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With worldwide cooperation and infinite money, what awesome spacecraft could we see using modern equipment?


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Cities on the Moon and Mars, ring stations all over the inner solar system, giant airships on Venus, a complex mining system in the asteroid belt, exploratory missions to the moons of Jupiter. All doable over a span of several decades.

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Worked together?  Political will and a pile of bucks?  You would start with something like Orion, and then work up.

You would likely want to launch a fleet of ion [insert high-Isp motor of your choice] powered craft to herd some asteroids into Earth orbit for raw materials, this would drastically change the scope we could work with [not to mention what happens when you suddenly crash the price of platinum for use as catalysts].

Remember, Orion works using nothing more than pre-Apollo tech, although launching from Antartica might pose problems (but would make a good symbolic place for the world to work together).  We could build it now, with just the bucks and the political green light.

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30 minutes ago, Rath said:

I'm talking also about modern hardware, like already existing rockets and stuff.  How quickly could we really get some insane stuff done?

Probably not that quickly. Even assuming worldwide cooperation and infinite funding, doing anything truly impressive is going to require equally impressive project management, supply chain creation etc. etc. Apollo was a feat of management as much as engineering.

But with that said, there's a lot of  lift capacity being developed right now. SLS, Falcon Heavy, New Glenn (looking a bit further to the future). Not to mention the panoply of medium to heavy launchers operating right now. When you can put anywhere from 20 to 110 tons into orbit at a time and you have the funding to do a metric boat load of launches... well there's plenty we could do in LEO, cis-lunar space and the Moon, especially if we can start (a big if to my mind) herding asteroids as @wumpus suggested.

Longer term - if we can figure out the life support and other challenges, crewed journeys to Mars would be quite achievable in that sort of global situation, I think. Going further afield gets a bit trickier (OK - a lot trickier :) ) but is probably just a matter of time, if we're assuming a backdrop of Moon bases, asteroid mining and large orbital habitats. At that point we're effectively a genuine space-faring species and, barring some disaster will probably spread out to fill our solar system.

TL:DR  Given the rosy scenario presented by OP, we could basically do anything in space that doesn't actually break any laws of physics. And that's with current technology, or technology (like NTRs) that have been thought out and could be revived and refined.

Edited by KSK
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Given infinite funds, I'm not sure international cooperation does anything more than slow you down. It might be better to let different countries come up with different solutions, then see which is best.

 

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Using modern equipment we are limited by:
1. Chemical engines size (i,e, max thrust).
The larger it gets, the less homogeneous are the conditions inside its combustion chamber and bell. Remember the troubles with F-1.
You can spend infinite money, but it's very possible that there can be just impossible to build a much bigger chemical engine IRL.
2. There is still no fusion reactor/engine or even gaseous fission one. So the best engines available are solid-phase nuke reactors/engines.
3. Still neither switchable gravity (or even a centrifugal one), nor anti-zero-G-sickness medicine.
4. No hybernation (If you have Windows, it is).

So, just something like 1970s near-future fiction projects.

Edited by kerbiloid
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To think about it another way...with "infinite" money, you can do a lot of things with quite low tech.

Want to go to the stars? Build a large, slow generation ship and send 10,000 people. Could be propelled with present-day hydrolox, since we have infinite money, we can make the mass ratio ridiculous. Who cares if it is inefficient?

We could straight-up build a full-size domed city on the moon and launch things from there, opening up the solar system.

You dont need fancy nuclear engines, anti-gravity, relativistic speeds etc. If you have "infinite" money. Just do it stone-age style and use the extra money to make it comfortable. There certainly isnt any need to make it profitable.

Though without a doubt, the best thing to do with infinite money (amongst other things) would be to spend it on research, so we can have star-trek style space travel, but that doesnt wuite seem to be within the spirit of the OP :)

As for questions of speed, I dont think even infinite money could speed things up much, I suppose if you initiated some kind of country or world-wide industrial focus, you could get the components fabricated faster, and physical testing could be done a bit faster, but only by so much.

And with infinite money comes larger and more complex projects, so Im still thinking years to decades to get any major space exploration off the ground, so to speak.

Edited by p1t1o
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You said infinite, so anti matter.  Antimatter costs an absurd amount of money, but it is no matter.  Could build millions of particle accelerators powered by a Dyson swarm to generate it at a reasonable rate and make physicists really happy.  Building the swarm could easily be done using Orion or NSWR.  

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12 minutes ago, ment18 said:

You said infinite, so anti matter.  Antimatter costs an absurd amount of money, but it is no matter.  Could build millions of particle accelerators powered by a Dyson swarm to generate it at a reasonable rate and make physicists really happy.  Building the swarm could easily be done using Orion or NSWR.  

You could, but none of that is anywhere near short-term, even with unlimited money. You're looking at centuries to build up a decent Dyson swarm with today's technology (which was something that the OP was quite keen on too, rather than the more outlandish Orion/antimatter/other possible-but-pretty-wild ideas)

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The first thing would be to build fleets of seeker/prospector droids probes to determine the most valuable asteroids, followed by tugs to bring them to where they can be useful. Then the aforementioned solar-pumped mega-laser stations  to drive light-sail ships amongst other things. 

Edited by StrandedonEarth
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1 hour ago, _Augustus_ said:

What about a 3-core SLS with New Glenn strapons?

As Elon Musk put it, it turns out "moar boosters" actually has lots of engineering problems that come up, so this wouldn't be as easy as bolting a bunch of rockets together.

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With infinite money and no restrictions...

I'd presume a railgun/magnetic accelerator style launch system built into an artificial mountain up to the stratosphere could be done, thus reducing the need for an actual rocket liftoff, thus launching payloads to essentially their second stage, and presumably recovering the discarded sabot.

Of course, using Orion would probably be less ecologically damaging than that, which is not something one gets to describe often.

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Short term, technologically realistic and without huge R&D prerequisites? I'd say that we could get an ISS successor up and running, at least. And we could make it fancy. Artificial gravity-fancy. A mighty ferris wheel in orbit, with laboratories working on long-term life support. Floating greenhouses for zero-G or low-G agronomy. I'd say we could build an orbital colony of sorts, like an ISS on steroids. Probably employing dozens or even a couple hundred people full-time, on multi-week shifts with regular rotation not unlike terrestrial oil platforms. The stuff learnt from the station(s) would propel us to the stars in the longer term, or at least to the Moon and eventually Mars.

Also, we could address space debris quite simply and effectively. Infinite money, remember? Just send up a separate mission to retrieve or redirect every known and tracked piece of debris. It would probably be a good idea to perfect, or at least significantly improve, first- and second-stage recovery and reuse, though, since you'd need a lot of launches. Building a few extra spaceports wouldn't hurt either, so you have somewhere to launch the darn things from.

 

At any rate, it might be a good idea to spend some time in low Earth orbit figuring out things like radiation shielding, crop growing, procedures for long-term flight and life support before we go anywhere far. Maintaining a vessel and its crew in space for long periods of time needs to become a routine thing before we go somewhere we can't quickly return from. It also wouldn't hurt to spend some time building and testing new propulsion technology with the infinite money we've got, before we order a zillion old-fashioned chemical rockets and make a habit of doing stuff inefficiently because money doesn't matter (otherwise, eventually resources would - on a world with only eight kilograms of unobtainium on it, no amount of money could buy you ten kilograms).

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infinite money? not sure how physics would react to something of infinite mass. my gut says everything would turn into a singularity fast, but I don't have the skills to figure out what would happen. :P

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2 hours ago, cubinator said:

As Elon Musk put it, it turns out "moar boosters" actually has lots of engineering problems that come up, so this wouldn't be as easy as bolting a bunch of rockets together.

Yes, that is an problem who can only partial been solved by trowing money on it. That is unless you go all out. As in builing extra launch pads as you probably will loose some of them so you want spares, 
WW2 had some all out in a few cases, the Manhattan project went for two bomb designs at once. You did not know who would work so you did both at once. 

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