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European space prepares to make a really big decision

Jonathan Amos | 22:34 UK time, Friday, 4 February 2011

More than 300 of Europe's leading space scientists gathered in Paris this week to discuss how to spend more than a billion euros. The options? Well, try to choose between these three:

IXO artist's impression

IXO would be compressed into a smaller shape to fit in its launch rocket

(1) a 20m-long telescope called IXO that could see the very "edge" of a black hole; or (2) a trio of satellites collectively known as LISA which might be able to detect the ripples in space-time left by the moment of creation itself; or (3) a pair of spacecraft that would visit two of the most promising locations for life beyond Earth in our Solar System. This is called EJSM/Laplace.

The European Space Agency is working through the process of selecting a large mission to do something extraordinary, with the idea of launching the venture in 2020 or soon after. The start of the next decade might seem a long way away, but in the business of space this type of extended planning is very common.

The mission concepts being considered in this instance stretch what we know scientifically and challenge what we think we're capable of achieving technologically. And the reality is that in the case of two of the three missions I'll discuss on this page, several million euros will be spent just to say "no, we're not going to do that this time".

This week's meeting was a beauty pageant, if you like. It was a chance for the proponents of each mission concept to sell their idea to the wider community, and, very importantly, to the committee members in the audience who will make the final decision.

So what exactly is on offer?

Meeting in Paris

The meeting was held in the grand surroundings of the Institut Oceanographique in Paris

IXO [7MB PDF]: The International X-ray Observatory would be another of the grand telescopes, in the mould of Hubble, Herschel and James Webb. Like James Webb, it would be so big that it would need to be compressed, accordion-like, to fit inside its Atlas 5 launch rocket.

Only when it got into orbit could this 6.5 tonne beast extend to full length. Carrying advanced optics, it would deliver sensitivity and resolution 10 to a 100 times better than the current state-of-the art machines - Nasa's Chandra telescope and Esa's XMM. What could it do? Well, X-rays are a signal from the energetic Universe - from places where matter is being accelerated to great speeds, heated, or even torn apart.

To a science journalist one might even say it's a signal from the "exciting Universe" because the sources of X-rays are often those staples of gripping astronomy stories - black holes. Indeed, IXO would allow us to probe these objects in ways the current generations of astronomers could only dream of.

IXO would hunt for the first supermassive black holes to form in the Universe, and learn how they evolved through cosmic time. It would also allow us to peer right at the event horizons of black holes, locations where some really weird relativistic effects are predicted to occur as matter is pulled "inside". Paul Nandra, from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, is an IXO champion. He told me:

"We think we've already seen some of these effects with the current generation of telescopes; evidence that time slows down close to a black hole. That causes the light to shift. But even weirder things happen when you get close to a black hole: you get effects that light is bent so that you can almost see the back of your head. That sort of thing can become observable if you've got enough sensitivity like you'll have with IXO. So, we want to see these effects; we've got hints of them already. But now we know we are close to a breakthrough and that if we get this increase in sensitivity from IXO, we can see these effects predicted by Einstein's general relativity."

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LISA artist's impression

The LISA satellites would fire lasers across five million km of space

LISA [12MB PDF]: The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna has been studied as a mission concept in some form for at least 18 years. Its purpose would be to detect gravitational waves. The movement of truly massive bodies, such as merging black holes, are expected to disturb the space-time around them, sending this energy radiating outwards. It's a very small signal, however, and to identify it requires extraordinary sensitivity.

LISA would fly three satellites five million km apart in an equilateral triangle formation. Laser beams travelling between the spacecraft would measure distances between free-floating gold blocks. The trick to detecting a wave washing over the observatory would be to see the laser beams deviate in a very characteristic way.

Measuring that, though, means observing changes as small as about 10 picometers, or 10 million millionths of a metre, a length smaller than the diameter of the smallest atom. Astonishing. But if this is possible - and everyone seems to think it is - it will turn astronomy on its head because it means we will be able to probe the Universe in ways that do not depend on detecting light. Professor Bernie Schutz from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam told me:

"Light is a wonderful medium for exploring the Universe and our own neighbourhoods, but the problem with light is that it's pretty easy to block it; and when you're talking about getting light from very distant regions of the Universe, there are too many things in the way. The light gets scattered or absorbed. Gravitational waves don't do that; they go through absolutely everything. Ordinary gravity does; you can't screen gravity out. You know that you weigh as much when you're standing inside a building as when you're standing outside. You can always block radio waves and the transmission to your phone - that's electromagnetic waves, that's light. But you can't do that with gravity. So if we can detect gravitational waves then we can observe things that we can't reach any other way."

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Like IXO, LISA will open up black holes to study in ways that are simply not possible currently, but what really fascinates me is what it could do for the study of the really early Universe.

There should be a background of gravitational waves rippling across the Universe from the Big Bang. LISA just might have the sensitivity to pick this up, or certainly some of the other key events predicted to have occurred in the first fractions of a second after the cosmos came into being.

Jupiter Ganymede Oribiter

Europe would concentrate on Ganymede, putting a spacecraft in orbit around the moon

EJSM/Laplace [9MB PDF]: This is a two-spacecraft mission that would go out to Jupiter, to study the planet and its Galilean moons. Particular emphasis would be paid to Europa and to Ganymede. I'll talk to the importance of international collaboration in just a moment, but this endeavour would see the Americans concentrate on Europa with one spacecraft and the Europeans concentrate on Ganymede with the other.

Each satellite would conduct a stream of independent science in the Jupiter system. BUT, the two spacecraft would also work in tandem, gathering data together from different standpoints around the gas giant that would give scientists a totally new perspective on the Solar System's biggest planet.

Jupiter's significance has grown in recent years as we've discovered more and more planets around distant stars. Jupiter is an archetype, a model, for those far-flung systems, not least because it is on the rocky and icy moons of giants planets that life may exist. And this is the real draw of going to Europa and Ganymede. These two bodies probably harbour deep sub-surface layers of liquid water, and, as such, are considered prime locations for biology to perhaps take hold. Professor Michele Dougherty from Imperial College London said:

"You need essential elements; you need water; you need stability over time; and you need energy as well. What we want to do is to try to understand the details of those four different areas [at these moons]. And you can't do that if you have flybys. Nasa's Galileo spacecraft spent years in the vicinity of Jupiter but it didn't spend more than three or four hours on a flyby of each of the moons. To separate out all of the different effects, you need to spend time in orbit. You need to be able to see the same piece of surface time and time again, to see how it might change."

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IXO, LISA and EJSM/Laplace would cost well in excess of a billion euros to implement. The European Space Agency says it can spend no more than 700m euros on any one venture.

That's realistic if the member states of the agency pick up the costs of building instruments (which they would normally do) and Nasa (and Japan in the case of IXO) also joins the party. And here's the tricky part. While Esa works through its selection process, the US is also working through a separate selection process, too.

The priorities of the two agencies - or at least their scientific communities - have to align; so too do the timelines for making decisions.

It's rather like organising a multi-billion euro wedding and trying to get the bride and groom to the church on the same day to say "I do". But watch out in June because we should at least get some indication then from the Science Programme Committee of Esa on how it views the big choices above.

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  • 1. At 00:51am on 05 Feb 2011, Burton wrote:

    My pick for the mission to spent Euros on would be a the Jupiter moons mission. It would engage the public greater than more pictures of stars & galaxies. Also the budgetary overrun on the last several orbital observatories launched or about to be launched (e.g. the JWST's ballooning cost to over 2.5 Billion and counting) should give pause to any more orbital observatories plans.

    Have doubts about the ESA's portion of the EJSM mission. The current reference design for the spacecraft to be solar power. An iffy proposition since this restricted the power generation aboard the spacecraft plus a big leap of fate on the solar panels' resilience to the harsh radiation environment around Jupiter. This would be only the second mission with solar power at Jupiter's distance from the sun and beyond, all other had been nuclear power with RTG units.

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  • 2. At 02:52am on 05 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    I don't know about everyone else but I have reasons for liking all three, isn't it a pity they couldn't spend a little more money on science and a little less on something else.

    Politics aside I have a personal interest in the possible results of IXO or LISA as I'm not a fan of General Relativity and either might just put a little deeper in its grave. Actually though if I had to choose I'm more in favour of the EJSM Laplace mission because its exploration is simply more immediate and scientifically exciting.

    EJSM / Laplace. Europa and Ganymede are worlds that might just have life or at least very interesting conditions. If there is a criticism of this mission its that its to small, we should really be sending large missions with things like detailed mapping satellites and landers. Another mission that would be very interesting if it was possible would be a deep radar mission over Jupiter itself. (It would probably be very large and expensive. :) )

    As for IXO its results could certainly be very interesting. The physics of black holes are still very poorly understood and they are a mass of contradictions so if it can shed new light that would be a very good thing. On gravity alone black holes raise questions that current standard theory simply cant answer sensibly. Quantum gravity theories generally rely on FTL interactions, my own work invokes a different kind of FTL linked to Special Relativity, theories like supersymmetry or superstrings invoke hyper-dimensionality which indirectly invokes yet another kind of FTL interaction. Even gravitational red-shifting doesn't work without some kind of FTL exchange of energy.
    Theres a theme developing here, basically if General Relativity was totally correct the space time around black holes should collapse in on itself and they should appear massless. So detecting things falling into a black hole is a rather curious proposition.

    Which brings us to LISA, certainly some theories allow ripples in space time - some don't. It is a very interesting question. However it is a very difficult experiment and LISA may never produce any useful results, its the kind of experiment that can only ever really produce a definitive positive and not a definitive negative. Plus that ten years is a very long time in physics and these questions may well all be resolved before it even launches.

    So anyway I would put it -
    1. EJSM / Laplace
    2. IXO
    3. LISA
    But better by far cancel Galileo and do all three.

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  • 3. At 10:43am on 05 Feb 2011, smallvizier wrote:

    The way I see it, all this stuff is going to get done - someday. In choosing a priority, we should not just ask, "which is the most worthy mission," but "which do we need to do NOW rather than later?"

    I feel the IXO falls down on this one. Yes, studying the fringes of black holes would refine our understanding of some very rare and intriguing situations. It might even help develop relativity (or its successor). But it doesn't really seem to matter whether we do it in 2020 or 2080.

    LISA is much more exciting to me. Its primary mission is similar - study new situations to discover more about the development of the universe, and how space works in general. However unlike IXO, it holds out the hope of seeing something genuinely new and unexpected. It's not just a more sensitive version of last year's gadget: it would be a completely new way of studying space.

    However EJSM/Laplace is my standout, for the reasons in my opening paragraph. It would still explore a place we'd never seen (just one rather closer to home). It would still stretch the boundaries of science (just different bits). But the thing is, Jupiter is in reach now. Over the next hundred years, we will be sending landers, and if we REALLY wanted to them we could even send people.

    The thing is, all that takes a lot effort. If it's going to happen, we need to know sooner rather than later whether Jupiter's moons are truly worth the trouble. If we find life, or a hospitable environment, then our space programmes will change dramatically as a consequence. Getting these results in 2020 instead of 2080 could make a real difference.

    That's why I'd rather we start with EJSM/Laplace. Let someone else build a really powerful X-Ray telescope - but later, when it's half the price and twice the strength. We can wait.

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  • 4. At 11:48am on 05 Feb 2011, Mike Mullen wrote:

    Well if we're having a poll I'm going to go for the Jupiter mission. We've had Herschel and Plank launched in the last couple of years and James Webb due whenever it's finally finished so i don't think another big telescope should have priority. And since we haven't managed to detect gravity waves yet I'm not sure about LISA. The Jovian moons on the other hand are begging for a closer look.
    Now instead of just announcing the result perhaps they could tack this on to the Eurovision Song contest as an extra voting option? :)

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  • 5. At 11:52am on 05 Feb 2011, Izzy wrote:

    Spend the money on exploring the remaining 90% of the oceans we have no clue about. We currently know more about the origins of the universe than we do about the deep oceans.

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  • 6. At 12:09pm on 05 Feb 2011, Argum wrote:

    I love 'em all, but when push comes to shove, I would go with the project that best leveraged the enormous amount we've already invested in and are learning from the Large Hadron Collider. For me, that means using cosmology to verify the LHC's findings, and black holes would seem the place to do that.

    But I may well be completely wrong. How I wish we could do all three :-)

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  • 7. At 12:09pm on 05 Feb 2011, james Allen wrote:

    It annoys me when they talk about life and state things as fact 'You need essential elements; you need water; you need stability over time; and you need energy as well.'

    These are good guesses based on our own model but as ours is the only model then really they have no idea where life might take hold, they can only make educated guesses.

    There should be a 'we think' at the start of that sentence.

    Other than that what a great report. I hope they go for EJSM/Laplace.

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  • 8. At 1:09pm on 05 Feb 2011, alphachap wrote:

    I agree with Robert Lucien's comment: "isn't it a pity they couldn't spend a little more money on science and a little less on something else".
    Of course "more than a billion euros" is quite a sum, but these are 20 year projects, projects that would be historic achievements.
    And that money is not just thrown into space, it is spent here on earth, sustaining science, technology, research, innovations, universities, graduate students, international cooperation.
    What a bargain really.
    Let's do it, and more.

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  • 9. At 1:41pm on 05 Feb 2011, CPslashM wrote:

    My worry about "big science" is the fundamental basis of the experiments.

    Traditionally, as I understand it, science starts with the observation of phenomena, then hypotheses to explain them, then theories which can be tested experimentally. If a theory tests true, the experiment is changed to incorporate more exceptional circumstances and re-run. If the theory tests false, the theory is changed to accommodate the new data, and re-tested. Experiments are designed to disprove theories.

    Are there gravity waves? Does life exist on Europa? Does a black hole show the back of your head? Does the Higgs boson exist?

    These are theories put forward in a way which can only be demonstrated to be true, not false - the opposite of the traditional process. If they are not proved to be true by the current proposals (which are really trying to observe theoretical phenomena), then the temptation is to blame the failure on technology, not theory, and request even more money to keep chasing the theory until it is proved true - when it may be false all along!

    Experiments need to be designed to prove falsehood rather than limited truth.

    But then, this billion Euros 'must' be spent....

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  • 10. At 1:46pm on 05 Feb 2011, pahane wrote:

    If we're going to spend billions we need to weigh it up:

    - Can we sell it to the public?
    - Does it have the potential to change the world?

    Looking at black holes and spotting gravity waves are great. But will it make the front pages? Will Joe Public read it? And will he think "Wow. That's cool"?

    Has to be the Jovian probes.

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  • 11. At 3:24pm on 05 Feb 2011, SR4Z wrote:

    I'd vote for LISA because it's the biggest step into the unknown.

    As an improvement on existing X-ray telescopes, IXO is not quite so exciting.

    EJSM - sorry but without a lander the risk is spending all that money to find out that the moons "might" have some of the conditions for life.

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  • 12. At 3:40pm on 05 Feb 2011, SR4Z wrote:

    #9 - I agree to some extent, but before a theory can be taken seriously it must make a prediction which is verified experimentally. For example, the return of a comet, or the apparent shift in position of a star when it it in line with the sun. These were experiments worth doing and I'd say LISA and IXO continue that tradition.

    The search for life is exciting but it is more exploration than pure science as there are no specific predictions. Perhaps it should have a separate budget!

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  • 13. At 4:04pm on 05 Feb 2011, Zagurski wrote:

    An analogy:

    What is easier?
    - to find a new asthma relief medicine or cure Alzheimer's
    - To explore the 4% of the universe we can see or the 96% we neither can neither see or understand

    I'd for for the 96%, as the probability of finding something truly astounding is much greater!

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  • 14. At 5:03pm on 05 Feb 2011, vieuxpapou wrote:

    All three projects are important, but, for marketing reasons, there is no doubt that the search for life on the Jovian moons must have precedence.
    Scientifically, even if no evidence for life is found, the inner "planetary" dynamics of these moons make subjects as interesting as the other two projects.
    Too bad that such fascinating three subjects, different as they are, cannot be financed simultaneously. Let the other two projects benefit from a solid rain check!

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  • 15. At 5:09pm on 05 Feb 2011, Rif-Raf wrote:

    I don't mean to put a spanner in the works and throw out three great ideas for expanding our future, but!

    I would say spending that the US and the rest of the world are planning should be focused on here and now. Understanding the questions to answers of the universe and the meaning of life when we all know it is 37 and 42 can wait. If you imaging with 1 or 2 billion dollars what we could discover here and now understandings of ourselves, which we could then apply elsewhere. I'll give you an example in the last 10years mobile phones have progressed to levels that gives us more computing power then the space shuttle that took us to the moon. Advancements in standards in living and education now sees us more connected and living longer than ever before. Recently we have been sending satellites into space with smart phones and mini solar panels that can be built by university students for fun.

    If we spend that money here what can we do in 20 years from now? Maybe we discover how to send probes further, fast and at a fraction of the cost? Could we travel ourselves with privately owned space craft? If you are going to spend money on space spend it on the international space station make bigger lets understand ourselves and where we live first.

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  • 16. At 6:38pm on 05 Feb 2011, Alf wrote:

    Personally being a total layman I always wondered why we had not sent many simple small objects out into space that collect basic sound and vision, passing back to earth in the same fashion as the Internet works, the more you send year on year the further we go, sorry if my ignorance shows through to you experts.

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  • 17. At 6:46pm on 05 Feb 2011, clifford wrote:

    .... Go for LISA......
    Here's why: The Gravity Wave detectors are not good enough on earth. But in space they will almost certainly work much better. IF there are indeed Gravity Waves as predicted by Einstein, then we will move towards a new era in space observation with a new set of instruments that will COMPLEMENT WHAT WE ALREADY POSSESS. Space science will become much more focused and exciting. IMAGINE .. a vast array of Space based GW detectors all around us, probing the far reaches of the universe. It will add to our knowledge of the Cosmos, Big Bang, particle physics and much more!!
    .... Please NO, NON, NEIN to EJSM/Laplace .... it is almost certainly bound to fail!

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  • 18. At 7:07pm on 05 Feb 2011, rebelrebel wrote:

    After the amazing success of Kepler, as demonstrated by the 1200+ candidate exoplanets it's found in four months of data, shouldn't ESA think hard about blowing the dust of the Darwin studies and reconsidering it?

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  • 19. At 7:57pm on 05 Feb 2011, BanningPb wrote:

    The third space program is the only one that man needs needs a real confirmation on. Yes the other projects have very good data that helps us understand more about space; but other countries/groups are exploring these concepts. If we want to continue funding further space projects we need to confirm that planets outside our solar system have more information than we have already studied with current technology. Along with gathering data we also need to create technology of a space craft that can accelerate faster than man has ever built before. These two projects in one would test our ability to really extend our technological limits!

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  • 20. At 8:03pm on 05 Feb 2011, Robbie wrote:

    I work in the Space Industry and am currenly developing a satellite. This has to be the most secure and cushy job outside the public sector ! Timescales are in the order of 10 or 20 years. Budgets are in the order of several millions for very little deliverable. God Bless the ESA.

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  • 21. At 8:04pm on 05 Feb 2011, harry crompton wrote:

    Amazing how, over 40 years since Man landed on the Moon we have gone backwards.
    How much has been given to bail out banks and governments lately?
    What happened to our dreams and pioneer spirit?
    Without these kind of projects we are surely doomed to continue fouling our own planet and continuing on our downward spiral- soory for the depresing tone but how I wish for the excitement of real exploration and discovery!

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  • 22. At 9:30pm on 05 Feb 2011, Nik wrote:

    Non of them. ESA has to finish off with Galileo. This has to be a top priority if Europe wishes to go beyond. Any space agency without its positioning system upon earth is no serious space agency. At some point priorities have to be set.

    What will these projects offer? Knowledge of the cosmos? Ok, nice what for when there will be nothing for these knowledges to be applied? First take care of the basics, which is Galileo, then make a link between ESA and the military forces of Europe (ESA is the mother teresa of all space agencies since all other have been simply offshoots of military programmes and still are such.

    Europe has to realise that it has to play the game. And do it right. When you have no bread to eat you won't waste your flour for a birthday cake.

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  • 23. At 9:36pm on 05 Feb 2011, ekogaia wrote:

    The amount of funding, the security and longevity of the funding is disproportionately focussed towards space and not towards far more urgent issues on earth - climate change, oceanography, species diversity collapse, water issues, population migration, af- and deforestation, damage from mining, damage from extractive industries, etc.
    Why spend a whole lot of money on theoretical stuff when there is far more important practical stuff we have to get a handle on?
    I say cut the whole bangshoot free and spend money on cutting down the damage we are doing to our terrestrial home - it is the only one we have and lets not be fooled the other worlds out there offer a single iota of hope for any salvation from ourselves.

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  • 24. At 10:33pm on 05 Feb 2011, JohnSheridan wrote:

    I agree with Harry Cromptons comments that man seems to have gone nowhere in the 40-odd years since we landed on the moon. I would have expected us to have had a manned mission to Mars by now or, at the very least, a base on the moon. We seem to have gone back into our shell - afraid to "see whats out there". Its all very well sending our probes etc but that cannot be anything like having someone actually go there.

    Mission to Jupiters moons has to be given priority as we cannot remain confined to the Earth forever.

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  • 25. At 10:51pm on 05 Feb 2011, lightryder wrote:

    It is a nice concept to publish ideals about what is expected. It well exercised in modern theory to look as I say fields. In this case we are talking about x-rays. However the place and distance location, in respect to the x-ray field may be just as interesting. The Galaxy is protected by a Galactic magnetic field. The real co pricks are Black holes and Magnetic Stars (Magnetar Stars).
    The effect sitting here thinking about this article, is their placement with distance in space. How do they interact with each other? Hence there connection to the Galactic magnetic field effect. The drawback to this experiment is the costing.
    It was suggest there are twelve Magnetar Stars in this Galaxy (Milky Way). Reference a program on History Channel.

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  • 26. At 11:33pm on 05 Feb 2011, Manky wrote:

    I think either IXO or Laplace as these too will be more guaranteed to give decent results, Lisa while it would be great thing to have it if works seems like an big risk.

    While others has suggested the mission to moon with man its too risky and machines could do most of the same jobs. I think more probably to the moon would be great though.

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  • 27. At 00:35am on 06 Feb 2011, knowles2 wrote:

    Lisa, I think it great, it could open up a whole new universe, but I also think Scientist an engineers need to prove they can build the thing first, sorry guys perhaps 2030, prove you can build the sensors first.

    Do we really need a other space observatory. We already got a great selection up in Orbit an I bet astronomers only studied a fraction of the current data.

    I think Jupiter mission is currently my favourite, but I think we need to make sure it can do a lot more than is currently planned, may be use it test new engines to get us there faster, may be join the Russians an use the new nuclear reactor they are current developing for these kind of missions. But this is certainly the kind of mission that I think Europe need to try an get as many nations as possible to fund it an try an do as much as possible in one go, because it will be decades before we go back again to take a other look. An a lander is essential.

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  • 28. At 01:31am on 06 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:

    At 1:41pm on 05 Feb 2011, CP wrote:

    “My worry about "big science" is the fundamental basis of the experiments.

    Traditionally, as I understand it, science starts with the observation of phenomena, then hypotheses to explain them, then theories which can be tested experimentally. If a theory tests true, the experiment is changed to incorporate more exceptional circumstances and re-run. If the theory tests false, the theory is changed to accommodate the new data, and re-tested. Experiments are designed to disprove theories.”

    What? You mean like the science that hasn’t been used with Darwinism? The facts have consistently proven the theory doesn’t have any validity yet “scientists” are constantly talking about it as if it is a proven fact. The fossil records show sudden appearances of massive numbers of new life at different times in Earth’s history contrary to the theory, and not a single crossover species alive or fossilized has ever been found. Every presented proof that supposedly supported the theory has been proven to be a hoax. And honest applications of probability mathematics that take into account all the factors presented by our known knowledge of the DNA that is found in all life forms and the minimum requirements needed for even the most basic life form to live long enough to reproduce or replicate itself provides overwhelming proof that a blob of chemicals did not spontaneously become a life form and eventually become us. The holiest grail of the anti-God community that would make its founder a god among them is creating life in a laboratory according to how the theory has to pretend life was created and for over a century they haven’t come close. Darwinism’s creationism theory is shooting blanks and yet plenty of “scientists” don’t care to apply honest science and math to the theory because the truth would prove their religion that they have been spouting for so long is a lie. Throughout history very few scientists have actually conducted honest science. Most are non-thinking simple parrots copying others and spouting the party lines of the times, while maybe conducting some percentage observing experiments designed to prop up someone’s position on something as they pretend they are scientists. The lesser have proven to be honestly curious so willing to accept correction and they are the ones who advance science instead of propping up falsehoods while pretending superiority over others.

    As far as a Billion Euros goes for a scientific project, I’d say planting a manned laboratory environment on the moon to conduct experiments and also to see if we can collect the necessary power from the moon to help launch missions elsewhere sounds far more interesting then just another Darwinian goose chase which is what the Jupiter moon missions are all about.

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  • 29. At 02:42am on 06 Feb 2011, stomfi wrote:

    It has been stated as far back as the 1950s that we need new science if we are to survive the 21st century, therefore LISA is our best bet of discovering spin offs. Even if gravity waves don't exist, gravity does and creating the LISA technology will give us valuable insights. It could lead to new ways of power generation in these times of oil depletion and climate change. None of the other projects come close.

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  • 30. At 03:15am on 06 Feb 2011, RevJohn wrote:

    @22. At 9:30pm on 05 Feb 2011, Nik wrote:

    "Europe has to realise that it has to play the game. And do it right. When you have no bread to eat you won't waste your flour for a birthday cake."

    Au contraire, mien pal. When you have no bread you *MUST* use what little flour you have for a birthday cake.
    Budget for the luxuries and treats *FIRST*, then essentials.
    A life lived as our present government wishes us to live is a poor existence, not a Life. We only get one shot at this grand, glorious cosmos, and then we are gone, forever, isn't it better to make this a beautiful, wonderful, magical life than merely to drag out a fiscally responsible but miserable existence?
    The bankers certainly think so.
    This is a vastly rich country. The EU is incredibly wealthy. The global economy is so brimming with treasure it could pay for cities on Mars out of petty cash.
    England, or even UKland, could fly thousands of robots, landers, orbiters, balloons, nuclear-powered autonomous submarines and crawlers of many kinds, as well as building cities and farms in high orbit, saving museum pieces like HST out of mere sentimentality *AND* building research villages on Farside, and we could start doing it today. We can afford this easily. We *showed* everyone that we can afford all of these things when we wasted hundreds of milliards of pounds on propping up banks.
    Even *after* doing that, England could still do it all.
    It would, in the medium term, cost us nothing and gain us a lot.
    No, that is not absurd.
    Consider the relative cost of CERN and market value of Google. CERN, even including the LHC, has cost the global economy *nothing*. It has created wealth by the hundreds of milliards of pounds.
    Basic scientific research *always* makes money.
    Research into lasers, as esoteric and abstruse a notion as physics has ever provided, led to DVDs, Blu-ray, several types of body scanner and a host of other technologies. The wealth these have created utterly dwarfs the initial cost of the research.
    No, I have no idea what technologies we would gain, what forms the new treasures would arrive in, were we to mass-produced space-craft, probes and habitats for non-terrestrial living, but I do know one thing, they would make more money than DVDs have. Even in the short term.
    Radar sites and radar ovens.
    I am quite surprised that the greedy, selfish, grasping, myopic bankers and their friends in the parliaments of the world have yet to grasp this simple idea.
    Historical precedents show that throwing money into science and technology and new engineering *makes* *wealth*.
    It always has and it always will.
    HTML was not an accident. Given CERN, something like Google was inevitable.
    The only questions are: who will do the basic research, and who will profit from the ideas generated by it.
    Being selfish, I'd like it to be England and Europe, but I doubt our leaders have the wit to see how *spending* not cutting is to their very own immediate selfish advantage.
    We should not be thinking of choosing one of three, we should be building hundreds of probes and telescopes and robots and scattering them everywhere.
    We can afford it.
    We can afford The Dream of Stars.
    It would even make us all richer.
    A very clever man once said those who dream of stars see Earth as our cradle, those who mock the dream see it only as our grave.
    We can afford the Dream. We should reach for it. Today.
    I know we won't.

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  • 31. At 05:52am on 06 Feb 2011, Jonathan wrote:

    smallvizier wrote: But the thing is, Jupiter is in reach now. Over the next hundred years, we will be sending landers, and if we REALLY wanted to them we could even send people.

    Jupiter is a gas giant and as such, we wont be landing on it. Not until another few million years when it condenses into a solid body. But even then, given solid ground to stand on jupiters gravity would easily crush any human or probe we could send there.

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  • 32. At 09:47am on 06 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    #30 RevJohn wrote:

    "I am quite surprised that the greedy, selfish, grasping, myopic bankers and their friends in the parliaments of the world have yet to grasp this simple idea.

    Historical precedents show that throwing money into science and technology and new engineering *makes* *wealth*.
    It always has and it always will."

    I couldn't have put it better.

    In Britain the state has never valued technology or scientific contributions, and it has taken us from being the biggest tech economy in the world - to a minnow that depends mostly on parasite services like banking and financial dealing. You can blame it on Churchill or the people who canceled Blue Streak, or Thatcher who actively tried to destroy our technology base, or Blair's double dealing, or simple gobalisation. We once had a nearly unbeatable lead in computing and allowed America to steal it because we didn't think it was worth anything, the value in software alone today is over 300 billion dollars every year.

    Look at almost anything in technology and its the same, sooner or later it makes the world better, it makes money. - In fact if you took the technology value away from the overall economy of the world its over 90%, probably over 95%. In fact something like 90% of the worlds population would actually be dead within a year without it.

    The budget for these three missions is currently supposedly less than a billion euros over ten years, little more than pocket change. We're spending something like 8 - 10 billion euros on Galileo a system thats only actually useful if we go to war with America.

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  • 33. At 11:11am on 06 Feb 2011, lummax wrote:

    My two cents worth,
    one cent,
    What should our primary objective be when it comes to space, id est, any place other than this increasingly crowed rock, we call earth?
    The survival of the species by at least halving the probability of en masse extinction by a catastrophic event? The chance to do “real cool stuff” (my personal pick). Exploit the vast and exotic resources available? Or verify that the correct answer is in fact 42?
    Two cent,
    Once primary objectives are established would making funds available become easier?
    Could we trim a little fat off the various military budgets around the world and scrap up a few billion more? If anyone is in doubt, then look up the DOD website as an example for a list of the top “defense” contractors and their respective turn-overs.

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  • 34. At 1:42pm on 06 Feb 2011, xeex wrote:

    Honestly, neither of these projects are worth spending money on. It is actually shameful that after so many success regarding space exploration, the scientist nowdays are mostly interested in subjects like black holes and electromagnetic waves, or lifeless moons of Jupiter or Saturn. Whatever happened to projects like Fusion rockets, whatever happened to interstellar travel and developing ideas of getting the man out there to do the exploration per say and not by sitting in a chair in front of a computer.

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  • 35. At 1:53pm on 06 Feb 2011, frederbau wrote:

    Pity we have to choose ...
    If only there was "no price" for "discovery progress". Because, why else are we here, if not to keep exploring? Sooner or later we WILL make that investment in each 3 of them, choosing only 1 now, is delaying the other 2 for later...
    But ... of course, reality is different. Political and economical logic rule above scientific progress.
    And then if we choose, I believe those 100 scientists with their big salaries and VIP flight tickets, will come to the best choice, the choice which can move us most forward at this moment.
    Maybe that is then option 2, which will open a new "landscape" to us, tiny earthians.

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  • 36. At 2:19pm on 06 Feb 2011, Dan wrote:

    Beauty contests are usually considered a fiddle if one option has a much higher 'wow' factor than the others. This falls into that category - who would not pick stunning images of Europa and Ganymede, precise determination of the depth and salinity of subsurface water, with potential follow up missions to look at the ocean itself. Discovery of life on a Jovian moon means multiple Nobel prizes and everyone is well aware of this. It is no coincidence either that the other options would duplicate other existing or planned missions, thus reducing the impact of this 'choice'.

    But is that necessarily wrong ? Review of the mission plan shows a spacecraft stacked with sensitive instruments to a degree that limitation of stray magnetic fields from the electrical system is something of a design challenge. This will certainly give groundbreaking science. I do share one caveat with others though, the use of solar panels :

    "The cells are assumed to be triple-junction GaAs based optimized for Low-Intensity-Low-Temperature (LILT), which is an ongoing development by ESA with Azur, having shown promising results."

    Hmm. Suspect that means they don't have solar panels with the required performance yet. And are they proven for use over decades - certainly not. ESA and NASA should be putting in the orders for Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTG's) now.

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  • 37. At 2:45pm on 06 Feb 2011, T Bond wrote:

    On the face of it, I'm quite happy something is being done to go out into space for something interesting other than to put more satellites around our clogged atmosphere. What impresses me more though is that the money is going to be spent in a democratic fashion instead of one head honcho declaring 'bam, zoom, straight to the moon' which is definite step up in space travel - the discussion of space exploration should be open. Even if it's not to the public, it's a start I guess.

    (Whose money is this by the way?) Don't mind it being spent on space exploration but would be nice to know if I'm paying.

    The EJSM/Laplace mission is the best, rather than worrying about black holes or the fabric of space/time, searching for planets which we can hop to in the brink of destruction is more worthwhile. It's something different and more sci-fi than the other two.
    Remember what our good chum Stevie Hawking said? - "spreading out into space will completely change the future of the human race, and maybe determine whether we have any future at all"; pushing another satellite is the equivalent of looking out the window at a meadow instead of running around it. It is also another step forward to putting people in space beyond low earth orbit which will be beneficial.

    I guess it's a round of about way of saying it but, any of these missions will be invaluable to us in the future, we wouldn't have got crisp packets without the space race, this could pave the way for new scientific endeavours and inventions - the worst thing that can happen is this whole project being bogged down in delays, hopefully whichever one is chosen it will go well

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  • 38. At 5:21pm on 06 Feb 2011, 2morrow wrote:

    All of them sounds good but my favourate, like most others, has got to be the pair of spacecrafts. The other two options are of course interesting but they seem like a complete waste of money just to find out info which will have no bearing on future human space involvement.

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  • 39. At 6:33pm on 06 Feb 2011, Broiyoche wrote:

    I personally would have to go for option 3, right now people are losing interest in science and what it has to offer; option 3 is the only one that would possibly fix this problem. (However a lander would be much more useful in achieving this.)

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  • 40. At 11:45pm on 06 Feb 2011, Jonathan Amos wrote:

    Thanks to all who’ve contributed to this posting. Here are some follow-up remarks on my part concerning the purpose of scientific endeavour. The great glory of the scientific method is the prediction that can be tested. General relativity describes how a massive object, such as our Sun, will bend space and time around it. Arthur Eddington realised that if this statement held true then viewing stars close to the Sun during a solar eclipse ought to reveal that their apparent positions in the sky would shift from their normal observable positions. This prediction he tested and confirmed in one of the most famous experiments of the 20th Century on the Island of Principe in1919. From General Relativity, we can also make predictions about gravitational waves. We can predict they will disturb space-time on scales that should be measurable provided we can build sufficiently sensitive equipment. I make no particular case for LISA, but could anyone fail to be astonished at the prospect of retrieving information about the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang. To those who doubt the value of space telescopes, remember that astronomy has been a key driver in the efforts to bring us ever better detector technology. One specific example pertinent to this very discussion: the detector technology developed for Europe’s current X-ray space telescope, XMM-Newton, is now being used as a diagnostic tool in the treatment of breast cancer. And on the subject of the Jovian orbiters, there is a wonderful opportunity here for British technology to touch Europa. In a recent report to Nasa on EJSM/Laplace, the prospect of putting sensors on the surface of the moon was discussed in detail. UK researchers are developing missile-like penetrators to do this. See the bottom of the report for more details.

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  • 41. At 03:13am on 07 Feb 2011, Eton_Mess wrote:

    I would suggest LISA. This mission seems the most ambitious and has the most potential for new knowledge.

    The x-ray telescope is my next choice because the extreme situations it would observe and the structures it might reveal could yield lots new knowledge.

    The Jupiter mission seems quite out of place compared to the other two and I'm quite worried it's even being considered. I hope it's not used as an excuse to abandon the other two serious science missions. Don't misunderstand, I would love to see the solar system full of probes but these engineering projects should not distract from pure scientific research.

    The best thing is to do all three and much more besides but until we have proper funding we have to choose wisely and aim high.

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  • 42. At 03:53am on 07 Feb 2011, Sly wrote:

    what I would do?
    i would spend some serious investment in developing projects that will revolutinize space transport - and those struggle to get support
    project called SKYLON could reduce transport to low Earth orbit by 10 times!!!
    that would mean we could send more instrments for a same price...
    not enough ...
    if we would build a proper spaceship
    - through SKYLON we could have a space ship yard on orbit -
    the one that would be powered by VASIMR engines
    we could reach Mars in 39 days ...
    I'm sure that it would reduce mission cost significantly,
    the glitch is ...
    the ship - to operate normally - will need a nuclear plant ,
    but if we decide to do so ....
    whole solar system will be available to our astronauts
    thats man drem i thought,
    but there is no either brave richman - or political will
    for go ahead

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  • 43. At 10:04am on 07 Feb 2011, Richard Ward wrote:

    28. At 01:31am on 06 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:
    What? You mean like the science that hasn’t been used with Darwinism? The facts have consistently proven the theory doesn’t have any validity yet “scientists” are constantly talking about it as if it is a proven fact. The fossil records show sudden appearances of massive numbers of new life at different times in Earth’s history contrary to the theory, and not a single crossover species alive or fossilized has ever been found.


    This is wholly untrue on several points; I'm assuming your inaccurate knowledge comes from some creationist pamphlets.

    I assume you refer to the "Cambrian explosion" amongst others, which shows a massive surge in diversity of species and several others, usually following mass extinction events - all of which there is an exponentially growing body of evidence to explain.

    As for the cross-over species - the finches of the Galapagos Islands demonstrate this – their beaks adapting to the environment on different island and then back again depending on the changes to habitat and food. Or the fact that we have drug-resistant bacteria, there are "cross-overs" all over the place. Not to mention the vast amount of molecular genetic evidence that shows that Evolution really is a FACT.
    I assume by your creationist ideology you would reject evidence as inferior to your faith, but you are missing out on a truly staggering, beautiful, complex universe, I urge you to look beyond the limited religious sources you are no doubt reading and embrace the amazing advancements and discoveries of the last 100+ years.

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  • 44. At 11:22am on 07 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    #42 sly if your going to go for VASIMR engines powered by nuclear, why not go for full nuclear instead. - Its cheaper, simpler, more powerful, and potentially faster.

    The ultimate nuclear solution is the fusion powered 'torch ship' which could travel from Earth to Mars in something like 3 days. - But to develop it we would be talking about making genuine leaps in physics and technology making the chances of success relatively uncertain, add to this 10 to 20 years of intensive development and 10 billion pounds minimum.

    The next best might be 'nuclear lightbulb' or ultra high temperature fission engines, in this case giving a machine able to get from Earth to Mars in as little as 5 to 10 days. Here the basic theory is far more solid but again there is very substantial development needed putting it at 10 to 20 years plus again 10 billion pounds.

    The simplest reactor tech is open cycle solid state direct injection, very like project NERVA run by NASA in the 1970's. The price of simplicity is a relatively lower efficiency and power with an Earth Mars trip taking about 30 to 60 days. In this case development costs are maybe 5 to 10 years and maybe 2 billion pounds.

    The final nuclear solution is one of my personal favorites -pulse nuclear propulsion, using the wakes of small nuclear explosions. (often called system Orion) Particular advantages of this technology are relative simplicity, high safety factor, and very large payloads. A trip to Mars might take about 20 to 30 days, or as little as 3 to 5 days for the higher energy version (called Super Orion). Development time is around 5 to 10 years with costs in the 2 to 10 billion pound range.
    A semi-major obstacle to this technology are several anti-nuclear weapons treaties. New warheads need to be developed and tested, but Orion warheads are so small that you could detonate one in the Palace of Westminster and survive the explosion in the Millennium Eye (est 200m).

    Ironically nuclear technologies all generally need LESS radiation shielding for manned missions than using chemical rockets because they allow much faster journey times. (I like to keep pointing that out :> )

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  • 45. At 3:27pm on 07 Feb 2011, lhearn wrote:

    The Jupiter project for sure. Jupiter is real whereas black holes and gravity waves are merely imaginary constructs of the failed Big Bang model of cosmology. Electricity (39 orders of magnitude more powerful than gravity) not gravity is the main force at work in our plasma universe. The Electric Universe Model (Plasma Cosmology) goes from success to success, while the 18th century gravity only model goes from failure to failure.

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  • 46. At 4:25pm on 07 Feb 2011, Pantac wrote:

    Lets stop wasting time on projects that will do nothing but raise more questions than answers about our universe.
    The only realistic space project are those that involve Mars and the Moon. Getting man into space and colonizing these bodies should be the main priorities, any other projects should be minor and secondary to this aim.

    As a child of the Moon landing generation, I was spellbound by that acheivement and I honestly thought we would be on Mars by now...what have we done since.
    We've lobbed a huge (useless) space station into orbit, costing billions, but this will be scrapped (like the shuttle fleet) within a decade.
    We look into deep space for habitable planets that we will never get to in our lifetime, or the next.
    In a few centuries, Earth will be a smog ridden, over populated and starving world (unless we have a nuclear war or two to decimate the population).
    So stop wasting money on projects that don't bring benefits to the masses and only feed the imagination of egg heads.

    PS. The probes to the planets have been the best investment in space so far. Their pictures have inspired and stirred the imagination of ordinary people like me, rather than stuffy theories about ripples left over from a supposed big bang!!

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  • 47. At 5:24pm on 07 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:

    At 10:04am on 07 Feb 2011, Richard Ward wrote concerning my post:

    “This is wholly untrue on several points; I'm assuming your inaccurate knowledge comes from some creationist pamphlets.
    I assume you refer to the "Cambrian explosion" amongst others, which shows a massive surge in diversity of species and several others, usually following mass extinction events - all of which there is an exponentially growing body of evidence to explain.
    As for the cross-over species - the finches of the Galapagos Islands demonstrate this – their beaks adapting to the environment on different island and then back again depending on the changes to habitat and food. Or the fact that we have drug-resistant bacteria, there are "cross-overs" all over the place. Not to mention the vast amount of molecular genetic evidence that shows that Evolution really is a FACT.
    I assume by your creationist ideology you would reject evidence as inferior to your faith, but you are missing out on a truly staggering, beautiful, complex universe, I urge you to look beyond the limited religious sources you are no doubt reading and embrace the amazing advancements and discoveries of the last 100+ years.”

    First, you might want to consider what people say about those who ASSUME. But you can leave the ME out of it and only consider the U as to who it makes an ASS out of.

    What, not even an attempt by you to explain the massive surges in diversities of species which you included that are contrary to your religious theory? Or just ignoring any facts that don’t lend support for your theory like so many “scientists” do?

    I never said evolution is not a fact. Evolution as a variance within species is a fact, which explains the finches and bacteria variances you mention. But Darwinism is a little real science learning by observation that was twisted to create a new religion for the atheists at the expense honest science. And you have demonstrated that this is the blind religion and ideology you practice as you sneer at the beliefs of others.

    You have offered no evidence to support your religion but instead just the contrary, and of course you conveniently left out the proof of mathematical probabilities concerning the real DNA science and real basic understanding of the minimum necessary biological needs for even a single cell life form to exist long enough to replicate.

    If you had read and viewed as much science information as I have over the decades, and had an open mind instead of being restricted by your blind anti-God Darwinism religion, you also could learn and evolve intellectually.

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  • 48. At 6:36pm on 07 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:

    Why send probes to the Jupiter moons if it is so much about media attention to support science? It’ll take years to get the probes to the moons just for a few days of “exciting” pictures for the media. The Hubble and Herschel telescopes already supply plenty of great pictures, and you can get some as wallpaper at their web sites.

    Everyone is always complaining about the cost of lifting everything from Earth to orbit but why is no one bothering to see if we can get resources from the moon to reduce our space exploration costs? If we can get access to water we have access to fuels for starters and proof of there being water there has been observed.

    If we can find ores we can smelter out metals. If we can get metals we can mix metals and build with those materials. And who knows what low gravity smelting experimenting might provide in creating new materials. Who knows what new materials we might find mixing materials that do not remain mixed in our gravity long enough to solidify but might if mixed in a lower gravity.

    The other projects will not provide enough practical information to advance our scientific understanding and the advancement of our race in any meaningful way at present. The results from the many more types of scientific experimenting we can do on the moon make the other projects pale in comparison. Can you imagine the scientific advancements that will occur just to engage in this experimenting let alone that can come from the results of the experiments?

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  • 49. At 6:39pm on 07 Feb 2011, Dan wrote:

    Lucien #44
    I agree with the sentiment here – i.e. we should be building advanced propulsion systems for a manned Mars mission. But it’s just not technically feasible at present, and probably not for decades - for the following reasons:

    (i) The technology for nuclear propulsion is at an early development stage only. The much publicised NERVA program was in my view an evolutionary dead end since exhaust velocity was only twice that of the best chemical rockets. The problems of stress corrosion were never solved, to an extent that the system had a nasty habit of blowing bits of radioactive rocket out of the exhaust. Orion depends on making thousands of nuclear bombs - even Ted Taylor lost enthusiasm for it. A single premature Orion detonation would destroy the ship. VASIMR or any electrically based propulsion is a far better concept overall because of its high safety level - reactors can be SCRAM'd or detached if they go wrong.

    (ii) It’s not just the propulsion system. VASIMR is promising but there is still the issue of providing the megawatt power levels to run it – this would typically require a nuclear powered Brayton cycle gas turbine coupled to a turbo-alternator, with a cooling system to dissipate the waste reactor heat. Designing such a system for guaranteed reliability without maintenance is a serious challenge – not impossible but hideously expensive and time consuming.

    (iii) In round figures a manned Mars mission will cost 100 times as much as an unmanned probe. With that kind of funding (if only) I would prefer to send probes of proven engineering design to orbit and/or land on every planet and moon in the solar system. Probably with cash to spare too as many of the design elements could be standardised.

    (iv) The risks involved in travel beyond earth orbit are high. Half of all Mars probes have failed – thus far it’s been an embarrassment but nothing more. Could the space programme really withstand a public Apollo 13 style disaster in Mars orbit, drawn out over months with only one possible outcome ? Better to stick to unmanned probes for now for actual missions and engage in a vigorous research program to produce a robust engineering design for a complete integrated advanced propulsion system, suitable for mass production. That would give any Mars mission a robust abort and rescue capability. It would also provide long term sustainability beyond ‘footprints and flags’.

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  • 50. At 6:59pm on 07 Feb 2011, charlie r wrote:

    for what it's worth here are my views.

    I think IXO sufffers from it seeming to be like other space telescopes - a lack of newness about the idea. It would be great to have another and far better X-ray telescope, but maybe this one can wait.

    EJSM/Laplace looks cool and exciting, and i think will occur - with the growth in exobiology there is some push behind searching new places for life. How come though the US gets Europa while we europeans get ganymede, which looks a little dull in comparison?!

    As for LISA, unlike some on here, i think the physics is sound, and as well as enlightening on the early universe i think i am right in saying the spacecraft can also look at spinning binary black holes, and wacky stuff like cosmic strings (if they exist...!). I think though out of the three, it is the most difficult to implement, with formation flying at those distances sounding horrendous! Plus it precursor, LISA pathfinder is having difficulties, and is now delayed until 1014. heart says LISA, but my head says EJSM/Laplace. To be honest all three will occur in some form!!

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  • 51. At 7:39pm on 07 Feb 2011, Bernhard wrote:

    I really like all three of them and would welcome a space budget that could accommodate all three. My favourite is Laplace, followed by LISA, followed by IXO. And I am very tempted to name LISA first, the reason that is not making me do it is that I'd like to see some more concrete preparations for the colonization of our solar system.

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  • 52. At 8:25pm on 07 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    #49 Dan,

    Hi Dan I have to say I mostly agree with you. A few years ago I was working on a book on the various different types and did detailed analysis on most of them and in the end they all have their own Achilles heels.
    - - - -
    At first I thought the reactor - thruster type system was going to be the best approach and in many ways it still is pretty good, but its real problem is weight. For a working system you have A. the reactor, B. the cooling system, C. the thrusters, and D. the electrical system. Add to that a robot system to do maintenance on the reactor and a structural span or radiation shielding and it becomes a behemoth.
    Maybe with fusion a reactor thruster combination might work but a single reactor-engine module always turns out to be lighter. The basic reason is that each energy conversion step costs mass, reduces efficiency, and also adds to the cooling load.
    - - -
    As for the pulse nuclear yes it is a mad idea but it is actually one that looked at in detail becomes quite promising. Yes a single bomb detonating early would destroy the ship but that is a relatively easy problem to solve - say using Byzantine generals and triple redundancy on the trigger.
    Physically a pulse nuclear ship can have a base flight weight of several thousand tons or more. This allows the ship to be relatively simple, it can be large and heavy with plenty of internal room and a strong radiation shelter. This makes the overall construction more like a ship or submarine than current space vehicles, probably in a shipyard type factory. The payload limits allow a separate excursion craft and a crew of 10 to 20. A separate cargo run with the same ship can deliver a whole base sized load and extra supplies to Mars first.
    The crew also get very little radiation compared to other methods either, with a heavy radiation shelter plus a short journey time few or no inboard radioactive systems while the the ship is not at thrust.

    The biggest bonus though is that for pulse nuclear the costs fall through the floor with a ten man mission to Mars staying a year costing around 10 to 20 billion dollars/pounds. Compare that to some of NASA's estimates of a chemical rocket mission to Mars - costs of over a 1000 trillion dollars plus months trapped in a tiny bubble crawling through space, twice over.

    The biggest problem with pulse nuclear is lifting such large machines into orbit with current rocket technology. Then there is the cost of producing and lifting the 1000's of warheads into orbit safely. Each warhead would be tiny -about the size of a 2kg coffee barrel, but they will each weigh something like 100 to 200kg. Finally there is the cost of making the actual nuclear material - actually probably the biggest cost in the whole system.
    If any of this was easy we would already have done it. Apart from Wikipedia a good source for everything about nuclear rockets is - -there are plenty of others.

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  • 53. At 9:01pm on 07 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:


    What has always been the biggest draw to get the masses to pay attention to science? Is has always been visual displays.

    Scientists have always had to put on good shows to attract the interests of those they seek money from to continue their experiments. Many scientists in the past practiced magical illusions to captivate their audiences to earn a living or gain investment capital. Even today scientists have a far better chance to succeed if they use good visuals to impress their audience. And most of today’s TV science shows are way more about entertaining with visuals than informing about sciences.

    Building another telescope or sending probes to the moons of Jupiter will generate short bursts of interest for the launches and when the pictures first start arriving, but the masses will quickly lose interest and ignore science once again. More of these types of missions do almost nothing to advance our understanding of sciences, or to increase the opportunity to obtain capital for future projects.

    Setting up a base on the moon would be like when the Europeans first started settling in America. Interest will not wane but steadily increase, especially if we use the internet and visuals to keep the public informed about everything that is going on there. The scientists could even get good information for methodology concepts to solve situations they’re having problems with if they encourage and filter through feedback from not just other scientists but from the masses too, and of course even brand new ideas for experimental or research consideration could be found.

    If you want the masses to take an interest in science than you must make it appealing and we have excellent media construction capabilities and dissemination abilities today. For example, talking about using magnetic fields to stir molten metal is boring but you show them a beautifully coloured video while telling them about it and now you have their attention. Plus allowing people active participation lends even more opportunity to gain their interest.

    If scientists want to do a whole lot of experiments than they have to gain the interest of the greatest number of people, and not just for short bursts every few years. And of course the more people who take an interest in science the more scientists there will be that could really cause a jump in our understanding too.

    Why waste a Billion Euros when it is highly unlikely it will result in any benefit to mankind in the near future? I say, GO FOR THE GOLD AND PROMOTE SCIENCE BIG TIME or just stay home and watch pretty pictures on TV.

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  • 54. At 9:04pm on 07 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    OOps before anyone comments yes thats 1000 billion rather than trillion :) I always edit to tidy up my tenses and sentence structure and I always miss at least one, or a few - no proof readers on blogs! :(

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  • 55. At 10:27pm on 07 Feb 2011, Araxmas wrote:

    Which ever one of these three gets us closer to developing faster than light travel gets my vote.

    Oh and lol at "josepththepoet"'s post. There is a massive amount of evidence for evolution and indeed several hundred different cross-over fossils have been discovered, you really need to read a damn book now and than.

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  • 56. At 00:01am on 08 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:

    I prepared this to reply for when someone points out that putting a research base on the moon will cost more than 1 Billion Euros but I am posting it now anyway, just to throw ideas out there and maybe stimulate others to think outside the box.

    Of course a moon base will cost more than 1 Billion Euros. Those three projects can only ask for 1 Billion because they cannot possibly justify any more than that.

    So take that 1 Billion in government money, and add all the advertising money to it.

    What advertising money you ask?

    Continuing to rely on cash strapped governments to pay for all space based science projects makes no sense. Who cares if a storage shed placed on the moon is shaped and painted to look like a big bottle of Coke or Budweiser Beer? So what if a living or experimental module looks like a Big Mac or bucket of KFC. Functional ability is all that is really important. What would a company pay just to have their logo painted on the rockets used to lift the payloads into orbit or to have a huge highly reflective banner unfurled on the surface of the moon for a period of time (adding in their paying to get it there too of course)? What would a company pay for the astronauts to conduct an experiment specifically for them, or for an internet segment showing the astronauts preparing a Big Mac or eating some KD? If internet viewing of the inside of the modules is occasionally allowed then will not companies pay so their logo can be seen in the background during those times like they do at ball games? Just about anything sent up could have a temporary or semi-permanent logo put on it. They spend millions for just a few seconds of advertising during the US Super Bowl, but this stuff can draw an even larger number of people’s attention to their companies and for a lot longer. Just don’t offer to keep up the paint jobs on the outsides of the units. Inside could be peal and stick, and even LED or video when there is enough power if they choose so. We use advertising everywhere so why not incorporate it into space missions too?

    Does anyone honesty think there isn’t a massive amount of private money that can be tapped for such a mission? And those who pay for the modules and/or their costs to get them to the moon would also continue to draw the attention of the world to their advertising to get the best bang for their buck which will ensure a great deal of attention is continually directed to the operation. This would not be a little spurt of interest every few years but ongoing increasing attention.

    All countries begin with just one settlement or outpost then grow from that via business activity. Eventually companies and countries will be falling over each other to set up their own modules to keep up with the Jones’ and vacations for the extremely wealthy will occur to increase space travel activity too to spur on new technologies in that area also. We’d get a lot more scientific and economic spinoffs from this than just another better telescope or some pretty pictures of a couple of moons.

    So what if the first land base we have off Earth looks like an advertisement in a funny book. All our cities here look like advertisements gone cancerous anyway so what difference would there be. This could work, but we should not allow the proprietary sale of all the information gleamed from the work. It should first and foremost be a scientific outpost working for the enlightenment of all mankind, at least I believe so anyway.

    And to Araxmas: You poor child, maybe someday you’ll be able to read adult books and even think for yourself instead of just having others tell you bedtime stories.

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  • 57. At 01:49am on 08 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:

    Everyone who claims that there is a lot of evidence that proves Darwinism is making a statement that is contrary to accepted science. It is still called a theory people. The only reason it hasn’t been tossed yet is because it is a political hot potato because most people are not interested in accepting correction and because the majority of scientists, intellectuals, and the political and other elite of society choose it as their religion. Their type has always interfered with truth in science.

    If there was as much proof as some claim that supports the theory then it would no longer be able to be held back as simply a theory. There is too much desire to get rid of God in the world to hold back anything that would prove His existence is not necessary for life to exist. Use your dictionaries people to look up Darwinism and theory. And try to exercise your brains by thinking for yourself about all things instead of just spouting the current politically accepted smug lines.

    It is amazing how many people think they are smart simply because they repeat the same thing a whole bunch of other people are parroting. They say things like there are lots of books that prove it, yet there are plenty of books spouting all kinds of nonsense. Does there being a bunch of books claiming proof there are beings from other planets flying all over the place mean this must be true? How about the many books claiming the position of the stars at your birth dictate your entire life? Many scientists wrote papers and books proving you cannot fly, or later that you cannot fly faster than sound, but all those words didn’t make their claims true. Just because a bunch of scientists , like most everyone else, refuse to think for themselves or engage in honest scientific research and just parrot others doesn’t mean their yap has any validity in fact whether they put it in a book or online or not.

    Oh, and only fools claim that God and science can’t coexist. Who do you think created the sciences? And proof of God is everywhere in science, like in the massive and complex coding found in DNA that puts all computer programmers to shame. There are bees that shouldn’t be able to fly that are flying, and many other wondrous creations everywhere around the globe and wonders we are just now starting to be able to view in space itself.

    I have a very strong belief in God and science, but real science not someone’s foolish babble that has no basis in fact but is simply used to pretend God doesn’t exist or to pretend smug superiority over others. And while I consider myself to be a Christian I do not follow the false doctrine of the mainstream churches that ignore God’s Commandments and Laws and most everything else in the bible. A follower of Jesus would choose to act like Him, and He obeys God and follows His Commandments and Laws. You cannot be a Christian if you act contrary to what Jesus stands for and taught us, and you cannot separate God’s laws and Commandments out from anything in your life like some believe you can with politics.

    Okay, now let fly the personal insults from those who cannot give good arguments to support their positions and hate anyone who dares to believe in God, especially us Christians.

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  • 58. At 1:08pm on 08 Feb 2011, Captain Invisible wrote:

    #9 CP wrote:
    "Traditionally, as I understand it, science starts with the observation of phenomena, then hypotheses to explain them, then theories which can be tested experimentally. If a theory tests true, the experiment is changed to incorporate more exceptional circumstances and re-run. If the theory tests false, the theory is changed to accommodate the new data, and re-tested. Experiments are designed to disprove theories."
    Apologies for off-topic, but what a pity so many scientists ignore this paradigm - particularly regarding the 'science' of 'man-made global warming', where bad science goes unchallenged by anything as mundane and inconvenient as actual experimental evidence.

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  • 59. At 7:15pm on 08 Feb 2011, Mike Mullen wrote:

    JosephThePoet wrote:

    Everyone who claims that there is a lot of evidence that proves Darwinism is making a statement that is contrary to accepted science. It is still called a theory people.

    Well as the Mythbusters would say; 'There's your problem'. You are taking 'theory' to mean what it does in conversational use, a hunch or guess. In science it has a different and much more precisely defined meaning:

    "The scientific definition of the word "theory" is different from the colloquial sense of the word. Colloquially, "theory" can mean a hypothesis, a conjecture, an opinion, or a speculation that does not have to be based on facts or make testable predictions. However, In science, the meaning of theory is more rigorous. A theory is hypothesis corroborated by observation of facts and make testable predictions. In science, a current theory is a theory that has no equally acceptable or more acceptable alternative theory."

    a quote from this Wikipedia page:

    If you don't like that link try Googling 'what is the scientific definition of a theory' and you will find many alternate links explaining the same basic principle.

    It's not your faith I would attack, it's your ignorance of the basics of science.

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  • 60. At 00:07am on 09 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:

    At 7:15pm on 08 Feb 2011, Mike Mullen wrote:
    “In science, a current theory is a theory that has no equally acceptable or more acceptable alternative theory."

    That is exactly why the Darwinism religion deserves to be thrown out.

    The biblical position for creation by a higher life form has scientific observations that support it, yet the Darwinism creationism theory has absolutely none.

    But most people, including scientists, are not interested in thinking for themselves so the liberals in the institutions of “learning” and in the media and politics that all promote everything anti-God tell the masses what to think and they just bleat along. They are even afraid to allow honest debate in the schools and educational institutions because it would be harder to continue to promote their propaganda and pretend their smug superior intellect if facts could be presented to the students. So much for being the institutions of learning that they claim to be. They are instead institutes that brainwash people with their propaganda to accept the current politically correct dogma.

    Go ahead and tell us a reasonable hypnosis that abides by Darwinism and explains the scientifically proven sudden appearances of massive numbers of totally new life forms all at once during different times throughout Earth’s history. This does not fit into the theory of the occasional evolution of one species to a new species over millions of years. Did a whole bunch of life forms all agree at the same time to take off their genes and reknit them then put them back on so they could become new life forms? That must have been some party.

    Go ahead and tell us that probability mathematics is totally meaningless if it doesn’t support your religion. Have you ever heard of DNA? Do you know anything about the DNA that is in all life? Are you capable of grasping any understanding of probability mathematics? The mathematical probability of a SINGLE CELL coming about by chance is calculated, by those considering the scientifically proven DNA that is in all life, to be the fraction 1 divided by 1 followed by 340 million zeros! Then the cell must live long enough to, AND BE ABLE TO from this random occurrence, replicate at least once or the whole randomness factoring begins anew for a first life form, and if succeeding the random factor has to then make a change that allows the new cell to remain viable and also able to replicate and with the change intact. The fart in a puddle idea hasn’t a mathematical probability leg to stand on. The blind randomness concept has no mathematical biological support, yet the very size and complexity of the coding within DNA lends strong support to life having been created by a higher being.

    Go ahead and tell us about when the brothers of Darwinism created life using the Darwinian process in a lab, or would you like to tell us like so many other Darwinism supporters do that the beginning of life supposedly has nothing to do with the Darwinian Theory? The only single celled life form ever “created” in a lab had its DNA assembled by computer and they used an existing cell membrane to host it. No Darwinism chemical randomness slop there, but deliberate construction.

    The theory was cobbled together using falsehoods and politics and has not had a single shred of provable evidence to support it brought forward in over a century since it was first presented. Darwin, like his father, opposed God and followed the evolutionary creationism theory that was already in existence at the time before he ever left for the Galapagos Islands. All Darwin’s observations proved with the extreme examples found on the islands were the basic real evolutions that occur within species. But there were many who seized upon his work to promote the Darwinism Theory to pretend that science proves God does not exist. All claims ever brought forward to support the theory have always eventually been scientifically proven to be fraudulent. Anyone who would still blindly support such a theory when there is another that has far more proof to support it is simply choosing to remain blind to the truth as their devotion to their false religion is all that matters to them simply because they hate God and His rules.

    Most Darwinists who yell that there are many books that prove Darwinism haven’t read a single book or article on the subjects involved, just like the majority who claim to be Christians haven’t bothered to put any effort into honestly researching Jesus but simply bleat along buying into whatever they are told by their church masters. Even when those people read Jesus’ own words in the bible that they should prove ALL things their teachers say they just don’t want to clue in and change their delusional beliefs. Life is easier if you let others do all your thinking for you and ignorance is bliss, right?

    I will not discuss this matter again, because it doesn’t make any difference how many proven scientific facts are put forward on this subject. There is enough information in my posts here to encourage anyone who is willing to approach the subject with an open his mind to seek the truth. But the religiously blind followers of Darwinism will always use their God-given freedom of choice to ignore every truth so they may continue in their blind anti-God hatred until their time comes to an end.

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  • 61. At 01:40am on 09 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    Oh dear the God vs evolution argument again. Scientists mostly make fairly poor arguers so they allow the debate to sit on historical evolution which is generally very difficult to prove definitively either way.

    Instead I turn first to astronomy and the sheer scale of the universe. If your god is real he is destroying and creating 10's of billions of suns every day. By my or most calculations there are something like a trillion sentient civilizations out in the universe right now. Astronomy removes the Earth as the centre of the universe and in fact makes it and us utterly insignificant - except to ourselves. Thats why I'm a moral relativist and proud of it, to believe that God created the universe just for us is so far beyond arrogance that to me it staggers the imagination.

    As for intelligent design, I believe in it. - In fact I've been an Intelligent Designer myself and created my own evolutionary system - in a computer. Its called a genetic algorithm and it works, so for me evolution isn't a theory its a certified fact.

    If you do want to prove historical evolution of life on Earth it actually does exist. - In the maps of DNA, in every animal and plant, we can definitively prove that all life on Earth evolved from a single ancestor. As for that ancestor, that is more difficult but not impossible. It could have emerged from an organic soup that almost certainly did exist, not at once but piece by piece over a billion years or so. Now the probability of all the factors coming together vis life that is another matter, and maybe it does need a god or some supernatural factor.
    Of course there is another tiny final problem, evolution is utterly utterly merciless. It works best at a maximum kill differential, so having lots of children quickly and slaughtering all the weak or inferior ones is the best way to evolve. Being merciful or 'humane' and protecting your own weak is the way to have evolution destroy you, evolution isn't nice.
    So if God did create humanity by evolution he must be one seriously evil guy, maybe like 'Satan'? Maybe that explains all the flaws in human nature as well.

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  • 62. At 1:00pm on 09 Feb 2011, Dan wrote:

    Lucien #52

    Your point on Orion is quite correct, despite the dangers and flaws it is the only system we could build right now. Indeed Carl Sagan made the point 30 years ago - "Orion seems perfectly practical from an engineering point of view". The alternatives are more refined and have higher safety levels - but are decades away.

    If it was desperation stakes e.g. deflecting a large asteroid I say to hell with the risks and build Orion - probably several of them - for a ground launch. The main objection - use of bomb grade uranium - would disappear like magic in an emergency.

    I bet the USDoD keeps all the Orion data classified because one day it will be needed. Perhaps a few design engineers have been recently asked to discreetly produce 3D CAD models of the assembly and subsystems, followed by working out the industrial resources required to construct it. Just as a contingency of course, under some cover name like "space industrial capacity investigation". You also say that the nuclear material would be expensive - perhaps for a one off but if we're talking 2000 bombs (sorry 'pulse units') the unit costs will drop.

    As you say, it's boilerplate construction techniques. In fact, I would go further and be surprised if Newport News and General Dynamics Electric Boat Division had not already had detailed discussions on this with the USDoD.

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  • 63. At 5:15pm on 09 Feb 2011, nigel wrote:

    I belive that is should be spent on nowing whats in the universe and to get a new space station.

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  • 64. At 8:06pm on 09 Feb 2011, Nuishi wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 65. At 8:11pm on 09 Feb 2011, Nuishi wrote:

    US is to investigate Europa and Europe is to investigate Ganymede. Ironic, eh?

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  • 66. At 05:43am on 10 Feb 2011, Fursday wrote:

    "It annoys me when they talk about life and state things as fact 'You need essential elements; you need water; you need stability over time; and you need energy as well.'"

    This annoys me too. It is easy to refer to life and biology as if they're the same things, but is biology necessary for life? Biology is the science of an extremely complex system of chemical reactions, which in turn are based on complex physical reactions. But can a systems as complex as biological ones exist without the conventional chemistry which underlies biology? To pluck a hypothetical example out of the air, could multi-dimensional interactions within space time create systems as complex as biological ones, to the extent that they could create sentient life?

    Could the centres of stars be teaming with life in energetic form? Could whole galaxies of stars have the complexity of a living organism, and perhaps be a form of life itself? Given the chemistry that underlies biology mainly concerns itself with the electromagnetic force, could a type of life exist based on the gravitational force, albeit on a scale of time and space incomparable bigger than chemical interactions deal with?

    The first two projects could discover life elsewhere just as much as the third.

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  • 67. At 10:08am on 10 Feb 2011, stephencameron37 wrote:

    All sound great. Charge 90% tax on MPs' and soccer players' wages and expenses and we could afford it.

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  • 68. At 06:23am on 12 Feb 2011, VladimirOrlovsky wrote:

    Well, well, I do Not think I will be popular on this site..
    But I will try anyway.
    So much hope, so much pipe dream in all this...movements...
    science, space exploration, looking for `green man`..etc.
    (Yeepp, I know, I was like you before...)
    We build multi-Billion dollars(and Euros) projects,
    also we build multi-Billion dollars military projects,
    to kill each-others!!
    (oops, I'm sorry, officially, it's for `protection`)
    One person wrote:
    'Can we sell it to the public?'
    Problem is, you people really do Not know, what is `public` is.
    Public|majority of currently-living-people-on-THIS-PLANET,
    is ...(I will put is politely) give crap!!
    on ALL this 3 your projects!!!
    Majority of currently living people on THIS PLANET,
    barely have food for them selfs and there kids.
    Yeee-Yeee,I know that you hear this before,
    Problem is, I do Not think you EVER REALLY think hard about this.
    This is NOT pipe dreams, this is your brothers and systers human-people,
    who living as (well, almost)animals...
    But.., who cares, keep dreaming!
    oooo...and last one.
    IF `green man` are there,
    they will be very disgusting just to look at YOU!!
    so, forget `phone call` from them.
    You are dirty, agly microorganizms, who kill and torture each-others...
    not prity picture from the distance!!!

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  • 69. At 1:24pm on 13 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    VladimirOrlovsky you attack people for having dreams.

    Well yes the majority of humans are living in poor environments 'little or no better than animals'. But surely this was true before we created the technological society and the fact that they are poor is not our fault. Anything bad you say about us can be said about them too. 300 years ago no-one in the west was any better off than the third world are now and in fact the process of development in those poor countries today is far swifter and less painful than it was here.

    Science and technology have always been a positive force on human progress, for every negative there are more positives and they are far bigger. The real problem with technology is that human societies have not evolved quickly enough to handle it.
    The other problem is cost. - We could do it the way people like you want, and try to feed all those poor and starving children. - But if we do that the load we put on the planets eco-system will increase radically and in all probability a few years later it will collapse. The Earth will be left a dead and barren place and the few humans left will all be poor and hungry and living like animals.
    And the thing is we only know all this because of ecology and theories ultimately born out of the Moon program - there's dreams for you.

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  • 70. At 5:47pm on 13 Feb 2011, clifford wrote:

    ... Why are there no pesky ALIENS?
    ... Because they just don't exist, silly!

    We live in the GOLDEN AGE of this expanding universe when there is a FINE BALANCE of elements and conditions that enable life to exist on this planet. In the past the universe was element poor, and in the future it will be too rich in the heavy elements.

    As for EVOLUTION, nobody doubts THAT it happened!
    The question is HOW?

    Was it Diversity + RandomChance + NaturalSelection = Evolution ....
    ... was it by DESIGN?

    ... LISA will help us buttress or replace GENERAL RELATIVITY. That in turn will have implications for a whole host of sciences not the least of which is PHYSICS. So science should be the top priority, not the quixotic search for life on Jovian Moons.

    1) YES .. to LISA
    2) MAYBE .. IXO
    3) NO .. to EJSM/Laplace

    For more checkout

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  • 71. At 6:11pm on 13 Feb 2011, JosephThePoet wrote:

    Yes Vladimir, don’t you concern yourself any because man has always been nasty. So just be a good fellow and go ahead and ignore man’s evils. Don’t you let it bother you none that so many people are suffering and dying.

    And technology has always brought more benefits to society than negatives, like making it easier to kill more people faster and even to promote more wars occurring to gain access and control over the resources advancing technology needs. And of course now we can poison our air, water, and land faster which is killing people off like crazy. But you see these advances have made it so much easier for people to sit around watching TV or walk around with music systems which are so much more important than not being killed off by the cancers and other diseases gone rampant in civilized societies where even poisons are added to our foods for quick profits. And don’t forget our pharmaceutical advancements that don’t cure anything but simply prolong people’s suffering while they also cause additional problems so you have to buy more of their other medicines that cause other problems so their stockholders can profit more financially.

    Like Robert says is we tried to feed everyone then the world might collapse under our weight you see. It is far better to just sit back and watch from a distance as masses of people die from hunger, thirst, wars, and in the name of profit you see. Just casually dismiss it like so many others do; provided of course it isn’t affecting them personally as far as they can tell.

    Vladimir, if the time and money wasn’t spent to explore then man could never have found enough game to eat or learned how to grow crops better or raise farm animals to make existence easier or to eventually colonize the entire planet. You are so very right about the many evils of man and the wasting of so much money everywhere instead of helping our very own family but eliminating all money from the exploration of sciences and space is not the solution. Although there is a lot of wasted money in pretences of sciences too; some that is nothing more than useless statistics gathering or ego promotion.

    Vladimir, man is a family but we do not treat each other as such and capitalism is one of the main reasons because people have to find ways to suck as much from others as they can just to survive, and for many so they can also have power over others. There will be a new system soon, but first things are going to get a lot worse because of all the selfishness that is promoted in the world. Catering to individualism without concern for the results of your actions on anyone else is the mantra of the world instead of acting like family by acting responsibly for the benefit of everyone. Don’t you let anyone put you down when you show you care about all the suffering of the many. You have a right to speak up about this important subject just like others have the right to prove they are not the intellects they pretend as they lord their delusional greatness over you and also prove elsewhere that they don’t even know their own beliefs or even the very subjects or their differences as they wrongly mix them together yet pretend superiority in them. Let them cater to themselves while you choose the superior path.

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  • 72. At 08:12am on 14 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    Oh dear these debates are so difficult aren’t they, I don’t want to misrepresent myself as some merciless capitalist I'm not. I'm a utopian and I suppose that puts me in some bad company - the closest thing to a utopian in power last century was Mr Hitler :( not a very good example. I’m actually a socialist and believe in many socialist principles like equalitarianism, universal health-care, and the progress of science.

    I do believe in capitalism up to a point - I am a manner of entrepreneur - but as a philosophy its brutality and evil makes even the death camps look merciful in comparison. In the last century capitalism almost certainly killed well over a billion people and most of them were children.
    The third world is a truly capitalist society, in the third world everything depends directly on money- from education, to health-care, to policing, to basic food and shelter. That’s why so many people there still live ‘like animals’, why over 30 million there die of poverty every year.
    And we are not rescuing the third world we are becoming more like them. Our incompetent politicians invented this globalisation thing which has made the ’lowest common denominator always wins’ rule of capitalism master of the world. The poor here are getting poorer and if the direction doesn’t change in another 30 or 50 years we’ll all be back in the third world. - So you wont have to worry about the poor, we‘ll all be equal, we‘ll all be poor.

    Anyway none of this matters, the environment is the primary factor, there are too many people and solving this problem should be the worlds highest priority. Like I said I’m a utopian, I like to design social and scientific solutions to solve problems - so I can see solutions. If we do nothing the failing environment will cull the poor in vast numbers - at least 5 billion in the next 100 years. If we do the best we can for the environment that might fall to 2 billion. But if we focus solely on raising the whole of humanity to equality and do nothing about population or other environmental issues the number will rise to over 10 billion. (That’s more people than are even alive today.)
    Ironically unless we solve the population problem we actually need them to die. The population is rising by 70 million people every year, that’s 7 billion in the next century. The best solution is to have less births and less poverty while steering towards a more environmentally friendly society. But we need to understand the whole technology pyramid, the best way to solve the problem is to increase the rate of technical advance while steering towards greener solutions like nuclear. Spend more money on research and science, the tech mountain follows closely behind and the whole problem is solved without us even noticing. What people need behind this is inspiration, and projects that really excite the heart. Among the best things for this are space projects, especially big projects that may change our view of reality - like exploration of the other planets.

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  • 73. At 3:52pm on 15 Feb 2011, steve351975 wrote:

    My view is pretty basic yes science has helped us a lot in are development of a race of people! But beggars belief that the billions we spend on needless adventures into space baffles me! Why not spend these billions on hospitals,education,housing etc (and please my own view doesnt mean im slandering anybody just who really cares whats out there face the fact WE ARE ALONE, if we are so concerned why dont we spend more billions on spaceships and go out hunting for little green men)

    When you look at starving people and poor countries and look at this just makes the honest hard working person squirm!

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  • 74. At 7:30pm on 15 Feb 2011, t1mj0nes wrote:

    steve351975 :billions we spend on needless adventures into space baffles me

    This just boggles the mind.

    All of them would be preferable but Jupiter has to be the one.

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  • 75. At 09:44am on 18 Feb 2011, Čikić Nenad wrote:

    I would vote for LIST since it seems to me it has never been done before.

    Hello to all from Croatia

    P.S. Nice to see so many people enthusiastic about the future. I am aware of many problem and hypocrisis inside the European community, but I am sick of all eurosceptic at yours and my place.

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  • 76. At 6:14pm on 18 Feb 2011, U14790156 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 77. At 8:57pm on 19 Feb 2011, RevJohn wrote:

    @ 40. At 11:45pm on 06 Feb 2011, Jonathan Amos wrote:
    "...From General Relativity, we can also make predictions about gravitational waves. We can predict they will disturb space-time on scales that should be measurable provided we can build sufficiently sensitive equipment. I make no particular case for LISA, but could anyone fail to be astonished at the prospect of retrieving information about the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang. To those who doubt the value of space telescopes, remember that astronomy has been a key driver in the efforts to bring us ever better detector technology. One specific example pertinent to this very discussion: the detector technology developed for Europe’s current X-ray space telescope, XMM-Newton, is now being used as a diagnostic tool in the treatment of breast cancer. "

    Those of us with The Dream of Stars can see The Big Picture, we can see the historical fact that Mr. Amos points to : basic research *always* makes wealth, even in the short term.
    Making offworld robots better, brighter, more sensitive and more capable is *not* skiffy, nerdy buckrogers nonsense, it is, as is shown by that one example above, sheerly practical, grounded, sane, money-making Business.
    Spending money on the sewerage systems means not spending money on repairs so much. Spending money on sub-orbital lifters means not spending money keeping things fresh so much, and being able to buy more from more places cheaper being able to *sell* to more people more cheaply. Spending money on farms in high orbit, learning how to grow meat in vats instead of in live animals, learning how to use comets to feed the Earth and her children instead of destroying the rainforest to make beefburgers (WWF and Greenpeace, please note, though everyone knows they will not), learning how to ensure not one human ever feels hunger because scaling food down from orbit to *anywhere* costs the same, learning how to move comets around so we can protect this precious world from those rogues that would otherwise annihilate us, all of that is Banker-Man practicality. Wall-Street sensible.
    The USA used to think that way, that is how they became the largest, most successful economy ever to exist. Lately, they have become more cautious, in general - though there are still a few who strive to excel - and other peoples are overtaking them.
    England used to be the powerhouse of the planet. It could be again. It would only take a decade or so...
    ... and some courage.
    Research into lasers gave us DVDs.
    CERN gave us HTML and this very website, as well as Google.
    Radar defending us against the enemies gave us radar ovens and much else. The worldwide sales of radar ovens, microwave ovens, have vastly repaid whatever radar cost us, even if radar did nothing else.
    The tech used to sense hot stars is detecting cancers in our women and helping them live better, healthier, longer lives.
    This contest is idiotic. We should be buying all three mssions, and more. We should have Galileos around every large planet, with active and passive sensor arrays to make them more useful. We should have active beacons on every rock in our sky bigger than a small house. We should have millions of sensors in vast arrays watching all of these and more and using their signals to probe the Solar Wind for gusts and dangers.
    England, UKland, could do all that. Europe could do it cheaper and faster. We can afford it, and it would make us richer.
    Even Bankers should be able to see this.
    And, as an aside, humans have the technology already to detect gravitational waves. Just barely, but it's been there for a while. None have been detected. Ever. That is *not* a bad thing. If we build a few really sensitive detectors and they detect nothing it might just lead to a loophole in General Relativity, a place where GR does not apply and something new and exciting has to come about.
    That *might* mean generating gravity ourselves, or generating anti-gravity, or masking gravity with some form of nullifying wall, or possibly faster-than-light travel.
    Like the Higgs Boson, not finding Gravity Waves, or not finding "Dark Matter" or not finding "Dark Energy" would be intensely interesting and just possibly universe-changing.
    What if gravity isn't *quite* spherically symmetrical on extremely large scales? What if on galactic scales of mass and time and distances it tends to focus itself just a little more into the fried-egg shape we think is so pretty? That would effectively eliminate the need for much "dark matter". And if gravity can be *shaped*... it's a small step from there to moving worlds.
    Isn't that worth the failure of a bank or three?

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  • 78. At 1:56pm on 21 Feb 2011, Don wrote:

    It says in the article that the equipment will enable us to see almost back to the big bang & other equipment can see light going almost to the big bang! I don't understand as light is the fastest thing possible how can we look back that far, when our galaxy must have been created billions of years after the big bang. Question: Why hasn't the light from the big bang gone past us.

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  • 79. At 03:34am on 22 Feb 2011, RevJohn wrote:

    @78. At 1:56pm on 21 Feb 2011, Don wrote:

    "It says in the article that the equipment will enable us to see almost back to the big bang & other equipment can see light going almost to the big bang! I don't understand as light is the fastest thing possible how can we look back that far, when our galaxy must have been created billions of years after the big bang. Question: Why hasn't the light from the big bang gone past us."

    That is a perfectly valid question, but the answer will take a while.
    Light takes time to travel.
    The speed of light is 186,000 miles or 300,000 km per second.
    The Earth's large natural companion, the Moon, is 250,000 miles or about 400,000 km away. That means it takes light about a second and a quarter to get from the Moon to Earth. Radio waves are, essentially, just light. Radio waves are very, very deep red light. So deeply red that our eyes can't see it and we have to detect it with receivers. Like the ordinary red to blue light that makes up a rainbow and colours our world so beautifully, radio waves travel at the speed of light, so they take a fraction over a second to go from the President's office in the White House to Buzz and Neil on the Moon, then another second or so to get back. That is why those old recordings of the Apollo 11 conversation between Mr. Nixon and the Astronauts have very obvious silences in them. The Astronauts are waiting for Mr. Nixon's voice to slowly crawl all the way to the Moon then we wait for their words to crawl back to us.
    Knowing light takes time to get to us from anyway distant, we can measure distances using this fact. We can say the things far away are so many light seconds, or light minutes or light days or even light years away. The Moon, for example is just over one light second away. That means it takes light one second to travel between here and the Moon. Sol, our lovely little star who keeps us nicely warm, is so far away that light takes over eight minutes to cross the gap between us. We can say the Sun is eight light minutes away.
    Thinking about this, that means we see the Sun as it was eight minutes ago. We see the Moon as it was one second ago. We see Pluto as it was five hours ago, for Pluto is a very long way from us.
    And we see Alpha Centauri, the nearest triple star system, as it was four years ago. Alpha is four light years away, and light takes four years to cross the gap, so we can never see that star as it is "now" (forgive me the use of absolute time, I know GR dislikes the notion.)
    We see the M31 galaxy in Andromeda as it was two million years ago. The light we see now left M31 two million years ago and spent all that time crossing the gap. Aliens with very [impossibly] powerful telescopes, watching us from a world orbiting a star in M31, would see no humans on Earth, only chimps and various chimp-like hominids.
    Some galaxies are much further away than that. Some are ten or twelve milliard, ten or twelve thousand million, light years away. That means we don't see them as they would look when they are as old as our very own galaxy, the Milky Way, we see them as though we were looking at a very old photograph. At 12 milliard light years, we are seeing a galaxy only one milliard years or so after it was first made.
    The very universe started only 13 and a half milliard years ago, 13.5 gigayears, thirteen and a half thousand million years ago. If we could look at an object 13.5 milliard light years away, we would see it at the very beginning of time and space.
    I know, that is a very simplistic picture, but it should give you a feel for what we mean when we say "looking back nearly to the Big Bang, the moment of creation".
    The Big Bang was very hot, as you would expect from an "explosion" that created everything. [Another simplification, obviously.] As the universe expanded, blew up, after the "bang", it stretched the heat and light over all of that space, the light got cooler and redder. Now it is so red that it is too red to see, it is as red as quite long radio waves. We can detect this very, very, extremely infra-reddened light as the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation.
    That light now looks as though it comes from a body at the very cold temperature of 2 Kelvin, -271 Celsius. And, of course, it lights up the sky in all directions at a distance of about thirteen milliard light years. Just closer than the distance the Big Bang would seem to be at.
    We see the light from just after the Big Bang because the universe is vast, possibly infinite in extent, and the light from very, very far away has taken all that time to travel to us. Today, we see the light from thirteen thousand million light years away. In a year's time, we will be seeing the same Big Bang, but from thirteen thousand million *and* *one* light years away. It should look the same.
    We don't see the light from the Big Bang hanging around our little local region of home, the nearest few million galaxies, because, as you wisely say, that light has gone many, many years ago. We do see the light from very, very far away, because light travels so tediously slowly and the universe is a truly immense place.
    We know it is far more than thirteen milliard light years wide, because we see the CMBR in opposite directions. That makes the universe at least twice that far in diameter. Twenty-five, twenty-six milliard light years across or more.
    It would be an astonishing, an impossible coincidence if we happened to exist in the exact centre of a spherical bubble of universe twenty some milliard light years across. Our position must be nothing special, so the true size of the universe must be many times what we can ever see. The observable universe, the limit of what we can ever see, is that bubble of old, slow light crawling from every direction from thirteen milliard years ago, and thirteen milliard light years away. Far, far beyond that tiny bubble must be a much more extensive cosmos.
    But we can never see those many milliards, billions or billiards of galaxies. There has not been time enough for their light to slowly crawl all the way from them to us.
    This simple picture is complicated by the universe expanding but we don't need to worry about that at the moment.
    To understand how we can see back in time, all you need do is listen to the radio chatter from Apollo 11, and realise that everything in our sky is *history* in action.
    If a giant space goat ate the Sun, we would still have eight minutes of warmth and light. If it ate a galaxy at the edge of our observable universe, we would have thirteen thousand million years or more to continue to study the starcloud.
    Light is so very slow, and our universe is so wonderfully large.
    I hope this helps...
    ... RJ.

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  • 80. At 11:39am on 22 Feb 2011, Robert Lucien wrote:

    78. At 1:56pm on 21 Feb 2011, Don wrote:

    It says in the article that the equipment will enable us to see almost back to the big bang & other equipment can see light going almost to the big bang! I don't understand as light is the fastest thing possible how can we look back that far, when our galaxy must have been created billions of years after the big bang. Question: Why hasn't the light from the big bang gone past us.
    Its all to do with the shape of space time and the simultaneity of space.
    All we are seeing is the end of the light cone, its moving back in time but its edge is also moving away at the speed of light (actually faster) so we are effectively seeing the same moment stretched to forever.

    Another way to understand it is by thinking about the scaling of time, as your frame of reference extends onto larger and larger scales the moment of instantaneity (one instant) scales as well because of the union between space and time. - This means that on the largest scales the universe is effectively only a few seconds old. That is the General Relativity version because GR forbids FTL simultaneity. However the scaling of time still probably holds semi-true even in most FTL versions of the theory that allow simultaneity.

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  • 81. At 10:44am on 16 Mar 2011, S_L_ wrote:

    These three possible adventures all sound amazing and each of them would provide equal amounts of amazing information but we need to think about this planet at the minute. Fossil fuels will eventually run out we all know this. What about a renewable energy source, successful sustained nuclear fusion has not been achieved yet and if achieved it would revolutionise humanity forever. Focusing all efforts to this cause would eventually lead to greater knowledge of energy needs and usage as a whole. Possibly changing the way we fly aircrafts or launch space shuttles due to such advances. Lets face it thousands of tons of FOSSIL fuel just seems like a dated method of launching any sort of space craft. And to launch any of these three proposals without furthering propulsion techniques would seriously cut a chunk of the funds just for the fuel to get off the ground. Just my opinion. If I had to choose one though it would definately be the Jupiter mission. I personally would love to see a shot of the Jovian Daddy from one of its moons. Whos knows what would be found on these moons aswell!!!

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