Energy Minimum Road to Outer Space

Energy Minimum Road to Outer Space



Posted by Rohvannyn on October 11, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Yesterday I read presentation to a 2008 seminar for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, called Life Support Systems, Functional stability and Human Control Limitations, an Astrosociological Approach by M. S. Marsh, V. Y. Rygalov and D. M. Livingston.  The presentation discussed self-contained ecosystems other than the Earth itself and pointed out that as such systems reach sizes possibly compatible with deep space voyages, they become increasingly unstable because there isn’t the vast inertia we have in Earth’s Biosphere which buffers us from erratic and constant change.  It’s also pointed out that as stability decreases the need for intelligent control by human operators increases.  (Well Duh!!!) but the point is well-taken.  We’re not likely to wrap a greenhouse in cellophane, put it in orbit and expect it, perhaps with a passenger or two inside, to operate more or less smoothly as it might down at ground-level, as part of the Earth system.


One result of this state of affairs is we’ll be more likely to use something like the Biodyne (a rocket system able to use expended water, CO2 etc. for reaction mass) for voyages at least to the nearer planets.  We won’t have to worry about recycling air, water or food.  With planetary colonies or out-system artificial stations however, one day we’ll need to recycle one way or another and this will likely be the true challenge of interplanetary exploration.  The other aspect of the problem set, the sociological part;  is the fact that on Earth we seldom used Balanced systems at all.  Are water, air, food and power all come from disparate sources and though ultimately tied together on the global scale, can vary constantly and in infinite varieties without one segment needing to refer to any great extent to another.  It’s not as if this is a new idea.  Anyone who’s planned for a camping trip becomes aware of how much we depend on variety in foods.  And we make some gestures at recycling in our c


The real message this astrosociological presentation offers, at least to me, is that in order to become a space faring race we, or at least some of us, must learn to live in a state of Balance, physically, materially and psychically.  We need to know more about limiting our needs and desires to what we can produce.  We need to balance our energy uses with sources available (living off-grid.)  We need to remain increasingly aware of what we use and why.  The extent to which we are able to do these things at home will make it more likely that a small group of Earthlings in an intrinsically fragile craft, will someday reach Mars, Jupiter, Pluto?  The Oort cloud and eventually, other star systems.


Some things we can try;  Install flow meters for water and electricity in your home so you can know first hand when you use the most of each and why.  Honda has a co-generative home generator system, the Micro Combined Heat and Power or MCHP, which can give you 900 Watts of power and heat water or air at the same time.  Let’s some of us make a commitment to own this or a comparable system some day.  Even planning your shopping to limit trips to once per week or ten days, not so much to save gas, though that’s a factor; but to learn to plan your meals over a period of time so if pressed you could spend a month away from the store.  All of these are disciplining exercises for the future, not to ultimately limit ourselves as human beings but to take back control from the utilities, the market and Society in general.  The greatest freedom comes from intelligent choices and in order to free our race from a single planet, a process in a sense reversing that transition from hunter gatherer to farmer, me must at the same time relinquish much of the convenience offered by the City and reclaim the autonomy, self and small group reliance of the wanderer.


Compost heaps, recycling centers and thrift stores. But Balance in the larger sense is left to the benevolence (we hope) of our planet’s ecological system.

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