Plans for Rocket Technology
In 2019, the Space X Dragon dropped off for NASA 5,500 pounds of supplies at the International Space Station (ISS) in a victory for public-private commercial space partnerships. Here is a brief comparative summary of plans for the future of rocket technology which will certainly include many more public and private and international partnerships.
On June 24, 2019, the Space X Falcon Heavy Rocket took into space a new Deep Space Atomic Clock that is fifty (50) times more accurate with its location data than old atomic clocks aboard GPS satellites. This project managed by the NASA Jet Propulsions Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena will revolutionize navigation across oceans of space.
Let us next look at some of the specifics for exploration of space in the twenty-first century and detail some of this venture capital and governmental programs that have been developed for increased habitation and colonization of space.
Funding for Space
The President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy (2004) recommended governmental or private inducement to colonize space. One possibility is awarding a prize to the first organization to place humans on the Moon, sustain them long-term, and return them to Earth. NASA has been developing and is offering many such awards in 2019 not limited to 3-D printing in space and space habitat design. Next we look private ventures into space which have been increasing in frequency and sophistication.
Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Space X, along with other aeronautics related companies, intend to make humanity a multi-planetary species by building rockets to reach Mars. Space colonization is more likely when there is access to less expensive launch systems and enough funding. Launch costs should continue to decrease with expanding technology. The space economy is poised to expand and investors are taking advantage of the renewed interest in space travel and exploration.
Space X Falcon 9 rockets are the cheapest in the industry for low Earth orbit at $56.5 million for a 28,990 lb. payload aimed at the Moon and Mars. The Space X reusable launch system development program will allow reusable Falcon 9s which should inspire space-based enterprise, drop access to space thru economies of scale, and change the growing competitive market for space launch services. In 2018, the Falcon Heavy sent Tesla’s cherry red Roadster past Mars toward the Asteroid Belt. Space X is currently developing a $5 million BFR (Big Fucking Rocket) known as the Starship which will explore the full extent of the solar system and use Mars as a fuel depot. Space X is realizing Musk’s vision of humanity colonizing our solar system. The final frontier awaits. Are you ready to discover, map, and utilize paths through space?
Now we turn to terrestrial analogues or space developments as it were.
Biosphere 2 is the most notable analogue to a self-sufficient colony. It attempted to duplicate the Earth’s atmosphere. Another closed system, Biosphere 3 (1972), was completed in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. Space agency testbeds for advanced life support systems are designed for long-term human spaceflight instead of permanent colonization. Remote research stations in inhospitable climates such as the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station or the Devon Island Mars Arctic Research Station provide training for off-world outpost construction and operation. The Mars Desert Research Station is not part of a strictly inhospitable climate. NASA is currently soliciting plans for terrestrial and non-terrestrial human habitats in space. Musk and Space X are focusing on commercializing the near infinite resources of the Moon, Mars, and outer space to provide prosperity for all. The goal is making humanity a spacefaring species.
Sterilization of robotic spacecraft to Mars is vital to avoid contamination of life detection experiments and the planet. It is impossible to completely sterilize human beings with a hundred trillion microorganisms of thousands of species from the human microbiome before a mission. These microorganisms cannot be removed safely from a living astronaut. There have not been any final guidelines yet from planetary workshops on how to avoid contamination of a planet in case of crash. Humans could also carry contaminants back to Earth.
Objections to Space Colonization
Colonizing places outside of Earth is criticized for wasting Earth’s limited resources for an aim without a clear end. This is the position of One Earth environmentalists. Space colonization requires enormous investments in financial, physical, and human capital for research, development, production, and deployment.
Taxpayers do not typically approve of space programs expenditures they do not expect a return on during their lives. People do not typically want to pay for a back-up plan saving the planet from a catastrophe after they are gone. This is provided space colonization is not widely accepted as a sufficiently valuable social goal.
Malthus (1758) first wrote of over-population and Stephen Hawking still lists it as one reason for space exploration. Space colonization is not necessary for over-population since the birth rates of many developed countries particularly seafaring ones are at or below replacement rates. Space colonization, it can be argued, is not needed for population control.
Colonization and commodification of space could enhance the interests of powerful military, economic, and financial institutions, aerospace companies, and the military-industrial complex, cause wars, further exploit workers and resources, worsen economic inequality, poverty, social division, marginalization, environmental degradation, and other processes. There are however ways around such obstacles.
Humans must guard against becoming material assets. New space societies will need to provide for basic psychological and social needs of living in isolated colonies. Morality, human dignity, philosophy, culture, bioethics, and megalomaniac leaders must all be anticipated and could be augmented by developing “inner space” thru computer assisted exploration of the human mind and consciousness as in the Matrioshka Brain.
Robots are not limited by mission length and the high costs of life support and return transportation. Interplanetary contamination is possible in case of extra-terrestrial life. Space colonization ventures involve physical, mental, and emotional health risks for human beings, but such is the nature of cutting-edge exploration.