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An idea for unmanned exploration...Voyager III?

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posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 09:11 PM
I've been thinking about something for awhile and I took a little time tonight to play in Photoshop to put my idea into a visual form. It's crude.... I admit... but you get the idea anyway.

Now I know we've retired the shuttle fleet and the actual shuttle craft from the STS program are museum items and other things right now. However, that doesn't mean we're incapable of building more of them in a radically stripped down and redesigned version. A radically cheaper version to my way of thinking. It wouldn't actually need wings or flight controls.....since it'll never be coming back. No life support or human space let alone interfaces and controls, since there are no humans.

However, the whole program and infrastructure is based around these general dimensions, shapes and sizes, which is why I suggest using the shuttle frame as a template. Rather than all of above garbage which won't be needed.......imagine the sheer mind numbing array of instruments that could fit and function inside an enclosure that large and within it's protection, so to speak. Voyager? I'd think of that as the viability test and it passed. It showed the need for a bigger version.

The main feature of course is the most troublesome. Is it possible to launch anything that would transport even the small SRB rockets, fueled for putting it all together in orbit? I assume the larger ones would be a complex effort to use/reuse or otherwise adapt to the purpose.

However, assuming all that worked? Would those supply the thrust needed from ISS level orbit to not only break entirely free but get serious speed to start the trip?

It seems that Voyager I & II are finding quite a bit out there. Quite a bit more than I think 1970's instrumentation is really up to the task of reporting. It seems to me that there ought to be some way of using relatively 'off-the-shelf' stuff to avoid a trillion dollar boondoggle of a development cycle and follow up those two with something capable of truly saying what all this is out at the boundary of the Solar System?

(Feel free to pass over, if my idea seems totally absurd. Science isn't my strong focus for academics...obviously)

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 10:03 PM
Okay, assuming that they build it.....what science instruments (besides cameras, and various particle detectors) would it have?

Normally the instruments included would be based upon what the probe's mission is.

So that takes us to the next question: where are you sending this Voyager III?

Voyagers 1 and 2 did what we called the "Grand Tour" in which the outer planets were going to line up so that the Voyager's path would take them past those planets.

What mission are you suggesting?

BTW - not dismissing your idea, just keep in mind that NASA and other agencies are going to want the most Bang for their Buck.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 10:28 PM
reply to post by eriktheawful

Oh, I'm sorry... I thought I implied that by the naming idea. Voyagers took the tour, but given the oddities they are finding...perhaps a couple swiss army knife packages with a bit of everything to sample both by sensor and visual imagery to see the area around them as they get out to the edge in as direct a route as possible would be a good idea.

When the Voyagers do finally get through the last of the new layers they are finding, do they even have the technology on board to do justice to what may be there to see or detect? I don't suggest there is some stunning new vista we can't see from here but I've mentioned the idea of possible lensing for distance I've wondered about and they are finding these new energies and areas already. Who knows what else is out beyond that or what they are also crossing and may not even have the equipment to detect?

This all just really came to mind by the Voyager discoveries at the last stages of their mission and the realization that there is a whole lot more out there which may start to get very interesting closer than may have been suspected.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 10:45 PM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Okay, so you're suggesting that this Voyager III be more of a "Edge of the solar system" type of probe, and not planetary or Kuiper Belt observer.

And since you're indicating that, then there is no need to wait for any type of alignment of those planetary bodies for a launch window. Only using them for a Gravity Assist so that it will get enough velocity to escape the sun's gravity and be able to reach out there.

Now: convince them that it's worth the money to do this. Believe it or not the body of probes is the cheapest part of the probe really. Using something the size of the space shuttle means that this probe will have a LOT more mass to get out of LEO, so it's going to cost a LOT more in fuel to get it out there and on it's way to it's first gravity assist (more than likely using Venus first).

However, all the science instruments have to be built to widthstand the riggers of space travel (huge G forces, exposure to extreme temps both hot and cold, and of course vacuum and cosmic radiation), and building them is not cheap.

Then of course you'll have to have funding to staff the project, and how long is this mission going to take? You'll need employees that can be on a salary for that long too.\

Now you and I are most likely sold on the idea: let's expand human's knowledge of what's out there so we can learn about it, money should not be a limiting factor to the human race expanding it's knowledge about our universe.

However, those that control the funding and have the money might say other wise.

Considering how many ATS members alone that bi*** and griped at the cost of Curiosity (which was a drop in the bucket compared to the project you are suggesting) which was a very small sum, I doubt that you'd get the idea pushed through.

Sad I know, but I don't know of anything right that that would get something like that funded very easily.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 11:01 PM
I can see I have a lot to learn and probably ought to take advantage of space related science classes for my gen ed stuff at school. I didn't realize the fuel requirements to get from the LEO where ISS lives to true open space was that much more. I was thinking the majority of the effort and resource burn was complete by the time it got there, relatively speaking. It sounds by your words here though that there is as much or more yet to go before being truly free of Earth's gravity and able to build purely to velocity?

I suppose it's better to ask and be corrected than to go on thinking about things with such a fundamental error it's all based on, right?

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 11:04 PM

more than likely the only way we'll (the US in partnership with agencies like the ESA) ever get something huge going again is if we find something out there that the common person on the street will think is huge.

For example, if Curiosity is successful in finding fossilized life, we'd think that' big news, but the average Joe could care less about it.
If the rover turned over a rock and found some strange lichen growing on it, that would be even more HUGE! But again, the average Joe would just shrug and think: Lichen....big deal, what's so special about that?

I'm afraid that unless something mind boggling is found (New Horizons spots a huge, crashed space ship on Pluto), interest in outer space will just keep dwindelling.

Most big corps don't really want to sink money in it, unless they think there's a way to make money from it.

Say for example (and this is very wild speculation since I don't think Mars may of had life long enough on it for this), Curiosity spots actual oil bubbling to the surface somewhere. That would get some attention. More probes are sent, and it's discovered that Mars has huge crude oil reserves just waiting to be tapped.

Every oil company in the world would be killing each other to figure out a way to get to Mars, drill and pump that oil and bring it back (to which I doubt the cost effectiveness of that, but it was the only example I could think of off the top of my head).

Sadly, the quest for knowledge is limited by our wallets I'm afraid when it comes to going out into space. Maybe one day that will change again, but for now, I don't see it happening too soon.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 11:07 PM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Current tech is available to build deep space craft that use several forms of exotic propulsion. There is Nuclear Detonation Drives, Ion Drives, Solar Sails...etc.

Using the Space Shuttle has no rhyme or reason.

Split Infinity

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 11:11 PM
In that way, I suppose I've noted myself in the past that the fastest way to wide exploration will be to find a profitable way to get something out there people discover they badly need back down here. Helium-3 sounded like the ticket for awhile I'd thought...but that all seems to have faded from interest. I guess it isn't that special or there isn't that much of it on the Moon after all?

If it takes finding Asteroids or a moon out there with a huge vein of rare earth's, for example... so be it. The profit motive will come and it will pass with a steady base coming in time. If Man can just get that first kick start to take getting off this rock seriously. Instead of evolving outward, we've turned to devolving inward. A bad trend.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 11:13 PM

Originally posted by Wrabbit2000
I can see I have a lot to learn and probably ought to take advantage of space related science classes for my gen ed stuff at school. I didn't realize the fuel requirements to get from the LEO where ISS lives to true open space was that much more. I was thinking the majority of the effort and resource burn was complete by the time it got there, relatively speaking. It sounds by your words here though that there is as much or more yet to go before being truly free of Earth's gravity and able to build purely to velocity?

I suppose it's better to ask and be corrected than to go on thinking about things with such a fundamental error it's all based on, right?

It's escape velocity. You have to make a space craft exceed 11.2 miles per second to leave Earth orbit, or over 40,000 Mph.

Now, the Saturn V's that took men to the moon were massive but they had very heavy payloads too.

Probes like New Horizons headed to Pluto were launched by a Atlas V 551, but remember, they probe itself massed a LOT less than say the space shuttle full of equipment. It would take a much bigger rocket to get it out there.

For example, Cassini, as big as a school bus, needed a Titan IV rocket to get it out of Earth's gravity well.

So yah, the bigger (heavier, more massive) the payload, the bigger the rocket you're going to need to deliver enough thrust to get it out of our planet's gravity well.

Nice talking with you, but it's after midnight here, and my wife is yelling for me to get my butt to bed, so I'm off, hehehe. Rain here is making me sleepy anyways.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 11:27 PM
reply to post by SplitInfinity
Any of what you suggest is out there in the major science magazines to see and I don't doubt they are viable things with enough money.

I was hoping to come up with an idea that used basic outlines we already have either in production, recently produced or re-produced without the excuse for another 10 years, 100 billion dollars and profits beyond measure to the aero-space industry.
We'll be here paying cost over-runs to 2030 if we wait for them to develop a whole new major probe to go to the edge again because of course it'll all need to be new everything, down to metallurgy and all from scratch. Maybe I better figure 2040..... lol

Oh well.. I guess that also says the likelihood of anything logical and cost effective happening. It was a nice thought and practice with the graphics programs anyway.

(My thought of the shuttle was only using the frame of the fuselage...not the whole "airframe", No wings, tail or bay doors. just the shell which NASA already has things like molded tiles to fit and equipment made to accommodate in every way. That was the idea there)

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 11:38 PM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

The Shuttle design was for Human Space Travel. A Robotic Probe would be smaller, lighter and much more efficient.

Split Infinity

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 04:51 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Some interesting ideas and discussion going on... I like this idea actually.. Since we will have payload room why not tack on some space based observatories / communication relay satellites along the way? Since our space based observatories orbit Earth it would be kind of nice to have something farther out in the solar system to look back at Earth. It might give us a better idea on technology tweaks in order to refine our ability to detect extra solar planets.

Communication satellites to add to our deep space com network (used for Mars relay / Votager monitoring etc etcetc). Maybe some multi purpose test beds on communication / sensor technology?

Test new engine technology by dropping something off at the outer planets and send it back to earth?

With this being said, why stop at just NASA? If we have the base platform why not check with other nations who may want to join in. The Us does not have a monopoly on space technogloy / theoretical tech.

The more the merrier.. If we can come together on space exploration maybe we can break the cycle of death and destruction on Earth?

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 05:15 AM
Shuttle is scrapped so thats out of the question, however some of its elements are being used in Space Launch System. But that seems to be a typical government pork program, overpriced and behind schedule. There are cheaper and already flying alternatives, such as Atlas, Delta or Falcon rockets.

I dont think the edge of the solar system is so interesting, there are just some magnetic fields and radiation. Better visit them planets and moons.

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 05:25 AM
reply to post by Maslo

I thought the same thing about the interface to interstellar space ...before I knew there WAS an "interface" so to speak. Now it seems each new announcement from the Voyager teams is announcing a new feature no one knew was there or knew to expect. Personally, I'd call the Bubble we're surrounded on all sides by as very interesting. Is it even natural? We're infants in a world billions of years old. I wouldn't assume the answer to even that simple question, personally.... It's an exciting place out there and we know next to nothing about any of it.

Hopefully that changes and with some enthusiasm one of these days. Currently, we have a President with all the vision of a garden plant. We won't even be getting out of orbit for anything in the next 4 years. That much is crystal clear. Maybe next time we get a guy who sees Space as more than a silly waste of time.

I think we'll know if that ever changes....if NASA ever gets a budget. Seeing 17 billion dollars budgeted for the ENTIRE NASA Budget was shocking....then saddening. I'd wondered why we can't seem to crawl in space anymore. Then I saw the fiscal priority it's given...and understood.

XCathdra is right. International efforts may be the way. It shouldn't be that doesn't need to be that way...but it's probably going to have to be. So be it.. I don't see nationality after something leaves Earth orbit anyway so who really cares what flag flies on the side, right?

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 05:41 AM
Using the fuel tanks of the shuttle would have been a great idea had they had the mindset to leave them in orbit for use in future structures that could have been built in orbit. Look up Vasimr

Ad Astra

Funding is slow for this but a small version of this is going to be tested on the ISS soon. The main hurdle for making a very ffast manned exploration vehicle is money to build a nuclear reactor for space large enough to supply the power.

Smaller versions of this engine could indeed supply Voyager III a very fast engine with low fuel requirements that could catch Voyager I and II in a matter of years or less.

There is a lot of great ideas and science out there for future propulsion but barring some huge breakthrough for the near term, VASIMR will be taking the lead on getting Humans and probably robotic craft into deep space over the next 75 years.

Expect to see this combined with a Naval nuclear reactor soon for our first trip to mars.
edit on 17-12-2012 by Xeven because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 05:53 AM
I think using antiquated or "retired" technology for experimental purposes is a great idea. Considering the amount of resources consumed in building the STS fleet, it's a shame the shuttles are collecting dust (or rather being dusted by someone) in a museum somewhere.

As for a Voyager III "final destination", why does there have to be one? I've always thought it would be pretty cool to have a probe in perpetual orbit around the sun, using each planet's gravity for slingshot maneuvers, etc. Such a device could, in theory, gather and transmit scientific data about our solar system indefinitely. One year it does a flyby of Venus, the next it swings around the sun, the one after that it picks up some momentum around Earth before being flung out to Mars. In fact, I think the rover missions do something like this already, but always with an end destination from whence there is no return. It will eventually fall victim to an unfortunate encounter with a piece of space debris (natural or otherwise), but you get the idea.

Of course, I'm totally oblivious to the mathematical complexity of planning such a mission, not to mention the logistics of organizing and maintaining it.

Good imagination food, though. I like it.
edit on 12/17/12 by NthOther because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 17 2012 @ 06:12 AM
The problem I see with using the shuttle for deep space mission is that it's entire fuselage has been designed for reentry. I think what you will discover about most probes is that they are not constrained by a skinned body of a spacecraft persay but basically only by weight itself.

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