It is likely that the US will be integrating combat lasers onto planes, ships and vehicles over the next ten years and deploying hypersonic missiles. However, China, Russia and other nations are roughly keeping pace with US development of hypersonic missiles and planes and are not that far behind in combat lasers.
China is at 60% of the US economy on an exchange rate basis and 120% on a purchasing power parity basis. China’s economy will continue to grow faster than the USA and will likely be about 150% to double the size of the US economy on an exchange rate basis in 2050 and triple on a purchasing power parity basis.
The US with Europe, Japan, India and Canada as allies would match China’s economy.
China is catching up on fighter jet engines and high temperature materials.
Once a country catches up they tend to stay caught up and competitive. This can be seen in the case of Airbus and Boeing.
Germany, Russia and the USA were clearly comparable economically around the time of World War 2. The US had economic advantages then but increased them. A key difference was the US had decades of effective immigration of highly educated people from around the world.
The US has and is developing larger advantages in space capability.
The Spacex Falcon 9, very soon Falcon Heavy and soon the Spacex BFR and the Blue Origin Glenn reusable rockets give the US several times the capability of Russia and China and at lower cost.
The US has a far more dynamic and active new Space startup environment.
The US has leadership towards developing asteroid resources (Planetary Resources, Deep Space Industry) and with cubesats and with lunar development (Moon Express.)
Nextbigfuture reviewed the precursors of exponential robotic manufacturing in space by looking at existing automated mining and automated factories on Earth and the robotics being developed for space mining and space operations.
A paper (arxiv- Affordable, rapid bootstrapping of space industry and solar system civilization
The bootstrapping plan talked about using improving robotics to use a 12 metric tons (MT) seed system landed on the Moon to scale up over a period of about 20 years to 40,000 tons built from lunar materials and getting to 100,000 humanoid robots.
However, using Spacex BFR that can take 150 tons from Earth to the moon by using orbital refueling. Each reusable Spacex BFR could make 50 trips to and from the moon each year to get to 7500 tons delivered to the moon. The end result of the bootstrap goals could be achieved with 6 Spacex BFR in one year.
They describe an evolving approach described that reduces the cost of material transported to the moon by eight times. Lower cost launch providers like Spacex are altering the cost equation.
This robotic industry in space leads to a grand vision. After the industry becomes self-supporting it can be sent to other parts of the solar system. The asteroid belt has everything necessary for it: water, carbon, silicates, metals, oxygen, solar energy (with much larger collecting arrays), etc. The ices in the lunar poles are a limited resource so it will be important to move the center of industry to the asteroids as quickly as possible. There, the billion-fold greater resources could allow the industry to expand exponentially until it dwarfs that of the entire Earth within just a few decades. Continued advances in artificial intelligence will be needed to control and manage such a large industry. The United States economy uses 10^20 J of energy per year including fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewables (Department of Energy 2010).
Gen. 5.0 (at 70% duty cycle) using 10^15 J of energy per year. Multiplying this by a factor of 3 per year, it would exceed the energy usage of the US within 11 more years. After 12 more years it would exceed the US economy by a factor of a million. After another decade it would exceed the US economy by a factor of a billion.
Aggressive use of Spacex reusable launch, focused robotics automation development could achieve the critical mass of moon based industry within 2 years after the reusable Spacex BFR is fully operational. The planned date is about 2022 for the Spacex BFR. So 40,000+ tons of lunar industry and robotics manufacturing could be available by 2024. Then development of lunar and near earth asteroid resources with colonization assisted exponential development could get to a multi-trillion dollar orbital, cis-lunar, lunar, Near Earth asteroid and beginning of full asteroid development in the 2040-2050 timeframe.
This would move the needle on future US economic development. It would be the resources and the technology developed from this effort.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
94 thoughts on “Exponential industrialization of space is more important than combat lasers and hypersonic fighters”
It may be disappointing that the Chinese rover operating on the Moon a few years ago was the first human activity on the Moon in more than forty years. But it is not unusual, or in retrospect unexpected. It follows two historical patterns.
The first pattern is the inevitable time delay between exploration and colonization. At the turn of the (last) century, the race for the poles was the Victorian equivalent of our race for the moon. Once the flags of Britain, Norway, etc. had been planted at the south pole, national prestige was satisfied. Afterwards, nobody bothered much with Antarctica for about another half century, until the first international geophysical year (1959). Since then, the continent has been studded with permanently manned scientific bases and weather stations. But nobody has bothered to try to colonize Antarctica on a large scale.
Mostly because Antarctica is a crappy place to live.
Yet it is far more inviting, far cheaper/easier to colonize and to get to than the Moon or Mars. So if history is any guide, about a half century after the Apollo program (within the next ten to twenty years) we can look for permanently manned stations in orbit, on the moon and maybe on Mars. The ISS would be the first of these stations. But don’t expect massive colonization anytime soon. Our species simply won’t move in large numbers to anyplace where we can’t walk around outside in shirt sleeves for at least part of the year.
The second pattern is that government funded exploration (Ferdinand and Isabella paying for Columbus’ voyages, Jefferson sending Lewis and Clark westward, Kennedy pledging to land a man on the moon, etc.) is always followed by true colonization being performed by private enterprise (the Massachusetts Bay Company, settlers travelling the Oregon trail, Dutch East India Company, railroads spanning the west, etc.). In fact, the early colonization efforts in the Americas were the work of the world’s first stockholder corporations. Planetary Resources, Inc. (asteroid mining) and SpaceX (private space launches) are just the first corporations being formed to colonize and exploit the “New World” of the Solar System. Which means we won’t be colonizing planets.
The near term future of manned colonization of space should be the asteroid belt. So instead of Mars, we should colonize the dwarf planet Ceres (the largest body in the asteroid belt) in order to establish a logistical base for asteroid prospecting and mining. Ceres has no significant gravity well to overcome and lots of water for life and fuel.
So instead of Star Fleet planting human colonies on the surfaces of planets, we’ll have the Weyland-Yutani Corporation contracting out the asteroid equivalent of arctic oil rig and crab fishing operations – extremely dirty and dangerous work with a high death rate. Think “rough necks in space” performing work that makes investors back home extremely wealthy, mankind more prosperous and the workers themselves a small fortune with each service contract (if they live long enough to return to Earth to spend their money).
Maybe we’ll have the occasional scientific base established on Mars or floating in the atmosphere of Venus, but they’ll be no bigger than a current Antarctic weather station. So forget about the bright, shiny and clean Enterprise piloted by bright young academy grads, our future in space is the dirty, gritty and dangerous Nostromo manned by blue collar truck drivers. In fact, our whole future in space will look more like the “Alien” universe instead of “Star Trek” (hopefully without face huggers and chest bursters).
Energy is the Killer App
But what would be the economic benefits of mining the asteroid belt? What industrial activity in the belt would be profitable enough to justify this activity in the first place? Granted it has a wealth of mineral and metal resources that can be obtained and processed without the excessive cost of dragging equipment and material up from a deep planetary gravity well. As such it these resources will later be invaluable for building the infrastructure and transportation necessary to colonize the solar system.
But what would be the initial Earth market for such materials that would justify asteroid mining and give investors a profitable reason to invest? And could this industry compete with its terrestrial competitors? The answer unfortunately is no – it can’t hope to be competitive. It simply makes no economic sense to feed Earth bound industries with asteroid resources. Even if an asteroid of solid platinum the size of a mountain could be found and dragged back to Earth orbit, all this sudden oversupply would accomplish is to crash its market value to the point where it wasn’t worth getting in the first place (and to create a permanently depressed market value that would discourage further such ventures). And forget about baser metals like iron and nickel. We won’t be dropping loads of iron from orbit (the price of which would greatly add to the operating costs of a material whose oversupply has just caused its market value to crash).
So what would be the economic justification for colonizing the asteroid belt? Colonies need to make money or they become expensive and unnecessary white elephants. Spain’s New World empire was made economically viable by gold and silver. The Virginia colony survived because it grew tobacco. Brazil and the Caribbean provided sugar. Space colonization will require a similar economic rationale for existing. It would have to provide a commodity that can ignore the costs of climbing up a gravity well or dropping down through an atmosphere.
Only non-material commodities like energy and information meet these criteria. Scientific information brought back from planetary probes is invaluable in its own way, but doesn’t have much in the way of actual market value. However, infinite amounts of clean energy from the sun however can transform our economy and our civilization – and it’s all done with mirrors. Mirrors and lenses.
At present, mankind’s annual energy use comes to about 20 terawatts, and is increasing approximately 3% per year. But this is tiny compared to the sunlight received every second by planet Earth, which is approximately 175,000 trillion watts (175 petawatts), or 8,750 times more than our current energy use. Altogether, the Sun radiates 385 yottawatts (385 trillion trillion watts) of energy, or 2.2 BILLLION times more than is received by the Earth.
In space no one can hear you generate nearly infinite amounts of essentially free energy, all you need are simple – if very large – mirrors and lenses. And these are remarkably easy to make in the zero gravity of space. Making giant lenses and mirrors of different shapes could direct concentrated sunlight to desired locations in the solar system. More than one lens or mirrors in multiple locations seems like a feasible task.
“Even if an asteroid of solid platinum the size of a mountain could be found and dragged back to Earth orbit, all this sudden oversupply would accomplish is to crash its market value to the point where it wasn’t worth getting in the first place”
So whoever found it would build a spacecraft just big enough to bring back a modest fraction of current world production of platinum so the price would remain high enough to make the effort profitable.
That is as silly as arguing that solar power satellites would drive the price of energy too low for the SPS to be profitable.
However, showing that a given space enterprise can’t provide energy or a material for less cost than current earth bound sources would show that it is not viable.
It is not clear that SPS could be cheap enough to compete with earth bound energy sources.
Siderophile elements are the only elements (except helium 3 ?) rare enough on earth & abundant enough in asteroids to make them worth mining in space for use on earth rather than in space. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldschmidt_classification#Siderophile_elements
If something valuable is found that can only be made in zero gee, that would be the McGuffinite for space development, but no such something has been found yet.
Dang. Shucks. Reason deflates the balloon of the would be lunar colonists.
So are my platinum bars going to remain valuable for the time being or should I liquidate them and make it rain in the club tonight?
Precious metals were never a sound business plan for asteroid mining. It just made good copy for popular media. It’s always been about displacing expensive launch from Earth, because a mining tug can fetch on the order of 200 times its own mass during a reasonable operating life. So you have room to save launch mass, even if you have extra costs for fetching and processing the material.
Z-BLAN optical fiber. That is your “MacGuffinite”.
tdperk: I hope you are right that my ‘not yet’ is out of date. Z-BLAN sounds plausible as the MacGuffinite I would like to see, especially if the raw materials can be obtained from the moon or near earth asteroids.
Your trolling, ignorant, pathological skepticism is not appreciated. There is nothing of reason or reasonable to you.
” But nobody has bothered to try to colonize Antarctica on a large scale. Mostly because Antarctica is a crappy place to live.”
Antarctica has not been developed because there is a widely signed international treaty dating 1959, forbidding anything but scientific exploration, and apparently some tourism, there.
Your idea, that resources must be returned to Earth for space development to be profitable is also a non-starter. Resources in Space will be used in Space, by settlers. They will be the ones investing in going. This is the settlement model of development, rather than the imperial model of development. It is the difference between what worked in South America and what worked in North America. In South America the Spanish Crown ripped lots of Gold and Silver out of slave-worked mines, and succeeded for 3 centuries, as long as the mines held out. In North America, all early attempts to emulate the Spanish failed. It was settlers trading with each other that finally flourished.
Stop using an imperial model, and your insights will be truer.
You are right that settling space is a non-starter. You are wrong that people have not settled Antarctica because of an international treaty. Antarctica is the Garden of Eden compared to the moon or Mars at least you can breathe the air and there is potable water everywhere. It shows just how stupid the idea of colonizing space is when you could build greenhouses and dwellings in Antarctica, but none of the Dan Lantz or MTCZ think such a survivable solution is not Star Trek enough for the future of mankind.
No, Putin troll. The fact there is no legally protected private activity in the Antarctic is why those resources are unexploited.
In space you can at least claim exclusive use of what you are standing on.
Idiotic to think we don’t have colonies on Antarctica because of treaties. We don’t have colonies on Antarctica because it is Antarctica (harsh). Nobody in their right mind would want to live in a bubble in Antarctica just like nobody in their right mind would want to live in a tin can in space. You guys are exhausting.
regarding first paragraph analysis, I agree with partly. You are speaking about those of us who have been born on earth, but those born on the moon will not have that view. You do not miss what you never have had, therefore planning for future in space will require robots to do the dirty work and those unfortionent not born on earth will monitor those machines…..see movie *the moon*
Combat lasers would enable laser thermal beamed propulsion though, enabling laser SSTO’s as advocated by Dr. Kare. Which would be a viable BFR competitor, if the necessary beaming station investment is made by the combat laser manufacturer (so Lockheed or Boeing, who are also in the space business).
And why should Exponential Industrializaton of Space be completely mutually exclusive from Combat Lasers? 2 great things in one!
I believe Brian is suggesting that the US has a significant competitive advantage in space with far greater potential benefit and little or no competitive advantage in combat lasers and hypersonics. Given that this assumption is sound, how should investment be allocated?
Economics 101: Guns vs Butter
Never heard of that?
This Is interesting, … but there is a limit on the growth rate. Anywhere, at anytime, disasters happened if you tried to grow a population faster than 10x per 10 years. There might be a little bit of variation in scale here and there, but there is a limit that is dangerous to cross.
Interestingly enough, Musk plan to reach 1M people on Mars within 100 years is achievable with this limit. Start with a few 100s peoples, and increase its population by 50%-60% every 2 years will get you there.
It might be possible to increase the robotic “Society” faster, but not the human component.
Not saying this is not possible to colonise the Moon, Mars and the Asteroids. Just that it will have to that some time to organize the society, and learn how to work and operate at each location as the places grow.
Just some food for thought here.
Any reason for that growth rate limit or just a rule of thumb based on lack of successful counterexamples?
Clearly the initial settlement of any new land exceeded that limit, at least as the first boat/canoe/ice-bridge was landing.
With the boundless resources in outer space the cost of constructing an O’Neill model 4 cylinder in space that can house upwards of a million people in comfort at 1 g could potentially be less than constructing a comparably large city on Earth. By 2100 it is plausible that multiple cities could have been developed fitting the requirements of the emerging solar system civilization. Some may be Earth-Mars cyclers trading with both planets. Others could offer entertainment. Large cities on Earth will have significant populations of autonomous robots as will cities in space.
Mars is likely to be a tougher environment to expand into than free space. Fractional gravity may not be friendly towards bearing children. Potentially, Mars may be more like Antarctica with research stations and tourism, and a scattering of settlements.
Well written article. This highlights the importance of forming a Space Construction industry. SpaceCon. That is being planned right now. orbitalassembly.com
Great Scott, this sounds like a job for
The nice thing about this, if it works or even comes close, is how many human beings will be able to leave all that tribalistic b.s. in the rear-view mirror and get on with bringing life to places where it can’t possibly survive right now.
Or break up into individual tribes and get far enough apart that we don’t clash…
Yep. This will come. If individuals and groups can buy or make their own habitats one day, they will unavoidably make communities to their liking. Probably still nominally belonging to a country at the beginning, for regulation reasons, but as time passes and the space habitats depend less and less on Earth and its countries, by creating and using their own political banners and affiliations for mutual interest and protection.
And they could be made by any criteria imaginable: by buying a place in it, being hired by the owners, belonging to a cult, having citizen rights ad paying the ticket, sharing an ethnicity, a culture or any other social or biological criteria, people will tend to clump in groups of preference. Any preference.
If we can’t live together with coerced niceness, then let people live in parallel in whatever way they want, separated by gulfs of space and let nature and space themselves be the judges of what works or not.
Whomever is not apt at getting their act together, keeping their habitats inhabitable and their societies minimally viable, will die.
They only need to place some basic guiding principles to ensure some exchanges and coexistence. Like not attacking or messing with others’ habitats life support or stealing their stuff and allowing some freedom of movement of permitted foreigners, similar to the rules ensuring some degree of order between nations today.
I’m sure having thousands of more or less gated communities catering to any person political leaning would result in a very enriching mosaic of social experiments. Some of them catastrophic failures, but still enriching for the rest.
If more than 2 people move into space, then they’ll have tribes there too.
Of course, they might be better and more cooperative tribes, who don’t have centuries of bad blood and ossified culture to overcome. At least not at first.
Guys, I just noticed comments from AFTER the transition from SO to WordPress are gone from stories in mid-October. Some threads show “no comments”.
That thread had 5 or 6 comments; now it shows zero.
It will be “a near run thing”, because the agency costs here in the US have been inflated so strongly over the last 100 years, but it can be done. That it will be done exactly as the article imagines is probably not true. The reactionary tendencies of the progressive State exist here as well as in all the States thinking that technology will save them, without the freedoms of action to use that technology.
We at least pay lip service to those freedoms at all times, even when we restrict them far too often. Now that we have specialists in transport planning to help settle the Solar System, we should start seeing specialists in Life Support, like Paragon, move to the fore as soon as they are more sure that BFR and New Glenn, and New Armstrong, will actually fly. *If* we can allow the freedoms needed to use the tech being developed, then we can “survive in style” , as Jerry Pournelle put it. Certainly it will become easier to do so as we gain new members in the networks of industrial society throughout the Solar system.
Well, the future economic supremacy of China is probable due to population numbers unless the Chinese government trips on their own political BS. One way to do that is expanding state owned enterprises the way they are. The government will be on the hook for their losses, as we see with their current economic trouble with debt. If those state owned industries crash then no, China will not own the future.
That said, China is China and the US is the US. I am so tired of looking at everyone else instead of fixing our own problems. The author has it correct on this one. SpaceX is a resource we need to be using to build the future.
Just like I learned in the military, reinforce success not failure. SpaceX is successful and no other country has anything like it. We need to reinforce that success so we can harness it.
Janov’s understanding of repression is gaining acceptance and background scientific underpinnings, such as epigenetic mechanisms. No power addicted group or individual can escape!
No, James’ initial comments about China, but more generally the need to get well as well as get off the planet.
That’s what EVERYONE said about Japan back in the 90s. Same BS, came causes.
We all know what the result was.
China is already imploding. They just are doing a way, way better job of hiding it than Japan did. What with PRC fluffers on NBF helping them and all.
I don’t recall anyone saying that Japan was going to overtake the USA because Japan had a larger population.
Because, you know, it doesn’t.
Ah…another pic of Musk Eisley: Future Ghost City of Mars after everyone dies from cosmic rays that Andy Jay claims are purely ‘notional’.
It’s what I call “design by artist”. Looks pretty, but nonsense from an engineering standpoint. If you want to see an engineer’s approach, take a look at the book section on Mars development I’m working on:
Something Musk hasn’t really thought through yet is what are all those people going to *do* on Mars? What is their reason for being there?
One of his express purposes for them to be there, is their not being here, so that humanity would survive an extinction event on Earth. But they would kind of need something to do in the mean while.
Prepare for more people.
What do people do on Earth? What is the point of *their* lives? The vast majority do not actually, purposedly work to make their descendants’ lives better. And yet that is the status quo being taken to measure off world colonization against.
Ultimately, space colonization seeks to lower scarcity to the point it’s negligible. Which would break the endless and grotesque wage slave livelihood of most people on Earth. It’s a long term goal, but it does not happen nearly as quick if we stay on Earth.
Hi idiot. It’s still true only a few inches of material the the density of water for shielding extend the time you can spend on the surface of Mars from almost 5 years before you accumulate a lifetime dose to a lifetime.
O’Neill said that in the 70s, and it has been truer as tech has advanced. Throw in the fact that the Moon IS a Solar Power Satellite and you have a “first” big profit making project. Lunar Solar Power dot org.
And put something in the “Subscribe”!
The moon might be a solar power satellite but it isn’t a very efficient one.
The only power it’s beaming down to earth right now is
1. Providing light at some times. Admittedly this used to be very useful, but now we expect a lot more illumination and usually provide our own.
2. Electricity, supplied through an EXTREMELY lossy process of the moon creating tides that power a handful of tiny tidal power stations.
But it is easier to “use” than building Solar Power Sats in orbit and mounting cells and antennae on them. Of course it is not now a “working” or “complete” SPS. The referenced article favors orbital SPS, by the way, apparently unaware of Lunar Solar power, the better but lesser known plan. Something I am helping correct.
Lunar dust is similar to the volcanic glass micro-particle component of ash emissions. Be prepared for a working environment such as being immersed in electrostatically charged carborundum. Also, will need need something akin to lightning suppression technologies to deal with transient static discharges, which accompany the solar terminator.
“Be prepared for a working environment such as being immersed in electrostatically charged carborundum. Also, will need need something akin to lightning suppression technologies to deal with transient static discharges, which accompany the solar terminator.”
These are 2 of the larger reasons to move settlements into the very large lava tube caves. The regolith fines have no transport mechanism into the lunar caves, beyond the reach of solar UV and X-rays. So, the robots are sent out into the grit, and humans use teleoperation to get the work done through them. When robots break down through erosion from the lunar fines, bring them back to the cave, replace components, and send them out again.
O’Neill said this in the 70s and it gets truer as tech progresses. Throw in the fact that the Moon IS a Solar Power Sat and you have a “first” big profit project. http://www.ela-iet.com/EMD/BeijingCriswell5745100813.pdf
Lunar Solar Power dot org. Forget settling planets, live in Space.
And put something in the the “Subscribe”!
Why ‘forget’ anything. People and corps will develop whatever they choose. Better or worse. The critical thing is sustainable growth. An industrial base does that. And once its territory grows to reach the solar system’s extended resources it is like a match to the powder trail.
In-fighting over O’Neill, Mars, Moon, and anything else is why we still can’t sustainably get past this gravity well. It’s why public approval never got to critical mass. If we had an outpost with enough industrial base, it wouldn’t matter where the outpost was. We’d have reached escape velocity.
Thanx! In-fighting should stop! Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good!
While I totally agree with your outlook, there is a tautology at the critical step from where we are now to *If we had an outpost with enough industrial base* is certainly true, but does not describe getting one! Bootstrapping is more important than sustainable growth at this critical beginning. Or, you could say that “successful” exponential growth is NOT sustainable! It is too fast. Mining the Moon for fusion supporting He-3 AND laying down panels for Lunar Solar Power at the same time is just an idea!
It should have been (yeah, coulda woulda shoulda; but still) the goal in the first place, rather than flags and footprints etc. Working towards permanence in space.
Whatever gets us that is a good thing, whether the ultimate aim is O’Neill or Lunar or Martian or otherwise.
Ceres as the last stop for gas and soda for the net 200 miles?
Agreed, that’s why I have been working on how to develop the whole solar system, not just the Moon or Mars:
(That’s the overview, other sections of the book go into more detail)
I have largely come out on the winning side after all these years, now that Mars First/Direct/Only seems gone to stay. So I’m more gently trying to make things more efficient rather than trying to drastically change directions. The main referenced article seems quite planet-centric, but goes on to orbital things “after” we get a foothold. I think we will find orbital far easier for almost everything except gathering material. And energy from existing lunar surface structure conveniently “aimed” at Earth.
That was, more or less, the “moral” theme of the first networked virtual reality game, Spasim:
However, some decades on, I think it wise to start with Exponential Remediation of Civilization’s Footprint.
Just a reminder: a million times US energy production is past Kardashev I.
Absolutely true: The first country, or rather organization, to launch an autofactory capable of self-replication, owns the future. Without dependence on human labor, autofactories can potentially have a doubling time of months. Within a decade or two, the off-planet industrial production will far exceed the Earthly economy.
And, if Brian is still writing this stuff in 2050, obviously at least the life extension stuff worked out after all…
I don’t believe it’s currently possible to have a 100% automated industry in space: given our lack of need, expertise and a testing environment, some humans will still be needed. We can’t even envisage it without showing it can be done on Earth first, that is. And it hasn’t.
But we can achieve significant reduction on the need of materials and part manufacturers, by intelligently applying novel mining (e.g. photonic asteroid mining) and production (e.g. rocket 3D printing, space drones, AI) approaches, that exploit the properties of the inner Solar System space environment: mostly big chunks of rock floating in 0-g, in a vacuum and baking on endless sunshine, with some planetary escapades (but I agree with Dan that in the long term, planets will be mostly irrelevant).
This art and science of manufacturing stuff in space with or without humans around will have to be developed gradually, over several fronts and places, with some big steps made at a time, mostly by ensuring some humans still are around to setup, control and fix the machines.
On this, I don’t see the manned enterprises on the Moon, Mars and the asteroids as wasteful, because they will shows many things about living and building a life in space, including processes and technologies for machinery that simply can’t be tested without passing a long time in space, or having it just out the airlock.
When there are humans with competent manufacturing abilities over there, the development of autonomous mining and building machines on space will really take off. Because they will be needed, and because they will be be tested immediately, in reality.
Personally I think the demand is there. So many people want to leave this mud ball even from “wealthy” countries, like me. Like you said, 100% fully automated industry I believe is too far out. What isn’t is and what I believe has huge economic potential is Von Neumann probes in our solar system. Even if those have a lot of telerobotics to function I think there is an absolutely huge market, if the BFR prices range is anything close the accurate.
James, no matter how bad things get in our little “mud ball” it will always (always!!!) be cheaper, faster and easier to fix the problems, than set up shop somewhere else.
Space will be a destination for:
– Scientists. There’s so many things to discover up there.
– Tourists. Too many amazing sites.
No one will go to space looking for better conditions than here on earth, at least not in the next couple hundred years. No matter how cheap space access becomes, everything you take for granted here on earth will be extremely expensive (and take time) to recreate in space.
” James, no matter how bad things get in our little “mud ball” it will always (always!!!) be cheaper, faster and easier to fix the problems, than set up shop somewhere else. ”
Not even remotely true*. Here, you might have to kill people to “fix” something. To keep moving off planet from being a better option, they have to be mad enough about you living your life as you see fit that they are willing to chase and kill you.
*Of course, we know you don’t care about what’s real, you’re here to shill and troll.
It wasn’t possible to have an atomic bomb in 1940, though you could tell from the physics that it could be done.
The basic problem right now is that there’s hardly any effort being put into “closing the circle”, wringing that last bit of human labor out of production, because companies are operating inside an existing industrial ecology where they don’t need to do that.
You don’t work on systems to take random chunks of rock and separate them efficiently into all their constituent elements, because we already have mines, and they’re more efficient on the scale we’re currently operating at, so long as there are ore bodies.
You don’t develop semiconductor system optimized to be easy to manufacture, because they’d be lower performance.
You don’t work out ways to make photovoltaics which are only moderately efficient, but not particular about what you make them out of.
Basically, we do things, because we have a large, pre-existing industrial ecology on a planet with already located hydrothermal ores, in a very different way from the way an autofactory would operate. And we have little incentive to develop the tools an autofactory would use, because they’re not the best for use on Earth.
But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t develop them in a comparatively short time, *if we tried*. I think we ought to try.
Perhaps very low G, like micro-G, can be had in a small volume without compensation masses. There is no approximation of a zero-G natural environment available.
Riddle me this: How is Musk’s BFR like Trump’s Wall?
Neither will ever be built (2x snare, hi-hat).
The only thing stupider than all this BFR wishful thinking is that comment system.
No, your conspiracy theory nonsense has both beat–and your insistence the BFR must cost over $100bn sis far more stupid than either.
On other hand,i’m too stupid to distinguish stupid things from things that are not…stupid.
Hey, somebody took advantage of the crappy comment system to fake my name!
Was it warrentheape? Or Phaeton? Or Kudoz?
Disagree on BFR, but more importantly agree with you on the comment system. Atleast it looks to be nesting now, which is a improvement.
Am I missing something, or is there no way to create an account and log in? Putting my name in everytime is getting annoying, not to mention I dont get any notifications if someone responds.
Am I missing something?
“Am I missing something?”
Nope.Wordpress login doesn’t work.
“Putting my name in everytime is getting annoying”
Not to mention that nothing prevents you,or somebody else,from doing something like demonstrated on tdperk below.
You are simply on the wrong side of the war, Phaeton.
Ug, this is terrible.. It wont be long before no one is commenting here. As much as Disquss f’ed up my browser, i’d rather have that then this..
They only thing I find truly problematic about the BFR is whether or not it makes any economic sense. If they can build it and not enough customers want to launch with it then it will have been a huge waste of money.
You can argue that if BFR fails, it will have been a waste of money. But it will have been a waste of money only for Elon and his super-rich private investors.
SLS/Orion, on the other hand, has been a waste of money for every US citizen for years, and will continue to be so for several more years.
BFR will be built. There is nothing exotic about it except its engines (no methane rocket engine has ever flown before) but that’s already well on its way to becoming reality after 42 tests / 1200 seconds of firing of the Raptor prototype.
Blue O has flown methane repeatedly. And tested biggie.
Nope. The BE-3 engine flown on Blue Origin’s New Shepard is a liquid hydrogen / liquid oxygen engine. The BE-4 Methane engine has only had one full-up test so far on a test stand, with 3 seconds of firing. It is nowhere near as far along as the SpaceX Raptor at this point.
I stand corrected!
What will you do when it’s built? Recede your “impossible” goalposts to something else.
Probably. Easy pickings around here.
Yeah everyone is too amnesiac to notice if you repeatedly fail to pick an actually “impossible” goal post.
I don’t really get your point. I never said impossible; I just said it isn’t going to happen. There is not an example of my nay-saying “repeatedly failing to pick an actually impossible goal post” because most of the content on this site is so far out that it will only happen in YOUR dreams.
It will be built. Billionaire bragging rights are on the line.
Distinction without a difference in commenting that something will not happen VS is impossible, in terms of goal posts.
Personally, I’m happy this no longer depends on voters and whiners.
If it fails it will be because Elon Musk bit more than he can chew, not because whinny voters not getting their dough and handouts, or because of bleeding-hearts demanding the ‘gubmint to give everything to an electoral clientèle instead of investing on pie-in-the-sky space projects.
The US this, the US that, if we colonize the Moon and Mars how long will it be be before they decide to become independent nations of their own? If their growth is indeed exponential then it won’t be that long and any benefits from their growth won’t be returning to the US.
Even if the space settlements declare political independence, that doesn’t mean they won’t be sending vast amounts of wealth back to Earth.
The USA declared independence from Britain, but continued a vast and growing trade with the mother country that continues to this day. Likewise the spanish colonies.
Indeed the colonising countries probably benefited a lot more from the colonies once they became independent, because they were not subsidising any more, but still getting the trade.
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I’ve seen a housefly; I’ve seen a horse fly. I ain’t never seen a pig fly.
Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.
A pilot flies, like, a plane.
I wonder if Brian is still going to be writing this pig flying stuff in 2050 when everything is the same as it is now except that the world is dirtier and more crowded.
Less crowded. Birth rates are dropping everywhere apart from Africa. It seems that procreating is hard and to be honest when is the last time you saw millennials do anything hard?
I love that comment Combinatorics. +50 Hahaha! Millennials can’t even get it on!
Oh, now, now! Scoring Level 999 playing ‘Pimping Dora The Explorer’ in one’s parents’ basement is not easy to do!
As if the last 50 years were no different except cleaner and less crowded.
Exactly consonant acronym. See you do get it! You get +5 IQ points over my previous estimate.
Fail argument. Switch to insults.
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