Use of Space Systems for Planetary Geology

Use of Space Systems for Planetary Geology and Geophysics

Edited by Robert Duncan-Enzmann

American Astronautical Society, Science and Technology Series Volume 17 Proceedings of an AAS Symposium held in Boston, MA. May 25-27, 1967)

Space exploration by the nations of the Earth is currently consuming man-years, natural resources, and plant capacities; it is forcing economic changes that approach and which soon will greatly exceed those needed to conduct the First and Second World Wars. Happily, the space effort is constructive, and even more fortunately it promises to become very profitable as it creates more capital per monetary unit expended than would be possible without a space effort. Unlike war, space investments continue to yield ever-increasing profits. Eventually, such investment seems likely to generate a techno-biological plateau as significant as the biological plateau which enabled living organisms to creep from the oceans onto the land surfaces. It seems probable that geological studies and the effects of such environments on living organisms will dominate the space effort in the near future.

Dominant guidance of unmanned and manned space exploration by earth scientists and biologists may at first thought, seem almost a presumptuous point of view. However, there is more information in a biosphere than in the solid lithosphere, more in the lithosphere than in the liquid hydrosphere, and least in the gaseous atmosphere. Additionally, earth sciences, particularly geology and geophysics, are so taken for granted that they are unglamorous and even unnoticed. Yet, without geophysics and the other earth sciences, liquid hydrocarbons used in internal combustion engines, nuclear fuels, minerals from the earth, and oceanic waters, would be much more expensive to obtain. It is probable that without the gravimeter, seismograph, and geochemistry the costs of automotive and heating fuels alone would be so high that the entire shape of our civilization would be different. We would be both technologically and socially poorer.

Planetary geology and geophysics in the space effort are by man and for mankind. The writer feels it will have effects that will enrich all members of the human race many times more than cheap liquid hydrocarbons have. Earth scientists should, and generally do, take a broad humanistic view of the directions and consequences of their labors.

The writer, and many members of this conference, believe that the allocation of resources by organized humanity for space exploration, education, civil and sociological improvements, will eventually evolve into an “organic” approach. By “organic” the writer means to suggest that human societies are growing, evolving superorganisms, and learning by amassing knowledge and technology through generations; recently using the collected knowledge and technological plant ever more effectively and profitably through increasingly faster and more complex loops. The loops operate via the written word, telegraph lines, long-wave radio, orbital relays, and synchronous relays with ever-increasing fidelity. It is ventured that space mission planning is a part of a new and evolving science of allocation and control of spending with the intent of bettering human societies. The notion, of course, is older than the pyramids. Systematic apportioning of metabolic profits enables young organisms to grow, or older ones to preserve homeostasis. Over many years, organisms “learn” through random mutation and selective survival to improve their “metabolic profit and loss balance sheets” vis-a-vis their environments, and even to expand into new environments that formerly were hostile.

The financial, and technical problems that are involved in the exploration of space are difficult. Proper allocation of capital for space exploration is the subject of endless discussion in almost every major government of Earth.

The papers in this monograph have been selected, introduced, and arranged in six groups, or chapters. It is hoped that the papers will guide all interested toward the general approaches to Planetology and Space Mission Planning outlined herein or will inspire them to prepare better approaches.

It is difficult, indeed, to try to look into the future. Almost always attempts to do so have resulted in gross underestimates of technological probabilities which seem grotesque, bizarre, magical, or at best cumbersome technological extensions when read decades later. Even sorrier material seems to come from writers who feel that human nature will change, or who wish to prove a point. Taking into account at least some of the pitfalls and the ephemeral character of almost all such work, this book is essentially a look toward the future.

The following aspects of space science and technology seemed to the editor to cast long shadows into the future on the stormy Thursday morning in New England, 25 May 1967, when Dr. Fred Whipple of Harvard University opened the conference.

1) Space systems are economically profitable; furthermore, ever more complex systems seem to become profitable. If placed in a suggestive sequence this might be as follows:

Currently Profitable

1) Orbital communications satellites.

2) Synchronous facsimile, communications, and television relays.

3) Weather satellites.

            Profitable in the Near Future

4) Oceanographic satellites to record plankton concentrations and sea states.

5) Botanical satellites to observe foliage fires, ground moisture, insect damage.

6) Direct television satellites.

7) Seismic nets on the Moon, Venus, and Mars to give a better understanding of damaging seismic events on Earth.

8) Weather satellites about Venus and Mars so that their planetary atmospheres may provide data that will improve terrestrial models and forecasting.

9) Solar satellites, spread from within Mercury’s orbit to Jupiter’s orbit, to improve forecasts of ionospheric events and therewith communications and weather forecasting.

10) Manned stations about the Moon, Venus, and Mars, also stations on the Moon and Mercury for special manufacture, as observatories, and as sterile biotic stations.

2) There is a systematic way of studying and describing planetary geospheres, and therefore there must be a systematic way of selecting instruments and platforms to do this. An extension of the science of geomorphology to all geospheres may be the best approach to systematic planetology.

3) Space Mission Planning is an infant science designed to optimize gain in terms of space hardware expended. It is, of course, only a part of the so-called science of economic planning; however, the infant might grow exponentially in “applicability” as well as size, as some infants do.

4) Interstellar colonization (The Grand Design) will perhaps be the ultimate achievement of Homo Sapiens; for, from small groups of humans isolated in deep space something physiologically, mentally, and otherwise more effective is more likely to develop than on Earth. This is because speciation or genetic drift due to mutation and selective survival is swifter in small isolated communities. Such entities would be of man, but they would become something other than man – therefore an ultimate achievement. The creeping of cognizant life into interstellar space will be as significant as the creeping of life from the seas onto the continental platforms.

5) It seems to the editor that the critical technological points in the movement of life from the Earth into interstellar space lying ahead of us include systems typified by:

  1. a) Jumbo jets such as the Boeing 747 and Lockheed c5.
  2. b) Nuclear jumbo jets which may be profitable intercontinental wheat carriers.
  3. c) Nuclear supersonic aircraft.
  4. d) Nuclear hypersonic aircraft that can fly from airport to orbit.
  5. e) Nuclear pulse rockets such as the Orion configuration which, with nuclear hypersonic aircraft, would literally urbanize Solar System.
  6. f) Long-term space stations, life-support systems, and recovery of resources from Moon-like bodies for local use.
  7. g) Advanced fusion-type nuclear pulse rockets which today, on paper, have an interstellar potential.

The title of this volume is the AAS Science and Technology Series is “The Role of Planetary Geology and Geophysics in the Space Effort.” The papers were presented and discussed at the meeting during May 25th, 26th, and 27th of 1967 in the midst of the extraordinary three-day “northeaster” which deluged New England with rains and lashed with winds of near hurricane velocity. The general approaches to Planetary Geology and Geophysics were largely directed by Earth Science Professors from the major colleges and universities of New England. Within this context, panel discussions were held about very generalized questions, and papers were presented by clergy, various government personnel, persons from the aerospace and other industry, representatives of news media, and science fiction writers.

An ad-hoc committee from the New England Academic Community has been collaborating for some years to promote systematic approaches to the so-called science of planetology. The committee feels that if a synthetic approach, which is not overly artificial can be devised, its use in space mission planning would become almost mandatory. Plans to spend space hardware for:

1) Information gain

2) Engineering values such as communications satellites

3) Expansion or betterment of mankind’s ecological niche (as would be the case with improved long-range weather forecasting), would be numerically comparable. Quite simply, the return per dollar spent would tend to be optimized, provided the approach to planetology is reasonably valid

Mission Planning, as a subdivision of economic planning, takes into account information gain, engineering gain, and human ecology. The greatest potential gains to mankind seem to the writer to lie in manned interstellar exploration and colonization. Therefore, if this surmise is correct, and if a generalized approach to mission planning in real environments is not too artificial, the parametric equations for space mission planning should indicate to mankind what percentage of his resources should be devoted to such an endeavor.

Statements indicating the desirability, feasibility, and suggestions as to how “Grand Designs” may be technically accomplished are risky. Grand Designs include such works as the Roman roads, aqueducts, sewers, and legal codices, the Chinese Grand Canal, canals through the Isthmus of Panama and Suez, the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Maginot Line (which failed), and the Great Wall of China (which succeeded), the Apollo Project, and the like. However, before financial, governmental, or other groups can undertake a great engineering effort, someone must stand up and clearly state the case. The editor will venture to state in this preface that the grandest design of all is the expansion of mankind’s ecological niche to locations about stars other than the Sun.

The Grand Design, or movement of mankind toward technological levels that will make it possible for him to create new abodes in space (particularly interstellar space) might have been formalized a decade ago. However, technology was so limited then that such statements would have seemed premature and more fittingly published in science fiction. Today the technology for constructing unmanned interstellar probes seems on the verge of being available. Perhaps today we are at a technological stage regarding interstellar flights, equivalent to that of 1950 when configurations similar to those built for the Apollo Project were first being considered. The approach to the “Grand Design” should be via a systematic development of vehicles and goals, coupled with attempts to systematize space mission and economic planning.

Planning, of course, is fraught with dangers. It is no secret that project Apollo was literally forced on organized “science” by the public and the engineering community. Lest we be planned out of interstellar space, or started inopportunely, the editor suggests that all things be taken in moderation, including moderation!