Outer Space and Undersea Exploration

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Outer Space and Undersea Exploration
This week we had a guest speaker, Dr. Christopher Kitts, at Dr. Neil introduced
Dr.Kitts, sumarizing his impressive credentials. Dr. Kitts has punched his "EPCOT" ticket at places such
as Stanford, the USAF, Phillips, and Princeton.

Dr. Kitts customized a talk he gave recently to a group of about 500 high school students. He pointed
out that there are four primary reasons why we explore outer space:

      To get an enhanced perspective from a greater distance (the view)
      To get beyond the limits of our atmosphere (away from gravity and away from weather)
      To operate in a different environment (from a better vantage point with adapted tools such as the
      robotic advantages)
      To explore the mysteries of space (other life, other intelligent life)

Dr. Kitts went into detail about each of the above areas and mentioned some of the following advantages
of studying outer space and/or in places such as the underice lake in Antarctica. Some of these key
advantages are:

      Take advantage of satellites to deliver electronic devices and capabilities such as GPS, cellular
      phones, satellite TV programming, and other similar technologies.
      Conduct scientific experiments and medical research in space labs that can operate in the
      environment of microgravity.

In addition to the advantages and disadvantages of outer space, he also spoke of some of the current
projects that are in process or recently completed, some of the phenomena that is being studied, and
some of the specialized fields of study. This included the following:

      Mars Pathfinder
      Interstellar gas clouds
      The International Space Station
      The Mir Space Station
      The Cassine Spacecraft
      Space robotics
      Microsatellite technology

Dr Kitts also analyzed the complexity of space exploration and harnessing some of the subsystems that
are involved in almost all space programs:

      Power (from solar cells and/or batteries)
      Structrures (light weight yet strong, frequently alluminum)
      Thermal controls (heaters, coatings and insulation)
      Communications (radio, encryption)
      Processing (computers, software, embedded programming, on-board computers, ruggedized
      Guidance (thrusters, sensors, wheels)
      Payload (radios, cameras, sensors) 2001/03/07
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Space Exploration - Technology Evaluation
1. Social Impact

a. Who are the stakeholders?

Tax payers, astronauts, NASA employees, and aerospace industry employees

b. Who will benefit?

Depending upon the discoveries and developments many people are potential beneficiaries. If we find a
new element that can be used to make new and stronger or better products, consumers benefit. If
scientists develop or find a new micro-organism that can be used to cure AIDs or cancer, then current
and future patients and friends and family members benefit.

c. How are the poor affected?

Rich and poor alike can benefit from new products or advances in medicine. More immediately,
however, the countries that participate and the citizens of those countries enjoy a national pride in seeing
the achievements of the space age. For citizens of other countries, global achievements can also foster a
pride in the human race and a joy to be alive during a vibrant period of history. For students around the
globe, the achievements of science and especially the achievements of space programs instill not only a
pride in accomplishment but also an incentive to learn some of the prerequisite skills to be a scientist,
astronomer, astronaut, launch crew member, or other key participant.

d. Does it bring society together?

Yes. Perhaps more than any other field of scientific endeavor, the average citizen in the average country
is captivated by the stars, the heavens, and the powers of nature. The launch scenes at Cape Kennedy
have been incredible as well wishers always gather for the "fireworks" of a launch. Re-entry whether a
splash down on the ocean or a touch down in the desert is perhaps less spectacular visually but possibly
more celebrative emotionally as we are always glad when our astronauts return safely to terra firma.
Astronauts are like the players at a Superbowl or the World Series; they have risen to the top echelon of
their profession of elite performers (usually test pilots). We marvel at our modern day heroes and their
exploits and have something to share when they bring home the capsule.

e. What effects will it have on employment?

Space exploration and preparation for exploration have been a part of our economy for almost 50 years,
but the effects on employment have not been steady. During the 1960's the race to the moon stimulated
the aerospace industry. During the mid-1980's the aerospace industry experienced a slowdown which
affected jobs, the job market in places such as Los Angeles, and the employers. Several companies such
as Lockheed and Martin Marietta had to merge in 1995 and Rockwell sold its aerospace business to
Boeing in the 1996 in order to continue surviving.

2. Ethical Questions

a. Does it violate rights?

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No. We haven't encounted any obstacles other than the technological ones; however, we have introduced
some new issues. If space debris ends up reentering the earth's atmosphere and causes some property or
human destruction, we will have a new and challenging issue to deal with.

b. Is it fair?

Yes. We began the space race behind Russia and have gradually learned to participate with the Russian
space program through the International Space Station. However, fairness is in the eye of the beholder.
Is the space exploration budget fair to the terminally ill patient who is hoping for a research
breakthrough? Our government attempts to be fair to all citizens, but special interest groups are usually
dissatisfied with the mix of expenditures from their perspective.

c. Does it produce the maximum good?

Maximum good is a relative term. In many ways the benefits of the space program are "soft benefits."
We feel good about our country, proud of our astronauts, and we hope that they bring something useful
back to earth for their efforts. Maximum good has not been realized yet, but who knows, maybe Mars
will yield gold or some other precious mineral or element. Moon dust is not very exciting, but at least
we know to keep exploring other celestial bodies for "the cheese."

d. How do you weigh factors/make decisions?

Our elected representatives struggle with our budget each year. Experts such as Alan Greenspan weigh
the various factors of taxes (income), the deficit, tax cuts, interest rates, and expenditures. Similar to the
Department of Defense budget, politics and campaign promises have a lot to do with which program
gets more, less, or the same allocation. The space program was not a big debate issue in the 2000
election and President George W. Bush did not give us a Kennedy-esque challenge for this decade for
space achievement. Yet, when President Ronald Reagan spoke of star wars, he created quite a furor by
associating exploration with military might. Depending upon the way the political winds are blowing
around the Washington beltway, sometimes it is better to maintain a low profile and live with an
adequate budget than to preach impending disaster and risk program curtailment.

3. Legal Implications

a. Is it legal?

Yes, operating in space is an unchartered domain, but as Dr. Kitts points out the United Nations or some
International body may need to develop some conventions similar to the Navigation Rules that govern
International waters or the warfare agreements developed at the Geneva Convention. The space domain
is virtually unlimited and not widely traveled, but issues such as space debris and sound creation may
need to be dealt with in generations to come.

b. Does it assist (or hinder) law keeping?

Space issues have the potential to raise international sights above petty differences and face a common
challenge and common problems. Similar to the way the India-Pakistan earthquake of January 2001
brought traditonal enemies together to solve a shared disaster, the daunting challenges of outer space
have the potential to bring countries together in the planning of exploration and the mutual
"exploitation" of the discoveries.

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4. Economics

a. Is it desirable for the country, region, company, people?

Space exploration (and to some extent undersea exploration) tends to yield potential rather than
immediate gains. From an economic standpoint, we tend to spend much more than we gain. If space
exploration were forced to make a quarterly profit like public companies, we would be out of the space
business as soon as the venture capitalists stopped the flow of investments. Space projects by their
nature are investments in the future.

b. What is the impact on economic stability?

Dr Kitts mentioned that Space Exploration is currently a $100 billion industry. As large a sum as that is,
it is a thankfully small portion of the American GNP. Nevertheless, the Russian space program, which
started with Russia taking the lead in 1959 with Sputnik, devolved into a "shadow" program with a poor
economic base. Fortunately for the Russians and the rest of the planet, the International Space Station
project enables countries like Russia to participate and contribute in a cooperative effort.

5. Environmental Issues

a. How does it affect our environment (short term and long term)?

In the short term, space exploration has little effect on our environment. Long term, however, space
exploration could have a significant impact. The International Space Station may be one of many future
sites. Similar to the growth of airline travel, the growth of space travel may expand exponentially. In the
year 3001, the earth's atmosphere and water quality is likely to be significantly degraded. The abode of
choice for the weathy or the scientific elite may well be to live or make extended visits to space stations
equipped with air and water generators.

Undersea exploration is not likely to change much in the short term, but undersea villages are not
beyond the realm of imagination or scientific possibility. With fiction writers such as Jules Verne
portraying life as in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" we tend to believe that science fiction is somewhat
prophetic. Undersea villages and undersea travelers have to deal with the nontrivial reality of water
pressure, but with recent undersea trips to the Titanic and the Bismarck and similar ships, we know that
undersea travel has made incredible advancements. Perhaps as air travel gets more troublesome with
runway shortages and air traffic control shortages, transoceanic travel in pressurized tubes is perhaps
within the realm of possibility by the year 3001. It could ultimately be safer and quicker than air travel.

b. Other environmental concerns?

Space and undersea exploration both involve dealing with foreign and difficult environments and both
involve voluntary exploration. If we continue to pollute our natural environment and expend our natural
resources at the current rate (or at an accelerated rate), it is not very hard to imagine a world where we
are forced to make better and more creative use of the space and undersea environments because of
cumulative damage to our earthly environment as we now know it.

6. Unanticipated Consequences

a. What alternate paths might it take?

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Space exploration could in time take us to new planets or new solar systems where new microorganisms
or new elements are discovered. Living in sanitized, controlled space station environments, might be
desirable but it's hard to imagine such environments ever being available except for an elite group of

b. How might it be used?

The moon as our closest neighbor might present some interesting challenges and feasible opportunities.
Although the environment is not favorable, it might be possible to construct a space touch-down point or
a relay point. A moon observation station might provide a better viewpoint for analyzing global
warming, ozone depletion, space debris, or a number of outer space or atmospheric issues that could be
analyzed from a relatively fixed point. One limitation that Dr. Kitts mentioned about satellites is that
they take pictures as they course by a particular point. A moon-based observation station might provide
a more stable vantage point.

Related Links
UNAVACO, located in Boulder, Colorado, is an educational organization that tracks the use of the
global positioning system (GPS) especially in polar regions. UNAVACO also supports NSF- and
NASA-funded research.

The Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) Foundation for Polar and Marine Research operates the polar
research vessel "Polarstern" and several polar stations, including the Koldewey Station on Spitsbergen
and the "Neumayer" overwintering station in Antarctica. AWI also operates the Dallmann Laboratory at
the Argentinian Jubany Station on King George Island during the "summer."

The Kennedy Space Center website provides a wealth of current information about shuttles and launches
as well as accurate looks at the past and enlightened views into the future.

The International Space Station web site provides is a direct link to the NASA Human Spaceflight space
station. You can get real-time data on the flight and take a virtual tour.

The Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) maintains the world's largest
collection of historic planes and spacecraft, is a research center for the history, science, and technology
of aviation and space flight, and examines the impact of air and space technology on science and

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society. NASM is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as one of 13 Smithsonian museums.

"I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a
man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth. No single space project in this period will be more
impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so
difficult or expensive to accomplish."

-- John F. Kennedy, Special Joint Session of Congress, May 25, 1961

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and
they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all
technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on
man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this
new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new, terrifying theater of war.

-- John F. Kennedy, Rice University Stadium, Houston, Texas, September 12, 1962

For an idea that does not at first seem insane, there is no hope.

--Albert Einstein

For more information or to send feedback about this site,

send email to Mike Piellusch.

                                                                                  ... 2001/03/07

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