The Spice Islands of Interplanetary Space

Back in July 2009, in a post “Industrialize the Solar System,” I laid out the economic “case for space:”

(1) Space development will catalyze economic development in general, which always enables higher environmental consciousness and greater resources to address environmental challenges.

(2) Living in space requires recycling technologies for water and air that are many times more demanding than on earth, and these technologies will have applications that will improve water and emission treatment technologies on earth.

(3) Zero gravity manufacturing and manufacturing off the planet can eventually allow us to do potentially hazardous work in space where there is no danger to the earth’s ecosystem.

(4) There are benefits in terms of earth observation and ecosystem management that we have only begun to realize through a presence in space.

(5) We may build satellite solar power stations and beam the energy they produce back to earth.

(6) We can access minerals on the Moon, Mars, other terrestrial moons, and the asteroids that eventually can take pressure off resources on earth.

To this sixth point, a fascinating comment recently surfaced on a post by Walter Russell Mead entitled “Top Green Admits ‘We are Lost‘,” where the writer quantified the amount of minerals likely to be recoverable in a relatively small (1 km diameter) asteroid. Here is an excerpt:

“A 1 km metallic asteroid (90th percentile iridium richness), mined at a rate of 1 million cubic meters [...] Read More

Industrialize the Solar System

On this 40th anniversary of the first manned mission to the surface of the Moon, it is perhaps not so far fetched to venture a suggestion such as this. And after all, if, as conventional wisdom has it, it is within our power to micromanage the earth’s climate by shutting down our industrial combustion, going back to the moon and beyond isn’t far fetched at all.

I remember that summer afternoon in 1969 quite well. A memorable part of my childhood had been spent assembling plastic scale models of spacecraft – I must have built nearly all of them, from Mercury to Gemini to Apollo, and the astronauts were my heroes. As we followed the progress of Apollo 11 from Earth to Moon, I could name every module, describe every maneuver. To this day I remember Neil Armstrong’s voice, crackling with static, stating “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” If anyone had told me this would be the farthest we would venture as a species for the next 50 years, I would have thought they were crazy.

The relevance of space industrialization and settlement today is greater than ever, although you would never know from listening to our politicians or our media pundits, or even our NASA administrators. The most visible face of NASA these days is James Hanson, who is a fanatical coal-bashing global warming activist with little if any apparent interest in seeing humans ever travel beyond this planet.

Last year I was fortunate [...] Read More