Re: Humans doomed without space colonies, says Hawking

From: Adrian Tymes (
Date: Tue Oct 16 2001 - 22:39:03 MDT wrote:
> So where to set up shop, Mars or the Asteroid Belt, L-5 Colonies, or the
> Moon? How will be fund this? Can we get better technology, quickly enough to
> make a difference in the human condition?

1. Reduce costs to get stuff into LEO, to no more than $100/pound (down
   from current ~$10000/pound). People are doing this now. Until this
   is done, serious work towards the rest is so insanely expensive,
   it's like sending out colony ships to other stars a few years before
   practical FTL warp drive is developed. (Exception: designing what
   is needed for the rest, purely an intellectual activity, can and is
   being done.)

2. Start up regular LEO and suborbital trips. This can be done as part
   of the tail end of 1, though it seems no organization with the
   technology to do this has both the motivation and political ability
   to be able to do this. (Boeing, Lockheed, and other commercial
   companies: have no political restrictions, but minimal motivation.
   As a result, stuff like Sea Launch gets deployed to slight fanfare
   and drags on implementation. NASA and other government agencies, US
   and otherwise: motivation - cuts their costs a lot - but politically
   hamstrung.) Therefore, a seemingly necessary prerequisite is
   redevelopment of this technology by groups that can and honestly
   want to deliver on this.

3. Industrialization. NASA's research on commercialization of space is
   limited to that which pays off so well, it can even justify the
   current cost of space access. Once these costs are reduced enough,
   however, there are certain activities that have already been
   identified as potentially profitable. Solar energy harvesting, for
   instance, or helium-3 mining (currently only useful for academic
   fusion research, but if that research can be completed - which can
   be helped significantly if supplies of helium-3 become available -
   then the commercial fusion market opens up, likely able to absorb
   all the helium-3 that can be cheaply mined and then some).

4. Colonization, somewhere in Earth orbit. Initial colony development
   - limited facilities, potential for breakdowns which might force an
   evacuation - forbid permanent settlement from the get-go, but do
   allow for a vacation spot, like a hotel. This can then be expanded
   to something suitable for unlimited habitation, once the technical
   issues are identified and proceeds from the hotel pay to work them

This is only one possibility. Asteroid mining might become feasable
around step 3...and if it does, watch for the bottoms to drop out of
metal commodity markets worldwide, yet the asteroid miners *still* make
a killing. And, of course, there's the potential for any number of
unforseeable scientific breakthroughs once space becomes real for most
people, including most scientists. The only things for certain are
steps 1 and 2.

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