countries, governance policy chose to increase age selective immigration to increase population growth given below replacement native birth rates.
    Still a little away, but getting close to a nutshell. Then again, we could build spaceships.

  • Fade,

    I notice you didn’t comment on my solution (#39), perhaps because it wasn’t technological but socialist?

    Parasitism has hidden the benefits of Americans working ever harder to just stand still. The theft of their money is a double catastrophe because fully 20% has been taken out of the economy and not re-invested.

    The rise of automation continues. The wealth this creates needs to be shared. Japan and the Pacific Rim are high IQ and very successful already into population decline. Some also also have low Gini indexes. These truly will show us the future.

  • Melvin

    futurology

    future

    different things.

    But publicising your views starts to connect them. Fractional percents can turn mostly happy smiling countries into ones spiralling down into horror. Thresholds exist here and in AGW say.

  • Melvin #44
    Dec 3, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Alan4 #42: Off planet does look like a better option for a chosen few – probably the few who happened to be working on the self-sustaining space mining operation (or whatever) any way.

    Which gets me thinking…
    One demographic challenge not yet addressed in our post-apocalypse migration plans for heading into space for parts unknown will be that of sexual reproduction.

    As I point out earlier, unless there is some long term warning and long term planning for any apocalypse, the survivors will simply be those who were already in favoured physical locations – such a space mining bases.

    Unlike past space missions, manned mostly by men and a handful of women in their thirties and forties,

    That is simply because ( as with early oceanic explorers) the technology was in its infancy and skilled test-pilots, engineers, and scientists, with years of high-level training were needed to operate the equipment.

    such an age structure would quickly die off settler populations because of diminished reproductive capacity.

    Once colonies and bases become mature commercial technology, rather than prototype exploration modules, communities will live around the industrial production facilities where they work on a long term basis.

    Obviously there will be no indigenous women for the male settlers to mate with. With limited carrying capacity aboard the space ships, priority boarding passes will have to be given to females vetted for fecundity around the age of 17.

    That could be so in big-jump long range missions, but for near Earth orbit, in-space industrial developments, such as those Phil is proposing, transporting numbers of people is not such a big issue.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_International_Space_Station_visitors
    As of November 17, 2016, 226 individuals have made 388 spaceflights to the ISS, including the six people currently at the ISS (Expedition 50). Yuri Malenchenko made five spaceflights to the ISS, while six people made four, 28 people made three and 84 people made two.

    The development of commercial launch vehicles is rapidly bringing down the cost of transport to Earth orbit.

  • Alan, #42

    You have set a challenge here!

    At our most abysmal we have plumbed the greatest depth, the Mariana Trench, 11km down. First in 1960 and latterly by James Cameron.

    Mobile vehicles are profoundly constrained by net density requirements and surface form.

    Savro city, I decree, will be a set of spheres tethered in vertical alignment, weighted down at the bottom tether and suspended by a helium filled balloon. (Even at 1e7 Pa, 1km down, the gas is one sixtieth of the density of water.)

    Flexible interconnecting tubes between the vertical chain of spheres work like high pressure flexible plumbing tubes turned inside out, with an overlapping inner coil and a high longitudinal tensile strength sheath sealing outer (polymer/fibre like space elevator materials… CCT, colossal carbon tube.) Materials for the spheres would be trapezoidal, inwardly tapering geodesic profile glass bricks (glass 1e9 Pa compressive strength) with a thin matrix of say polyethersulphone to form a slightly elastic interface with near zero creep.

    It would be set in a small depression in the middle of a smoothly rising extensive but shallow hill, to ensure the bulk of the kinetic energy of a huge pressure pulse is deflected.

    I hope, Melvin isn’t watching….this is just for fun…

  • phil rimmer #53
    Dec 4, 2016 at 6:32 am

    Alan, #42 -You have set a challenge here!

    At our most abysmal we have plumbed the greatest depth, the Mariana Trench, 11km down. First in 1960 and latterly by James Cameron.

    Small craft and ROVs have certainly achieved depth records.

    Such large underwater structures would certainly set challenges for designers – and well be low sunlight penetration, would need long term power sources (possibly nuclear) and food supplies for inhabitants. (Climate based energy sources could be subject to disruption by catastrophes.)

    On the down-side:- As with providing nuclear shelters as high-cost bolt-holes, these do give political leaders options to save their own skins when they have failed to deal with bigger issues, or have played brinkmanship with risks to other people.

  • But looking at it, Alan, for sensible structures like spheres, the materials at an external pressure of only 1e7 Pa are still only working at 10% of their compressive strength and 1% of their tensile strength. They have to be accurate though. I’m contemplating Quartz and piezo electric shape maintenance for thinner walled structures.

    The energy issue was to be solved by geothermal siting near a mantle aneurysm but away from a plate edge.

    These places must earn their way as resorts and research centres primarily, or perhaps as an alternative to hollowed out volcanoes for Bond villains. After Trump has trashed the planet this could be his last casino…Emerald City.

  • phil rimmer #55
    Dec 4, 2016 at 8:56 am

    The energy issue was to be solved by geothermal siting near a mantle aneurysm but away from a plate edge.

    That could be a good option but it is possible that a big impact could cause the crust to move.

    There would also be risks from ejected debris, to any habitats in low Earth orbit.

    I mention the scale of events earlier.

    Here is a link on the subject asteroid impacts.

    http://www.astronomynotes.com/solfluf/s5.htm

    An effective asteroid detection and deflection programme, still looks like the best option!

  • 44

    priority boarding passes will have to be given to females vetted for fecundity around the age of 17. Allowing a year or so for travel time, the majority female cohorts will be coming into their child bearing years upon landing …
    Each “breeder” woman must be prepared to endure around 10 pregnancies on average to generate a viable population over several generations.

    A group of completely inexperienced 17 year old women, accelerated rate of pregnancies well beyond the natural spacing for sapiens females, and the nearest matriarch is many light years away. What could go wrong?

  • But publicising your views starts to connect them. Fractional percents can turn mostly happy smiling countries into ones spiralling down into horror. Thresholds exist here and in AGW say.

    Phil #51: I sincerely apologize if you were offended by my “Utopianism” remark. I intended no offense but used the term to describe a vision of the future where infinite clean energy, notably solar, combined with creative inventiveness in science, technology and business models, emphasized at your discretion, would meet human needs at a rapid, if not exactly growing rate, extrapolating the meaning of “human needs” into infinitely generated categories. Implicit in the vision, is a future where there is no poverty, pollution or environmental destruction consistent with current understanding of the conditions. Indeed everyone would apparently enjoy universal prosperity, good health, longevity, and educational and professional opportunities beyond imagination. Progress so conceived implied for me at least a trajectory towards a traditionally envisioned “Utopia.” No sinister intentions. That’s all.

  • phil rimmer #56
    Dec 4, 2016 at 9:20 am

    The above, for say a 200m sphere, needs 5m wall thickness.

    That’s a seriously robust structure!

    However, the point I made @#42 would still apply to undersea habitats – bearing in mind that geology works to geological time scales!

    @#42 – A nuclear powered sub could be a bolt hole, but that would raise the question of how long it would need to stay submerged, before it could safely surface and release passengers on to habitable piece of land.

    https://www.caltech.edu/news/life-rebounded-quickly-after-collision-65-million-years-ago-wiped-out-dinosaurs-457

    Though the dinosaurs fared poorly in the comet or meteor impact that destroyed two-thirds of all living species 65 million years ago, new evidence shows that various other forms of life rebounded from the catastrophe in a remarkably short period of time.

    In the March 9 issue of the journal Science, a team of geochemists reports that life was indeed virtually wiped out for a period of time, but then reappeared just as abruptly only 10,000 years after the initial collision.

  • LaurieB #58: A group of completely inexperienced 17 year old women, accelerated rate of pregnancies well beyond the natural spacing for sapiens females, and the nearest matriarch is many light years away. What could go wrong?

    Despite my flippancies, the demographic imperatives for reproductive survival would probably apply to the likely conditions for colonizing “space” in general or asteroids, moons, planets or stars in particular. I’ve already put forth my reasons with others for why the enterprise would almost certainly fail. But those reasons aside, reflect a moment on only demographic logistics for getting viable space colonies established. The vanguard would have to comprise mostly “older” technicians and researchers to construct the first small bases, university educated professionals in their thirties and forties with a smattering in their fifties, supported by a contingent of skilled workers in their twenties. As the bases expanded with adjacent habitations to accommodate settlers, the mangers back on earth would have to carefully select candidates for the the first wave of migrants. Though education, skill sets, work ethic, social skills, health issues and behavioral qualifications would be important for making “the cut,” the age and most importantly the gender structure of the passenger list would take priority. (The old, the poor, the uneducated, the sick, the dysfunctional or anti-social would have to be left behind) Young fecund females of child bearing age would be at a premium for continued survival of the colony. Various scenarios could be thin sliced to meet the criteria, but generally speaking large contingents of women between the age of 18 and 25 would have to be included for reproductive survival. As pointed out, the women would have to be committed to birthrates significantly above replacement level because they will arrive on a territory with almost no human population. Perhaps 5 or 6 children per woman would suffice (birthrates still extant in Africa). Average fertility over -say 6- would be a bonus.

    Beneficial spacing of children and natural spacing of children may not make a difference. In past centuries right up to the present, women have brought 10 or more pregnancies to term delivering healthy live births. My great grandmother had 12 children, and my grandmother was given to exclaim in astonishment, “and they all grew up [to adulthood]!” They grew to adulthood in the early 1900s when infant/childhood mortality rates were still tragically significant. Today infant/childhood mortality is almost 0%. Virtually every child born in our space colony would survive and multiply as needed.

  • Melvin #62
    Dec 4, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Despite my flippancies, the demographic imperatives for reproductive survival would probably apply to the likely conditions for colonizing “space” in general or asteroids, moons, planets or stars in particular. I’ve already put forth my reasons with others for why the enterprise would almost certainly fail.

    I think you world need to do considerable homework before being in a position to make credible predictions!

    Lumping together “colonizing “space” in general, or asteroids, moons, and planets”, demonstrates a lack of understanding of details of the differing requirements.

    BTW: nobody is planning to colonise stars!

    But those reasons aside, reflect a moment on only demographic logistics for getting viable space colonies established. The vanguard would have to comprise mostly “older” technicians and researchers to construct the first small bases, university educated professionals in their thirties and forties with a smattering in their fifties, supported by a contingent of skilled workers in their twenties.

    The present evidence based on outline proposals, indicates that the vanguard of construction crews would be robots.

    As the bases expanded with adjacent habitations to accommodate settlers, the mangers back on earth would have to carefully select candidates for the the first wave of migrants. Though education, skill sets, work ethic, social skills, health issues and behavioral qualifications would be important for making “the cut,” the age and most importantly the gender structure of the passenger list would take priority.

    The ages and social mixes involved would be likely to be very different according to the distance from Earth and the travel involved to any colonies along with the health implications at specific locations.
    Mining captured asteroids in Lunar orbit or at lagrange points, is very different to mining in the outer Solar System, embarking on Lunar landings, planetary bases, or interstellar missions.

  • Melvin

    I sincerely apologize if you were offended by my “Utopianism” remark.

    Melvin, this is generous and appreciated.

    I truly loathe idealists and promote betterism. This means that we do what we can now and do better still later. Idealism is the big intellectual enemy for me. It locks in mistakes and it defers action. Just sometimes in simple ways I will invoke a new technology that I know is secure and will appear soon enough. I actually get to see some stuff in labs years before its release date, knowing it will not appear until its predecessor has fully recouped its R&D costs and sufficient profit. I do like to spill the beans on this stuff once in a while.

    I am in effect an inventor by trade, but the inventions of which I am most proud are business models not technology. Had I the opportunity I would most like to invent in this arena. Most of my technology heroes were the business partners of the technologists, selling steam power rather than steam engines, white goods invented to help sell light bulbs, Radio telegraphy for business men travelling by sea…..

    Pain and misery lie in our future. Amelioration….better, is all I offer, apart, that is, from undersea cities…. Coffee break technology invention is sometimes irresistable because its fun to find out how easy or hard the basic science of this stuff actually is.

  • phil,

    Is the harder option possible though? It gets rid of a hell of a lot of problems if we send frozen eggs instead of trying to keep people not suited to space alive?

  • @#63 – The present evidence based on outline proposals, indicates that the vanguard of construction crews would be robots.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/07/nasa-is-seriously-considering-terraforming-part-of-the-moon-with-robots/

    Before the humans come the robots. To function, robots need electrical power and warmth, and with the right equipment, the sun can provide both, with a little help. In darkness, the crater is about 100 degrees Kelvin, or -280 fahrenheit, but a series of solar reflectors could capture light from the peaks on the crater rim and then reflect it down into the crater, warming and fueling solar-powered rovers at the same time.

    Much of the linked article was rubbish written by an author who did not understand the original NASA report, but this key item is correct.
    Robots and remote controlled semi-antonymous vehicles would do the construction work on a Moon base.

  • 69
    fadeordraw says:

    BlockI notice you didn’t comment on my solution (#39), perhaps because it wasn’t technological but socialist?quote

    Not at all. I gotta feel we’re on the same page first.

    BlockGrowth (more stuff) is (for us) mere dogma.quote

    Yeah, the meme growth grew or evolved in the 16th century, the post-renaissance with the introduction of scientific perspectives and technological developments. The growth belief is replacing, for many Western economic populations, the hope for the future belief bound in after-life believing religions.

    I have no idea if Harari’s future theses will be of value, but his first two thrusts are a must. The references you offered aren’t in the same league or aren’t on about what he’s on about. (visit: http://www.ynharari.com/, though reading his two book, over several weeks, would be quicker to get his picture).

    With respect to structuring the governance to achieve negative population growth and sustainable economic growth, the lessons from our post-feudal Western governance structures; i.e., the end of WW I, gave us command economies – theoretically directed by science, but in practice cruel authoritarians and dictatorships, and capital economies – with that growth dogma and all those planetary and atmospheric consequences, seems to be what we have to work with.

    So for the USA and Nigeria (incredible pop growth) folks, what would work for the next steps? We living on the planet the same as plants and animals and we’ll cover every inch of it and deplete what’s on it while we’re at it.

    BTY: The US Laureate:

    “Well, my telephone rang it would not stop
    It’s President Kennedy callin’ me up
    He said, “My friend, Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?”
    I said, “My friend, John, Brigitte Bardot
    Anita Ekberg
    Sophia Loren
    Country will grow”

  • Alan4 #63: I think you world need to do considerable homework before being in a position to make credible predictions!

    I’m not making predictions, I’m only playing with what futurologists are imagining; or more precisely, I’m just having fun like everyone else. I stand by my previous assertion that no one can predict what will happen 1,000 years from now. That’s why I suspect Stephen Hawking may be having a bit of sci-fi fun himself – mixed with his grim warning about anthropogenic self-extinction.

    nobody is planning to colonise stars!

    I’m aware of the unlikelihood of this given the immense galactic void of space to be traversed. I included “stars” in the list as a nod to what Hawking actually said: “in the next thousand or ten thousand years. By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.”

    The ages and social mixes involved would be likely to be very different according to the distance from Earth and the travel involved to any colonies along with the health implications at specific locations.

    My demographic reproductive growth problem was framed within clear parameters while recognizing that many other scenarios may be proposed. Whether robots build the first mining operations and bases then expand operations to construct large habitats suitable for human colonization, at some point rockets will have to blast off from somewhere carrying humans to those prepared destinations. The scenario presumes travel time up to a year or so. Under these conditions the priority selection process for migrants would heavily favor young females capable and willing to bear many children in order to advance the longer term viability of a a human space colony. (Anyone is free to play with alternative speculations.)

  • It is tragic that so many people especially those in high positions or extremely wealthy who are ignorant of human ecology. The number one problem now is NOT climate change, it is overpopulation that is doubling every 200 years when we have already exceeded earth’s carrying capacity (6.4 billion). All this talk about populating other planets is sheer nonsense. If we continue to increase our population, eventually we will have the world’s greatest disaster beyond imagination. Note how our politicians avoid the topic for fear of loosing votes, and newspapers avoid the topic because it is not “newsworthy.” The Pope is no help, he just wants to control or behavior. All the news today is concentrated on symptoms of our population explosion, not the basic causes: religion and overpopulation. So we will march relentlessly onwards towards total destruction of our planet and our species. There is NO God who will save us from our own self destruction.

  • Melvin #70
    Dec 4, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Alan4 #63: I think you world need to do considerable homework before being in a position to make credible predictions!

    I’m not making predictions, I’m only playing with what futurologists are imagining; or more precisely, I’m just having fun like everyone else.

    This is a science site where we try to use evidence and reason. Making “fun” contradicting well thought out scientific predictions, is simply disrupting the discussion and making a fool of yourself!

    I stand by my previous assertion that no one can predict what will happen 1,000 years from now.

    Here is a link which makes predictions over millions of years!
    http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/h/hertzsprung-russell+diagram

    Milakovitch cycles make predictions over tens of thousands of years.

    As I said earlier – people who lack scientific understanding and launch into pronouncements of what cannot happen, while pretending that scientists also share their lack of skills, make fools of themselves !

    That’s why I suspect Stephen Hawking may be having a bit of sci-fi fun himself – mixed with his grim warning about anthropogenic self-extinction.

    You really should give up these wild suspicions, and look up information in reputable sources competent in the relevant sciences.

    nobody is planning to colonise stars!

    I’m aware of the unlikelihood of this given the immense galactic void of space to be traversed.

    That has nothing to do with the fact that nobody is planning to build colonies on stars -or on our Sun!

    I included “stars” in the list as a nod to what Hawking actually said: “in the next thousand or ten thousand years. By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.”

    Hawking is right – if we put effort and resources into space travel, humans could be living in nearby star systems if we find suitable moons or planets there.

    I have posted links and comments on how this could be done, in earlier discussions.

  • Alan4 #: This is a science site where we try to use evidence and reason. Making “fun” contradicting well thought out scientific predictions, is simply disrupting the discussion and making a fool of yourself!

    Melvin: I stand by my previous assertion that no one can predict what will happen 1,000 years from now.

    I’m starting to worry about the disease of the contrarian who obsessively argues about everything because, dammit, that’s what he wants to do! My comment was about demographic challenges of reproduction facing Homo sapiens in their enterprise to establish a “new” species, a high maintenance one at that, in environments likely hostile to virtually all life. I offer my scenario within the parameters of reasonable presuppositions. I welcome rational alternative scenarios based on other reasonable suppositions.

    We are playing a futurist game so why not have some “fun with science” envisioning underwater biospheres, colonies on mars, mining operations on asteroids or the moon and so on. We can’t go to a website and find out how humans will be living 1,000 years from now with tenuous assumptions that we will definitely survive the real challenges now and unknown emergent challenges later that might get the edge on us and squash us into extinction.

    By uncanny coincidence I really enjoyed Phil’s reference to “the Toba Super Eruption 75,000 years ago [that] culled [human population] to possibly to a mere 10,000” way up the thread. A possible cataclysmic event causing human extinction in the future could well come from poorly understood forces within the crust and core of earth erupting in continental fractures of tectonic plates. Seismic and volcanic catastrophes on continental scales could spew toxic gases into the atmosphere easily causing our extinction. Just one possibility among many.

  • Melvin #73
    Dec 5, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I’m starting to worry about the disease of the contrarian who obsessively argues about everything because, dammit, that’s what he wants to do!

    As the one inflicted with it, you should worry!

    My comment was about demographic challenges of reproduction facing Homo sapiens in their enterprise to establish a “new” species, a high maintenance one at that, in environments likely hostile to virtually all life.

    Nobody has suggested establishing “a new species of Homo sapiens in environments likely hostile to virtually all life.”
    It is your lack of understanding of likely specific hostile factors to HUMAN life which generate such foolish general assertions.

    In space-flight, identifying hostile or absent features, is a crucial element in the design process.
    Making up bland vague inaccurate generalisations without researching the available information, makes no useful contribution to this.

    There are areas in the galaxy which are hostile to all life, (not just human life) but again – no one is suggesting travelling to those areas.

    I offer my scenario within the parameters of reasonable presuppositions.

    Your presuppositions may appear “reasonable” to yourself, but we are trying to look at what is reasonable to those who have researched the subject and looked at the data!

    I welcome rational alternative scenarios based on other reasonable suppositions.

    There is rather a long list of scenarios in previous posts on this and on earlier discussions. I avoid “suppositions”! When I discuss the effects of gravity on human biology, I quote figures for the gravity! When Phil proposes structures he quotes sizes and materials.
    For Mars or the Moon we look at temperatures, light intensities, hours of daylight, chemical composition of materials etc.

    These are not whimsical ideas or presuppositions plucked out of the air, but are based on serious studies which have had years of man-hours and considerable sums of money, put into professionals collecting the data.

    I was discussing challenges of reproduction facing Homo sapiens and the possible of evolving new species in alien locations, – with crookedshoes (a biologist) on this thread:
    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/12/too-much-space-travel-is-hazardous-for-your-eyeballs/#li-comment-215301

    and discussing space and marine engineering questions with Phil in previous comments here.
    In both cases we are trying to keep the information accurate and competently cover relevant issues in a scientific manner.

  • Melvin #73
    Dec 5, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Alan4 #72: This is a science site where we try to use evidence and reason. Making “fun” contradicting well thought out scientific predictions, is simply disrupting the discussion and making a fool of yourself!

    Melvin: I stand by my previous assertion that no one can predict what will happen 1,000 years from now.

    Perhaps you should tell the astronomers who have mapped out the Earth’s orbital eccentricity, axial obliquity, and axial precession, for tens of thousands of years into the future – or the star sequences over millions of years!

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Milankovitch.html

    Also @#72 – Here is a link which makes predictions over millions of years! – hertzsprung-russell+diagram

    Milakovitch cycles make predictions over tens of thousands of years.

    Science is about making testable predictions!

  • We’ve all cited various sources to support speculations or even conclusions pending further research without claiming authority over others on the thread. A wide range of verbal behavior is allowed on this site but your persistent hostility toward me has taken on expression that ventures into personal insult. That is a matter for the moderator.

  • So, fade, to carry on the conversation I’ve just read Chapter 16, The Capitalist Creed. What else?

    Why can’t you tell me Harari’s argument yourself?

  • Melvin #76
    Dec 5, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    We’ve all cited various sources to support speculations or even conclusions pending further research without claiming authority over others on the thread.

    Science works on the authority of evidence and expertise.
    You have cited no relevant links to support your assertions and empty rhetoric contradicting well evidenced information I have given you. Specific projects may be speculative, but much of the science behind them is not!

    A wide range of verbal behavior is allowed on this site but your persistent hostility toward me has taken on expression that ventures into personal insult.

    Oh dear! oh dear! Back to the insulted card when empty assertions and bad arguments are refuted!

    That is a matter for the moderator.

    In case you have missed the point, I have studied space and planetary sciences for over fifty years, so I have no problem in finding real evidence or debunking empty assertions or arguments from incredulity!

    As I pointed out earlier:- the argument “This cannot happen because I have no idea how it works and have not bothered to look up any studies”, has no credibility!

    If people present asserted lame arguments on a science and reason site, they will be shot down by people with specialist knowledge, which may be embarrassing to those with lame arguments. – Especially if they ignore warnings (-such as the examples @#24) – about ways in which those poorly informed on specialist subjects make fools of themselves!

    If you think you have evidence to refute the astronomers’ predictions about the Earth cited @#75 – go ahead and do so, and support your “No thousand year predictions claim”, but don’t think playing an insulted card will impress me!

  • cbrown #71: It is tragic that so many people especially those in high positions or extremely wealthy who are ignorant of human ecology. The number one problem now is NOT climate change, it is overpopulation that is doubling every 200 years when we have already exceeded earth’s carrying capacity (6.4 billion).

    Thank you for this comment. I believe that we must solve the problem of overpopulation if solutions to other problems are to have any long-term success.

    Demographers are relying on compelling evidence, pending unforeseen developments, that world population is unlikely to double again in history from 6 billion to 12 billion with global fertility falling toward replacement levels by the end of the century. Based on current projections, the persistence of unusually high fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa will almost certainly guarantee a world population of 10 billion around midcentury. By century’s end this figure may climb to 11+ billion then probably settle back. My concern is that even if stabilization settles at 9 to 11 billion for the long run, carrying capacity will exceed environmental capability with disastrous consequences for our species.

  • In case you have missed the point, I have studied space and planetary sciences for over fifty years, so I have no problem in finding real evidence or debunking empty assertions or arguments from incredulity!

    Congratulations. Perhaps you might want to establish your own blog where you could contribute half the comments to your own posts chastising non-experts or “explaining everything” to them when their ignorance inflamed your enlarged cranium. Those who perversely failed to accept your knowledge and authority after you have settled an issue could be instantly banned.

    I regard this site as a place where everyone, regardless of a science CV, is welcome to discuss diverse topics without providing credentials of expertise.

    By way of example: There are areas in the galaxy which are hostile to all life, (not just human life) but again – no one is suggesting travelling to those areas.

    My common sense observation did not have to encompass distant “areas in the galaxy” since the conversation frequently centered on Mars where in fact the environment is hostile to virtually all life. Why split hairs and take umbrage over an obvious state of affairs?

  • I believe it is time for me to extend the hand of peace. I’m unilaterally calling off the feuding. This forum is a place for vigorous discussion, argument and disagreement but also for civil deportment. I hope we can proceed in
    a respectful manner. Sorry for the irritating interlude. Let’s get back to the ethic of dialogue.

  • Melvin #79

    I am very happy about the comments you make on population, Melvin. The disaster will indeed be one of great localised tragedy first and more distributed unrest from economic migration.

    But there is much more to note in those numbers of total fertility rates and lifespans etc. and the puny capacity of the poor to consume and excrete fossil carbon. Why do you not use your knowledge to propagandise for the only viable solution? Lifting people out of abject poverty….

    Our problem now has become a burgeoning nationalism, fomented by a natural resentment of how the rich have used globalism to disproportionately line their own pockets and take money out of our own economy. Most populist politicians (even Bernie) are arguing for less sharing of wealth with poorer nations as the crude lever to stop money draining from the pockets of their own poorest and into richer ones…

    Fade’s fear about American faith in financial market dogma (consume more or die) is a peculiarly American rock seemingly trapping folk against the hard place of economic resentment reinforcing a fatal nationalistic selfishness. This dogma is not shared by many in the younger industries that have lived through recession. A little dirigisme placing taxation on overseas trade and spending directly on domestic adversely communities might break the log jam.

  • Melvin #80
    Dec 5, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    In case you have missed the point, I have studied space and planetary sciences for over fifty years, so I have no problem in finding real evidence or debunking empty assertions or arguments from incredulity!

    Congratulations. Perhaps you might want to establish your own blog where you could contribute half the comments to your own posts chastising non-experts or “explaining everything” to them

    I have a long history of challenging repeatedly asserted ignorance – especially after I (and others) have taken the trouble to explain evidence.

    when their ignorance inflamed your enlarged cranium.

    That sort of disparaging remark is why your asserted ignorance is irritating and disruptive to rational scientific debate.

    Those who perversely failed to accept your knowledge and authority after you have settled an issue could be instantly banned.

    The repeated false assertion that science is based on arguments from authority of individuals, is one of your regular fallacies – trotted out in support of ignorant assertions.

    I regard this site as a place where everyone, regardless of a science CV, is welcome to discuss diverse topics without providing credentials of expertise.

    It is indeed – IF they present evidence, address issues, and use reasoned arguments.

    By way of example: There are areas in the galaxy which are hostile to all life, (not just human life) but again – no one is suggesting travelling to those areas.

    My common sense observation did not have to encompass distant “areas in the galaxy”

    Your “common sense observation”, was made up nonsense, which does not even encompass some parts of the Solar System.

    since the conversation frequently centered on Mars where in fact the environment is hostile to virtually all life.

    There have been discussions on Mars (which have included detailed links from me), which clearly show scientific evidence that the environment on Mars is NOT hostile to virtually all life.

    That is the sort of silly assertion which I am quoting science to debunk!

    Several probes and landers have studied Mars to see if any life there already exists, or if there are conditions there which can support life, or support Earth organisms (such as extremophiles).
    There are strict quarantine procedures when assembling spacecraft, to avoid contaminating Mars with Earth organisms – which the evidence shows are likely to survive there.
    Much of this information is available on-line as has been available for decades!

    Why split hairs and take umbrage over an obvious state of affairs?

    The topic of this scientific discussion is the possible establishment of human colonies off Earth, and the requirements for doing so!

    You may regard nonsensical assertions which contradict available evidence as “obvious”, but as I said earlier, – denial and incredulity are not credible arguments.

    when their ignorance inflamed your enlarged cranium.

    This sort of irrational emotional response to having your errors corrected by those who are properly informed on the subject, is unfortunately just an example of “the disruptive at the bottom of the class”, taking umbrage at having their errors corrected.

    @#81- I’m unilaterally calling off the feuding.

    All you need to do is respect the evidence presented to you, accept corrections to errors with a good grace, and address the issues raised.

    I see you have still not presented evidence in support of your claim that science in subjects such as astronomy and geology cannot make thousand-year predictions.

    @OP – We have 1,000 years. – Remaining on Earth any longer, Hawking believes, places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction.

    In the OP Stephen Hawking estimates that the accumulating probabilities of risks to Earth could cause a mass extinction including humans.

    To address that, those risks need to be examined and evaluated.
    Estimates of an asteroid impact can be calculated by assessing the probability of an Earth-crossing asteroid impacting, multiplied by the number of Earth orbit crossing asteroids, and the frequency of orbital intersections. There are thousands of such inner Solar System asteroids, with many new ones still being discovered and mapped!

    http://www.iflscience.com/space/visualization-recent-asteroid-impacts-earth/

    Some notable past events include the 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Siberia, which had an impact of between 5-15 megatons and flattened some 80 million trees, and the 2013 impact over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk which had an impact of 600 kilotons.

    According to Dr. Ed Lu, who was one of the astronauts presenting the findings at the Seattle Museum of Flight yesterday, “While most large asteroids with the potential to destroy an entire country or continent have been detected, **less than 10,000 of the more than a million dangerous asteroids with the potential to destroy an entire major metropolitan area have been found* {so far} by all existing space or terrestrially-operated observatories.”

    I hope we can proceed in
    a respectful manner.
    Sorry for the irritating interlude.
    Let’s get back to the ethic of dialogue.

    Apologies accepted.

  • My comment #82 needed a word

    spending directly on domestic adversely communities

    spending directly on domestic, adversely affected communities

  • Alan @#83 – There have been discussions on Mars (which have included detailed links from me), which clearly show scientific evidence that the environment on Mars is NOT hostile to virtually all life.

    Several probes and landers have studied Mars to see if any life there already exists, or if there are conditions there which can support life, or support Earth organisms (such as extremophiles).

    I see Europe is pressing ahead with its Mars Rover and its support for manned space-flight on the ISS.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38183188

    Europe will push ahead with its plan to put a UK-assembled robotic rover on the surface of Mars in 2021.

    Research ministers meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, have agreed to stump up the outstanding €436m euros needed to take the project through to completion.

    The mission is late and is costing far more than originally envisaged, prompting fears that European Space Agency member states might abandon it.

    But the ministers have emphatically reaffirmed their commitment to it.

    They have also said that European participation in the International Space Station (ISS) should run until at least 2024, bringing Esa into line with its partners on the orbiting laboratory – the US, Russia, Japan and Canada.

    This will open new opportunities for European astronauts to visit the station, and it was announced here that Italian Luca Parmitano has been proposed to take up a tour in 2019.

    The Ministerial Council was convened to set the policies, programmes and funding for Esa over the next three to five years.

    Officials at the agency had put a menu before member state delegations valued at some €11bn (£9.5bn; $12bn), covering all manner of activities ranging from rockets and Earth observation to big data management and satellite navigation.

    At the end of one and a half days of deliberations, the 22 governments agreed to fund €10.3bn.

    “This is a big amount of money that really allows us to go forward,” said Prof Jan Woerner, the director general of Esa.

    “We need inspiration for the future. Inspiration is a driver, and from inspiration and fascination come motivation. And for me, it’s very clear we are responsible for the motivation of the next generation to create the future.”

    The rover is the second part in a two-step programme known as ExoMars, which is being run jointly with the Russians to explore the possibility of life on the Red Planet.

    The first part has just seen a satellite arrive at Mars to investigate trace gases in the atmosphere that may be coming from microbes somewhere on the world.

    In the second phase, a robotic rover would follow up these studies by drilling below Mars’ dusty surface to try to detect the organisms directly.

  • Certainly Stephen Hawking would welcome examination of all possible causes for planetary destruction. Perhaps the Guardian did not report on all topics Dr. Hawking brought up in his lecture but the article focuses on his concerns about anthropogenic causes destroying earthly environments on which Homo sapiens depend for survival:

    If humanity survives the rise of artificial intelligence, the ravages of climate change and the threat of nuclear terrorism in the next century, it doesn’t mean we’re home free, according to Stephen Hawking.
    The renowned theoretical physicist has gone as far as providing humanity with a deadline for finding another planet to colonize: We have 1,000 years.
    Remaining on Earth any longer, Hawking believes, places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction.
    “We must … continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” the 74-year-old Cambridge professor said during a speech Tuesday at Oxford University Union, according to the Daily Express.
    “I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet,” he added.
    [Why Stephen Hawking believes the next 100 years may be humanity’s toughest test]
    During his hour-long speech, Hawking told the audience that Earth’s cataclysmic end may be hastened by humankind, which will continue to devour the planet’s resources at unsustainable rates, the Express reported

    Hawking does not mention asteroids colliding with earth, or massive fracturing of tectonic plates, vulcanism and seismic catastrophes on a continental scale. Among his immediate priorities for the next 100 years, the destructive potential of Artificial Intelligence is given special emphasis:

    “I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Hawking told the BBC in a 2014 interview that touched upon everything from online privacy to his affinity for his robotic-sounding voice.
    Despite its current usefulness, he cautioned, further developing A.I. could prove a fatal mistake.
    “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate,” Hawking warned in recent months. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

    I take “would be superseded” to mean “in effect human extinction.” Coincidentally I have concurred with Dr. Hawking in comment #43 on this thread.

  • Melvin

    Among his immediate priorities for the next 100 years, the destructive potential of Artificial Intelligence is given special emphasis:

    Well that’s going to be easy to run away from in a ship riddled with smarts beyond the complete comprehension of any hundred scientists…

  • Melvin #86
    Dec 6, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Perhaps the Guardian did not report on all topics Dr. Hawking brought up in his lecture but the article focuses on his concerns about anthropogenic causes destroying earthly environments on which Homo sapiens depend for survival:

    If humanity survives the rise of artificial intelligence, the ravages of climate change and the threat of nuclear terrorism in the next century, it doesn’t mean we’re home free, according to Stephen Hawking.
    The renowned theoretical physicist has gone as far as providing humanity with a deadline for finding another planet to colonize: We have 1,000 years.
    Remaining on Earth any longer, Hawking believes, places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction.

    Humans certainly show signs of blundering into man-made as well as natural hazards. The problem with issues like nuclear terrorism, is that if panicky people are sitting with missile launch buttons, nuclear explosions are very hard to distinguish from asteroid impacts. Some people were initially flapping around under misapprehension during the Chelyabinsk incident.

    “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate,” Hawking warned in recent months. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

    I take “would be superseded” to mean “in effect human extinction.”

    That is a weakness of humans as far as survival and evolution are concerned. Humans are slow to reproduce (long gestation and childhood, plus normally single offspring), when compared to plants, insects, or even mammals such as mice, – and genetic remixing mutation and selection works by generations.

    Humans also have live births, so cannot survive adverse conditions or remain dormant as eggs or seeds.
    This means that human populations are vulnerable to severe environmental changes, and populations reduced to hunter gathering, in a changing climate would be comparatively slow to recover.
    There have been bottle-neck near extinctions before.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory

  • By way of clarification, I did not equate the qualified statement Mars is hostile to virtually all life to mean there is no life to be found on Mars pending further research. From Wikipedia: To date no proof has been found of past or present life on Mars. However, cumulative evidence is now building that the ancient surface environment of Mars had liquid water and may have been habitable for microorganisms. The existence of habitable conditions does not necessarily indicate the presence of life.

    Abundant evidence, already reviewed, shows that human life is not possible on Mars without elaborate life support systems functioning either in enclosed “indoor” structures or self-contained in cumbersome space suits for ‘outdoor” mobility at exorbitant expense per individual. Though Hawking vaguely projects a 1,000-year time frame, he asserts that the next hundred years will be crucial. If pressed, I’m almost certain that he would concede he’s affirming educated speculations within general but reasonable time frames projected by current scientists and widely adopted by informed popular consensus reflected in literature and film

    I believe Hawking goes off the rails by eliding questions of logistics involved in transporting tens of thousands, millions of humans over the next century or two to viable colonies located in variously hostile space environments – biospheres prodigiously constructed and finely tuned for human species survival for millennia to come. Hawking does not cite current projects for martian robotic rovers, space stations or astronauts orbiting or landing on Mars over the next 10 to 20 years. He glosses over any intermediate and time-consuming phases to envision bona fide populated cities located, for proximate example, on the Martian geography where kids play in parks and adults make babies in their homes.

    If we earthlings were to experience catastrophic events that threatened human health and survival over the next hundred years -say global warming- social organization would begin to collapse on a global scale. What remained of our declining resources would be shifted with all due expediency to dealing with saving human beings on the deteriorating planet. “Colonizing space” unless secured in a mature stage of development by the early decades of the 22nd century would quickly be defunded.

  • Melvin #89
    Dec 6, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    By way of clarification, I did not equate the qualified statement Mars is hostile to virtually all life to mean there is no life to be found on Mars pending further research.

    There are several issues which need to be considered separately. –

    Does Mars have life at the present time?

    Are there fossils of life which once existed on Mars?

    Does Mars have conditions where some life forms could exist below the surface?

    Does Mars have conditions where humans could exist with technical assistance?

    The first two answers are unknown. The third answer is VERY probably yes.

    The fourth answer is probably also yes, but if this situation is viable in the short or long term, is uncertain.

    Martin probes and rovers are relevant to collecting the data which is evaluated evaluate to assess the situation and make plans.

    I believe Hawking goes off the rails by eliding questions of logistics involved in transporting tens of thousands, millions of humans over the next century or two

    I see no reference to this in the OP link. Where did you get these figures?

    I don’t think anyone credible is suggesting transporting or accommodating millions. Hawking was suggesting maintaining a core population from which to breed new human populations after an extinction event.

    to viable colonies located in variously hostile space environments –

    As Phil and I have suggested, working colonies running space industries from space-stations in Earth, Sun, or Lunar orbits, can more easily manage artificial gravity, needed to maintain human health , than on low-gravity moons or planets. They can be screened against radiation and work on extracting marketable volatiles and useful minerals from captured asteroids. These should quickly become self-sustaining profitable industries.

  • No one is trying to impugn Stephen Hawking’s achievements that elevate him to the highest rank of scientific genius. He merely took some rhetorical license in a lecture when he said: “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years. By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.” He also predicted that the toughest test will probably come over the next 100 years. In rhetorical tradition 100 years (a century), 1,000 years (a millenium), and 10,000 years (10 millenia) are chronological icons. In the light of a thousand suns (Bhagavad-Gita), The thousand-year Reich (Hitler), The thousand-year British Empire (Winston Churchill, [may the emperor live for] 10,000 years (banzai!), may you live a hundred years, etc. Hawking could not have been disclosing scientific findings when he said, ” in a hundred years or a thousand years or “slightly longer” = 10,000 years.” He was using poetic license to point out time frames that resonate reasonably with the popular and scientific imagination alike careful to avoid untenable precision or speculation.

    Clearly Hawking was not thinking of a colonization project concentrated in low earth or lunar orbit when he said, “By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars. (He means settlements on planets or moons in interstellar solar systems implicitly within the Milky Way.)

    Finally, Alan4 #90: (Melvin) I believe Hawking goes off the rails by eliding questions of logistics involved in transporting tens of thousands, millions of humans over the next century or two

    I see no reference to this in the OP link. Where did you get these figures? I don’t think anyone credible is suggesting transporting or accommodating millions. Hawking was suggesting maintaining a core population from which to breed new human populations after an extinction event.

    That loops back on the questions of logistics and demographics. The people who come to settle the space stations, huge living areas, after a specialist vanguard makes them habitable for large numbers and begins to operate the space industries on a sustainable level, will have to travel from the earth. Selection and vetting of the initially small core population that arrives will have to control for characteristics considered discriminatory in current progressive societies. The poor, the elderly, the sick and disabled (physically or mentally), the uneducated, unskilled, dysfunctional, substance abusers, antisocial or criminal or poorly motivated would have to be left behind. Age and gender structure would have to favor men in their prime working years and younger skewed female cohorts in their child-bearing years subjected to high fertility rates. (I’m reviewing earlier observations.) The long-term sustainability of the colonies would make these considerations vital for several generations. It’s all mathematical but ya gotta think about this stuff.

  • Melvin #91
    Dec 7, 2016 at 4:28 am

    He merely took some rhetorical license in a lecture

    I realise that you use a lot of mere rhetoric, but scientists consciously make an effort to avoid it, so asserting that that is the basis for their future projections is almost always wrong!

    when he said: “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years.

    This is NOT rhetoric!
    It is the adding up of probabilities from various fields of science, which have provided realistic estimates of the chances of events happening.
    This type of futurist science is about putting together verified data from multiple scientific sources to build a big-picture. It is NOT about rhetorical semantics, or plucking whimsical “common sense” notions out of the air or from “gut-feelings”.

    By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.”

    As I have previously commented, spreading colonies into the Solar-System, or to other star systems, does not mean large numbers of humans will have to live on low gravity planets or moons. Many energy requirements and economics, make space stations with artificial gravity, much more desirable.

    He also predicted that the toughest test will probably come over the next 100 years.

    He is probably right in recognising that obstructive science deniers in business and political posts, will misdirect resource use, creating difficulties in the next hundred years, – and problems which will persist in creating difficulties for a thousand or more in the future.

    In rhetorical tradition 100 years (a century), 1,000 years (a millenium), and 10,000 years (10 millenia) are chronological icons.

    This is another nonsensical assertion that scientific views of the future (even speculative ones), are based on rhetoric! They are not!
    They are based on known science and projections of recognised trends and properties, along with quantifying estimates based on data.

    The poor, the elderly, the sick and disabled (physically or mentally), the uneducated, unskilled, dysfunctional, substance abusers, antisocial or criminal or poorly motivated would have to be left behind.

    Billions will be left behind!
    That large percentage is ALWAYS so when setting up new colonies at a distance from the source population.
    The prime selection criteria will be the ability to establish and maintain the colony, with initially small numbers also maintaining their health and functional capabilities.
    The bulk of mechanical processes are likely to be carried out remotely by semi autonomous robots and robotic systems unless they are on exoplanets with near Earth level gravity, and terraforming potential.

    Robots can carry out production and construction projects on planets, moons, asteroids, or comets, while being directed and controlled from a nearby space station or large ship.

  • Fadetodraw.

    I’ve diligently read chapter 16 of Sapiens. What else is needed? Else I’m going to start commentating in ignorance….

  • Alan4 #92: Robots can carry out production and construction projects on planets, moons, asteroids, or comets, while being directed and controlled from a nearby space station or large ship.

    Current challenges – technical, logistical and economic – have left these ambitions mostly immobilized in the planning stages. Cost-benefit assessments by decision makers have limited projects to space exploration missions for the foreseeable future after the International Space Station is retired in 2020. Large scale production and construction projects preparing habitats for human settlement are not on the horizon for obvious reasons. China, Russia, the U.S. and other nations have plans for small astronaut-manned space stations and space shuttles in the future. Electronically controlled robots or rovers reliant on solar batteries can conduct probes of materials on extraterrestrial bodies but lack the mechanical energy and size to carry out productive mining or construction. (The robotic rovers are also prone to failures that cannot be addressed at remote distances). Calculating the costs of putting small payloads into space, protecting and sustaining even 5 to 10 astronauts on elaborate life-support systems for several weeks or months is exorbitant. Scientific research findings are more than worth the costs but nothing by way of what we mean by large habitat construction projects or mining extraction yields makes any economic, logistical or technical sense to date.

    Stephen Hawking proposes the project of Colonizing Space apparently with an emphasis on: spread[ing] out into space, and to other stars building settlements on planets or moons in interstellar solar systems within the Milky Way galaxy. He gives a principal time frame of 1,000 years but pads that with another 9,000 years; therefore 1,000 to 10,000 years. He shifts into reverse to declare that the toughest tests for human survival will come in the next 100 years roughly equivalent to one lifetime. There is nothing “unscientific” about any of his brief musings but also nothing distinct from the informed layman’s popular dystopian view of humankind’s future redeemed by dreams of colonizing space. This easy sci-fi narrative of novels, films and comic books is proving far more challenging for applied science.

  • Melvin #94
    Dec 7, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Alan4 #92: Robots can carry out production and construction projects on planets, moons, asteroids, or comets, while being directed and controlled from a nearby space station or large ship.

    Current challenges – technical, logistical and economic – have left these ambitions mostly immobilized in the planning stages.

    I don’t see any source or link for who is making these suggestions!

    Cost-benefit assessments by decision makers have limited projects to space exploration missions for the foreseeable future after the International Space Station is retired in 2020.

    2020 ????????

    8 Jan 2014 – Nasa has won White House backing to extend the life of the International Space Station for a further four years, until 2024.

    Large scale production and construction projects preparing habitats for human settlement are not on the horizon for obvious reasons. China, Russia, the U.S. and other nations have plans for small astronaut-manned space stations and space shuttles in the future.

    Clearly your information is inaccurate or out of date!
    The “obvious reason”, is the continued use of the ISS space station.

    European participation in the International Space Station (ISS) should run until at least 2024, bringing Esa into line with its partners on the orbiting laboratory – the US, Russia, Japan and Canada.

    China has plans for its own independent space stations.

    Electronically controlled robots or rovers reliant on solar batteries can conduct probes of materials on extraterrestrial bodies but lack the mechanical energy and size to carry out productive mining or construction.

    The power depends on the size of the solar arrays charging them, the batteries, and the motors. The earlier ones were designed to the sizes required for the jobs they did.

    The Curiosity Mars Rover is the size of a car.
    Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) – Not solar cells.
    As of December 6, 2016, Curiosity has been on Mars for 1541 sols (1583 total days) since landing on August 6, 2012

    We had a discussion on robotic production facilities at the Lunar pole earlier.

    (The robotic rovers are also prone to failures that cannot be addressed at remote distances).

    The solar powered Opportunity Rover worked for over 12 years on Mars!

    The Spirit Rover got stuck after 5 years 3 months!

    Both were originally designed to work for 90 days!

    Where are you getting your dubious information?

  • Melvin: Current challenges – technical, logistical and economic – have left these ambitions mostly immobilized in the planning stages.

    Alan4 #95: I don’t see any source or link for who is making these suggestions!

    Engineers, scientists, visionaries galore are making plans and talking about them. I’ve yet to hear any reports about any project that has been initiated by a space agency public or private. Bear in mind that the comment refers to large scale production and construction projects preparing habitats for human settlement that are not on the horizon for obvious reasons. Cost, feasibility, and realistic motivation.

    Nasa has won White House backing to extend the life of the International Space Station for a further four years, until 2024…Clearly your information is inaccurate or out of date! The “obvious reason”, is the continued use of the ISS space station.

    Thank you for the correction. The ISS was built in 1998 principally for research purposes including studies on the prolonged effect of near-weightlessness on humans. The permanent crew, mostly male astronauts subjected to short-term occupancy, has consisted of 2, 3, and 6 individuals with several paying “space participants” coming aboard. This long-serving vehicle (16 years), though continuously upgraded, never served as a prototype for colonizing space nor as a command and control center for further construction projects of incrementally enlarged space habitations for human settlers even in safe low earth orbits.

    The power depends on the size of the solar arrays charging them, the batteries, and the motors. The earlier ones were designed to the sizes required for the jobs they did.
    The Curiosity Mars Rover is the size of a car.
    Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) – Not solar cells.
    As of December 6, 2016, Curiosity has been on Mars for 1541 sols (1583 total days) since landing on August 6, 2012

    Thanks for the qualification. Once more, there have been no reports of robotic rovers performing much more than probes, materials analysis and related superficial projects. They have undertaken nothing by way of erecting structures or carrying out mining operations. If you visit any construction site here on earth you will find huge machines wielding astounding mechanical power to lift, position, stabilize loads -steel girders, cast concrete. The rovers were not designed to do anything like heavy lifting. They are essentially mobile sensor platforms for materials research engaged sometimes in minor scooping and drilling – neither intended nor used for breaking ground to build human settlements.

    European participation in the International Space Station (ISS) should run until at least 2024, bringing Esa into line with its partners on the orbiting laboratory – the US, Russia, Japan and Canada.
    China has plans for its own independent space stations.

    These developments imply that international players in space exploration are content with the pragmatic status quo, keeping a 16 year-old space station in operation and building new ones which will principally conduct the same kind of exploratory experiments. No agency seems to be talking about making budgetary commitments to projects for colonizing space, building structures and productive economies in extraterrestrial locations for long-term human survival. No politician seems inclined to make pitches to cash-strapped taxpayers to fund such trillion-dollar pipe-dreams with so many costly messes to be addressed here on planet earth. Until we see interest in such projects materializing through financial, technical, and targeted efforts, we can logically infer that the actual endeavors that do continue to materialize will remain focused on exploring space not colonizing it for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.

    I welcome and respect your response but I will have to leave my input off here and take a break.

  • Melvin #96
    Dec 7, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Previous) Melvin: Current challenges – technical, logistical and economic – have left these ambitions mostly immobilized in the planning stages.

    Alan4 #95: I don’t see any source or link for who is making these suggestions!

    Engineers, scientists, visionaries galore are making plans and talking about them. I’ve yet to hear any reports about any project that has been initiated by a space agency public or private.

    https://bigelowaerospace.com/

    So – Still no sources for your misinformation?

    It is obvious that you are using ignorant popular media sources, rather than specialist space-related scientific and engineering publications. – or just making stuff up!

    Bear in mind that the comment refers to large scale production and construction projects preparing habitats for human settlement
    that are not on the horizon for obvious reasons.
    Cost, feasibility, and realistic motivation.

    You seem to be back to quoting “reasons” which are “OBVIOUS” only to the incredulity of those who have not studied the various developing projects and applications.

    Large scale construction projects need research and prototypes in preparation for their development.

    https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/technology/deep_space_habitat/constructing-demonstrators.html
    Developing a Deep Space Habitat will allow a crew to live and work safely in space for up to a year on missions to explore cis-lunar space, near-Earth asteroids, and Mars. The Habitation Systems Project is a multi-center team of NASA architects, scientists and engineers, working together to develop sustainable living quarters, workspaces, and laboratories for astronauts on next-generation space missions.

    As I said earlier, “I have no idea what is going on or how it works – so it is not happening, or cannot happen,” – is incredulity – not a credible argument about future developments or present operations!

    Thank you for the correction. The ISS was built in 1998 principally for research purposes including studies on the prolonged effect of near-weightlessness on humans. The permanent crew, mostly male astronauts subjected to short-term occupancy, has consisted of 2, 3, and 6 individuals with several paying “space participants” coming aboard.

    As of July 2016, 60 woman have flown in space, out of 537 total space travellers (Wikipedia)

    This {ISS} long-serving vehicle (16 years), though continuously upgraded, never served as a prototype for colonizing space

    You have to be joking!!!
    Various modules have been added, including the The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module testing ideas for space habitation modular constructions. Boeing is also developing a simple, low cost habitat that NASA says is affordable. The ISS does not rotate to provide gravity, but tests most other aspects human life in space – with a great deal of experimentation and health monitoring using medical equipment.

    nor as a command and control center for further construction projects

    Really????? The whole ISS has been constructed from modules on site, in space. There are also experiments on remote operations. – not to mention the docking of “Progress” robot delivery craft.

    http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/International_Space_Station/Tim_Peake_goes_roving

    In a live space-to-ground test of human–robot cooperation, ESA astronaut Tim Peake will control a rover on Earth on Friday from the International Space Station, helping prepare for future exploration missions.

    On 29 April, ESA astronaut Tim Peake will operate a terrestrial rover nicknamed Bridget from the Station as part of a series of experiments investigating how humans interact with robotic systems and vehicles.

    The 154 kg rover will be driven by Tim starting at 10:00 GMT (12:00 CEST) over simulated Mars terrain in Stevenage, UK, as though he were searching for scientific targets such as rocks. The 30 x 13 m Mars Yard is split into lit and dark areas to simulate, for example, roving into a cave or a shadowed crater.

    The rover was developed by Airbus D&S, who are working with ESA and the UK Space Agency to investigate controlling robots on simulated planets.</em,>

    Tim Peake goes roving – 27 April 2016 (video)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36163567

    Watch Tim Peake control a Mars rover from space

    29 April 2016 Last updated at 17:50 BST

    UK astronaut Tim Peake has performed a challenging remote control experiment on the International Space Station.

    He had to command a robot rover on Earth, driving it across a big sandpit in Stevenage, near London, that simulated the surface of Mars.

    {ISS} never served as a prototype for colonizing space of incrementally enlarged space habitations for human settlers even in safe low earth orbits.

    Really??? – as above – Various modules have been added, including the The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module testing ideas for space habitation modular constructions.
    Boeing is also developing a simple, low cost habitat that NASA says is affordable.

    No agency seems to be talking about making budgetary commitments to projects for colonizing space, building structures and productive economies in extraterrestrial locations for long-term human survival.

    They are, – but at present are concentrating on robotic industrial enterprises such as satellite service and refurbishment – where the humans can direct these from Earth. Being this close to the satellites and service vehicles, space based astronaut direction of operations is not required – as it would be in more distant locations.

    No politician seems inclined to make pitches to cash-strapped taxpayers to fund such trillion-dollar pipe-dreams with so many costly messes to be addressed here on planet earth.

    Oh dear! Oh dear!- back to the fantasy preconceptions of “trillion-dollar pipe-dreams”, to describe space based profitable commercial enterprises and plans for their future development!

    http://www.sia.org/annual-state-of-the-satellite-industry-reports/2014-sia-state-of-satellite-industry-report/

    Satellite Services revenues increased by four percent globally from 2014 to 2015, reaching $127.4 billion, powered by continued growth in consumer satellite television, satellite broadband and Earth observation services.

    Satellite Ground Equipment revenues rose by one percent over 2014 to reach $58.9 billion. Satellite navigation (GNSS) equipment for both consumer and industrial customers represented approximately 53 percent of the overall ground equipment revenue.

    cash-strapped taxpayers to fund such trillion-dollar pipe-dreams with so many costly messes to be addressed here on planet earth.

    Have you not heard of:- SAT-NAVs, weather satellites, asteroid detection systems, satellite crop monitoring, mobile phones, Earth Surveillance Satellites monitoring disasters and directing relief efforts, or educational satellite television and internet commerce, which make massive contributions to SOLVING costly messes and disasters to be addressed here on planet Earth?

  • 98
    Pinball1970 says:

    I think we should try and pass on our knowledge, that is our legacy.

    Would it not be a shame if we died and all our achievements along with it?

    We may be the most technologically advanced species in the galaxy if not the universe.

    I would hate to think of the earth becoming an arid desert, remnants of the human race fighting over the last remaining resources.

    Perhaps following a nuclear war?

    Mozart Hendrix and Feynman lost in the mists of time.

    I can’t see how Mars would be an option, no air no water no EM field no seasons.

    Nearest stars a few light years away? How do we get there? Worm holes?

    Nearest galaxy? Could it ever be possible?

    Or are we looking at this from a very 21st century-centric view?

    Our thinking could be and will be primitive and naïve compared with what they be contemplating in 500 years’ time.

    “Remember when they thought digital watches were a pretty neat thing?”

    Or like Euclid thinking about the moon and wondering if it still exists if he isn’t looking?

    I hope we can get there I am just sorry I won’t be around when they do it.

  • Pinball1970 #98
    Dec 8, 2016 at 8:39 am

    I can’t see how Mars would be an option, no air no water no EM field no seasons.

    Mars does have an atmosphere, and compression pumps are not high technology. Plants grow food and are quite good at removing CO2 and converting it to oxygen.
    It also has water in the form of ice – which can easily be melted using heaters.
    The lack of a protective electromagnetic field will probably confine any long term habitation to underground – but there is plenty of surface area for solar panels.

    As with the Moon, Mars low gravity is a real problem long term, although evolved or genetically modified life forms may cope with this.

    Nearest stars a few light years away? How do we get there?

    As with historical global maritime exploration on Earth, the technologies used for near Earth and Solar-System interplanetary commercial operations, could with increasing competence, resource utilisation, and colonisation, work outwards a step at a time to the the rocks and ices orbiting in the outer Solar-System, – and them onward to the nearby stars. – as with island hopping in small boats!
    (see #2 and #6)

    Of course the view from a dug-out canoe, is that crossing the Atlantic is impossible!

  • Sorry guys, I’m back. I must have been refreshed by a good night’s sleep. Alan4 seems convinced that I know nothing of habitable space stations enlarged by cutting-edge plug-in modules, robotic rovers or even satellites. I’m apparently oblivious to coordinated operations between them that advance useful astronomical or cosmological knowledge. Perhaps a quote cited from Alan’s comment above makes my argument:

    Developing a Deep Space Habitat will allow a crew to live and work safely in space for up to a year on missions to explore cis-lunar space, near-Earth asteroids, and Mars. The Habitation Systems Project is a multi-center team of NASA architects, scientists and engineers, working together to develop sustainable living quarters, workspaces, and laboratories for astronauts on next-generation space missions.

    The bold type defines the mission statement. The crew will consist of trained astronaut scientists efficiently limited to a small number exclusively needed to accomplish exploratory missions within a time frame of several months “up to a year.” Pointedly there is no mention of bringing dead-weight ordinary people on board to consume precious oxygen, water (currently rationed to a liter per person/ per day), and food and to impede the exploratory projects of the crew. In other words no constituents of a core settler population will come aboard for the non-existent purpose of establishing a colony to preserve the human race. Simply put, no such purpose (long-term demographic-reproductive human settlement) will be pursued by these projects; no such purpose has been announced; and no such purpose will be paid for with billions, trillions of dollars thrown down a rat hole.

    Pinball 1970 brings up reasonable observations worthy of consideration. Within the foreseeable future, perhaps Alan4would agree, the best two candidates for human colonies in space would be limited to lower orbit space stations with urban or suburban dimensions and the planet Mars. (The moon and, more tenuously, “asteroids” would also show in the running.) Travel time and even harsher conditions beyond these parameters would disqualify projects on grounds of feasibility. Pinball’s skepticism about living in the airless, waterless, foodless, irradiated atmosphere of Mars are answered by Alan4’s researched solutions:

    Mars does have an atmosphere, and compression pumps are not high technology. Plants grow food and are quite good at removing CO2 and converting it to oxygen.
    It also has water in the form of ice – which can easily be melted using heaters.
    The lack of a protective electromagnetic field will probably confine any long term habitation to underground – but there is plenty of surface area for solar panels.

    Once more Alan4 inadvertently makes my argument better than I could. Hard-hat diving gear with air supplied by compressors delivered through hoses is not high-tech (in fact it goes back more than a century) so why object to living underwater? Why not construct huge underground biospheres on Mars and pump, with enormous energy outputs, a voluminous, filtered-compressed life-sustaining atmosphere into it, plant vast high-input cultivated areas not only for food but also to remove lethal CO2 from human respiration build-up and generate oxygen, drink water from melted snow and so on. The answer is that cumbersome technology, necessitating multiple layers of back-up safeguards, on a scale sufficient to provide outputs for sustaining a human population of adequate size for long-term survival, would cost $trillions; involve the concentration of earthly resources, ingenuity and labor for centuries to accommodate several thousand settlers in some post apocalypse “possible” future. Rounding up to the year 2017, 7.4 billion people live on earth for free and no one has taken material steps to build Martian colonies or species-rescue space stations at the cost of bankrupting global economies. Some expenditure for space exploration, mostly unmanned with some manned by a handful of human astronaut-scientists -Yes. Expenditures for human- survival space colonies – No.

  • Melvin #100
    Dec 8, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    Sorry guys, I’m back. I must have been refreshed by a good night’s sleep. Alan4 seems convinced that I know nothing of habitable space stations enlarged by cutting-edge plug-in modules, robotic rovers or even satellites.

    I merely corrected the errors in your comments, and pointed out the lack of ANY supporting citations for your claims.

    I’m apparently oblivious to coordinated operations between them that advance useful astronomical or cosmological knowledge.

    Your errors speak for themselves!

    Perhaps a quote cited from Alan’s comment above makes my argument:

    Developing a Deep Space Habitat will allow a crew to live and work safely in space for up to a year on missions to explore cis-lunar space, near-Earth asteroids, and Mars. The Habitation Systems Project is a multi-center team of NASA architects, scientists and engineers, working together to develop sustainable living quarters, workspaces, and laboratories for astronauts on next-generation space missions.

    The bold type defines the mission statement. The crew will consist of trained astronaut scientists efficiently limited to a small number exclusively needed to accomplish exploratory missions within a time frame of several months “up to a year.”

    That is the plan for the early stage of development.

    You will note that IMMEDIATELY before your comment @#100, my comment @#99, points out that like historical global maritime exploration on Earth, early explorers do not go equipped to set up colonies. They do the preparatory work first with the technologies and crew used in previous commercial operations.
    Columbus did not set off for America with colonist families on board! – That came later.

    It is only AFTER the transport and trading systems have been set up, that colonies can be tooled up and become viable.

    You really do work at wild exaggerations and make serious efforts to not understand.

    Once more Alan4 inadvertently makes my argument better than I could. Hard-hat diving gear with air supplied by compressors delivered through hoses is not high-tech (in fact it goes back more than a century) so why object to living underwater?

    Nobody suggested “Hard-hat diving gear with air supplied by compressors”.

    The underwater argument on Earth is quite different. Phil and I were talking about using a deep layer of water for post apocalypse protection from radiation and impacts, but the difficulty is the pressure at depth, making access difficult, and requiring an immensely strong structure.

    Why not construct huge underground biospheres on Mars and pump, with enormous energy outputs, a voluminous, filtered-compressed life-sustaining atmosphere into it,

    That would work, if as I pointed out the low gravity issue could be dealt with. No “enormous energy outputs” are required.

    plant vast high-input cultivated areas not only for food but also to remove lethal CO2 from human respiration build-up and generate oxygen, drink water from melted snow and so on.

    That could easily be done with sealed insulated caves (There may be fossil volcanic lava tubes already on Mars) and artificial lighting. The problem is the effect of low gravity on health.

    The answer is that cumbersome technology, necessitating multiple layers of back-up safeguards, on a scale sufficient to provide outputs for sustaining a human population of adequate size for long-term survival, would cost $trillions;

    That is nonsense! While under construction tunnels under the sea or under rivers on Earth are pressurised with ordinary commercial compressors.

    Once a Martial cave system was sealed and pumped up to pressure, it would only need occasional top ups. Most of the atmosphere (eg. nitrogen) would remain inactive, while the CO2 oxygen recycling through plants and animals/humans should be kept in balance. The atmosphere on the ISS is recycled and balanced in this way by removing CO2, and filtering and recycling the rest.

    involve the concentration of earthly resources, ingenuity and labor for centuries to accommodate several thousand settlers in some post apocalypse “possible” future.

    This is simply wrong apart from Earth developed ingenuity and the initial labour to put in place the start up capital for self-sustaining space industries.

    Rounding up to the year 2017, 7.4 billion people live on earth for free

    Nobody “lives on Earth for free”. There are costs and effort required for any sort of life, accommodation, and services.

    and no one has taken material steps to build Martian colonies or species-rescue space stations

    No one has plans to build “species rescue stations”! The plans are to colonise and industrialise space, NOT to evacuate Earth!

    at the cost of bankrupting global economies.

    Oh dear! Oh dear! you still don’t get “self sustaining space based industries” and their crews, and still invent wild claims asserting ridiculous costs for everything that is useful!

    Some expenditure for space exploration, mostly unmanned with some manned by a handful of human astronaut-scientists –

    Did you miss this source of funding?
    @#97 -Satellite Services revenues increased by four percent globally from 2014 to 2015, reaching $127.4 billion, powered by continued growth

    Yes. Expenditures for human- survival space colonies – No.

    Nobody suggested expenditures for the primary purpose of “human- survival space colonies”.
    What is being suggested is the incidental creation of self sustaining space colonies as part of space based industries.

    Within the foreseeable future, perhaps Alan4would agree, the best two candidates for human colonies in space would be limited to lower orbit space stations with urban or suburban dimensions and the planet Mars.

    Not in those places.

    I have made it quite clear in earlier comments, that in my view gravity is an important issue for human health, and free floating rotating habitation modules (as stations or ships), with one G gravity should operate NEAR asteroids or moons, (or perhaps planets), where mining and processing materials is taking place using robotic machines controlled from those space stations.

    It is unlikely that mining operations would be carried out in low Earth orbit. Other more appropriate locations have already been suggested.

    Any bases on Mars (or the Moon) should have short-stay science research crews like the base in Antarctica, unless some way can be found to resolve the long-term human health issues related to a low gravity environment.

  • Nobody suggested expenditures for the primary purpose of “human- survival space colonies”.
    What is being suggested is the incidental creation of self sustaining space colonies as part of space based industries.

    Stephen Hawking “suggests” the primary purpose of his warning reported in the Guardian article: The renowned theoretical physicist has gone as far as providing humanity with a deadline for finding another planet to colonize: We have 1,000 years. Remaining on Earth any longer, Hawking believes, places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction. To be or not to be that is the question.

    Hawking is speculating in general terms to dramatize alarming trends with no scientific specifics. He happens to be speaking in late 2016 but he cannot mean literally that we must colonize space by 3016. He could have uttered the same formulaic alarms in the year 2000 (many others did!) with a neat due date of 3000. To the contrary, he says the greatest threats are imminent in the next hundred years. A fair reading might translate his warning into: “cataclysmic events may threaten species survival by 2100 due to anthropogenic causes -global warming, nuclear war, pandemics, over-exploitation of natural resources, Artificial Intelligence [no mention of natural disasters] Such threats may materialize by the year 2200 or, who knows, by the year 2400 but generally speaking we probably have 1,000 years [give or take 800 years]. Or maybe 10,000 years. Or maybe not.” We cut Hawking considerable slack because we get the meme-gist of what he is saying.

    Hawking does not address the technical, economic, physical, logistical or motivational challenges facing humanity to accomplish the project of colonizing space. He leaves details of the space-mission stuff to us.

    Asserting that the process is gradual and that SCIENCE will solve any and all problems at regular intervals throughout the process is not relevant to a discussion that Hawking does not engage.

    Any bases on Mars (or the Moon) should have short-stay science research crews like the base in Antarctica, unless some way can be found to resolve the long-term human health issues related to a low gravity environment.

    Exactly. But there are myriad other issues, many unanticipated, to be resolved. The bases on Mars or the Moon do not exist. We have to resolve all the problems of actually building them first. If crews suffer high death rates traveling to the destinations or succumb frequently to life-support failures or other “human health issues” after taking occupancy, will agencies declare long moratoriums on further work or will socio-political forces emerge confining space enterprises to robotic labor keeping precious (and bumbling) human life out of harm’s way? In any event, how do we colonize space if apocalyptic events interpose before the colonies are in place within a century or two? Stephen Hawking blurs the 1,000-year time frame by casually citing 10,000 years (sic). Humankind cannot elide the real obstacles that confront space missions every step of the way with the facile rhetoric: ” By then “SCIENCE” will have solved an infinite number of this-and-that problems by definition. Not to worry.”

  • I haven’t read all the posts so forgive me.
    Its taken the Human race a little over a few hundred thousand years to screw up this planet.
    When we take our technology to a new planet, how long will it take to damage it? A few thousand?
    We will put our survival first always, planet second. And greed will always be with us.
    We don’t need to spread.

  • Melvin #102
    Dec 9, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Stephen Hawking “suggests” the primary purpose of his warning reported in the Guardian article:

    You are conflating the purpose of the warning, with the purpose of the enterprises. That is why you make ridiculous statements about $trillions of taxpayers money to fund an evacuated population, when in reality the commercial enterprises are likely to lead the way with such crew and communities as they need to run them.

    If crews suffer high death rates traveling to the destinations or succumb frequently to life-support failures or other “human health issues” after taking occupancy, will agencies declare long moratoriums on further work or will socio-political forces emerge confining space enterprises to robotic labor keeping precious (and bumbling) human life out of harm’s way?

    The history of such disasters in the past shows that they were usually caused by poor management and political decisions to under-fund developments and use prototype vehicles (and under qualified staff), when properly developed ones were required. Both space-shuttle disasters were caused by ignoring warnings and refusals to carry out proper tests of the components which failed.
    The Apollo 1 disaster which incinerated 3 astronauts, was caused by the sheer stupidity of failing to recognise a fire risk which school science students would have recognised. (Combustible materials burn in pure oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure.)

    The moratoriums were the times when the incompetent managers and budget allocators were TOLD to go back to the scientists and engineers an listen to them when they explain how to produce a proper design!

    Health and safety, is NOT some optional extra which MIGHT be included after all the cost-cutting and profitable contracts have been arranged.

    (The signs are, it is a lesson which the Trump regime, is going to have to learn the hard-way – all over again!)

    In any event, how do we colonize space if apocalyptic events interpose before the colonies are in place within a century or two?

    That is the warning that Stephen Hawking was giving – suggesting we get on with it!

    He is not suggesting that space colonies are a substitute for properly managing the planet’s ecology and climate, but he is warning that human stupidity may prevent these necessary actions in the taking of collective responsibility for curtailing destructive human activities.

    Humankind cannot elude the real obstacles that confront space missions every step of the way with the **facile rhetoric*:

    Oh dear! Oh dear! – Back to the strawman of rhetoric as a smoke-screen hiding your own lack of understanding!

    ” By then “SCIENCE” will have solved an infinite number of this-and-that problems by definition. Not to worry.”

    Along with wild exaggerations and a demonstration of that incredulity and lack of understanding of predicted projections, which are based on the very designs and systems, (both operational and under development), which you persistently assert do not exist or cannot work!

    Making up stories to tell me about what has NOT HAPPENED on the ISS, (#91 #94)is fools errand, – given that in my personal library, I have specialist publications listing the activities of every crew which has ever manned the ISS!
    I also have details of most experiments using planetary probes.

    As I warned earlier, those who make negative predictions about science and engineering developments and projects they have not studied, normally make fools of themselves.

    Hawking does not address the technical, economic, physical, logistical or motivational challenges facing humanity to accomplish the project of colonizing space.

    Why would he when there are thousands of scientific papers available?

    He leaves details of the space-mission stuff to us.

    I give a very clear outline of serious long-term development possibilities @#6 on this discussion.

  • The article quotes an eminent astrophysicist on the scientific prophecies of our times framed in popular apocalyptic memes. Extinction; the thousand-year survival deadline; the “reasonable” extension to 10,000 years; the fatal century bristling with threats: global warming, nuclear war, environmental degradation. The headline reads: Stephen Hawking just gave humanity a due date for finding another planet to sensationalize the illusion that at last we have the highest scientific authority for the Truth that confirms general speculations in widespread circulation for decades. Stephen Hawking is supplying no such authority because he must know there is nothing precise or novel about his remarks. He’s saying, “at some point in the next thousand years, you guys will [probably] have to colonize a planet because of imminent mass extinction events on Earth.” He specifies “planet” without mentioning Mars, the moon or asteroids implying settlement of habitable planetary candidates in other solar systems with the phrase “by then spreading out among the stars.” He views the topic through a specialized astrophysicist lens unconcerned about the nuts-and-bolts challenges of manned intergalactic space missions. All he says in effect is: “you guys need to build some big rockets, a lot of them, pack them with Homo sapiens and start blasting off sometime in the next thousand years for extraterrestrial colonies on planets beyond our solar system. I Leave the details, the incremental steps up to you guys who are experts in that stuff. Here’s what you have to do. Just do it. I… er… presume you will to get the job done.”

    There is nothing “unscientific” about Hawking’s remarks if we take them in the context of general speculations about catastrophic developments that might cause anther mass extinction. If anyone believes for a moment that Hawking is predicting the end of the world in a thousand years then how does he view Hawking’s cushion of another 10,000 years? The more reasonable interpretation is that Hawking is speaking loosely about probabilities. It is also more or less credible, given the huge expanses of geological time, to say the planet will become uninhabitable in hundreds of thousands or millions of years. No one can predict though everyone is free to speculate and recommend action based on current trends which will inevitably change.

    With the end of moon missions in the early 1970s it is appropriate for skeptics to wonder why manned space flight has been limited to low earth orbit in deafness to Hawking’s call to get with the program of colonizing planets in deep space. The robotic rover probes and the ISS show no developmental connection to the industrialization of space – high yield mining operations on asteroids; heavy manufacturing factories turning out durable goods in mass production quantities on the moon. Thousands of papers have outlined incrementalism that would make large space projects possible but governments and taxpayers have shown reluctance to fund them on grounds of feasibility and cost. In my view reasonable people are skeptical based on cost-benefit calculations of extracting ore from an asteroid and shipping even a few tons back to earth, building a factory with a shop-floor and warehouse encompassing a million square feet on the moon at a distance of 240,000 miles from markets. Pointing out that low-cost technology is available to implement industrial scale mining and manufacturing in space or to build large habitable bases in hollowed-out caverns on airless Mars is disingenuous. The cost is exorbitant, my friend, and estimates of trillions of dollars to construct high-capacity industries coordinated with high-capacity transportation systems in space is more than realistic. The main obstacle lies in the question: Why do it when both the costs and benefits are “out of this world?”… and coming up with no answer.

  • There are five space mining companies of note, two with very big backers, with national involvement from JAXA (Hayabusa2 should come to fruition in 2018) and if not fritzed by Trump, NASA’s asteroid deflection project should happen in 2020. A modest but solid start given the time scales discussed.

    Technology, as we have discussed before is always a bit crap to start and insanely expensive. There is, though, no technological barrier to off planet, entirely self-sufficient, economies, though key for me will be not placing them at the bottom of a gravity well. A further boon would be energy neutral space elevator mass exchange facilitating “trading”, platinum, palladium, InGaN heterojunction PV (necessarily made in microgravity), Neodymium etc. going down for say nuclear waste going up and bound for the sun….with a gentle push.

    Commandeering astonishing energy fluxes at say L4 and L5 with always on solar flux at AM0 levels, the cheapest solar concentrators (tens of square kilometres of aluminised PET film) working with hundreds of square meters of InGaN PV) makes a whole lot of things possible from energy intensive manufacturing, algal production for medicines and plastics, hydrogen fuel and oxygen for outbound missions, any and every food type all the way to laser manipulation of asteroids in deep space. Energy is wealth here.

    Its always worth thinking why off earth not?

    It has been my claim that the Industrial Revolution was made possible by the emergence in Great Britain of Childhood and a sudden greatly increased opportunity for creative play and a subsequent reduction in the fear of invention applied to our lives. Its a fine balance, of course, but some of us never grew up fully and others might perhaps have been born middle aged…..

  • Melvin #105
    Dec 9, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Stephen Hawking is supplying no such authority because he must know there is nothing precise or novel about his remarks.

    The headline is by the journalist Peter Holley! – Not Stephen Hawking. There are various limited quotes from Stephen Hawking. . . .

    The renowned theoretical physicist has gone as far as providing humanity with a deadline for finding another planet to colonize: We have 1,000 years.

    . . . but this is from the journalist, who obviously has a very limited understanding of the subject!

    He’s saying, “at some point in the next thousand years, you guys will [probably] have to colonize a planet because of imminent mass extinction events on Earth.” He specifies “planet” without mentioning Mars, the moon or asteroids implying settlement of habitable planetary candidates in other solar systems with the phrase “by then spreading out among the stars.”

    It implies nothing of the sort! “Spreading out throughout the Solar System or among the stars”, does NOT exclusively mean “setting up bases on planets”!

    Stephen Hawking says:-

    @ link quote – “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years. By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.”

    This means what it says – Spreading out into space! – which includes ships, space stations, mining, providing services, and manufacturing within the Solar-System, and eventually beyond.

    I pointed out previously, that it is likely that colonies and transport systems within the Solar System would develop first, and that humans would be best suited to habitations with artificial gravity – unless at the later stage of interplanetary travel, suitable planets with near Earth force gravity were found in nearby star systems.
    Any humans arriving at such planets would likely be in ships with IG gravity from rotation or acceleration during the voyage, so if refuelling was carried out from locally discovered resources, there would be no urgency to land on a planet.

    He views the topic through a specialized astrophysicist lens unconcerned about the nuts-and-bolts challenges of manned intergalactic space missions.

    ?????? He said “we should have spread out into space”!

    Inter-galactic missions are ridiculous.

    Human interstellar missions are well down the time-line, long after unmanned interstellar probes have researched nearby star systems for ones suitable setting up bases.

    The robotic rover probes and the ISS show no developmental connection to the industrialization of space – high yield mining operations on asteroids; heavy manufacturing factories turning out durable goods in mass production quantities on the moon.

    You really should stop making a fool of yourself with negative comments like these, which only show you have no idea what is going on in these ventures!
    There are plenty of explanations in my previous comments.

    https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/casis
    With the declaration of the International Space Station as a national laboratory in 2005, opportunities for researchers to take advantage of the unique microgravity platform expanded in ways that were previously non-existent.

    The national laboratory offers a unique environment to perform research that allows the development of not just of pharmaceuticals, but also better product development across a wide range of industries that may not have otherwise realized the benefits of using the space station for research. This research could have profound impacts for life on Earth, while driving the growth of a robust commercial marketplace in space.

    “It is creating a new economy, a sustainable marketplace that has services, commercial products, competition,” said Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, another implementation and hardware provider to the national laboratory. “There’s no limit to what we can be doing in a few years.”

    Thousands of papers have outlined incrementalism that would make large space projects possible but governments and taxpayers have shown reluctance to fund them on grounds of feasibility and cost.

    No problem! The commercial developers weren’t planning to share the profits with the taxpayers anyway! – Many of the taxpayers are too dumb to want to participate or have a share of the profits!

    In my view reasonable people are skeptical based on cost-benefit calculations of extracting ore from an asteroid and shipping even a few tons back to earth,

    So what are “your cost benefit calculations” for shipping a few tons of platinum or rare earths back to Earth?

    building a factory with a shop-floor and warehouse encompassing a million square feet on the moon at a distance of 240,000 miles from markets.

    That is pure fantasy strawman!
    Launching tanks of hydrogen, oxygen, or water, to dock with craft in Lunar orbit does not require “million square feet warehouses”.

    It requires roving vehicles, and electric powered maglev launch ramps, or hydrogen/oxygen fuelled rocket shuttle craft.

    Pointing out that low-cost technology is available to implement industrial scale mining and manufacturing in space or to build large habitable bases in hollowed-out caverns on airless Mars is disingenuous.

    Really?? Do you consider spraying an air-tight sealant on to the inside of a cave high-tec? Or inflating a balloon structure inside a cave to make an airtight pressure chamber “high-tec”?

    The cost is exorbitant, my friend, and estimates of trillions of dollars

    Would those be your fantasy estimates – made up on the hoof? –

    Perhaps you plan spraying the rock walls of any lava tubes on Mars with melted gold???

    The cost is exorbitant, my friend, and estimates of trillions of dollars to construct high-capacity industries coordinated with high-capacity transportation systems in space is more than realistic.

    Who said anything about high-capacity transportation systems? we are talking about local production of fuel for the in-space systems, high value components for servicing satellites probes and ships, and extracting high value minerals from asteroids.

    The main obstacle lies in the question:
    Why do it when both the costs and benefits are “out of this world?”… and coming up with no answer.

    As usual, you have come up with wild speculations – and no answers!
    So have a go at this one:

    Having extracted a few kilos of platinum* from an asteroid, using robot miners – and packaged it with a heat-shield, a parachute, and a small strap-on rocket navigation control pack at the nearby habitation base, what would be the expensive problem with letting it fall to Earth on a calculated trajectory, for collection at a pre-calculated time and at a pre-calculated desert site?

    *Platinum Price / Oz $ 937.40
    Platinum Price Per Gram $ 30.14
    Platinum Price Per Kilo $ 30,138.11

  • phil rimmer #108
    Dec 10, 2016 at 9:16 am

    There are a number of issues regarding Lagrange point colonization, mining and industrialisation.

    Human colonies would need radiation protection in most places, but enclosing habitable areas in water tanks could cope with much of this.

    As far as captured asteroid mining at these locations goes, the best option is probably a 1 G rotating habitation station directing robot semi-antonymous operations nearby.
    Some points are far enough away from Earth for the time-delay on communication signals for the robots, to need to come from a nearer local source – such as a manned station.

    Some asteroid mining could be done on original asteroid orbits, but the signal delay issue would be similar.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrange_point_colonization#Sun.E2.80.93Earth

  • I keep getting the feeling that we are reluctant to let go!!

    My future travel has humans grown, nurtured and educated by a fully automated system of robots for the first generation at least. Getting to that point in time and technology is another thing.

  • By my calculation a two kilometre diameter rotating torus habitation could have the same magnetosphere level protection as the earth from a single loop conducting 1e8A of current. Low temperature superconductors one foot square can handle this (at a thousand amps per square millimetre, their critical current density).

    The torus would be presented square on to the sun and the field about 50mT (2000 times current earth magnetic field strengths), would gather charged particles and send them spiraling round the torus and through the centre. The super conductor would be in permanent shade due to the torus and a central (2km) parabolic reflector. Only small amounts of power are needed to top up the loop as the stored magnetic energy is slowly spent doing its deflection work. The central parabolic reflector will find a focus at 5km closer to the sun where cables and cooling pipes will connect to the InGaN PV farm, a 30m disk. Electrical power of 1.8MW and high grade thermal power at 150C of about the same magnitude are conducted back.

    A water tank wall on the Sun side might prove multiply useful, supplement protection, stabilise temperature, provide one hell of a swimming lane…..

  • phil rimmer #111
    Dec 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    A water tank wall on the Sun side might prove multiply useful, supplement protection, stabilise temperature, provide one hell of a swimming lane.

    In the Project Boreas plan for a science base at the Martian North pole (linked @#64), There is a proposal to use inflatable habitation modules which are inflated with water (from locally melted ice), which then freezes in the low temperatures to make solid walls. (Hence reducing the mass requiring to be transported from Earth.)
    Low outside temperatures and insulation on the inside keeps the structure rigid.

    Similar orbiting structures could be produced in the outer Solar-System, where the sunlight is too weak to heat them, or where sunshades are used in conjunction with the deep-freeze of interplanetary space.

    Another air based variation on this inflatable concept, is being tested at the ISS with the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigelow_Expandable_Activity_Module

  • Alan4 #107: With the declaration of the International Space Station as a national laboratory in 2005, opportunities for researchers to take advantage of the unique microgravity platform expanded in ways that were previously non-existent.
    The national laboratory offers a unique environment to perform research that allows the development of not just of pharmaceuticals, but also better product development across a wide range of industries that may not have otherwise realized the benefits of using the space station for research. This research could have profound impacts for life on Earth, while driving the growth of a robust commercial marketplace in space.

    “It is creating a new economy, a sustainable marketplace that has services, commercial products, competition,” said Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, another implementation and hardware provider to the national laboratory. “There’s no limit to what we can be doing in a few years.”

    The components for the envisioned “new economy” described above nowhere mentions the indispensable role of consumers. Consumers or end-users for the products and services turned out by space “industries” would presumably be inhabitants (ordinary people) on earth after huge expenditures for R & D, after initial prototype equipment and operations are tested accounting for failure lo$$es; after costly muli-layered safeguards to protect any human operatives are provided; after productivity is measured against operational costs, and after exorbitant transportation costs to and from earth are factored into the macro-calculation of profit-loss. Few goods and services produced on earth could be produced more “cheaply” in space and no one will be looking at these.

    Specialty high-value commodities like pharmaceuticals and asteroid-mined scarce metals, notably platinum, might prove profitable in the long run if sustained enterprises conduct successfully dedicated missions. (So far no practical steps, excluding research, have been taken) Once more the main source of skepticism is that none of these small dedicated technical projects translate easily into the requirements of space colonies for sustainable human settlements. The infrastructure for a colony would have to encompass voluminous spaces to accommodate sufficient populations nurturing demographic reproductive survival for millennia if not eons. Nothing like this is being undertaken in mission-oriented stages because nothing like this is needed. Sinks, toilets, beds and bicycles would have to be lugged into space with thousands of other commodities that facilitate the daily tasks and pastimes of living. Except in some imagined transcendent future, virtually none of these commodities would be produced at high costs in space.

    We might imagine a scientifically enlightened humanity carrying out research that measures the time frame for the apocalyptic events that will wipe our species from the face of the earth, and, duly motivated, undertakes effective enterprises to build space colonies in advance anticipating extinction. Without this foresight in the next one hundred or two hundred years, the human colonization of space seems unlikely

  • Melvin

    Sinks, toilets, beds and bicycles would have to be lugged into space

    Keep up, Melvin. You print ’em from polylactic acid. Mostly this is produced from sugar beets at the moment but other printable bio-plastics are being produced and much else from very high growth rate algal cultivation tanks. (V. exciting project happening in Florida atm that I can’t go into….) Bit of water and lots of photon energy. Grey and black water cleaned, CO2 turned into hydrocarbons and oxygen. Luvverly.

    Printed metal parts notably from nickel will produce much other stuff. Source material, the stuff you were sent there to process.

    Where have you been, Melvin?

    All our products in batch sizes below fifty or so are printed, these days.

  • Melvin #113
    Dec 10, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    The components for the envisioned “new economy” described above nowhere mentions the indispensable role of consumers. Consumers or end-users for the products and services turned out by space “industries” would presumably be inhabitants (ordinary people) on earth

    The consumers are at present using satellite services generating $millions, so servicing and refuelling these in space is a major future industry. Of course once other space operations are set up, servicing those with fuels and components manufactured in space, will also be more economical than the heavy cost of launching them from Earth.
    As each satellite costs $millions to manufacture and launch, refurbishing them in situ is potentially a very profitable industry.

    https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2016/03/orbital-satellite-repair-and-refuelling-tech-one-step-closer/
    Technology that would allow refuelling and repairing satellites in orbit could become a reality in the next two years, as one of the two companies exploring the concept announces it is about to sign its first commercial contract.

    Orbital ATK plans to start trials of MEV in 2018 with the first commercial mission to be carried out in 2019. The firm envisions it would eventually operate a whole fleet of MEVs. Over time, with the advances in robotic technology, the servicing satellites would be able to perform a wider range of actions including swapping payloads and minor repairs.

    Each of the MEV satellites will be designed to last for 15 to 20 years, with the ability to dock and undock from other satellites 10 to 15 times.

    “It’s the start of a whole new market,” Wilson said, adding that about 70 communications satellites out of the 380 currently in orbit are likely to need servicing towards the end of their life time to help them maintain their position in space.

    after huge expenditures for R & D, after initial prototype equipment and operations are tested accounting for failure lo$$es;

    Oh! Dear! – back to doom-laden fantasy estimates again!

    Few goods and services produced on earth could be produced more “cheaply” in space and no one will be looking at these.

    Some services like navigation systems and mobile phones already are provided more extensively and more cheaply from space!
    Actually rather a lot of people are looking at them!

    Specialty high-value commodities like pharmaceuticals and asteroid-mined scarce metals, notably platinum, might prove profitable in the long run if sustained enterprises conduct successfully dedicated missions.

    That is the plan for those commodities.

    (So far no practical steps, excluding research, have been taken)

    Perhaps I should add that prediction to the list linked @#24!

    Sinks, toilets, beds and bicycles would have to be lugged into space with thousands of other commodities that facilitate the daily tasks and pastimes of living.

    Nope! They would be manufactured in space using 3d printing and locally acquired materials. (such as nickel-iron meteorites or glassy materials) Only the computer designs would need to be TRANSMITTED to the space station or colony.

    http://www.space.com/33166-space-station-commercial-3d-printer-first-tool-photos.html
    Space Station’s Commercial 3D Printer Makes Its 1st Tool

    Except in some imagined transcendent future, virtually none of these commodities would be produced at high costs in space.

    You are accidentally half correct – they would be produced at low cost in space!
    (Another “prediction gem” for addition to the laugh-list @#24)

    You really should start looking up information from reputable sources rather than making stuff up based on incredulity, so before you announce that in space 3d printing cannot produce technical components for building or servicing space-craft or satellites, have a look at this test!

    https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2015/piece-by-piece-nasa-team-moves-closer-to-building-a-3-d-printed-rocket-engine.html

    Piece by Piece: NASA Team Moves Closer to Building a 3-D Printed Rocket Engine
    A NASA team moved a step closer to building a completely 3-D printed, high-performance rocket engine by manufacturing complex engine parts and test firing them together with cryogenic liquid hydrogen and oxygen to produce 20,000 pounds of thrust.

    Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, is a key technology for enhancing space vehicle designs and manufacturing and enabling more affordable exploration missions. The technology has the potential to influence spacecraft built for leaving Earth and spaceships and landers for visiting other destinations. Future plans include performing engine tests with liquid oxygen and methane–key propellants for Martian landers since methane and oxygen production might be possible on the Red Planet.

    “We manufactured and then tested about 75 percent of the parts needed to build a 3-D printed rocket engine,” said Elizabeth Robertson, the project manager for the additively manufactured demonstrator engine at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “By testing the turbopumps, injectors and valves together, we’ve shown that it would be possible to build a 3-D printed engine for multiple purposes such as landers, in-space propulsion or rocket engine upper stages.”

  • Today’s invention for IKEA in space….grow bamboo, enormously high growth rates, and print plastic couplers to create a giant K’nex set for larger furniture types.

    Oh and PLA makes great fabrics…Print a loom….

  • Alan4 #115: “Nope! They (all durable goods, material goods, high-tech components) would be manufactured in space using 3d printing and locally acquired materials. (such as nickel-iron meteorites or glassy materials) Only the computer designs would need to be TRANSMITTED to the space station or colony.”

    Wrong. The factories in space will not be manufacturing anything that can be produced on earth from easily mined or abundant resources. Costly, speculative mining operations would be restricted to extracting rare high-value metals; e.g., platinum, after R & D, after asteroid selection based on detecting the presence and abundance of the metal, after development and testing of efficient robotic plus human-assisted extraction technology tailored to the features of the specific mining site, and so on. We cannot wish source materials on asteroids into existence. 3d printing like any production machinery requires appropriate source materials, meticulously refined for specific uses. Any source materials composing finished products that could not be obtained from vetted asteroids, would have to be shipped from earth to the space factory. Output would have to be shipped back to earth for consumer use.

    3d-printing of high-tech components for rocket engines, for example, with near-zero-tolerance precision is certainly an earth-bound reality. In space, however, we are back to square one because source materials would have to be available from asteroids. Even if possibly located and extracted, the mined metals would have to be refined and meticulously tested for structural qualities (strength). A small station on or close to a mining operation could not carry out such extensive operations (how could they test-fire a rocket engine in a pressurized tin can?) or even accommodate the million-square feet equipment-warehouse storage space.

    The research projects cited are largely confined to low-earth orbit vehicles – satellites and tiny space stations The Stephen Hawking topic concerns building vast human settlement colonies, implicitly in deep space on habitable “candidate” planets. We’re straying off topic into vacuous space.

  • Phil #118: Today’s invention for IKEA in space… Thanks, Phil I (seriously) appreciate having some fun inserted into the discussion!

  • Melvin,

    I’m having fun, but I’m not actually joking. Frankly, I’m getting tired of ignorant assertions. Opinions dressed as facts are particularly inappropriate on a site dedicated to science and reason.

    As the link I posted to DSI explains, their main challenge is to create assets out of the gravity well of earth, to service ongoing missions with fuel, vehicles, food, asset maintenance etc. These may be several times the cost of earthbound parts but they are not the thousands of times they would be FedExed by rocket. As I explained right at the outset, escaping the planet will only come when we have the trick of sustainability, when we can make everything from raw materials and then waste materials and energy, which is increasingly free.

    What part of nickel mining of asteroids is the technological problem? Given solar power (as pre-heat and electrical) and spinnable arc furnaces for slag separation whats the issue? Though earthbound production happens at many tens to hundreds of megawatts, table top size furnaces working at many tens of kilowatts it seems are used to develop new processes and exotic alloys.

    Truly, you can’t invent a new protocol for engine testing at L4?

    Some processes are only possible in micro-gravity. The big manufacturing problem ahead of InGaN heterojunction PV (with badgap energies from 0.7eV to 3.4eV and at high temperatures ideal for direct solar radiation, UV and all) is the problem of creating uniform distributions of the material. Micro-gravity and controlled spin would be the solution to this.

    Flogging platinum for the boom in catalytic processes down the well and InGaN manufactured parts, say, will pay for all the small detailed things needed to come up, until such time as they are themselves sustainable

  • Melvin, I meant to say uninformed opinions dressed as facts.

    But I wish to withdraw my remark and apologise. I was exasperated. Sorry.

  • Melvin #119
    Dec 11, 2016 at 2:15 am

    Alan4 #115: “Nope! They (all durable goods, material goods, high-tech components) would be manufactured in space using 3d printing and locally acquired materials. (such as nickel-iron meteorites or glassy materials) Only the computer designs would need to be TRANSMITTED to the space station or colony.”

    Wrong. The factories in space will not be manufacturing anything that can be produced on earth from easily mined or abundant resources.

    Sorry you don’t understand the issues! The manufactured components will NOT be competing in Earth markets for mass produced consumer goods.
    They will be, as I explained – high tech components for use in space technologies avoiding the high costs of launch to orbit of Earth produced competitor products.
    There will also be mineral resources obtainable from asteroids which are difficult to obtain or rare on Earth, – plus specialist products peculiar to space production.

    Costly, speculative mining operations would be restricted to extracting rare high-value metals; e.g., platinum,

    The point is that asteroid more accessible materials, would be cheaper to extract than on Earth.
    Most of the heavy metals on Earth are in the hot molten core!

    We cannot wish source materials on asteroids into existence.

    We already know the elements which formed the Solar System, and the composition of various types of meteorite/asteroid.

    3d printing like any production machinery requires appropriate source materials, meticulously refined for specific uses. Any source materials composing finished products that could not be obtained from vetted asteroids, would have to be shipped from earth to the space factory.

    . . . unless substitute materials could be used.
    You should not confuse local manufacture of small units, with the mass production from extensive Earth based factories.

    Output would have to be shipped back to earth for consumer use.

    Wrong! As previously explained: materials/components/fuel, would be for production and servicing of the bases, the machinery in space, and the space -based satellite and delivery systems to Earth, of services, specialist products, and materials.

    Even if possibly located and extracted, the mined metals would have to be refined and meticulously tested for structural qualities (strength).

    Which is fairly easily done on some types, by crushing to extract grains of nearly pure metal and smelting it using focussed solar rays, or using chemical processes clean them up to produce metal powders.

    http://meteorites.wustl.edu/id/metal.htm

    About 95% of all meteorites contain iron-nickel (FeNi) metal. “Iron-nickel” means that the metal is mostly iron but it contains 4-30% nickel as well as a few tenths of a percent cobalt. Iron-nickel metal in meteorites also has high concentrations (by terrestrial standards) of rare metals like gold, platinum, and iridium. It’s usually easiest and cheapest to test for nickel, however, because it’s more abundant than the rare metals.

    Most metal-bearing meteorites are stony meteorites known as ordinary chondrites; the rest are irons and stony irons. Among ordinary chondrites, the most common type, H-group chondrites (45% of all meteorites), have the most metal, 15-20% by mass. L-group chondrites (40% of all meteorites) have some metal, 7-11%. LL-group chondrites (15% of all meteorites) have the least metal among ordinary chondrites, 3-5%. Because chondrites are rich in metal and the metal is rich in nickel, all chondrites have a bulk (whole rock) concentrations of Ni (nickel) of 1.0-1.8% (i.e., 10000-18000 ppm). That’s 100-1000 times greater than practically any terrestrial (Earth) rock. An Earth rock with as much as 1.0-1.8% Ni would be a nickel ore.

    Notice (left) that metal grains are typically less than a millimeter in size. (see linked images)

    A small station on or close to a mining operation could not carry out such extensive operations or even accommodate the million-square feet equipment-warehouse storage space.

    Oh dear! oh dear! This is still fixated on Earth based strawman fantasies of Earth-based factory production, rather than space based operations.

    (how could they test-fire a rocket engine in a pressurized tin can?)

    Only an idiot would try to test a rocket engine inside a space station full of air, when they have thousands of cubic miles of empty space around them.
    The same availability of storage space applies to materials in free-floating or tethered containers awaiting shipment – using strap-on rocket packs!

    The research projects cited are largely confined to low-earth orbit vehicles – satellites and tiny space stations

    Which is the obvious place for convenient delivery of astronauts and supplies from Earth, and easy communications.
    Both Phil and myself have provided more appropriate locations for production colonies powered by solar energy, at Lagrange points.(see link @#109)

    The Stephen Hawking topic concerns building vast human settlement colonies,

    Nope! It covers a wide range of developments across long time-scales.

    implicitly in deep space on habitable “candidate” planets.

    Nope! Not again! – I have already quoted what Stephen Hawking actually said, and explained that this exoplanet exclusivity, is a misconception, and misinterpretation by the journalist writing the OP article.

    We’re straying off topic into vacuous space.

    You are constantly straying off into vacuous incredulity, rather than addressing the issues and studying the links and explanations provided.
    Google can easily provide confirmations and further explanations, if these are required.

  • Thanks, Alan. I really appreciate your time investment.

    I am reminded of discussions on renewables and how toxic is the confidence when you don’t know you don’t know.

    I, we, read and understand the science papers and the Scientific Americans and New Scientists. We have excellent programs like Inside Science, The Life Scientific. But the public understanding where and what our current technology can do and where it is heading really is atrocious. Not only do we need a Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, but we need one for the public understanding of Technology.

    We need a version of “Wired” but with some more integrity, more BBC perhaps and not focused on early novelty, but maturing capacities as yet widely unseen and the implications these have for political and societal decision making.

    A magazine/program, “On the Edge” or “The Edge” to mark the transition we in the tech industry agonise over of Bleeding Edge into Leading Edge. Hmm?

    Actually In Business BBC R4 has been good. Maybe Inside Science Business? Newspapers need to buy this content or extracts for free?

  • 125
    Pinball1970 says:

    @99
    Thanks Alan

    This sort of stuff really grabs me.

    It would take a year to reach speeds approaching C without excessive g, so you could get to one of the closer starts in a couple of years if the technology was there.

  • Pin

    A one kilogram mass accelerated to 0.99c contains six times more energy as kinetic energy than if the one kilogram mass were rendered entirely as energy per E=MC^2 or 9e16J, so KE=5.4e17J.

    That’s a lot of fuel! For a self propelled rocket built of say matter and antimatter it would have to eat itself almost to non existence. Fuel economy is always much better when you take your foot off the accelerator. You’ll probably only have to sit in some traffic jam getting there….

  • So, a 1Kg payload fuelled by 0.5Kg matter and 0.5Kg anti-matter could gets you to a fairly respectable 0.86c.

    Fuelling a ten tonne (destination mass) rocket would be a touchy business. Cross the streams and you could see a 22 gigaton of TNT insurance claim/extinction event. Best set off from Lagrange 3 on the other side of the sun.

  • phil rimmer #127
    Dec 11, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Fuelling a ten tonne (destination mass) rocket would be a touchy business. Cross the streams and you could see a 22 gigaton of TNT insurance claim/extinction event. Best set off from Lagrange 3 on the other side of the sun.

    Or better still;- set off from Lagrange 3 with minimum fuel, and pick up some more from the in-flight refuelling shuttle from the Kuiper belt water and Deuterium mine!
    (Which would not be constrained by G forces tolerated by humans.)

  • phil rimmer #127
    Dec 11, 2016 at 8:41 am

    So, a 1Kg payload fuelled by 0.5Kg matter and 0.5Kg anti-matter could gets you to a fairly respectable 0.86c.

    Hmmmm. I think I see where you’re getting this from. Taking the Lorentz factor modified kinetic energy equation for relativistic speeds and equating this to the energy content of 1kg of matter/antimatter given E=mc^2.

    That simplifies out the Lorentz part of the equation to 1 when v = 0.866c.

    However you also have to accelerate the fuel as it’s being burned up so you can’t just treat the payload as the mass being accelerated. By the time you factor in real world considerations such as the mass of the engine and fuel tanks to burn that fuel, ablative shielding for the ship crashing through even the 1 atom of hydrogen per cubic centimetre in interstellar space, the drag of those collisions, you end up going a lot slower.

  • Deuterium!

    I need premium, dude!

    Max energy density positrons or we end up going slower.

    Realistically, its deuterium and rather slower.

    My Mossbauer recoil-less gamma ray laser propulsion system wasn’t good for anything behind it anyway…

    Yes, indeed Arkrid. Lots of other issues need to be dealt with… not least having modest acceleration rates and having to carry your fuel. And stopping..

  • phil rimmer #130
    Dec 11, 2016 at 10:00 am

    My Mossbauer recoil-less gamma ray laser propulsion system wasn’t good for anything behind it anyway…

    It probably isn’t good for anything in front of it either, when your ship tries to slow down to go into a stable orbit at its destination or meet up with a base established earlier! 🙂

  • In fact, Arkrid, and this was puzzling me there, the total mass-energy content of the anti-matter fuel is turned into gamma radiation, not just its rest mass…

  • 133
    Pinball1970 says:

    @Phil and Alan

    I thought you would find a few holes.

    Stopping and fuel being two.

  • Alan #123: There will also be mineral resources obtainable from asteroids which are difficult to obtain or rare on Earth, – plus specialist products peculiar to space production.

    But which asteroids have you identified as profitable candidates for mining and at what cost? Is nickel-iron difficult to obtain or recycle here on earth? You’re leapfrogging from one hypothesis to another imagining Buck Rogers spaceships connecting all the dots while the space station has remained a tiny box car-size compartment for 20 years that allows six people today to conduct small experiments for brief spurts of time. There is no infrastructure in space for large scale mining or manufacturing operations. Keeping six men alive aboard ISS requires most of the resources the world pours into manned occupancy missions in low orbit. I’m glad to hear about plans and research papers announcing future unmanned missions for exploratory purposes in various fields, for example asteroid-mining and satellite refueling and minor repair. But where are the hundreds, the thousands of people blasting off annually who take up residence in low orbit? Where can you find one person living and surviving in deep space. There are none. Around 50 years ago putting 3 men on the moon seemed both a spectacular feat but relative to the challenges of interplanetary manned missions, represented the low-hanging fruit. We have not dared to return because human life is considered too precious to put at risk and unmanned vehicles can gather as much or more useful information at a fraction of the cost.

    What about 3d printing? Great innovation though still too slow for producing material objects in quantity. The 3d printer lays down successive layers of material, rather than molding or machining them. The constituent material has to be fed into the printer, the same as any other production process. The wrench made by the “space printer” illustrated is apparently made of some form of hard plastic that the machine brought with it from earth. The printer did not manufacture the material out of thin air in the station nor did it mine the material from an adjacent asteroid.

    I suspect we have hit a wall that will take decades to climb over. I am skeptical that colonizing other planets is feasible. Asking questions is not science denial. The community of brilliant people working in the field would have made material progress toward the specific goal that Hawking describes in his dystopian clairvoyance.

    If we go back to the quote that Dan cited from Neil deGrasse Tyson we probably get the best answer to the challenge posed by Stephen Hawking: if we can’t, down the road, make an uninhabitable earth habitable, why should we put our hopes in making another uninhabitable planet habitable? Our best chance for survival lies here in the rare environment selected from trillions in the universe where human life has been possible for hundreds of millions of years rather than any other celestial deathtrap where sadly the chances for survival diminish to zero.

  • Stop commenting in such ignorance!!!!! It hurts.

    Mostly volume production is irrelevant off planet. Even if volume were needed, metal 3D printers print plastic mould tooling for volume production. Many other medium volume techniques can be done using 3D printers and investment casting for mid volume metal parts. If a product breaks it is recycled and reprinted. Bio-plastics are grown eg via algae from CO2, a little pee and light AS EXPLAINED.

    Damn I’m getting angry at this inability to absorb information.

    why should we put our hopes in making another uninhabitable planet habitable?

    Its not what interests me. A fucked up earth is still the best choice to live. We may need a bolt hole though.

    In the meantime off planet economies make sense for all our fun adventuring, science and solving the rare earth and platinum supply bottleneck until sustainability.

    Why has it taken this long ? Because we needed to learn the skills of sustainabiity in a tin can. We now pretty much have That is the point.

    Long term terra-forming who knows??

  • Melvin #134
    Dec 11, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Alan #123: There will also be mineral resources obtainable from asteroids which are difficult to obtain or rare on Earth, – plus specialist products peculiar to space production.

    But which asteroids have you identified as profitable candidates for mining and at what cost?

    Various companies and agencies are working on those details! The point is that ALL the heavy elements which existed at the formation of the Solar System are more accessible in solid asteroids and meteors than in the molten core of the Earth!

    Is nickel-iron difficult to obtain or recycle here on earth?

    As was explained as recently as #123, there are vastly more more concentrated deposits of heavy metals than in the rocks of Earth, thus making the processing simpler and more efficient. I provided you with a link showing photographs of the materials – including particles of pure metal alloy!

    You’re leapfrogging from one hypothesis to another imagining Buck Rogers spaceships connecting all the dots while the space station has remained a tiny box car-size compartment for 20 years

    Really??? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assembly_of_the_International_Space_Station#Assembly_sequence

    Wiki – A total of 14 main pressurized modules are scheduled to be part of the ISS by its completion date in 2010.

    that allows six people today to conduct small experiments for brief spurts of time.

    The ISS is designed to handle a crew of seven. Current escape vehicle capacity limits the crew to six. During a direct handover, that crew size can climb to nine.

    There is no infrastructure in space for large scale mining or manufacturing operations.

    That is why we are discussing the plans of agencies and commercial ventures to build some – along with prototype systems for infrastructure and production!

    What about 3d printing? Great innovation though still too slow for producing material objects in quantity.

    That is the point of 3d printing – it makes customised products as required, from local raw materials, avoiding transporting and storing large stocks of spare parts in remote places.

    The 3d printer lays down successive layers of material, rather than molding or machining them. The constituent material has to be fed into the printer, the same as any other production process. The wrench made by the “space printer” illustrated is apparently made of some form of hard plastic that the machine brought with it from earth.

    That is because there is no facility for manufacturing plastics on a multi-purpose experimental station, and plastics are light to launch from Earth.

    The printer did not manufacture the material out of thin air in the station nor did it mine the material from an adjacent asteroid.

    The printer using powdered metal to produce rocket engine parts, however CAN use powdered metal mined and processed in space, to produce any number of metal components.

    I suspect we have hit a wall that will take decades to climb over.

    You really do need to start studying links and looking up information, instead of producing “suspicions” from crystal ball-gazing or navel gazing blended with personal incredulity!

    The technologies are up and running as separate components. They now need assembling into working enterprises.

    Google is your friend – Learn what is going on in science and engineering! Buck Rogers comics are not science papers!

  • @Alan4 #99

    Of course the view from a dug-out canoe, is that crossing the Atlantic is impossible!

    Checkout the technology used, successfully, to navigate and colonize the south Pacific.

    Spreading earth life, first off-planet (slightly), then to every suitable niche of the solar system, and eventually to other star systems seems in the long run no more unlikely than the amazing feats of finding and occupying every niche of the Pacific. While the devil is indeed in the details, there are no Impossible Inventions required for any of this, all it will take is the imagination and the will, and the continuing accumulation of knowledge and expertise.

    1000 years may seem an ambitious schedule, but then, “this decade” to get to the moon and back seemed pretty ambitious too.

    For the naysayers: don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall.

  • OHooligan #137
    Dec 11, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Checkout the technology used, successfully, to navigate and colonize the south Pacific.

    Those sophisticated outrigger derivatives are definitely way ahead of the basic dug-out logs I had in mind – but comparing incremental developments is the point of studying the big picture of the overview of human advancements!

  • Ohooligan #137: 1000 years may seem an ambitious schedule, but then, “this decade” to get to the moon and back seemed pretty ambitious too.

    Getting to 400 parts per million of CO2 added to our atmosphere permanently took less than 300 years, and every part was brought to us by advances in science and technology, including medical advances that permitted our large animal species to grow to 7.4 billion with another 3 billion just over the horizon. There are those who would enthrone the God of Science before the rising tide and command it to run in reverse. We have “God” on our side. Or not. There are the good science pills and the bad science bills. The jury is out on which pills we have taken but Stephen Hawking is talking serious trash about what we may inflict on our species in the next hundred years if we don’t take the right medicine now. The thousand year “now” and the ten thousand year “now” are rhetorical devices. He means Now now. If we destroy the only human-habitable planet within a radius of a million light years, we sure ain’t gonna colonize another planet. As the onlooker said of a man flattened by a steamrioller, “No need for a doctor here”

    Alan4: The printer using powdered metal to produce rocket engine parts, however CAN use powdered metal mined and processed in space, to produce any number of metal components.

    Why are you supplying links to a photo of a plastic wrench laid down with plastic material carried within the tiny hobbyist 3d printer you cited? To make your point, show readers, the rocket engine part produced from powdered metal mined and processed in space. There is no such thing. The video showing the projected production would have to take place within: International Space Station Size & Mass

    Pressurized Module Length: 240 feet (73 meters)
    Truss Length: 357.5 feet (109 meters)
    Solar Array Length: 239.4 feet (73 meters)
    Mass: 925,335 pounds (419,725 kilograms)
    Habitable Volume: 13,696 cubic feet (388 cubic meters) not including visiting vehicles
    Pressurized Volume: 32,333 cubic feet (916 cubic meters)

    We’d be looking roughly yet optimally at a rectangular empty room with theoretical dimensions of 30 feet wide by 30 feet deep by 15 feet high ( 30 X 30 X 15 = 13,500 cubic feet) to accomodate all 3d printers filled with powdered metals, quality control equipment, structural testing equipment, and temporary storage for finished parts. Have you seen the factory floor dimensions for rocket engines produced on earth? Have you seen the sites where rocket engines are test-fired? In space what would the engine be tethered to when the monstrous thrust poured out of the nozzles on ignition?

    comparing incremental developments is the point of studying the big picture of the overview of human advancements!

    In the short-term utilitarian sense yes. There is no transcendent imperative in which scientific-technological advances represents a cosmic plan for human flourishing. The universe is indifferent to our survival or extinction. That orientation is integral to the impersonal forces of naturalism. The creativity, the infinite progress presumed in what appears beneficial for the short term may turn on us like the deceptively tamed tiger and destroy us. Blind faith that Science has a plan for our lives is as superstitious as any religion. Skepticism about infinite progress is a justified orientation.

  • Blind faith that Science has a plan for our lives is as superstitious as any religion. Skepticism about infinite progress is a justified orientation.

    Possibly your worst and most egregious strawman yet.

    Everyone talks about what, technologically, can be done now.

  • Alan,

    I have seen a 1m cube algae production cell of original design, consuming about 5kW and generating an astonishingly high rate of algae continuously. (No more details are sharable, I’m afraid.) Polymerisation reactors for plastics production are available from one litre upwards. A ten litre unit costs around $2000 from China and occupies an approximately one metre cubic volume with piping and control gear. This is untaxing chemistry well within the abilities of an off-planet Walter White.

    Light piping in sunlight to the algae cell would save you the electricity, though it would be filtered to blue with just a little red to help manage the tank temperature.

  • Melvin #139
    Dec 12, 2016 at 3:19 am

    If we destroy the only human-habitable planet within a radius of a million light years, we sure ain’t gonna colonize another planet.

    What part of the link to “Star-Systems with exoplanets within 50 light years”, did you not understand?

    Alan4: The printer using powdered metal to produce rocket engine parts, however CAN use powdered metal mined and processed in space, to produce any number of metal components.

    Why are you supplying links to a photo of a plastic wrench laid down with plastic material carried within the tiny hobbyist 3d printer you cited? To make your point, show readers, the rocket engine part produced from powdered metal mined and processed in space. There is no such thing.

    What part of:- “the 3d printer on the ISS demonstrated 3d printing of components in space, – while the 3d printer printing metal to make rocket engine components, demonstrated that 3d printers also print high-temperature high-stress metal components”, – did you not understand?

    To make your point, show readers, the rocket engine part produced from powdered metal mined and processed in space. There is no such thing.

    What part of “the linked photographs showing grains of metal alloy in meteorites available for extraction and use”, did you not understand?

    The video showing the projected production would have to take place within: International Space Station Size & Mass

    3d printing takes place inside space stations or inside buildings using compact printers.
    Rocket testing takes place outside of buildings and in open space.
    What part of: the linked photograph showing the rocket test being carried out outdoors, did you not understand?

    http://3dprinting.com/metal/golden-age-3d-metal-printing-75-8-growth/

    Recently, metal printing made the news, because US defense company BAE Systems used it for its production of UK Fighter Jets, which saw metallic parts printed. The reason why metal printing is so interesting is that it can cut costs massively. Some jet parts made by this metal printer costed less than 100 dollars to produce.

    The regular 3D printer market is also growing, and grew to a 3,07 billion dollars market in 2012, growing 34,9 percent compared to 2012. With big companies such as HP and Autodesk entering the market and printers such as The Micro being able to release cheap devices, 2014 is looking bright for the 3D printer market.

    Have you seen the sites where rocket engines are test-fired?

    Well yes! I linked photographs to show you.

    In space what would the engine be tethered to when the monstrous thrust poured out of the nozzles on ignition?

    Now let me think!
    The mining station is next to a massive asteroid!
    What could the rocket engine possibly push against during the test? (assuming that it is not mounted in a vehicle with a control system to fly it back to the station!) – and of course assuming that it is a large booster rocket engine rather than a small strap-on thruster to move packages between orbits!

    Have you seen the factory floor dimensions for rocket engines produced on earth?

    However, the small engines used to move and control probes etc. IN SPACE, are tiny compared with those used to launch vehicles from Earth, while of course 3d printers are compact and use vastly less space than heavy metalworking machines.

    https://www.quora.com/Do-the-Voyager-spacecraft-have-engines-inside-them-to-boost-them-from-planet-to-planet-Are-they-still-in-contact-with-NASA
    Voyagers started off with about 100 kg of hydrazine (which is not a lot for changing the trajectory) and they have about a quarter of that left. They use that propellant mostly to control their attitude to keep the large high-gain antenna pointed at the earth by firing small attitude control thrusters. These tiny thrusters fire very minuscule puffs of exhaust gases out to one side then the other side every few minutes. This is called a “bang-bang” control system (because each time a thruster fires, it’s like getting a little bang on that side to make it turn the other way).

    The final Jupiter trajectory insertion boost of the propulsion module provided a bonus by requiring less than 2 kilograms (4 1/2 pounds) of hydrazine of an allotted 14 kilograms (31 pounds). This fuel-savings was also noted in Voyager 2 on August 20, giving both spacecraft an extra measure of fuel for attitude control.”

    Blind faith that Science has a plan for our lives is as superstitious as any religion.

    Blind faith in ignorant denial, does nothing to refute evidenced science!
    Neither does psychological projection!

    Skepticism about infinite progress is a justified orientation.

    Wild exaggerations in strawman assertions of ignorance, demonstrating a basic lack of investigative research, has nothing to do with scientific scepticism – and everything to do with locked-in mistaken preconceptions and deep denial!

    Google is your friend – and with constructive investigative use, can stop you from making a fool of yourself in discussions!

  • phil rimmer #141
    Dec 12, 2016 at 7:36 am

    I have seen a 1m cube algae production cell of original design, consuming about 5kW and generating an astonishingly high rate of algae continuously. Polymerisation reactors for plastics production are available from one litre upwards.

    That could provide a source for remote location in-space 3d plastic printing of components, using air water and a few trace minerals/fertilisers.

    (Re.#139 – I have a comment on 3d metal printing etc. awaiting moderation)

  • OHooligan #137
    Dec 11, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    1000 years may seem an ambitious schedule, but then, “this decade” to get to the moon and back seemed pretty ambitious too.

    If we are looking to the far future, 1,000 years or even 10,000 years is short geological time for terraforming an exoplanet.

    We are very unlikely to find an unoccupied rocky planet with water, nitrogen, and oxygen atmosphere.
    Earth’s present atmosphere is the result of interactions with the biosphere over millions of years.
    Earth’s primordial atmosphere would be lethal to humans and most modern plant and animal life.

    An exoplanet with endemic or native life makes the situation much more complicated.
    Adapting even a sterile planet which is structurally similar to the Earth-Moon system, with brilliant technology and planning, will still take geological time to evolve a shirt-sleeve environment and biosphere for humans.

    Therefore any human colonisation of other suitable star systems, is going to have to be prepared to be space based, or enclosed planetary colony based, for a very long time after arrival.

  • Alan4 #144: Therefore any human colonisation of other suitable star systems, is going to have to be prepared to be space based, or enclosed planetary colony based, for a very long time after arrival.

    Alan4’s comment, an excerpt of which is quoted here, commendably contains helpful comprehensive information related to the topic: the colonization of space. It’s not going to be easy, and, in my view, not likely for centuries to come until major breakthroughs in technology are achieved at reasonable cost on a mass production economy of scale. Pointing out particular, obstacles and limitations -any thing that smells like skepticism – have been met with cries of “ignorance!, strawman!” followed by articles that prove how specialized experiments could be expanded in application; in productivity, cost and energy efficiency; then linked and coordinated in space to accomplish the grand mission. So why is skepticism justified when we live in an age of rapidly accelerating scientific-technological progress? Here’s why.

    “Space is a hostile environment.” The sentence is “code” for a deadly environment. Any human being who ventures there must be protected by multiple layers of pressurized, artificial atmosphere (oxygen), and temperature controlled devices. The image of the elaborate protective space suit comes immediately to mind. The main impediments have been exorbitant costs, reliability concerns for human safety, and expedited return of human astronauts in case of emergency from distances not exceeding low-earth-orbits:

    NASA’s Shuttle Program Cost $209 Billion – Was it … – Space.com
    http://www.space.com/12166-space-shuttle-program-cost-promises-209-... “When NASA’s space shuttle program was announced back in 1972, it was billed as a major advance — a key step in humanity’s quest to exploit and explore space. The shuttle would enable safe, frequent and affordable access to space, the argument went, with flights occurring as often as once per week and costing as little as $20 million each.

    But much of that original vision didn’t come to pass. Two of the program’s 134 flights have ended in tragedy, killing 14 astronauts in all. Recent NASA estimates peg the shuttle program’s cost through the end of last year at $209 billion (in 2010 dollars), yielding a per-flight cost of nearly $1.6 billion. And the orbiter fleet never flew more than nine missions in a single year. The shuttle program is drawing to a close, with its last-ever mission — the STS-135 flight of Atlantis— slated to launch Friday (July 8). So now is as good a time as any to ask: Was it worth it? Or, put another way: Could NASA have found a better use for that $209 billion?
    “People endlessly debate this stuff,” said Roger Launius, space history curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “You can make a case on both sides. It’s not open-and-shut.”
    A chief criticism of the shuttle program is that it prevented more ambitious manned exploration missions.
    There is merit to that argument, experts say. After all, NASA’s Apollo program put boots on the moon in 1969, just 12 years after the space age began. But it’s been four decades since the last manned lunar landing, and in that time, NASA has made little discernible progress toward the next logical giant leap: getting people to Mars.
    Instead, since 1981, the shuttle has kept zipping around the planet over and over again, just a few hundred miles above Earth’s surface. “It kept us limited to low-Earth orbit,” said space policy expert John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington Universtity and author of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Indeed, some NASA officials have voiced dissatisfaction with the agency’s post-Apollo focus on the shuttle and the International Space Station, which shuttle missions have helped build since 1998. “It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path,” then-NASA chief Michael Griffin told USA Today in 2005. “We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can.”

    This article pretty much captures, at least by implication, the basis for valid skepticism. In a new age of rapidly advancing scientific-technological advances, the technology of manned space flight has lagged behind -in a sense stagnated. In connection to Stephen Hawking’s “due date” for finding a new planet to colonize, that technology does not look promising.

  • Melvin #145
    Dec 12, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    The history of science taking a back-seat to political showmanship in the Apollo space race to the Moon, the abandonment of the Saturn 5 booster technology to promote the use of the Space Shuttle, and the compromises in the design of the space Shuttle to accommodate military requirements, are well known. The inadequate budgets, corner cutting, and cavalier disregard of safety issues, are also known causes of the Challenger and Colombia losses.

    The only real relevance of the space shuttle over other systems, is its capacity to carry large space station modules, and the demonstrations of repairs to Hubble etc. by astronauts in space.

    This article pretty much captures, at least by implication, the basis for valid skepticism.

    These articles on the space technologies of 1969 1981, and 1998, have very little relevance to the modern issues raised by Stephen Hawking.
    The first exoplanet was not discovered until 1992, and the first one orbiting a main sequence star discovered in 1995.

    In a new age of rapidly advancing scientific-technological advances, the technology of manned space flight has lagged behind -in a sense stagnated.

    Lagged behind what?
    Short term manned space flight, is largely irrelevant to the advances in telescopes, probes, data collected about the Solar System, and knowledge of stars and exoplanets, but the new remotely obtained data is highly relevant to future manned space-flight.

    In connection to Stephen Hawking’s “due date” for finding a new planet to colonize, that technology does not look promising.

    I made the point earlier that the long term possibility of colonising star-systems with exoplanets, is only a tiny part of the the issue of humans establishing communities living off Earth, and is a very long way down the future time-line.

    In connection to Stephen Hawking’s “due date” for finding a new planet to colonize, that technology does not look promising.

    I must admit, that I find your understanding and evaluations of modern space technologies underwhelming!!! Predictions made in the absence of most of the data are worthless!

    You have expressed incredulity at the existence and operation of a string of proven demonstrator prototypes, and made various absurd assertions about the size , scale, costs, and feasibility, of various systems and items of technology.
    As I suggested earlier, – and as is evidenced in the comments of this discussion, a lot of study is required before you will be in a position to put together a credible view even of present and recent past space technologies.

    Scientific predictions are testable, and made on the basis of checkable evidence.

  • Phil #146, 147: These people.

    Tomorrow belongs to them.

    Alan4 #148:: I made the point earlier that the long term possibility of colonising star-systems with exoplanets, is only a tiny part of the the issue of humans establishing communities living off Earth […] is a very long way down the future time-line.

    I agree. That is what we should be discussing. The intervening time could see mass extinction events or the emergence of a post-human Artificial Intelligence species that displaces our own, perhaps after we have genetically engineered ourselves out of existence. I believe Stephen Hawking is raising those possibilities along with colonizing other worlds.

    If we can build exoplanets as big as the echo chamber on this thread, it should be a walk in the park before the century is out. Time to get back to planet Earth, guys. See you later.

  • Melvin #149
    Dec 12, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Alan4 #148:: I made the point earlier that the long term possibility of colonising star-systems with exoplanets, is only a tiny part of the the issue of humans establishing communities living off Earth […] is a very long way down the future time-line.

    I agree.

    Unfortunately your highlighting emphasis (above) confuses the issue and resembles quote mining!

    Alan4 #148:: I made the point earlier that the long term possibility of colonising star-systems with exoplanets, is only a tiny part of the issue of humans establishing communities living off Earth [AND] is a very long way down the future time-line.

    That is what we should be discussing.

    The issue of humans establishing communities living off Earth in the optimum solar energy collecting orbits within the Solar System, is precisely what Phil and I have been explaining to you – and which you have been ignoring or disputing.

    The intervening time could see mass extinction events or the emergence of a post-human Artificial Intelligence species that displaces our own, perhaps after we have genetically engineered ourselves out of existence.

    Those were the some of the warnings he was giving – along with Earth based resource depletion, climate change, and environmental degradation.

    I believe Stephen Hawking is raising those possibilities along with colonizing other worlds.

    I think it has been made very clear, that “colonizing other worlds”, (despite being given undue sensational prominence by the OP journalist), is in the far future, and that establishing industries and colonies in space much nearer Earth, are the stepping stones to develop the necessary technologies, and provide off planet, pockets of humanity in the mean time.

    If we can build exoplanets as big as the echo chamber on this thread, it should be a walk in the park before the century is out. Time to get back to planet Earth, guys.

    I thought you might finally “getting it”, until you added this nonsense at the end!

  • Melvin #105
    Dec 9, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    He specifies “planet” without mentioning Mars, the moon or asteroids implying settlement of habitable planetary candidates in other solar systems with the phrase “by then spreading out among the stars.”

    So having misinterpreted “spreading out among the stars”, as exclusively specifying an [exo-]”planet” – and ignoring the explanations given to you of the steps required along the way . . . . . .

    He views the topic through a specialized astrophysicist lens unconcerned about the nuts-and-bolts
    challenges of manned intergalactic space missions.

    You then illustrate your level of (mis)understanding of interstellar and interplanetary colonisation and travel, with this ludicrous straw-man comment!!

  • phil rimmer #146
    Dec 12, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Interestingly, this news item has double relevance to the disaster scenarios and the asteroid mining on this thread!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38299804

    Scientists say they have a clue that may enable them to find traces of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs in the very crater it made on impact.

    This pointer takes the form of a nickel signature in the rocks of the crater that is now buried under ocean sediments in the Gulf of Mexico.

    An international team has just drilled into the 200km-wide depression.

    It hopes the investigation can help explain why the event 66 million years ago was so catastrophic.

    The UK-US led team gave an update on its research here at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

    The group is currently running all manner of lab tests on the hundreds of metres of core pulled up from under the Gulf in April and May.

    One tantalising revelation is that the scientists observe a big nickel spike in the sediments immediately above what has become known as Chicxulub Crater.

    This is an important marker that could lead on to the discovery of asteroid material itself.

  • In #146 link I wonder if Melvin scrolled past the scientists and the founding investors like Larry Page, Richard Branson and Dr Charles Symonyi, Dawkins’ one time paymaster wishing to lift the public understanding of science, and clicked this link to a 3D printing? Melvin?

    http://pri.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/PlanetaryResources_3DSystems_MeteoriteLow-680×491.png

    The asteroid (or meteorite) used for the print materials was sourced from the Campo Del Cielo impact near Argentina, and is composed of iron, nickel and cobalt – similar materials to refinery grade steel.

  • phil rimmer #153
    Dec 13, 2016 at 10:28 am

    The asteroid (or meteorite) used for the print materials was sourced from the Campo Del Cielo impact near Argentina, and is composed of iron, nickel and cobalt – similar materials to refinery grade steel.

    Of course this was not the first time this source material was used in manufactured artefacts: – but it does illustrate the point about its use in 3d printing!

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/01/dagger-king-tut-tomb-iron-meteorite-egypt-mummy

    Dagger in Tutankhamun’s tomb was made with iron from a meteorite

    The researchers published their findings on Tuesday in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

    Although people have worked with copper, bronze and gold since 4,000BC, ironwork came much later, and was rare in ancient Egypt. In 2013, nine blackened iron beads, excavated from a cemetery near the Nile in northern Egypt, were found to have been beaten out of meteorite fragments, and also a nickel-iron alloy. The beads are far older than the young pharaoh, dating to 3,200BC.

    As the only two valuable iron artifacts from ancient Egypt so far accurately analysed are of meteoritic origin,” the team that studied the knife wrote, “we suggest that ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron for the production of fine ornamental or ceremonial objects”.

    The researchers also stood with a hypothesis that ancient Egyptians placed great importance on rocks falling from the sky. They suggested that the finding of a meteorite-made dagger adds meaning to the use of the term “iron” in ancient texts, and noted around the 13th century BC, a term “literally translated as ‘iron of the sky’ came into use … to describe all types of iron”.

  • Oh, one more virtue of this natural alloy (Fe, Ni, Co) is its ideal for bench top processing as amorphous steel. (The molten alloy is squirted at a rapidly spinning cooled copper disk. A very thin ribbon of glassy steel is produced at prodigious rates.) This material produces exceptional soft-magnetic materials (near theoretical performance limits) ideal for all the power processing and distribution needed for solar PV. Best of all this material has very high tensile and elastic strength. It is used in body armour and is now being contemplated for satellite micrometeorite protection. This could be quite a useful off planet upgrade.

    http://jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/news/news_releases/release.sfe?id=1915

  • The issue of humans establishing communities living off Earth in the optimum solar energy collecting orbits within the Solar System, is precisely what Phil and I have been explaining to you – and which you have been ignoring or disputing.

    I’ve never disputed anything you have quoted from sources that constitute what you and Phil describe as “explanations” that settle everything. That is the prerogative of anyone on the thread. All I’m discussing is the cost and feasibility of the incremental “issues” you cite. I never denied that asteroid-mining is possible or that 3d printing aboard a space station using asteroid-mined material is possible. I’ve brought up issues of costs, challenges, feasibility, motivation and long-term time frames. That’s all. I get the sense that you believe, based on cited sources, that the astro scientific-engineering community stands perched on the launching pad for projects that will colonize space in 100, 200, 300 years from now beginning around 2020 with a rapid take-off. I’m skeptical for the reasons previously commented. Putting astronauts in space, perhaps eventually squeezing 100 to 500 into an enlarged space station or extraterrestrial base, will certainly proceed apace but “the issue of humans establishing communities living off Earth” for the purpose of “finding another planet” for long-term human species survival is the issue under discussion that will probably draw little interest for the forseeable future given the fall back to preferences for low earth orbit manned space missions for the last 48 years. There is a lot of ancillary information on the issue worthy of consideration. Regarding our divergent opinions there is no conclusive information about what will happen by 2100 or 2200 or in a thousand years when we don’t even know if “humans” will be around in a form we recognize or in any form at all.

  • Melvin #156
    Dec 13, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Putting astronauts in space, perhaps eventually squeezing 100 to 500 into an enlarged space station or extraterrestrial base, will certainly proceed apace but “the issue of humans establishing communities living off Earth” for the purpose of “finding another planet” for long-term human species survival is the issue under discussion

    How many times do we have to repeatedly explain that it isn’t? (most recently @148). That is a long term incidental issue.
    The immediate issue in the next decades is self sustaining human colonies WITHIN the Solar System living off local resources, and trading with other colonies and with earth!

    that will probably draw little interest for the forseeable future given the fall back to preferences for low earth orbit manned space missions for the last 48 years.

    Or perhaps they will “draw little interest for the foreseeable future” because of the “No Earth orbits for 60 years before that”, or because of the even earlier view, that “powered heavier than air aircraft won’t fly because they can’t carry the weight of a steam boiler and a truck-load of coal? – or other strawman “reasons”!

    Low Earth orbits are about dependence on crude liquid fuelled chemical rocket technology launching from Earth’s surface, and ignorance of other methods of space related transportation.

    The technological answers are in the future – not in the obsolete past!

    There is a lot of ancillary information on the issue worthy of consideration.

    There is! – but it seems that Phil and I can find items of it within a few minutes, but you prefer to make wildly erroneous speculative assertions in place of this available information, and in place of measured and calculated details.

    I’ve brought up issues of costs, challenges, feasibility, motivation and long-term time frames. That’s all.

    But your comments and assertions show you have no idea about size, scale, structures, energy sources, costs or technologies, so how could you have ANY basis to make assertions about these?

    You could ask questions, and read answers and links given, but follow-up questions to clarify information we have carefully assembled for you are mainly lacking, and are replaced by incredulity or denial, – frequently about known science, processes, and technology, which already exists and demonstrably works!

  • Melvin #145
    Dec 12, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Instead, since 1981, the shuttle has kept zipping around the planet over and over again, just a few hundred miles above Earth’s surface. “It kept us limited to low-Earth orbit,” said space policy expert John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington Universtity . . . . . . .

    While this is correct to some extent, it entirely misses the point, that the DESIGN of the space-shuttle with its big cargo bay was to accommodate large military spy satellites, while using space science applications as a cover for these clandestine activities and for some of the budgeted spending.
    Spy satellites “go round and round the Earth”! That is their function!

    “It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path,” then-NASA chief Michael Griffin told USA Today in 2005.

    It was never “the right path for science as a priority! The science was politically a side issue.
    The shuttle never met its design claims, and by the times of its later years of use, it was simply the obsolete vehicle which they had available, and were determined to get the last few miles out of it!
    In the end they failed, and had to rent passages to the ISS on Russian launchers.
    Its computer systems were antique, and as computers and cameras rose in power and reduced in size, it was replaced by a robot mini shuttle which does not carry crew or passengers, but can carry modern smaller military satellites, now that electronics and cameras are much lighter and more compact .

    It’s been five years since the first launch of the Air Force’s X-37B mini-shuttle :-

    http://www.space.com/32839-x37b-military-space-plane-one-year-mission-otv4.html

    The U.S. military’s uncrewed X-37B space plane is nearing one year in orbit on its latest secret mission.

    The robotic space plane launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on May 20, 2015, kicking off the X-37B program’s fourth flight. This mission, dubbed OTV-4 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-4), remains a clandestine affair.

    “I can confirm the fourth OTV mission is approaching one year on orbit,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Annmarie Annicelli said in response to Space.com’s inquiry about the X-37B’s activities.

    Annicelli had nothing further to add.

    The X-37B looks like a miniature adaptation of NASA’s now-retired space shuttle orbiter.The military space plane is 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 9.6 feet (2.9 m) tall, and has a wingspan of nearly 15 feet (4.6 m). For comparison, the space shuttle was 122 feet (37 m) long, with a wingspan of 78 feet (24 m).

    The X-37B spacecraft has a payload bay about the size of a pickup-truck bed. It has a launch weight of 11,000 lbs. (4,990 kilograms) and is powered on orbit by gallium arsenide solar cells with lithium-ion batteries.

    The technology has moved on – but without passengers or human pilots!

    Michael Griffin – “We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can.”

    ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈

    This article pretty much captures, at least by implication, the basis for valid skepticism.

    Scepticism about what? – Do you have ANY idea about these space projects?

  • Melvin #139
    Dec 12, 2016 at 3:19 am

    @ Alan4: The printer using powdered metal to produce rocket engine parts, however CAN use powdered metal mined and processed in space, to produce any number of metal components.

    Why are you supplying links to a photo of a plastic wrench laid down with plastic material carried within the tiny hobbyist 3d printer you cited? To make your point, show readers, the rocket engine part produced from powdered metal mined and processed in space. There is no such thing.

    A lack of understanding leads to these expressions of incredulity about 3D printing using different materials and printing techniques.

    To make your point, show readers, the rocket engine part produced from powdered metal mined and processed in space. There is no such thing.

    I do wish you would either listen to what is being said, read the links with understanding, or look up information, rather than making up incredulous assertions.

    As my links show, powdered metal is readily available in space rocks.
    I realise that those unversed in geology and astronomy may have difficulty in grasping this.

    When we are talking about iron, it is only on planets like Earth where the biology has created an oxygen atmosphere, that the iron has rusted in primaeval seas to form iron ore.
    It is only on the surface of Earth, that this iron ore needs large scale industrial smelters to convert it back into metallic iron.

    Fixated Earth-bound thinking about industrial processes, is a massive obstruction to understanding the potential of space based industries or the availability of resources from space!
    Metals from fragmented protoplanet cores do not rust in space!

  • There are likely to be serious low-gravity biological problems for humans adapting to living on small planets or moons!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/12/too-much-space-travel-is-hazardous-for-your-eyeballs/#li-comment-215305

    Unlike travel in a spacecraft where artificial gravity can be produced by rotation or acceleration, . . . . . . , living on Mars is living in reduced gravity.
    Gravity on Mars’ surface is much lower than it is here on Earth – 62% lower to be precise. At just 0.38 of the Earth standard.

    BTW; – Also – In regard to Moon-bases:-

    Gravity on the surface of the Moon is 1.62519 m/s2, about 16.6% that on Earth’s surface or 0.16 ɡ.

  • Melvin #119
    Dec 11, 2016 at 2:15 am

    Alan4 #115: “Nope! They (all durable goods, material goods, high-tech components) would be manufactured in space using 3d printing and locally acquired materials. (such as nickel-iron meteorites or glassy materials) Only the computer designs would need to be TRANSMITTED to the space station or colony.”

    Wrong.

    NOPE! – Denial based on ignorance is not an answer!

    The factories in space will not be manufacturing anything that can be produced on earth from easily mined or abundant resources.
    Costly, speculative mining operations would be restricted to extracting rare high-value metals; e.g., platinum, after R & D, after asteroid selection based on detecting the presence and abundance of the metal, after development and testing of efficient robotic plus human-assisted extraction technology tailored to the features of the specific mining site, and so on.
    We cannot wish source materials on asteroids into existence.
    3d printing like any production machinery requires appropriate source materials, meticulously refined for specific uses.

    True but as I pointed out in earlier comments, we already know such resources exist, and the technologies for processing them also already exist!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2017/01/a-metal-ball-the-size-of-massachusetts-that-nasa-wants-to-explore/

    The space agency announced on Wednesday that a spacecraft named Psyche would visit an asteroid named Psyche, one of two new missions it will be launching into the solar system in the 2020s.

    Planetary scientists like Dr. Elkins-Tanton think it is the nickel-iron core of a small planet that was bashed to pieces early in the history of the solar system. A trip to Psyche could reveal clues about what is at the center of Earth, something scientists will never be able to observe directly.

    @Alan #159 – Metals from fragmented protoplanet cores do not rust in space!

  • Hawking must be senile. Earth hasn’t faced a mass extinction level event in 65 million years. What makes him so certain that one will happen within next 1000 years?

  • I am not going to go down the scientific road, rather just my interpretation of human nature. We have not been impressive as a species in terms of managing our resources and dealing with each other. In the end of our species it likely won’t be about a mass extinction event, it will be about greed and aggression coupled with ignorance that dooms us. To me, among the real questions are:
    – Will we kill ourselves with weapons of mass destruction?
    – Will we overheat the planet to where it becomes unlivable?
    – Will we overpopulate to where human life is unsustainable due to lack of resources? In this case, I feel greed and aggression move to the forefront and we will destroy ourselves anyway.
    – Will we develop AI to the point where someone who simply doesn’t care “infects” the system to where AI takes over?

    Ad infinitum.

    Sorry to take the cynical view of things, but what I have seen in 67 years doesn’t give me a lot of hope for us.

  • but what I have seen in 67 years doesn’t give me a lot of hope for us.

    Don’t give up on us just yet.

    Read Steven Pinker “Enlightenment Now” and join in the long struggle delivering results whilst our standards, rightly, ever gallop ahead of us.

  • Will Suh #162
    Jul 2, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Hawking must be senile.
    Earth hasn’t faced a mass extinction level event in 65 million years.

    Perhaps scientific study gives him an understanding of the present rates and future prospects!

    What makes him so certain that one will happen within next 1000 years?

    I think a current extinction rate 1,000 times higher than the normal background rate and increasing, may have something to do with future predictions of it!

    http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/current-extinction-rate-10-times-worse-previously-thought/

    Life on earth is remarkably diverse.
    Globally, it is estimated that there are 8.7 million species living on our planet, excluding bacteria.
    Unfortunately, human activities are wiping out many species and it’s been known for some time that we are increasing the rate of species extinction.
    But just how dire is the situation?
    According to a new study, it’s 10 times worse than scientists previously thought with current extinction rates 1,000 times higher than natural background rates.
    The work has been published in Conservation Biology.

    . . . and that’s just the predictions based on human populations, human behaviour, ecology, and climate change! An asteroid impact similar to the one 65 million years ago, could easily turn up in the next thousand years – or the next hundred!

  • Alan4 #92: – Robots can carry out production and construction projects on planets, moons, asteroids, or comets, while being directed and controlled from a nearby space station or large ship.

    We can now see the robot investigation craft (launched in December 2014) remotely surveying target asteroids.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45578795

    Hayabusa-2: Japan’s rovers ready for touchdown on asteroid

    Japan’s space agency is preparing to deploy two robotic explorers to the surface of an asteroid.

    On Friday, the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft will despatch a pair of “rovers” to the 1km-wide space rock known as Ryugu.

    Rover 1A and Rover 1B will move around by hopping in Ryugu’s low gravity; they will capture images of the surface and measure temperatures.

    Hayabusa-2 reached the asteroid Ryugu in June this year after a three-and-a-half-year journey.

    If all goes well, Hayabusa-2 will be the first spacecraft to successfully place robot rovers on the surface of an asteroid.

    The 1km-wide space rock known formally as 162173 Ryugu belongs to a particularly primitive type of asteroid, and is therefore a relic left over from the early days of our Solar System. Studying it could shed light on the origin and evolution of our own planet.

    The rovers are stored in drum-shaped container at the base of the Hayabusa-2 “mothership”. Collectively, they form a 3.3kg science package known as Minerva II-1.

    The 1kg autonomous rovers move about by hopping, using the asteroid’s low gravity. Each one contains a motor-powered internal mass that rotates to generate force, propelling the robot across the surface.

    They’re equipped with wide-angle and stereo cameras to send back pictures from Ryugu. Spine-like projections from the edges of the hoppers are sensors that will measure surface temperatures on the asteroid.

    They will send back their data to the mothership, which will then relay the information to Earth.

    On 3 October, the mothership will deploy a lander called Mascot, which has been developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) together with the French Space Agency (CNES).

    And in late October, Hayabusa-2 will descend to the surface of Ryugu to collect a sample of rock and soil.

    Even further on in the mission, Jaxa plans to detonate an explosive charge that will punch a crater into the surface of Ryugu.

    Hayabusa-2 would then descend into the crater to collect fresh rocks that have not been altered by aeons of exposure to the environment of space.

    These samples will then be sent to Earth for laboratory studies.

    The spacecraft will depart from Ryugu in December 2019 with the intention of returning to Earth with the asteroid samples in 2020.

  • Following on from #166 :-

    The JAXA mission seems to be successful so far!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45598156

    Japan’s space agency (JAXA) has made history by successfully landing two robotic explorers on the surface of an asteroid.

    The two small “rovers”, which were despatched from the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft on Friday, will move around the 1km-wide space rock known as Ryugu.

    “Both rovers are in good condition,” the agency confirmed on Saturday.

    They can hop and float around thanks to motor-powered internal rotors, which propel the robots across the asteroid.

    The diamond-shaped asteroid has a blackish-coloured surface, and rotates on its axis around once every 7.5 hours.

    JAXA proudly tweeted pictures from the rovers, which reached Earth via the spaceship Hayabusa-2.

    While the European Space Agency had previously managed to land on an icy comet, this is the first spacecraft to place robot rovers on the surface of an asteroid.

    Asteroids are essentially leftover building materials from the formation of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago.

    Ryugu is a particularly primitive variety, and studying it could shed light on the origin and evolution of our own planet.

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