earth like planet found in another solar system

Ijuin

Admiral
As for the value of space programs, I think that Earth-orbital satellites speak for themselves (weather satellites, spy satellites, communications and TV broadcast satellites, GPS).

As for the rest, space programs are primarily a technology driver. For example, the need for smaller, more powerful computers probably made desktop systems a possibility at least a decade before they would have otherwise--the Apollo flight computer was less powerful than even the Commodore 64, but it was really pushing the envelope when it was designed--nothing of comparable bulk could touch it. Beyond that, other now-ordinary things such as instant food and microwave ovens (from the need for a fireproof cooking method for spacecraft) were invested in chiefly for their spaceflight applications.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I think you're simplifying this to a dangerous level. No space expenditure is going to be "worth" the cost in the direct cause-effect world that you're suggesting exists here. Not the mission to Mars you've decided to separate out, not landing a man on the moon, not setting up a space station - no amount of lunar ge~~~ogy or microgravity science will ever lead to anything that directly justifies billions upon billions of dollars spent on these programs.

Isn't that ultimately the point of having a government-subsidized space program in the first place? Boeing and Lord British and the like aren't ever going to build an orbital Inteferometer because there's no immediate profit in discovering what other solar systems look like. The government *can*, and can do so easily without suffering. I'm surprised you have this opinion, as NASA in-the-immediate is a singularly wonderful, impossibly positive organization in a far too cynical world.
My opinion isn't that all money spent on NASA is a waste. While I do think private investors would do a better job with some things, I do also realise that they're not gonna do much unless the government first convinces them to make that effort (after all, Columbus was financed by the Spanish government).

What I am getting at, though, is that there's a time and place for everything - and this is most certainly not the time to spend money on researching unimaginably distant planets. While it's true that such research catches people's imagination to some degree, it remains terribly impractical, and when it comes to budget cuts, it's an easy target. Any time NASA engages in such frivolous programmes, somebody will come along and cut its budget, saying they're wasting money - and rightly so!

So you see, my concern is specifically that it's better for NASA to focus on the research that can be reasonably justified to the public - not because I think all research should be practical, but because I think any time NASA gets too far from practicality, their budget gets cut and consequently nothing gets done - not the practical, not the impractical.

Currently, NASA should be 100% focused on the solar system. Money spent on actual space exploration (as opposed to trying to figure out what that invisible speck on our hyper-expensive telescope is) will simply be better spent. If NASA can reach the point where they have research bases on the moon and on Mars, if they can reach the point where somebody can actually conduct feasibility studies on bringing moon & Mars minerals back to Earth without being treated like a complete lunatic - then, and only then will there be a point of widening our horizons beyond the solar system.
 

Edfilho

Cry some more!
Dude, don't get your panties in a bind. They barely discovered the planet, no one signed anything about a mission to reach it yet.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Dude, don't get your panties in a bind. They barely discovered the planet, no one signed anything about a mission to reach it yet.
You know, we're not exactly threatening to kill each other, nor are we even having a shouting match :). We're just discussing something that - shock, horror - happens to be the subject of this thread. I really don't much like people who drop into the middle of a perfectly appropriate and reasonable discussion and tell one side or the other to calm down - it's just plain bad manners :p.
 

Edfilho

Cry some more!
I was participating in the said debate, and we were all amazed with the news, when you just started flaming NASA and acting all jerky. So much for pulling the "manners" card. You're the one pooping the party. Ok, NASA sucks and only private companies cans deliver us from evil, Hallelujah.

Anyways, back to topic, it wasn't long ago when scientists said that the chances of a planet being even remotely like earth was very small... that they didn't even had any idea if solar systems where common or not. Now, they're finding more and more planets orbiting stars, and they've finally encountered one that boasts several important similarities with Earth, including the right conditions for liquid water...

Considering how most planets we found are really big, I wonder if there aren't lots of smaller planets we simply cannot see yet. Even this last one, one of the smallest we found, is huge compared to Earth.

The fact that there are in fact solid planets with liquid water is really important, because there is a chance of life springing up there. that's a lot more than we had 10 years ago.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Currently, NASA should be 100% focused on the solar system. Money spent on actual space exploration (as opposed to trying to figure out what that invisible speck on our hyper-expensive telescope is) will simply be better spent. If NASA can reach the point where they have research bases on the moon and on Mars, if they can reach the point where somebody can actually conduct feasibility studies on bringing moon & Mars minerals back to Earth without being treated like a complete lunatic - then, and only then will there be a point of widening our horizons beyond the solar system.

Your requirements have just eliminated NASA's single most recognized accomplishment in the last twenty years -- the Hubble Space Telescope, which was responsible for saving the shuttle and countless terrestrial experiments in the eyes of the public and the budget-makers.

The program *needs* spectacular accomplishments in order to survive the buildup to passing things off to the private sector - this particular project is one that seems very capable of delivering exactly that.

I think Ed's reaction shows exactly what I was trying to say better than I ever could - simply because of its nature NASA has fans all over the world, which is priceless. Turning it into some kind of for-profit money-for-aircraft-carriers outfit would negate that.

Also, remember that aside from being nothing in terms of the budget, the $200 million for the interferometer mission isn't being thrown out... it's going back into the economy, creating more jobs. Major US cities like Houston and Huntsville have literally grown up around the government's willingness to spend space money.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Your requirements have just eliminated NASA's single most recognized accomplishment in the last twenty years -- the Hubble Space Telescope, which was responsible for saving the shuttle and countless terrestrial experiments in the eyes of the public and the budget-makers.
So... the space telescope which saved the shuttle and performed countless terrestrial experiments doesn't fit the bill as something that helps us get around the solar system? :)

(though yes, you got me there - back when it was being developed, I probably would have criticised the Hubble space telescope for not being a mission to the moon. So, ok, maybe "100%" was a tad strong :) )

Anyway... I don't doubt that NASA needs spectacular achievements, and I don't doubt that such achievements help space exploration both public and private - what I am saying is that when faced with a choice of something spectacular with no practical impact, and something spectacular with a significant practical impact, the latter is obviously the way to go. Discovering potentially habitable but absolutely unreachable planets impossibly far away is something that nerds like us get excited about - but it's something that probably doesn't even make the evening news. A landing on Mars, on the other hand, would.

(again, I'd like to highlight the fact that, while I did indeed ask in a previous post whether this money couldn't be better spent on defence, my main point is that it could be better spent within NASA - I'm not saying NASA's budget should be cut, I'm saying NASA should try to to make the best possible use of its money to avoid budget cuts)

I was participating in the said debate, and we were all amazed with the news, when you just started flaming NASA and acting all jerky. So much for pulling the "manners" card. You're the one pooping the party. Ok, NASA sucks and only private companies cans deliver us from evil, Hallelujah.
Yes, yes, Ed, I'm sure I'm a terrible jerk... except that I did not start flaming NASA or acting all jerky (except in your eyes, apparently). I did certainly criticise the belief that NASA being deprived of money for such experiments is a terrible thing - but I only did so specifically because Eddie started encouraging people to contact their senator about it (in other words, not only is this great, but it's so great that we should help Eddie's employer get more money for more such research!). I don't see why I shouldn't be able to respond to such a statement by questioning the value of this research. In addition, you're the one who made the assumption that I believe only private companies should be exploring space - and it was a pretty stupid assumption, given that the post you were responding to had specifically explained why I believe the government is justified spending money on space exploration.

In any case, you're just plain being stupid. Do you seriously think the point of this thread was to get a "Woo, go NASA! Yay!" response from every CZ member? The point of this forum is to discuss things. And obviously, in a discussion about how great it is that a potentially habitable (never mind that this potential has been stretched beyond all reason) planet has been found and how we absolutely must spend more money on such research, it's only fair that somebody asks the question whether this discovery was even worth the cost. So, if you have anything to say in response to what I actually wrote, by all means say it - otherwise, quit bothering me :).
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
(again, I'd like to highlight the fact that, while I did indeed ask in a previous post whether this money couldn't be better spent on defence, my main point is that it could be better spent within NASA - I'm not saying NASA's budget should be cut, I'm saying NASA should try to to make the best possible use of its money to avoid budget cuts)

But you *did* say NASA's budget should be cut - that's what started this discussion, your response to Eddie's comment about writing to your Congressman was a bad idea.

The issue there is completely that NASA's total budget has been cut and that that has caused this project to be delayed... not that they've reappropriated their money for something better (which I would personally agree with - I'm all for spending as much money to get to Mars as possible... although I really don't think there's some immediate *practical* purpose for doing so). The question all along has been whether or not NASA should get all the money they were initially promised.
 

Delance

Victory, you say?
Colonizing other stellar systems is a fun idea and all, but it’s really a project that would several hundred thousand years without FTL. The odd thing is that the galaxy is quite old, so there’s probably no big spacefaring empire in our vicinity.

NASA's budget aside, this discovery also opens the door to some questions about our place in the universe, and our cosmic solitude.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
But you *did* say NASA's budget should be cut - that's what started this discussion, your response to Eddie's comment about writing to your Congressman was a bad idea.
Right. I guess I took something of a short cut in explaining my thinking.

Faced with a budget cut, NASA gave up on what they obviously regarded as their least important programmes. That's how these things always work, and Congress knows this. So, if they cut NASA's budget, it can be for either of two reasons - one, that they simply regard NASA's budget as a source of potential savings on the federal budget scale, and two, that they have reservations about how NASA plans to spend the money. Indeed, in the end in both cases it comes down to the same thing (since, if you can prove that your organisation's budget is well-allocated, and the general public agrees, then Congress will have a hard time cutting your budget).

So, in my opinion, having things like this in their budget, NASA was pretty much begging for a budget cut. Remember President Bush's big space speech back in 2004? In that speech, Bush promised an extra billion dollars to NASA in order to facilitate all the objectives he set out for them. I don't know what the US federal budget currently looks like, so I don't know to what degree this promise was kept - but if any extra money was indeed given to NASA for these objectives, then Congress is certainly justified in cutting NASA's budget upon seeing that NASA is spending money on less important stuff.

(and they're even more justified if no extra money was given - if NASA feels it's fulfilling all the objectives President Bush set out for them in spite of having no extra money, and still manages to fund unimportant research, then their budget must have been too big in the first place)

It's like foreign aid. You don't directly control the recipient country's budget. If you make the decision to cut down on aid, you don't withdraw the money from the most wasteful programme, but from the country's budget as a whole. You do, however, do it on the assumption that if they can afford to spend money on that most wasteful programme, then they don't need all that aid you're handing out.
 

Howard Day

Random art guy.
I probably one of the few people who feels that the enormous amount of money we're spending on defense would be better spent on space programs and research. I know! Wierd, huh? I can't help but think that all the money we spend on killing each other would be better used...not killing each other. Maybe I'm just a naive dreamer.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
It's like foreign aid. You don't directly control the recipient country's budget. If you make the decision to cut down on aid, you don't withdraw the money from the most wasteful programme, but from the country's budget as a whole. You do, however, do it on the assumption that if they can afford to spend money on that most wasteful programme, then they don't need all that aid you're handing out.

The situation is nowhere near this simple. NASA isn't a separate entity like a foreign nation, it's a federal agency with congressional oversight. Its budget can specify exactly what every dollar should go for.

My understanding is that the now-Democratic congress plans to specifically cut NASA's exploration budget instead of continuing the steady increase requested by the President. This not only shuts down the interferometer mission but also development of the CEV and its assosciated rocket (needed for the Moon-Mars push). It's a nasty case of vindictive politics throwing up all over something that should be wholly separated from paritsanship, not some clever plan on the part of congress to punish NASA into doing exactly what it's supposed to (which is, of course, determined by the government in the first place).

We should certainly, certainly be writing our congressmen.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
My understanding is that the now-Democratic congress plans to specifically cut NASA's exploration budget instead of continuing the steady increase requested by the President. This not only shuts down the interferometer mission but also development of the CEV and its assosciated rocket (needed for the Moon-Mars push). It's a nasty case of vindictive politics throwing up all over something that should be wholly separated from paritsanship...
I see. That's definitely a different situation to what I was talking about, and indeed something that I'd be complaining about (...if I were an American citizen).
 

X_FIREFALCON

Spaceman
My thoughts and opinions, for what little they're worth:

Howard Day said:
I probably one of the few people who feels that the enormous amount of money we're spending on defense would be better spent on space programs and research. I know! Wierd, huh? I can't help but think that all the money we spend on killing each other would be better used...not killing each other. Maybe I'm just a naive dreamer.

I'll join you in that weird boat, Howard. Unfortunately, though, when you're surrounded by people who are putting their money into trying to get you killed, you can't just exclusively turn to the stars and trust that things will be okay while you aim to understand the universe. In an ideal world, though, I - for one - would favor things if this world outgrew its differences, pooled its collective resources, and aimed to jointly turn to the stars as one unified species. (A completely impossible dream, I know, but still a dream of mine nevertheless. As we see, though, this doesn't even work out ultimately in the Wing Commander Universe even!!)


LeHah said:
Is the sky blue where you are, Delance?

Ouch...LeHah's at it again! ;) Yeah, Delance did a fine job stating the obvious there, but hey - what else are forums for if not to think aloud, and to make those thoughts heard? Redundant, yes, but weighing in on the whole "should we or should we not take an interest in looking at planets more closely, and this one in particular" debate appropriately regardless. What are your thoughts on this one, LeHah?

Bandit LOAF said:
My understanding is that the now-Democratic congress plans to specifically cut NASA's exploration budget instead of continuing the steady increase requested by the President. This not only shuts down the interferometer mission but also development of the CEV and its assosciated rocket (needed for the Moon-Mars push). It's a nasty case of vindictive politics throwing up all over something that should be wholly separated from paritsanship, not some clever plan on the part of congress to punish NASA into doing exactly what it's supposed to (which is, of course, determined by the government in the first place).

Didn't realize this one, LOAF. Wow...that sucks. Party politics at it again, eh? Not a huge fan of this whole "war on terror" thing we have going right now, but when it comes to NASA and the space program at large, I'm more the kind of guy who figures we should be putting more into it, not less. Not sure how supportive I am of the lunar & martian outpost idea either, but as a dreamer and a hopeless optimist at heart, I'm supportive of an organization that reaches beyond the confines of this planet to continually try and make mankind something more than it already is.

.....

I dare say Quarto's an Accountant at heart with the way he's crunching these numbers. :) As someone who is a taxpayer in the U.S., I'd be happy if the government took it upon themselves to fork the money over to NASA who then used it to try and discover new worlds. In the '60's, the whole Cold War was incentive enough for the space race to the moon. Nowadays, we need something similar to shock the people of this country and the world into thinking "hey, we need to make another push." Turning our solar system into a massive mining project is something for the corporations of tomorrow to do. I think most of us space-lovers yearn for the day when it's announced that we finally discovered life on another world. If it turned out to be nothing more than bacteria, yeah - that's kind of gay, but still cool nevertheless. If we found signs of so-called "sentient" or "intelligent" life, though, the possibilties are amazing to consider. There'd be more of a push for improved methods of communication, improved or more efficient methods of transportation, perhaps a greater perspective of the universe than we've had with the Earth-centric view, probably tons of philosophical and theological debates that would kick up everywhere.

If we take the time and make the effort now to give scientists the technological leg-up so that the search for life in the universe could one day turn into more than the "shot in the dark" that it is now, that will pay out handsomely in the future. It's the way things work (at least in this economy) - politicians take money from the people and the corporations and give it to the scientists. The scientists come up with something incredible, then it trickles back down to the government. The government hands it off to the military who comes up with a novel way to use it to better wage war. Eventually it trickles back down to the corporations who find a way to make it marketable to the average consumer. And eventually that equates to better TVs, safer and faster transportation (cars, jets, etc.), faster internet, etc. for the masses.

I say give the dreamers at NASA the green with a special interest & focus in things like this topic eddieb was good enough to post for our little debate here. Maybe it'll lead to nothing eventually and we'll find out that humanity is just as special and singular as some have thought. Regardless, it'll give us a broader view of the universe, new or better technologies for us all to enjoy, and (perish the thought!) some semblance of hope in the years to come! :)
 

Delance

Victory, you say?
Is the sky blue where you are, Delance?

Well, how relevant is this planet to us? What makes it something more than a just large piece of rock floating in an unreachable place that won't ever have any actual meaning?
 

Kavok

Spaceman
Sirs,

One of the pivotal issues throughout this very interesting debate has been the lack of imperitive, or perhaps incentive depending on your social outlook, to make space exploration worth the opportunity cost of programmes like defence or developmental aid. We are, despite technological advance, still at an inhibited and primitive stage in exploration, serving perfectly well on the skeptical side, we, and by this I mean space-exploration-capable and involved states, simply do not have enought to gain by our investments above and beyond 'pure' science or morally comfortable notions of advancing the species.

But there are also a set of counterveiling interests that have not been touched on so far - I would like to posit the argument of planetary overpopulation. In the years since great influenza epidemics and the like, the worlds' population has increased greatly, and the major industrial-era wars in the mid-20th century did cause enough losses to at least keep the problem in check. But advances in medical technology and the fact that, by luck or by crook, there have been no wars on a global scale for 50 years lead to the inescapable conclusion that sooner or later, the planet will not be able to support the sheer numbers of people present upon it.

So what is the solution? Even if half of the world's governments imposed a totally successful birth control policy, it seems highly unlikely that all will, or that such policy, where implemented, will be successful. Furthermore, when the population reaches a crisis point, it may all be too late to combat the problem with restrictions. So there will almost certainly be only two solutions; population reduction, or expansion of the area to which settlers may go. The obvious candidate in the latter instance is Mars, which is relatively, and I assure all my right honourable friends that I do mean relatively, suitable for terraforming and long-term settlement.

Of course, technology and relative cost will form a major part of this decision and the timing at which any sort of attempt is going to be made, and several decades look set to pass before the option becomes attractive. The economically-minded amongst us will already have recognised that the other option, direct global population control, is almost certain never to be the subject of binding international agreement, and that therefore, the option of using the defence technology invested in as an alternative to the exploration budget will must be considered.

Strong states, especially democratic ones, do not seem likely to volunteer to cut births whilst others do not, and in the end, of course, the option to use our weapons upon each other in a brutally enforced Darwinian backlash will end up economically cheaper and ultimately far simpler. For those who would voice moral objections at this point, remember, not all global ideology and not all global morality is created equal. For every group that abhors this as an action, another may not. Human beings, I regret to remind the house, are far more adept at killing one another than we are at setting aside those differences and making a concerted effort to find a workable solution.

I advocate neither solution personally, and write purely as a thought experiment, if I may be so bold.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Regards,
KvK
 

LeHah

212 Squadron - "The Old Man's Eyes And Ears"
Well, how relevant is this planet to us?

How can you read or watch anything involving science fiction and ask a question so blatantly ignorant, Delance? Your reasoning flies in the face of reason.
 

Ijuin

Admiral
On disarming: I believe we have all heard the proverb "those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who do not". We have ye olde Mexican Standoff--throwing down your own gun is no guarantee that the other guy will not shoot you. For example, take nukes (please :p ). The last nation (or alliance) to disarm finds itself with a nuclear monopoly, and unscrupulous leaders might choose to take advantage of this to launch an unopposed strike.

Anyway, to get back on topic, if we ever DID find a habitable planet, it would represent a potential resources bonanza--a whole WORLD presumably has an economic value in the quadrillions of dollars (i.e. at least equivalent to humanity's economic output for the entire last two centuries). I can guarantee that if we do find a habitable world, then a lot of people will be thinking as hard as they can on ways to get there and claim all of that bounty. If physics allows FTL travel (or Jump travel) at all, somebody will find the theory that lets us do it.
 
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