12 May 2006

Breaking up isn't that hard to do

Well, if you happen to be a comet breaking up seems to be something that can be done pretty easily. A globally observed comet is seen as breaking up into pieces via this post at the Discover Channel. Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 has been seen doing so and making lots of small chunks out of the larger whole of the comet itself. In and of itself, this is not a worry, but it does point up to the nature of comets and many asteroids being a collection of fragments loosely bound by their gravity so as to appear as one mass, while in fact being just a loosely bound collection.

For the future of shifting such in orbits that may threaten Earth, the concept of using a propulsion system to move a large chunk is valid, but the smaller the pieces the harder this is to do. Further a rain of small pieces turning to dust in the upper atmosphere is *not* a good thing as it would block sunlight and take a long time to filter out of those far reaches. So anyone looking to use a thermonuclear shockwave to disrupt a large mass headed towards Earth will actually make matters worse in the doing.

And for everyone looking towards high tech and lunar based lasers to redirect things, remember that low-tech can work equally well. The easiest energy to add to an asteroid or comet for propulsion is *sunlight*. Given enough forewarning the method of deflecting such an object is to change its albedo, or reflectance, so that it takes in more sunlight than it reflects.

Yes, a paintbomb.

Do that a few years or a decade in advance and you change the orbit slowly but surely over time.

Space industry does *not* need to be high tech to work! Physics is your friend once you understand it. Of course to do this we still *require* an industrial base capable of doing this... and so I vituperate against all those squishy-hearted people in the '60s and '70s that thought a space program diverted money from the poor on Earth. Ok, they got that money.

Any end to poverty yet?

And what was the rate of return on those dollars spent on good old Planet Earth, Rock 3 from Sol?


Thank you to that generation for wasting the future so it would have to be REBUILT.

You folks have totally soured this individual on any social program for any benefit that takes away from our future. You folks wasted those dollars that were our *investment* in a new industrial future free from Earth bound waste and returning clean energy in vast quantities for a low price.

Every penny spent on poverty programs could have been spent creating a new industry and JOBS.

That *kindess* wiped out a future that was better for *everyone*.

The answer to ending poverty is: jobs, hardwork and allowing individuals to decide their course free from government supervision. The Socialist way does not work.

If we do not make this investment *now* then when Yellowstone decides its time to give vent once more, mankind will be at dear peril for that *kindness*.

A hand UP not a hand OUT.

I will not support the latter ever again for my Nation, no matter what the cause. Even for MYSELF. If you want that, go to France. I hear they have lovely riots and unrest and stagnant jobs and an endless bureaucracy.

Rather damned by my own mistakes admitted to freely and done freely than to suffer the tyranny of the soul and loss of self that a government overseen life gets you.

America needs a frontier for its heart and soul to stay strong.

So that We the People can look towards a future and determine it instead of having it determined FOR US.

Yes, I am incoherent today. Such is my state of mind and body. So be it.

UPDATE: My thanks to Shane for the following bit of astronomy porn.
Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3
Image Source: NASA


Shane said...

You got that right. The time span between JFK's speech and July 20, 1969 was 2,503 days. That's six years, ten months and eight days. We can't get back to the moon as quickly today, even by simply copying the hardware we originally used. It's infuriating.

A Jacksonian said...

shane - My immediate interruption when someone starts 'Well, if we can send a man to the moon...' is: We can no longer do so.

Anything in the way of rhetoric after that is just that, rhetoric. We had the prime chance of building the foundation for a 21st Century economy in the 1960's and 1970's, and threw it completely away when it was relatively cheap to do so.

Now we pay dearly for that past mistake. Every fill up at every pump. Every electrical bill that inches up higher still. Every penny, every dollar that we are paying *now* above one-cent a kilowatt hour is paying for that kindness of those that ripped the space program to shreds. Every complaint on energy policy I hear and I point to Gerard K. O'neill. Then the aerospace industries satisfied to live on the government's teat.

Back to square ONE.

Spiney Widgmo said...

Bush blew it with his idea of heading to Mars. If he set the goal to use space policy to harvest energy, he would have had two wins:
1) A credible threat to the middle east on clean energy independence for the US (and other countries) and a reduction to future irrelance before their oil supplies are exhausted. I think now the long term plan is to harvest coal, begin some shale and tar harvesting, a few token measures at wind and solar and a renewal of nuclear. We can expect to be ham strung environmentally at each step in this plan and I suspect that many will enjoy our difficulties.
2) A reason for hope that future energy costs would decrease and not increase. This hope solves a lot of problems.
As it is, his proposal for the high frontier came across as a massive boondoggle and went nowhere.

A Jacksonian said...

spiney - Yes, Mars is absolute foolishness until a space based industrial infrastructure is stood up. By not boldly putting forth a goal of having 50% of all electrical energy production for the US done by solar power satellite systems by, say, 2020, the entire idea of space as *useful* for something other than science was again denigrated.

Fossil fuel energy sources or even if the folks who believe in 'oil everywhere' have the problems of being limited in scope and utility for energy. For the next 20 years the US can stop-gap this with an industrial plan to use Federal lands for refineries, open up currently *off limits* zones for petroleum exploration and use, and vigorously put forth an energy policy that pushes on all parts of the envelope and pushes new technologies for space based production of energy.

This would give us, as you have rightly said, a way to get out of this current pickle and once clean energy comes online, a lower energy cost for the indefinite future.

Once you have clean and cheap electricity, hydrogen then becomes a *storage* system, not a goal in and of itself. I would place my bet on high temperature superconductors, nanotechnology or plain old ingenuity and insight by the American people in industry for good ways to store energy and distribute it.

We place too much faith in government bureaucracies which are only efficient at generating paperwork and red tape. I place my faith in the American People to see frontiers and futures and to build for today so that tomorrow will be better.

Shane said...

The Astronomy Picture of the Day has an image of comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 at http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap060513.html taken in infrared by the Spitzer Space Telescope

A Jacksonian said...

shane - I thank you!! I love astronomy porn... and the breakup is beautiful in its own way.

A good reminder to us all that space does things that we can understand, but just are not used to thinking about.

Shane said...

I check it regularly. The site has been in daily operation for over ten years.

NEO, SOC said...

The only way we can have any progress is to load all the environuts onto a play and fly them into the Sun. I would love to see some productive space program before I pass on; but with the current beauracracy in place; we'll have only conversations and no action.

A Jacksonian said...

Neo - Those who are rabid environmentalists do not understand that an active biosphere is *not* the place to have any sort of industry. Space is perfect once you understand that physics is your friend. Now NIMBY has changed into BANANA, and both get lots of whipped fervor and nuts on top...

As for the bureaucracy: end NASA as a builder of space access systems. The pioneering is done. Put in large amounts of cash prizes for reaching verifiable goals that *builds* up to safe space access industry. Large prizes and guaranteed minimum work will build this industry... Hilton and Best Western already WANT space hotels, but cannot invest money ANYWHERE to get this done. Time to end that.

Between 1914 and 1944 look at how aircraft changed. Between 1974 and 2004 look at how space vehicles have *not*. Yes the former had two world wars, but the development was *already* on the drawing boards FREE from government interference. Look at ANY 30 year period of aircraft development and see the difference between it and spacecraft. Prizes were put up and air mail contracts were announced. Soon an aircraft industry was born.