One of Elon Musk’s speeches was animated by After Skool. Elon discussed how societal and technological progress is not inevitable. Elon cited the examples of the Egyptians forgetting how to build Pyramids and the Romans forgetting how to build their massive aqueduct systems.
It takes a lot of hard work by many people and good plans to achieve and sustain great technological advancement.
Elon makes the case that we can choose and work hard to achieve a better future where we have sustainable energy technology, clean transportation and space capabilities for colonization of the moon, Mars and near space.
So I agree that the future is not set and progress is not inevitable. However, we can observe momentum and the number of groups with track records of success and sufficient resources to have a high likelihood of success.
Fully Reusable Rockets and Major Revenue from SpaceX Satellites
It seems that SpaceX will be able to succeed and create the fully reusable Super Heavy Starship (SHS). The first versions will be flying to orbit in two to three years. They will be able to reuse them with minimal maintenance for 100 to 1000 times. The success of the first version will provide the capability to launch the Starlink satellites which will provide tens of billions of dollars per year in revenue. This will provide funding for even better versions of the SHS and for the colonization plans.
Space technology will be firmly established over the next ten years and colonization will have been greatly advanced within twenty years. Those will be seeds which will fully blossom through the rest of the 21st century.
Nextbigfuture looked at Elon Musk 16-page outline for creating a sustainable city on Mars with a population of one million people by 2100. In 2017, engineers at the University of Purdue tried to expand upon the outline by looking at agriculture, mining and other aspects of developing a large city on Mars.
Moon Bases and Mining by 2032
NASA is taking bids for a large lunar lander. It seems like there is a convergence of funding and technology that will create large scale lunar mining.
Currently, it costs over $100 million for the extra stage to move from low earth orbit or the use of ion thrusters that take one year to move the satellite. The delayed operation is close to the cost of the boost stage.
Water can be mined on the Moon, delivered to a gas station, sold to operators of the space tug, who will then boost the satellite to its final orbit for much less than $100 million per spacecraft.
A wide range of potential customers for hydrogen and oxygen products has been identified. They can be used to fuel reusable landers going back and forth between the lunar surface and lunar orbit. They can make travel to Mars less expensive if the interplanetary vehicle can be refueled in cislunar space prior to departure. Operations closer to Earth can also benefit from this new, inexpensive source of propellant. Refueling in Low Earth Orbit can greatly improve the size, type, and cost of missions to Geosynchronous Earth Orbit and beyond. This study has identified a near-term annual demand of 450 metric tons of lunar-derived propellant equating to 2,450 metric tons of processed lunar water generating $2.4 billion of revenue annually.
It has been discovered that instead of excavating, hauling, and processing, lightweight tents and/or heating augers can be used to extract the water resource directly out of the regolith in place.
Nextbigfuture talked to Doug Plata about developing a moon base with current technology. SpaceX will be trying to win funding for the development of their own large lunar lander.
Reusable SpaceX Super Heavy rockets will make it easy to place large orbital facilities into low earth orbit or high earth orbit or as cyclers between the Earth and moon or Earth and Mars. The industrial operations on the moon and commercial activity from next generation business like Starlink will support other bases and operations.