Monday, June 16, 2008

Next Steps in Colonizing the Solar System

1) Privatize Space.

  • Allow individuals, corporations, churches and other organizations to profit from their investments.
  • Allow ownership of captured or permanently occupied celestial bodies in some manner that explicitly includes ownership with rights to exploitation of smaller comets and asteroids. Larger bodies (such as Mars, our moon, Ceres, etc.) should have fractional ownership.

2) Capture asteroids into accessible Earth orbits.

  • There are nearly one thousand known asteroids that are easier to rendezvous with than our own moon (in terms of Delta-V).
  • Some of these can be captured into Earth orbit using existing technologies (thanks to fortuitous close approaches to the Earth or other planets).
  • Note that an asteroid in a nice, high, stable orbit is no longer able to impact the Earth. We solve a problem and gain a resource.

3) Solve the problems of Living in Space.

  • Radiation and meteor hazards are effectively solved by living beneath twenty feet of rock or thirty feet of ice. Not a problem on an asteroid or comet.
  • Recycling. We must learn how to efficiently and safely recycle carbon dioxide and waste products into oxygen, fresh water, and food. This is simple in principle, but challenging in practice. In a space habitat, nothing should be wasted.
  • Gravity. We evolved to thrive at 1G; the questions of long term life and child rearing in zero or low G environments should be answered. Personally, I think that adults could maintain health with adequate exercise, but children will need to spend most of their formative years near 1G.

4) Use asteroids to create wealth, and as stepping stones for the future.

  • Build Disneymoon. In the early years, tourism is likely to be a major industry.
  • Build solar panels. Beaming energy to Earth may solve the greenhouse problem, and could easily pay for our investments in the Space Program many times over.
  • Export materials from space to the Earth. Is it really possible to create large foamed-steel structures and drop them into the ocean with acceptably low losses and costs?
  • Recognize that a growing economy does not depend upon exports to its motherland to thrive. For example, the USA does not survive simply due to the value of our exports to Europe. At some point, a space-based civilization becomes self-sufficient.

Would someone please step forward and do something with the empty shuttle fuel tanks? It is expensive and wasteful to return them to Earth. It should be criminal to waste potential resources like that. At the least, we should tether them near the International Space Station (ISS).

Lastly, when else in human history has there been an opportunity to invest a few billion dollars and gain a trillion dollar resource? I'm thinking of the capture and exploitation of Apophis. But there are also other possible asteroids, some of which are much more valuable. See the book Mining the Sky.

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