Space is a form of long-term investment spending that would yield benefits to mankind far more than any other market opportunity. The dividends that will accrue to a massive crash program develop the resources of the solar system are virtually incalculable.
It is a shame that the developed nations of the world are not engaged in an all out, friendly but no-holds-barred competition to extract the mineral resources of the Moon, Mars and the asteroid belt. Manganese, Chromium, Cobalt, Uranium, and many other precious metals can be found on these nearby worlds. Trillions of dollars worth of solar energy can be efficiently exploited, and beamed to receivers on earth using microwaves. Power installations and mining facilities can be built without the environmental safeguards so costly on earth.
The technology necessary to colonize the solar system, and the economic investment necessary to undertake such an effort is not really that great. Over 25 years ago the moon was landed on using highly obsolete technology. America’s space shuttle is an obsolete and politically contrived contraption that is way too expensive. Our current technology is such that we can now build true spaceplanes that can carry intercontinental passengers as well as deliver cargo and colonists to low earth orbit.
The idea that from there it is expensive to assemble pressure vessels with biosphere subsystems and liquid fuel propulsion units (the basic infrastructural requirements of colonies in space) is absurd. This technology is old! The computational power available in 1995 to moniter and operate these systems is vastly superior to anything deployed thus far. In a nutshell, it is much, much less costly for the United States, for example, to establish a colony on the Moon or on Mars today, then it was for the nations of Europe to explore and colonize the far flung continents of this Earth a few centuries ago.
A colony on the Moon would take the form of a giant greenhouse. A biosphere that would collect solar light and energy in order to create a pleasant habitat for the colonists, as well as energy necessary to operate a mine, a smelter, and a power station. The lunar minerals would also allow the extraction of water, one of the basic elements necessary for expansion of the colony.
Orbiting colonies would be built from materials extracted from the moon. Orbiting power satellites, using photovoltaic arrays, could microwave electric power to earth based receiver arrays approximately 1.0 kilometer in diameter. Sixty of these receiving stations would be enough to meet the total energy requirements of the entire planet. Utility corporations should invest in this effort. The ones that are first will be the ones that become wealthy beyond their wildest imaginings.
Not only will self perpetuating, self-sufficient space colonies become a source of cheap and inexaustible energy to our energy hungry world, but they will be a source of highly refined, extremely valuable alloys and pharmaceuticals. In zero-gravity the manufacturing and refining process can be fine-tuned to a level far beyond that possible in earth’s gravity. Electrophoresis, a method to separate biochemicals using magnetic fields, allows manufacturing of pharmaceuticals such as interferon at a very high level of purity and at a very low cost. The manufacture of gallinium arsenide crystals, a superior form of semi-conductor, is also much more efficient in zero-gravity. Metallic alloys are also smelted to a degree of purity in zero-gravity that is not possible on earth. Cold superconductivity and fusion power are only two dramatic examples of new technologies that could emerge.
The spin-offs that will accrue as a result of space-based manufacturing and space-based research will ignite an era of prosperity unparalleled in human history.
Imagine how much we will learn along the way about how to manage ecosystems. The closed-loop systems to recycle atmosphere and water will require new technologies that will be useful in the urban areas of earth. And every mineral and every mega-joule of energy that has its origin in outer space is another ecosystem on earth that is spared the disruption of a mine or a plantation or a power plant.
Finally, exploration of space allows humans to turn their expansionist urges outward, instead of inward into destructive frenzies. Space exploration can take the place of war as an outlet for human heroism, zeal and innovation.
Space exploration and colonization is a great work for our age that will harness the vision and drive of millions of adventurers, risk takers and dreamers.
Through a great effort to conquer space and exploit the wealth therein, a channel for the vast creative and curious energy of all human civilization will be captured and given back in the form of all the good; new technology, new wealth, and ultimately new understandings of how to live together on this finite biosphere, but with none of the bad; none of the bloodshed, hatreds, and destructive sacrifice.
EcoWorld welcomes the submission of space biosphere and space vehicle blueprints which may be published in ecoworld.com to add to the knowledge base necessary for humans to organize to undertake this great endeavor for the good of all mankind.