Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Death by 1000 cuts: Rocket Launches May Need Regulation

I may be a little bit on the paranoid side here, however this article in Science Daily to me is a prime example of how to destroy progress and innovation. Slowly starve it of it's support and financial base. Over reaction? Perhaps, but the article reports on a paper just released that suggests that to preserve our ozone layer rocket launches will need to be curtailed in the future.

In the article, according to:
  • Professor Darin Toohey of CU-Boulder's atmospheric and oceanic sciences department. "If left unregulated, rocket launches by the year 2050 could result in more ozone destruction than was ever realized by CFCs."
As right as this sounds....it's completely wrong headed. We have found it impossible to do with cars and trucks. In the end, it was and will be more efficient engines and less polluting fuel sources.

You want to confine Humans to one small rock, then cut down on ways to get off the planet and research on how to live somewhere else. We need more and bigger rockets, cheaper, more efficient...not fewer.

Read the article. In my mind, there is damn little science here to base such a conclusion on...


Matt said...

Looks like an opportunity to me. Ultimately, we're going to need launch stations in space or on satellites such as the Moon. Really, it's just too blasted expensive to lift off from this planet. We need to lower or eliminate the escape velocity problem, and now's as good a time as any to start talking about it.

Matt said...

Er, "too blasted expensive". Sorry. Should proofread these silly things before I hit the Publish button.....

Xaq said...

I have to agree their science is flimsy at best. Why do scientist keep trying to sensationalize subjects by speaking in absolutes when there is barely enough evidence to support a reasonable hypothesis and conclusion "cough" funding "cough". I did like how they referenced CFCs, which is a completely different situation in that there were readily availible alternatives that were only more expensive due to the changes needed to our infostructure. But at least the article ended on the note of we need more research so that we can determine a solution for this potential problem. Especially before it becomes a buzz word problem that politicos use to further their careers rather than addressing in an appropriate fashion, "cough" global warming "cough".

Beam Me Up said...

Oh, don't get me wrong. I think a station in orbit, large enough to dispatch craft of all types is just where we need to be going. Nothing you say is wrong. The point I am making is that long before we have a station in place, these people are talking about curtailing launches! Opportunity it may be, but only if we can maintain enough launches to maintain what is in place and proceed to larger more self sufficient structures.

Beam Me Up said...

are you intimating that statements like the one in this article were motivated by an agenda? OMG tell me is isn't so!

Unfortunately I suspect you have hit the proverbial nail on the head.

Matt said...

I don't think such massive cuts are going to happen. Even W was strongly in favor of the space program, and Obama appears to be more so. I think a strong space program is back and here for the long term, even if it's only as a way to garner votes or maintain popularity. (Or distract people. "Pay no attention to that consortium behind the President. Look, a spaceship!" :)

Couple that with massive investments from Branson (or Bunsen, or whatever his name is), and that Paul guy who co-founded Microsoft, and so on, and so forth, and you've got a viable space-going community.

All they can really do with their objections is start people talking, which frequently involves some thinking. Not counting cell-phones, of course.

(You know, not long ago I saw two young girls walking down the street, talking as young girls do. But not to each other. They each had cell-phones and were talking to other people, totally ignoring one another. Oy.)

Matt (you know who i mean, that virgin fella. british accent, owns all them planes? you'd think a guy who owns his own fleet of planes could get a date...)

Darin Toohey said...

Matt, All

Read the original paper and be part of the solution. It doesn't say "we should regulate space launches." It says that if we don't understand the nature of the problem, we may be in for a wild ride due to existing regulations on CFCs (whether you like it or not).

Here's a quote from the abstract of the paper: "The potential for limitations on launch systems due to idiosyncratic regulation to protect the ozone layer present a risk to space industrial development. The risk is particularly acute with regard
to the economic rationale to develop low-cost, high flight rate
launch systems."

Thanks for helping to spread the word!

Respectfully, Darin Toohey

Matt said...

Not sure how it alters my position. It wouldn't be the first time an industry got an exemption or waiver. And I just don't see anything that can significantly affect the inertia that our public and private space programs have accumulated. And I still say it's an opportunity to talk about how to alleviate a potential problem by reducing or eliminating the gravity well altogether.

Beam Me Up said...

Wow, this conversation took a weird twist...anyway Matt, its not a matter of if believes you're right or any variation on that theme. Making stuff easier to transport will always win out and it IS the best method so anything that would make the gravity well obsolete is a good thing. And there is the rub. Once this happens, then the problem takes care of itself. You won't need pork barrel politics to lay a heavy hand where it is no longer needed. We are not even really considering this article when saying that either. But as you can see, its not what it says its how it says it. CFC and ozone came up well before the "oh but consider" line. It really would be paramount to halting the construction of the interstate highway system because of pollution concerns posed by cars before they had even finished laying the cement. Now, the concerns are valid but what use would a hybrid Prius be without roads to run it on. The infrastructure has to be in place to be able to take that big step. Yes research has to be done to mitigate environmental impacts but lets be careful not to cut our noses off to spite our face.

Matt said...

That's a point where we simply disagree, I think. There actually were pollution concerns when the Interstate system was being built. It wasn't even slowed. I'm supremely confident these concerns won't slow this system, either.

Bear in mind, billionaires currently have a huge stake in this. And they also have a huge amount of influence in politics. My position remains: If the subject comes up, there will be deals, and exemptions, and waivers, and all will proceed apace. (I don't really know for certain what "proceed apace" means, but it sure sounds good, don't it?)

Beam Me Up said...

Oh I agree Matt, there will be enough exemptions to well fly a rocket through. Good or bad...it will happen. And as bad as it probably makes me sound...I am thinking that the end justifies the means (oh the howl!) Humanity has to get off this rock. If we fail or succeed at least we had the chance. But lets just not throw monkey wrenches into an emerging market. All politically unpopular statements I know... but I honestly feel that it is going to be the people that can say "hey I can make money at this" that will make space a permanent concern