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Al Globus, Sunday, 7-12-15 July 13, 2015

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Al Globus, Sunday, 7-12-15


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Guest:  Al Globus;  Topics:  Space settlement in LEO and radiation over the equator.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed back Al Globus to discuss his plan for LEO space settlement about 500 km above the equator to minimize radiation, shielding, and to improve the mass ratios to make settlement easier than in other locations.  During the first segment of our 1 hour 49 minute program, Al put forth his hypothesis that radiation over the equator was very light meaning that any space settlement would need minimal shielding or possibly no shielding.  This vastly improved the economics of developing and resupplying the settlement given its close proximity to Earth and the lower mass needed for the settlement and transportation.  This would be a “free space settlement” meaning it would be in orbit.  During this segment and the entire program, Al explained the radiation issues but you should read his paper on the subject, “Space Settlement the Easy Way.”  You can find this paper at http://space.alglobus.net/presentations/Easy.pdf.  Al spent lots of time explaining the radiation issues and talking about the initial settlements which may not have an economic purpose.  Al did go into the technical side of the radiation issues and his analysis for this location so don’t miss what he had to say about it plus as I suggested above, be sure to read his paper.  Later in the segment, he brought up space tourism and space hotels as a type of initial space settlement but one that would pave the way for actual settlements in LEO.  In the end, Al said that a LEO settlement is an easier way to get started with space settlement but stated many times that even a LEO space settlement above the equator would be challenging.  He did get several listener emails, some of which challenged his radiation analysis and the idea that little or no shielding would be necessary.  Al was also asked about space exploration but he was very clear that he was focused on space settlement.

In the second segment, we talked space policy, the U.S. congress and even the issue of space debris removal.  Marshal called to talk about radiation shelters from solar storms, Alexander wanted to know more about space solar power.  Adrian sent in a series of notes challenging Al and using the December 2004 Magnetar event.  Al was not familiar with it.  I inquired of the listeners to tell us what happened to the ISS during the event.  After the show, I got a follow up note from Adrian regarding the event and the ISS:  “Thanks to the magnetar’s great distance, the super flare posed no threat to humanity or Earth’s biosphere. The International Space Station was on the opposite side of Earth when the flare hit our planet, but even if the astronauts had faced the full fury of the blast, they would have received a radiation dose less than a dental X-ray. An SGR super flare’s pulse of high-energy radiation could seriously damage a planet’s atmosphere only if it occurred within about 6 light-years, according to Adrian L. Melott (University of Kansas)”  See more at:www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/the-brightest-blast/#sthash.VvmrtqKH.dpuf & www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/the-brightest-blast. I believe the point Adrian was trying to make was that no shielding even for a LEO settlement above the equator leaves the occupants w/o protection in case of an unexpected radiation related event. To this point, Al spent some time talking about risk and risk taking. Toward the end of the program, Al brought up the subject of space mining, Biosphere 2, and the size of the space station. During the show he also talked about artificial gravity and increased spin rates for people at 4-6 RPMs.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above. You can reach Al through his website, www.alglobus.net.


1. NSS Director Al Globus Featured on The Space Show | National Space Society Blog - July 20, 2015

[…] The full program, which runs just under two hours, can be found online here and a more thorough description with commentary can be found here. […]

2. Joe from Houston - July 18, 2015

NASA is currently looking for proposals for space debris removal. The way to get the contract is based on the simplest idea that makes the most sense. Ask yourself Why are they willing to spend hundreds of millions and eventually billions of dollars to remove space debris?

It is a reaction to the relatively recent and shocking event where the Chinese government in 2007 ordered their space agency to deny space by producing 35,000 pieces of metal that raises the threat of space debris to the situation we have today. They efficiently killed two birds with one stone. They showed our government and military that they had a valid anti-(spy)-satellite weapon and a plausible deniability of access to space capability. This enraged our military because they want to spy on China. It also enraged NASA because they want safe access to space for their astronauts; however it is achieved. They targeted and destroyed a large satellite in low earth orbit with a space weapon. No one got hurt. There was no uncontrolled space debris raining down on us. It was simple, relatively easy to accomplish compared to their other space achievements, and effective in sending a clear message to our government. It was a path of least resistance to prove their point.

It was like a young immature child showing another child what they could do that the other could not. The show-off act is an undeniable basic human behavior. Since they did it on their own satellite, it would not result in a face-to-face military conflict. The only victim was NASA’s treasured access to space capability. Since then and ironically, due to our government ordered Shuttle retirement, NASA’s treasured access to space capability succumbed to the complete control by the Russians Space Agency.

Our military quickly responded by showing the Chinese government they could do the same by targeting and destroying their own spy satellite the next year. To avoid public outcry, they claim they did it in a much lower orbit producing significant space debris that supposedly washed away a year or so later. These two government ordered military demonstration events, if left unchecked, establish a repeatable childish game. If it weren’t for those events, NASA would not be obligated to step in to help protect their treasured space access capability by removing space debris.

There is no reasonable way to remove 35,000 pieces of space debris. If we could, it would be unimaginably costly and time consuming. If we did produce a reasonable way to remove thousands of pieces of space debris, then the Chinese or some other competitive government would continue playing their childish game and easily target and destroy another large satellite at a much lower cost to stay competitive with our government. Have you ever played a board game as a child and close to the end of the game you or someone else is clearly winning and the losing child has a fit and flips the board over spilling all of the pieces? The only reasonable recourse is for the dominant child to calm everyone down and start a new game. The idea is to keep playing games until you grow up and mature. Maturation simply means you do not get very excited when playing a child’s game and have learned how to effectively deal with difficult people.

So, all of that said, the winning proposal will likely propose to remove the immediate threat of space debris, not the thousands of tiny pieces of space debris itself. Going after the biggest and lowest dead satellites first makes the most sense since they are the ones that are the easiest to see by targeting sensors that want to destroy or remove it. Hopefully, the winning contractor will likely rendezvous and grapple a large Chinese satellite in low earth orbit that is dead, with the Chinese government’s permission of course, and safely deorbit it into the ocean. Even without their permission, we could still do it on one of our own. Getting the Chinese government permission improves relations, adds to the maturity process, and helps us resolve our childish tendencies like we exhibited during the 60’s through the 80’s during the Cold War when we all were under the constant threat of total human annihilation.

3. Andy Hill - July 17, 2015

I’m not sure I see the point of a permanent settlement in free space orbiting the Earth or somewhere else. While I can see the argument for maybe a micro-gravity research/manufactring facility or possibly a transport terminal/staging post for longer journeys, I dont see why a group of people would not rather establish a settlement in a remote area of Earth for religious, social or political reasons. For instance a remote island somewhere would seem a much better alternative and not require those wanting to set up their settlement to all be space cadets. You could even create your own island like has been done off the coast of Dubai, that is probably still cheaper than creating something in space.

I think that a free space settlement would never be independant of a planet and would require some level of resupply, Boosting its orbit from time to time will be necessary at a 500km height which will use fuel (a not insignificant amount for a large settlement), either sending it from Earth or the Moon or extracting it from nearby asteroids would create a constant cost to the inhabitants. Also there would be leakage of the internal atmosphere that would have to be replenished. What happens if there is a disagreement and trade sanctions were applied, the settlement might have to de-orbit. Not sure whether all countries would be happy with such a large construction flying over them on a daily or hourly basis.

I think it a better idea to settle a planet where there are resources close to hand.

4. J Fincannon - July 14, 2015

Obviously I am pleased that the guest pointed out the significant problems with having humans on Mars, especially colonists. He clearly stated that all the bacteria and viruses on humans would really confuse any search for Mars life.

I was interested in the liability of a large space station (even larger than ISS). Namely, how does one prevent damage to the Earth surface of such a large vehicle which may re-enter. Also, he said they might need to evacuate in case of trouble. That a lot of people to evacuate. ISS needs a number of Soyuz to get the minuscule crew off. Imagine how many are needed for the Globus stations.

He mentions how people in Iran and some countries have no effects due to higher radiation levels. I wonder about India. It seems to have some odd birth defects (multiarmed people). Is that due to radiation damage?

5. B John - July 13, 2015

I want to recommend these teleconferences, audio files with powerpoints and texts. Just found it, but it all seems to be of very high quality in terms of competence and sources, and also current and it touches on many of the subjects brought up in the Space Show:
“FISO telecon archive”

DougSpace - July 14, 2015

It’s a great resource. I’ve listened to nearly all of them. The one complaint that I have about them is that, being about “in-space” operations, the concepts typically don’t access resources because there’s no resources in free-space. Hence, nearly all of the concepts would cost money and do nothing to reduce future costs – that is, they are not technically sustainable. There are so many science and exploration ideas. They can’t all be funded so they can present about the ideas but the practical reality is that the vast majority of them cannot be done.

6. B John - July 13, 2015

I agree that free flying space stations might be the best place to live. The argument for moons, planets, asteroids is basically about mining, but few humans live in mines. And equatorial LEO being so well protected from radiation is great. I just don’t see the purpose of going there. I think this needs to be put in some larger meaningful context.

DougSpace - July 14, 2015

Hi B John. The technical argument for moons, planets, and asteroids is about the proximity of resources. I don’t see people on those surfaces living in “mines”. It is true that they would need to have regolith pushed on top of their habitats for shielding but that’s more like sod on the roof rather than being in a hole dug for mining purposes.

Still, equatorial LEO would be great if Globus’ findings are confirmed. The purpose of going there would probably start out as a place for zero-gravity experiments, perhaps some industry, definitely tourism as launch costs come down, and probably a retirment destination for those who are into that sort of thing. Al’s argument is that these initial purposes could be a pathway to growing into a full-fledged settlement.

B John - July 15, 2015

A unique “resource” in LEO is of course microgravity. But it was suggested by the guest, as I understand it, to get rid of this resource. Cosmic radiation beyond what we can create in particle accelerators on Earth would be another potential resource in space, but it was suggested to get rid of that too. Communication satellites do better in GEO than in LEO. Earth observation satellites do better in polar orbits than in equatorial orbits. And manual construction work in orbit has proven to be very difficult. So I don’t see the point with having humans in equatorial LEO. I mean, it wouldn’t be much fun even for a visiting tourist without microgravity, it would be just like the livingroom at home. It might be safe, but what is it good for? It is even safer to not leave the bed in the morning.

Al Globus does make a very good point, but it needs company with some other ideas of some kind in order to become meaningful for space flight in our lifetime. The Space Show is more about space flight today than about sci fi ideas about far future thingies. Maybe there’s a misunderstanding about the time frame in this discussion.

DougSpace - July 15, 2015

An orbiting station could have a zero gee portion at its axis and levels of gees at different distances from the axis. A space hotel for example could be specifically designed to give visitors specific experiences at different gee levels. Long-duration crew might spend their off-work time at the one-gee level for health reasons.

B John - July 16, 2015

Considering artificial gravity, I have an idea which I haven’t seen anywhere else (which is a bad sign, but here it is).

The basic idea of simulated gravity is to have two masses in each end of a tether or truss rotate around their mass center. Zubrin proposed using the spent upper stage as counterweight. But the separation of the two masses is problematic for at least two reasons. First because you want mass near the crew for radiation protection (maybe not a problem according to Al Globus idea, but in deep space). And second, which is what I try to address here, because of transportation of crew or cargo between the two massive endpoints. One end could be the habitat and the other could be as much of the service functions one could separate from the habitation module. But that’s an awkward architecture since it requires the masses of the two to be somewhat similar, or the truss between them longer to compensate. Right?

Movement of mass through the center of rotation moves the center of mass and distorts the rotation. Critics of simulated gravity use to say that the stability of rotation might be a problem (it has never been tested so no one knows). So I would suggest considering having 4 habitats(!). One in each end of two trusses. First the two trusses would be almost parallel and habitats A & B would be docked to each other, and in the other end C & D. Then one of the two trusses would be undocked from the other and slowed down slightly in its rotation relative to the other, all rotating around the same central hub. The masses would move along the circular rotation path rather than through the center. The 4 habitats would then dock in the new configuration A & D and B & C. Large masses could be moved without changing the center of mass by much. All of the spacecraft would be accessible to all of the crew.

I think the Mars cycler is a great idea (thank you, again, Buzz Aldrin!) because it is a reusable spacecraft which can be upgraded during many decades. Like the ISS, but in a useful orbit :-p. There seems to be cycler orbits that make Mars/Earth accessible every third opposition, which don’t need much station keeping at all. We can’t hope for more frequent human missions to Mars than that to begin with anyway. With time we could have three such cyclers and access every opposition. Ion thrusters is the warp drive of our time and lets us move big masses in space, such as moving a Mars cycler constructed in LEO to its rather fast and hard to reach cycler orbit, and resupplying it there. Crew could be transferred in small chemically propelled taxi spacecrafts (think crowded Soyuz) to and from it to allow for the relatively high delta-v required. The risk of missing the narrow launch window of docking with it, could be solved by having the Mars cycler followed by a generously fueled rocket, maybe one day later in a very similar orbit. If the crew misses, it could head off to dock with their taxi vehicle and bring them to the Mars cycler. It would increase the launch window without requiring putting alot of fuel mass in the high delta-v crew taxi. And it would only be consumed when it is really needed.

I think it would be politically possible too. It could replace the ISS as a permanently crewed space “station” even without landing on Mars. It has been suggested to fly by Mars because it’s easier than landing. I think that is politically impotent and won’t happen. But with a Mars cycler it would be a first step on a sustainable reusable and growing railroad between Earth and Mars. Every third opposition means about 42 months in deep space, so simulated gravity and heavy radiation protection is necessary. But the ISS has a mass of 450 tons, I think a 450 ton Mars cycler could do, or twice that. The ISS was a great exercise, now we should do the real thing. And once we have the “railroad” up there, it will be used. It would be politically difficult to cancel it when the marginal cost of using it is relatively low.

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