Brendan Eich, gay marriage and moral self-licensing

Moral self-licensing. When you think to be morally superior, you don’t respect anymore who has different views, and you feel it’s acceptable discriminate, insult and boycott. It’s typical in the overshooting phase.


I agree with the same-sex marriage, but that’s not the topic of this post. Let’s talk about freedom.

A free man, Brendan Eich, made a donation to support a ballot in California to ban same-sex marriage. In 2011. When even Obama didn’t have a clear idea about this subject. After a couple of years he became the CEO of Mozilla, but was forced to resign because of that donation. I see MANY issues with this.

  • How acceptable is a model where an individual can see his career (and life) damaged by what he thinks? How free will be a person to express his opinion against same-sex marriage when he could face a damage to his personal life by what he thinks? Obviously we are not talking about prison, nobody is going to be jailed for this in US (while in UK you get arrested if you say “God hates sin”). But you can face consequences for your business. I repeat the question: how free you will think to be in such position?
  • Personal views were totally insignificant regarding the professional position. I mean, how his view about gay marriage can affect the management of Mozilla?
  • There are some germs of market manipulation in all this. In a free market situation, people choose the best product based on some price vs performance trade-off. Now we are putting into the equation also some irrelevant personal views of the CEO. We are not even talking about boycotting a company because of its ethical behavior (in example like labour exploitation, etc…). We are talking about individuals opinions that doesn’t affect at all how the behavior of the company. Is a CEO someone who needs to think to raise the profit of the company he is managing or just a politician who tries to be politically correct?
  • This is a slippery slope. If we can boycott business driven by people that have views different from ours, then can we extend this concept to religion? Religion is an opinion, when a person adheres to a particular religion, that person chooses to believe in that religion. Moreover, opposition to same-sex marriage is indeed caused by religious beliefs. Can we say that a person is unfit to be a CEO as that person is Jew? Or because is a communist? Or because made a donation to save the Siberian Tiger while I hate  Tigers?

I think people start loosing freedom when they risk consequences because of their beliefs.

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Drones and exaustive oceanic research for MH370

MH370I have been busy with other stuff in the past few weeks. Here I am, anyway.

As many people, I am very curious about the fate of MH370 flight. It’s not just about the (almost certain) death of 239 people, it’s also about aviation safety. Understanding what could have gone wrong will lead for sure to changes to the air safety regulations. Pilot suicide, hijacking, mechanical failure, fire, passengers mutiny, meteorite collision, hacking, remote hacking, …? Each of this scenario could lead to a different review of the existing regulations. Of course, a review will be probably undertaken anyway in order to make the localization of a plane wreckage easier.

The thing is: how the MH370 wreckage will be found? There are two steps:

  1. Find some floating debris of the airplane
  2. Find the wreckage on the bottom of the ocean

Step 1 could be even impossible if there are no floating debris of the aircraft. And the area to look is massive, and it’s increasing every due to the oceanic currents. There are hundreds of satellite and aerial sights (maybe not as promising as the one shown above), however they are likely to be due to all the garbage floating on the ocean. Step 2 can’t really begin without having a precise information about the impact location.

This first phase of high commitment research will be probably closed without any important finding, as the costs will be unsustainable and the probability of finding something too low. What happens next? There will be a research done with more cost-effective technologies, even if probably slower. Let’s consider that a realistic budget for finding the MH370 would be even more than 100M$. The technologies involved will be drone-based.

  • Some medium sized ship can be converted to drone carrier and can be put in the middle of the research area, and several drones will fly every day. Some automatic feature recognition would be necessary. Not very difficult though.
  • Friendly-Floatees-like devices can be used to track the currents in that area, in order to help tracking the impact site to the debris location.
  • UUV (Unmanned underwater vehicles) could patrol the area, probably for years, looking for irregularities and metallic materials on the bottom of the oceans. An operation like this would certainly find probably many ships and some other aircrafts. This technology could actually trigger a sort of oceanic Google Street, where many interesting objects laying down below the oceans can be discovered and tagged (and maybe even recovered).

So, I think that we could wait decades before finding the MH370. But when we will do, probably we would have found a lot of other interesting items across the oceans.

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How to obliterate the North Korean regime?

DPRKThe UN report about North Korean atrocities was released just few days ago. We already had some clues about what is going on in DPRK, but this report gives other horrible details. I am not willing to enlist all the crazy things that make DPRK unique, simply because it would be a very long list and we know probably only a part of the story.

An interesting question is: when this will end? And how?

A military solution is a very unrealistic, dangerous and unpredictable scenario. Even if the North Korean army is obsolete, it is still massive and a war could end up in a very high death tolls for both sides. Let’s also consider that China would never allow any UN action in DPRK and would actively support DPRK in a war scenario against a Western coalition. Also, DPRK is likely to possess several nuclear weapons and Seoul is about 50km from the border. They don’t even need an intercontinental missile to kill million of people. Another thing: there is not enough motivation to risk thousands of lives to “free” the North Korean people. DPRK is a very hermetic nation, this also assures that their impact on the external world is very limited. They just spend their time torturing themselves, organising huge (and impressive!) mass games, worshiping Kim Il-Sung and his genial Juche idea, and programming crap video games.

An intelligence action that neutralizes the Korean leaders probably is extremely difficult, because of the technical difficulties of such operation, and also because the power seems distributed across the oligarchy rather than on Kim Jong-un alone.

What else the free world can do?

A regime like that is base on the deep brainwashing of their slaves citizens. Many regimes around the world are facing an hard time because of internet and especially social networks. DPRK however has amazingly succeeded in isolating the population from the rest of the world. Many people that have an active role in the regime have a very limited knowledge of what’s happening in their prison and the reasons behind their recurrent famines. The steps for freeing the North Korean people are 2:

  1. Provide (even occasional) access to foreign media to the public.
  2. Allow North Korean people to communicate each other while remaining anonymous.

Which are the technological solutions?

  • Broadcasting on the same frequency of the state channel. Tuning a TV is a crime, so the only way to reach a wide audience is using the same frequency of public state. This require a high power station in South Korea and poses technical challenges.
  • Smuggling compact radios, able to receive any channel.
  • Smuggling devices to setup a Wi-Fi Direct. With those device people could setup a network and communicate each others. Obviously these devices must be ready to be used by people without any technical experience.
  • Even smuggling just Walkie Talkie? Many people could enjoy talking through radio channels without being recognizable (even if radio source can be localized).

I am quite fascinated from Wi-Fi Direct devices (or any similar protocol). Million devices must be made available to the population, they should be resilient to jamming and provided with just few crucial apps. Since the government will declare these devices illegal, they should be small, easy to conceal, maybe even totally silent. The main purpose of this is not give web access to the North Korean people, probably they don’t trust much what is coming from foreign countries. What is important is to make them connected, so they can share their frustration and they can eventually organize themselves.

After the second step, a social chain reaction, i.e. a North Korean revolution, is very likely to happen. The North Korean system is too crazy to be stable. The only reason it has lasted so many decades is that the oligarchy has succeeded in freezing any social/technological/political evolution. If this system is properly perturbed, it can fall much more quickly than many other milder regimes around the world.

It’s like the Berlin Wall: it was a so stupid thing that a simple misunderstanding between DDR bureaucrats made it fall.

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Virtual and Augmented Reality will allow us to walk around amazing CGI cities

Virtual reality as been imagined for a very long time as a natural consequence of technological development. However, it seems to share the same fate of videophone: largely predicted decades before (2001 Space Odyssey), it failed to become a paradigm-shifting technology. Today we have videophones but the possibility of making videocalls is probably not the most important functionality of out smartphones/tablets/notebooks, even if it’s quite used.
Will be the same for virtual reality? I don’t think so. I really think that virtual reality will have a huge impact on our society and on commercial services.

Let’s merge together virtual reality and augmented reality as a single results of the possibility of driving our senses with a computer generated content. I will just focus about “visual” and “acoustic” VR, in spite the fact that other senses can be virtualized as well, like smell, touch, acceleration, wind, temperature, humidity, etc…

My thought is that once that you have visual and acoustic VR, you have 80% of a perfect ideal virtual reality. Acoustic VR has already heavily impacted our lives for decades: today we can listen a music everywhere with just earphones. Noise insulation is still challenging thought. In spite of many annouced virtual reality devices made in past 2 decades, a very high quality VR is still not available, even if we are about to see its birth? Why? Well, reproduction quality is the most important key factor of any virtualization technology. Which are the requirement of a paradigm-shift virtual reality?

  • High resolution. Human eye has a resolution of 1 minute-arc. For a FOV of 120°x90° it’s about 7200×5400. Not ready yet.
  • Rendering quality. Reproducing a scene with a quality indistinguishable from reality is still computational unfeasible. However, very good detail quality is achieved with current GPUs in games, even if for lower resolution.
  • High dynamic range. This is the most limiting factor. Some scenes require HDR of 1,000,000:1, like an indoor environment with an open window during a sunny day. Probably also a lower HDR could provide the same
  • Reactivity. This has a dramatic importance for achieving a very immersive experience. State-of-the-art accelerometers and low-latency processing should allow this already. High refresh frequency and low latency are the key factors.

Is this a paradigm shifting technology? Of course it is. I can only enlist some of the applications that comes to my mind:

  • Virtual tourism of existing places. We can really enjoy the landscape of Machu Picchu without spending thousand dollars to arrange the travel. Obviously we wouldn’t have the scent of the vegetation and the wind (and the insects) but it would really be a nice experience. Or let’s think to a sort of walkable Google-Street like environment. We would be able to walk in Tokyo, and maybe even enter inside the buildings, either in a realistic reproduction or a virtual reproduction.
  • Virtual tourism of virtual places. This should be funny. Walking through imaginary cities, developed by skilled 3D renders. This could be part of a game (e.g. a FPS) or just a visual experience. It will be some kind of augmented Second Life, everybody can have it’s own building in a HUGE virtual city end it could define the style inside and outside the building. Different cities with different architectural styles. And we could walk, run or fly in these cities.
  • Virtual meetings. Well, it will be an improved version of existing video conference. Not a radical change, but anyway it could improve things. The possibility of customizing the meeting location could be a funny feature.
  • Augmented TV. We will follow sport events like if we are attending at the stadium. Again, virtual and real stuff can be merged together. In example, the players on the pitch are real, but the spectators are just avatars of other online supporters.
  • Augmented websites. Real estate advertisement can provide a full VR experience inside the property on sale. Website like Amazon can allow the user to see the item, how it looks like. Social networks can probably integrate somehow VR feature.

So, let’s wait for Oculus Rift and their comptetitors. I am not sure if Oculus Rift can already give a full immersive experience, my idea is that we will need to wait for a big company to invest a couple of billions in a product like this, before having a revolutionary product. Can’t wait to walk in a lunar base or to see Saturn in front of my eyes.

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Ultimate fate of humanity: technological singularity, singleton and space colonization

Sometimes I read some funny and very unlikely prediction about the far future of humanity. Here there is a prediction about in 100,000 years there will be probably two human species due to sexual selection. predicts instead that in 1000 years we will be still struggling with DNA engineering, in 8000 years we will start to terraform Mars or Jupiter and only after 100,000 years more than half of the humans will live outside Earth. Those examples looks, no offense, a bit naive to me, but they reflect a general thought about humanity. There is this strange belief that human beings will be around forever (million years), and that we will be struggling with more or less the same issues we have today: death, illness, individualism, lack of resources (mining on other planets is a laughable scenario), even if with a better technology. On the other hand, there is a belief that humanity will be self-destructed by its own greediness. Frank Frenner, a scientist who succeeded in smallpox eradication, predicts human exintion in just 100 years due to overpopulation and lack of resources. Kudos to Frank Frenner, but I think those scenarios are affected by a much shorter term political view.

I think that the technological singularity will create a totally different scenario that will lead to a single emerging artificial intelligence, a singleton, rather than many individual human/artificial people. The next figure shows my personal view of the timeline of our civilization (theoretically I can define other ages before prehistory, but I am not much interested in past).

Civilization agesPrehistory. This part is the slowest. The “technology” here is represented by unwritten knowledge. Structure of society, farming and breeding methods, division of labour, control of fire and manufacturing methods are form of unwritten knowledge. They can evolve, but it’s a very slow process that involves also many back steps.

History. With the writing systems the technological development can be faster and more monotonic. Technological back steps are more difficult, even if possible like in the Middle Age. Human knowledge accumulates and this can already be considered a chain reaction, the begin of technological singularity. With books, human can use the work and the discoveries of their predecessors, becoming smarter and more powerful.

Computer age. With computer we are not humans anymore, we are computer-assisted-humans! Our intelligence is boosted by the huge computational power of our machines. Theorems proved, engineering designs, optimization strategies… all these things are usually computational intensive, so we are able to get some results that normal humans without a computer wouldn’t never be able to achieve. Also the speed and the quantity of information available to us is much bigger and immediate. This is another level of chain reaction: computer-assisted-humans get smarter, so they can design better technologies, so they get smarter again.

(and now the future…)

Transhumanism is another level of the chain reaction that will transform our civilization. Transhumanism is one of the outcomes of the technological singularity that I consider very likely to happen. Our society is made of many individuals weakly connected between them. What I mean for “weakly connected”? It’s not a rant about consumerism, selfishness and capitalism, it’s more about how our bodies work. The quantity of information exchanged by two individuals will always be much much smaller than the quantity of information exchanged inside the brain of one individual. Inside our brain, billion neurons fire every few milliseconds, different parts of the brain are interconnected through billion or trillion synapses, resulting in an information bandwidth of petabytes per second. Communication between two people is verbal, written and made of body language. If you think at the quantity of information that your brain is actually able to receive from another person, you won’t have more than 100 bits per second.

What happens instead with transhumanism? These are the key facts:

  • Computers will be more intelligent than humans and they will design smarter computers again. It’s the intelligence explosion.
  • Humans will be able to increase their intelligence inside a biological carbon-based framework, in example through some kind of DNA engineering, or through merging with artificial devices, let’s say silicon based. Mind uploading will make humans immortal.
  • Artificial brain will be scalable. Brain merging will allow to create a single deeply interconnected brain network. Two people won’t exchange anymore few bits per second but petabytes per second once they got their brains merged.
  • During this phase, normal human beings will coexists with artificial brains and mixed human/artificial brains. Some people would refuse to merge their brain inside a thinking network. That’s a fact, however, that the biggest and most powerful thinking network will lead the technological development and will be the one in charge of political decision. I don’t see this scenario as a conflict between super-intelligent networks and smaller networks. We are talking about agents much smarter than us, with a huge problem-solving capability. Hunger, political ideology, labour exploitation won’t be issues. Thinking network will cooperate and will be free to merge between them. At the end a big massive thinking network, a singleton, will lead the technological development. Again, normal humans and isolated AI agents will probably exists and they will live a pleasant life (hopefully), but they won’t be the dominant form of life.

Singleton age. A single dominant thinking network will explore the space, will develop its technology, will improve itself. I don’t think to this singleton as a sad lonely conscious mind in the middle of nowhere in the universe, instead I imagine it as chaotic sequence of thoughts, calculations, proposals, ideas, decisions and so on. It will be like a room with 1018 people talking simultaneously and where each person can fully understand what each of the other people is saying.
What happens next? I have no idea about future technologies, I can only say that at a certain point there will be a technological saturation. Technological improvements won’t be possible anymore, the law of physics will be fully understood and their applications fully explored. The only resource will be probably mass/energy (or something else?). After technological saturation, near-light speed space exploration and colonization will be possible so this singleton will be able to expand itself across the universe, transforming the matter it encounters in a useful way. That’s the cosmological age.

Cosmological age. One single AI network eating the Milky Way, then Andromeda galaxy, than the whole Local Group, then the Virgo Supercluster and so on. What this singleton will do? There are several options:

  • It (or should I say “we”?) will explore space looking for singularities, strange things, everything that is uncommon. Search for God could fall inside this category. Looking on every single planet for a “miracle” or an anomaly. I mean, this hyper-smart AI won’t get much additional information by studying the universe as it already knows how stars formed, how bio-genesis work and how the dark matter behaves. It will just be interested in anomalies, in something that can still increase its knowledge.
  • It will start proving theorems and it will just capture as much mass as possible (stars, neutrinos, dark matter, etc…) to convert it to energy to do calculation about theorem proving. Mathematics is a field that won’t never be fully explored. Maybe this AI will burn billions of solar masses to prove the Goldbach’s conjecture, if P=NP or some other hypothesis. So, it won’t be interested anymore in the universe as every physical phenomenon is predictable and explainable (and so boring). It will just burn entire galaxies out of curiosity.

A couple of issues must be analyzed about this cosmological age, but I will do that in another post:

  • How this singleton will behave when it will encounter a civilization with a much lower technological level?
  • Will the singleton be afraid of other alien singletons? This question depends on the answer to the previous question and it is quite interesting as it could affect deeply the scenario I imagined. If the singleton is afraid of alien singletons, it could think that the best strategy is to behave in a “stealth mode”. I mean, if the singleton start destroying stars and planets in order to convert their mass into energy, an alien singleton could notice it looking at the change in brightness and spectral emission and could take an hostile action. If so, a singleton will try not to change the emission spectrum of the volume it controls, without creating Dyson spheres and without destroying stars. This could be a plausible explanations of Fermi’s paradox: the universe is actually full of alien civilizations, some of them maybe even close (i.e. in the Milky Way), but they are afraid to get caught so they stay hidden.
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Biofuels: the green energy source that is destroying the Amazon rainforest

Biofuels moon
Biofuels have a couple of (alledged) advantages: (apparently) they don’t contribute to the greenhouse emission, as all the carbon they have was captured from the atmosphere, and they can be a good economic opportunity for developing countries to have a source of energy. Sometimes they have even some fiscal advantages.

The advantages end here. Current biofuels are unsustainable and harmful for some reasons.

Food vs fuel. From my point of view, this is a catastrophic drawback of biofuels. The concept is very simple: you need to use land to produce biofuels instead of food. This leads to:

  • Lower availability of food ↔ higher food price
  • Strict correlation between food price and the oil price

There is another subtle effect, the Indirect land use change (ILUC): as the food price increases, farmers around the world push for having more crop fields, destroying forests and pristine lands in general. This can lead to an equivalent increase of greenhouse gases because of the removal of forests, and obviously can affect the biodiversity since pristine lands with very high biodiversity is replaced with crop fields that has a very low biodiversity. This is a general issue about farming that has caused a massive reduction of Amazon rainforest, even before biofuels were even considered.

Biofuels needs a huge area. That’s why I jokingly suggested to have crops on the tropical area of the Moon. Oil palm has a yield of 5 ton/ha/year and it is currently the plant with the higher yield. Other plants have 1 ton/ha/year. How much is the energy production per square meter? The answer is 0.66W/m2! A photovoltaic system with a 10% of efficiency in a South-European country (200W/m2) would use 1/30 of the area. Obviously producing biofuels is far cheaper than building photovoltaic systems, nevertheless this low efficiency of biofuel production leads to huge area requirement.
In example, let’s assume the US want to replace fossil fuels with biofuels. US consumed 25PWh of fossil fuels in 2006 , equivalent to 2.1 billion tons of biofuel. Producing all this biofuel will require 4,300,000 km2! It’s 43% of the US total area. Or 1.14 times the current US crop area! Unsustainable.

biofuel USA

US are lucky, they have low population density. For European countries it would be even worse. Let’s take France, a country with an average population density (111pop/km2). France would need 250 million tons of biofuel to replace the current consumption of fossil fuels. Well, if France manages to use palm oil it would require…500,000km2, 74% of the whole area! And we are talking of palm oil, that is used mainly in tropical region. Biofuels in temperate climates have usually a lower yield. In Germany biofuels plantation occupy 2300km2 and they produce an average of 1 ton/ha/year.

So, let’s conclude that:

  • Biofuels are a tempting investment, especially for emerging countries. They are not considered because of the alledged reduction of greenhouse gas emission. Brazil has never cared about CO2, indeed the policy is destroying the Amazon forest to make room for biofuel plantations.
  • Biofuels require too much area. If we want to replace a good part of our fossil fuel consumption with biofuels we will need to sacrifice a huge part of our land to biofuel plantation, sacrificing food production and having a much higher food price. This could have potential catastrophic effects in poor countries where there is no food abundance.
  • Biofuels are seen as a “Green” solution, so they are politically efficient compared to other energy sources (i.e. nuclear). A big nuclear power plant produces 30TWh per year. Replacing that with biofuels would require (yield=5ton/ha/year, efficiency=50%) 10,000km2 of biofuel plantations, a 100x100km square area.
  • There is a hope. Second-generation biofuels are much more interesting as they aim to solve the food vs fuel issue. They are made from agricultural residues so they don’t affect food production (even if of course they can influence the ROI of a particular plantation). Third-generation biofuels, like algae oil, are even more promising: their yield can be over 100ton/ha/year. With this high yield, US fossil fuels consumption can be replaced by 215,000km2 of plantation, shown in figure. This is a much more promising and sustainable perspective.

3rd generation biofuels

So, it’s important to bear in mind that research on new generation biofuels (that obviously require an advanced processing technology) can be a very efficient way to produce fuels in a sustainable way, but it must not be confused with the biofuels currently produced that are threatening rainforests and rising the price of food.

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The real reason we haven’t colonized Mars yet


Almost 45 years ago man walked on the Moon. Space exploration seemed to progress at very fast pace. Just 12 years before the first human-made object was inserted into a stable orbit and 8 year before there was the flight of Gagarin.
An manned mission to Mars seemed feasible in a near future, science fiction even thought possible a manned station orbiting around Jupiter in 1999 (obviously I am referring to 2001: A Space Odyssey). It didn’t happen. Human exploration of our Moon was soon stopped and all the following manned mission were confined to the LEO (low Earth orbit).
Don’t get me wrong, space exploration has given amazing images/data so far, let’s only consider the following ones:

  • Voyager probes
  • Mars probes (landers, rovers and satellites)
  • ISS space station
  • Space telescopes (Hubble, Chandra, XMM)
  • SoHo probe (Sun observation)
  • Cassini–Huygens probe (Saturn exploration)

Space Exploration

When Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon we had very little knowledge about the Solar System. For instance, we didn’t know that Saturn has hexagon storm at the North pole, that Mars hosted water or Iapetus has a dramatic equatorial ridge.

Nevertheless, I think we can say that most of the people in 1969 would have been disappointed by knowing in advance the future of space exploration in the following 50 years. Let’s face it:

  • Manned orbital missions are still very expensive, dangerous and limited to a little crew.
  • There is not any manned mission or station outside the LEO.
  • Mars exploration program seems still very far.

What happened? Well, obviously there are many technical difficulties to manned missions like life sustaining, radiation exposure, negative effects of lack of gravity on the human body. Also political and strategic choices made by governments have influenced the timeline of space exploration. However, I think there is a key factor that is enough to explain the limited progress in the last 50 years:

The theoretical limit of chemical propulsion was already reached 60 years ago

The most important number of a propulsion technology is the effective exhaust velocity (strictly related to the specific impulse), i.e. the average speed of the exhaust jet as it leaves the vehicle. For LOX (Liquid Hydrogen+Oxygen) propulsion this speed is 4.46km/s, for solid fuel rockets is in the range 2.6-2.8km/s. Solid fuel propulsion is usually used only in initial stages in rockets. Well, the effective exhaust velocity hasn’t increased from the Sputnik rocket or Saturn V basically because further improvements were not possible. Look at these examples of space rockets:

  • Sputnik (rocket), 1957: ~3km/s
  • Saturn V, 1967-1973: 2.58km/s (first stage), 4.13km/s (other stages)
  • Space shuttle, 1981-2011: 2.64km/s (boosters), 4.46km/s (shuttle propulsion)
  • Soyuz-2, 2004-current: 3.0km/s (first stage), 3.5km/s (second stage), 3.2km/s (third stage)
  • Delta IV, 2003-current: 2.7km/s (boosters), 4.0km/s (first stage), 4.53km/s (second stage)
  • Ariane V, 1996-current: 2.7km/s (boosters), 4.3km/s (other stages)
  • Vega, 2012-current: 2.7-3.1km/s

As you see, the most modern rockets (Ariane V, Delta IV, Vega) are just slightly better than Saturn V. We can improve the reliability, the automatic control, the equipment but we can’t improve the propulsion because this is the maximum we can get from chemical propulsion. What does it mean that we can’t improve the effective exhaust velocity?
It means that we will continue to need a 137tons rocket to put a 1.5tons satellite into orbit or 334tons rocket to send a 900kg probe to Mars. This huge ratio between fuel and payload is described by the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation. Space exploration requires maneuvers with high delta-v (velocity variation), usually 15-20 km/s for interplanetary missions. The amount of fuel increases exponentially with delta-v. This leads to all the main issues of space engineering:

  • Mass is the most critical factor in a payload. Everything must be optimized to be light, with huge increase in cost and complexity.
  • Cost, complexity and intrinsic dangers of rockets can’t decrease much as their size will always be huge. Single-stage-to-orbit are still unfeasible.
  • Interplanetary journeys are often very long and complex. About 9 months are necessary to go to Mars, 7 years were needed for Cassini-Huygens to go to Saturn through 4 gravity assists (Venus-Venus-Earth-Jupiter). This makes a manned mission to Mars very critical for its long duration.

The conclusion to this is that we can’t expect huge progresses in space exploration until we develop a propulsion based on higher energy-density fuel than the chemical ones. Basically we are talking about nuclear propulsion. Unfortunately this won’t happen in the next 30 years, so let’s manage our expectations.

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