The need for international cooperation in space; five unusual forms of space transportation; and the need for whole brain thinking in space planning and operations.
Adapted from testimony given to the National Commission on Space, on November 14, 1985 at the California Academy of Science, Golden Gate Park, California, by J. E. D. Cline.
In enthusiasm for the future of mankind, let's build and maintain an open door now for our future, into space and back. This can prepare a way to maintain a high civilization advancement rate without destroying the ecology of Mother Earth that bore our physical development up to this point and is now supporter and host to us.
There is urgency to creating a permanent open door between Earth and space. The rapid rate of loss of high energy density fossil fuel resources could permanently close the door to space for humanity, for example.
There are five types of interesting space transportation projects which I am going to briefly bring to excite your imagination here. But first, I am going to point out some significant sociological, psychological and material benifits of a massively expanded space program. An initial benifit is that of greatly increasing productivity at home, and then spreading out internationally, as people become inspired by the visions of new hope for mankind's future: theirs and their children's children. As the basic task is for all humanity, and indeed for all Earth life-forms ultimately to benifit, discoveries of new depths of international mutually-respectful togetherness action toward common goals would be learned...hopefully in a wise manner.
For example, the ancient oriental cultures can teach us to combine the types of thinking of both our left and right brain hemispheres, linking the highly educated analytical left brain hemisphere with the great non-verbal design-synthesizing prowess of the brain's right hemisphere.
And then there is the hope for reasonably early return of large amounts of useful materials processed in space so as not to pollute the Earth environment with industrial process wastes. Made available to people here on Earth, materials like foamed-steel could be used for lightweight fireproof housing construction, and the construction of energy-absorbing freeway crash barriers.
Perhaps more subtle than the urge to ensure a maximum of life options for our children, is the urge for adventurous stimulation of our dreams and actions. So here are a few space transportation projects which I would like now to bring up for your attention, perhaps with some uniqueness.
The first is a combination of several contemporary concepts: to close the energy cycle for the space shutle main engines, its hydrogen and oxygen fuel would come from electrolyzed seawater made through the use of energy beamed down from a dedicated prototype small Solar Power Satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Another plus is that the microwave beam is there for lift energy for experimental vehicles riding up, possibly using the air it initially passes through as reaction mass for the early boost phase.
The second concept is someone elses: the dynamically-supported earth-tower proposed by Ron Hyde of LRL. An immense transportation tower reaching from the surface of the Earth up through the atmosphere and out into space, it overcomes the inadequate strength of existing materials for such a structure through using stored-energy for the main structural support. Rather large amounts of electrical neergy is used to accelerate vast quantities of berylium disks, whose energy is then used to support the elevator and structural components by sharing a bit of their energy electrically as they whiz by. The system stores several days' worth of supporting kinetic energy for the inevitable powerplant down-times. A large version of this "Starbridge" elevator would be able to lift the mass of all humanity out into space in a matter of weeks (if there were a place built for all of us out there!) In caution, one is reminded of the lesson of E-temen-an-ki, the biblical "Tower of Babel" that also was "to build a skyscraper building so tall as to enable man to enter the heavens." It's construction was said to have been halted because they failed to learn how to truely communicate first. (Confound it!). Ron Hyde shared this concept at a L-5 meeting in 1983; the basic concept of a centrifugally-supported Earth tower had been proposed by K. Tsiolkovski in 1967. Ron Hyde's proposal would overcome the difficulty shared by both E-tamen-an-ki and Tsiolokovski: there are no known physical materials nearly strong enough to do the job.
The third concept is based on an analogy of the "siphon", which is a device which lifts material up over a barier and down the other side, without addition of energy from the outside, once started. It is powered by the energy differential existing between the starting point and the destination point, and works only in one direction. The gravitational space directly between the Moon and the Earth might be envisioned as a gravitational hill with a shallow valley on one side (the Moon"s surface), and a deep valley on the other side (the Earth's surface); the peak of the hill is known as "L-1". Can we tunnel through this hill from the lunar valley floor? A siphon does that, energy-wise. Here on Earth, we can siphon water through a rubber hose. Out there in space, siphon-like action might be acheivable by transfering energy from mass on the downhill (earthside) part of the trip, over to lift more material on the uphill (Lunarside) part. Electrical superconductor rails could be installed on a supporting tensile structure fastened on the surface of the Moon, and electrically transfer the kinetic energy from decending electrical tractor-generators carrying payload mass, over to lift more payload mass up off the Lunar surface via electrical tractor motors. Space-rated fiberglass is quite strong enough to carry the load if it has a tapering cross-section; glass is an abundant material on the surface of the Moon, available on-site for construction of this "Mooncable". At the L-1 balance point, in zero-gee, the main portion of payload mass would be cast into glider shapes, so that after traversing the earthside part of the cable, it can drop to glide the atmospheric portion of the trip to landing in oceans off seaports on Earth. I proposed this confidentially to NASA early in 1972, describing it as a profit-making enterprise.
The fourth concept is the use of a kinetic energy transfer shuttle. In permanent eliptical orbit around the Earth-Moon pair, and with its main part massive enough to stay "cool" inside even in solar flares' radiation times, it dangles a rope to graze the surface of the Moon as it passes by the far side of the Moon. Readied payload on the Lunar surface grabs the long dangling rope (something like Hans Moravec's Skyhook would have done on Earth), jerking it up off the surface and storing its energy by whirling around the main mass. The whirling continues as they go along the quasi-elliptical orbit until it passes near the Earth, then with precisely synchronized timing the payload is released, restoring the kinetic energy taken when lifting was done at the Moon. The transfer shuttle then continues on around Earth, and heads back toward the Moon again. (Grab on at the Moon, whirl your energy until you jump off near the Earth.)
The fifth and last concept I wish to point out now, to inspire fresh creative thought in space transportation concepts, might be called "tight orbiting" somewhat cryptically. We would need to find the strength of contemporary materials is enough to enable construction of a vacum-enclosed, above orbital-velocity spinning ring-pair. Even at sea level (for example) each element along its circumference would be at 18,000 mph and thus in orbit there, enclosed inside a vacuum housing. Faster than 18,000mph would possibly exert a force toward a higher orbit, possibly lifting payload with it. A pair of contra-rotating parallel horizontal spinning rings, driven and supported by appropriate magnetic fields, would hopefully cancel out the urge to precess (my thinking gets uncomfortably fuzzy about here); otherwise it would have to built near an Earth pole to keep it from tilting itself as the Earth rotates. Questions are: will it stay together? Does faster mean that it will go up? How small can it be made?
As a 17 year old boy, I and my cousin Howard tried to see if a gyroscope could be spun up fast enough so that its circumference would reach orbital velocity at the Earth's surface. The thought was more toward the idea of using it to fling a something off its edge up and out toward space. We used a big 3600 rpm electric motor and rigged up suitable belt and pulley ratios for the experiment. However, long before it got up to that speed, we discovered the limits to the strengths of materials ... and with a bang the main gyroscope spinner exploded, vanishing from sight. That the fragments missed both of us is memorably quite a relief to this day.
There is danger in building the doors opening the future of Earth lifeforms to space, but there is adventure there too, to stimulate the human organism with delightful excitement!
This general concept of the space program is really about caring for our civilization's continuing advancement while caring for the needs of the other kinds of living creatures with which we share this earth. By bringing our life to the now-lifeless parts of our solar system, and taking the industrial load off of Earth's ecology, we gain immense resources of material energy and room, and make a way to begin the healing of the wounds of planet earth's living ecosystem. Out there in space we can build our living space just as we choose it to be, made out of extraterrestial materials.
Those of us who are here-and-now action-oriented people, are the "do-ers" who can make these visions physically real. One task we have is to find ways to prevent these ones of us from becoming overwhelmed by visions of power struggle games, with blaming finger ready to point away from themselves. We can do this by continuing to help them remain aware of the greater vision, of responsible belongingness as part of creation, yet in adventure.
Our abilities to exert power over our environment and to analyze our activities are tremendous. To these, then, we need to add equally powerful abilities to pattern whole designs of envisioned possibilities. Technological adventures can evoke designs of exhuberantly happy lifestyles for our children, and maybe even for ourselves...if we are quick enough. Thank you!
Copyright C 1995 James Edward David Cline