Those of us with even a basic knowledge of physics know that every single one of our resource problems and many of mankind's other problems will be solved, along with the arrival of many wonderful new economic and social opportunities, just as soon as we become a spacefaring race.
Life for a european was utterly changed as soon as science began to given parity of esteem with religious philosophy and people such as Christopher Columbus began to explore beyond the known world of the time.
It occurs to me that something similar is afoot at this time in our history, globalisation and the communications revolution is beginning to replace nationalism, we have already begun to tentatively explore space and the concept of globalisation has moved beyond mere economics into almost every facet of our lives including science (perhaps science was the first globalisor) .
Yet the problem of ready and affordable access to space still remains, no matter how many times you do the sums, a rocket still needs to reach 17,000 mph in order to escape Earth's gravity and most of the costs of a space launch involves the chicken and egg situation of the rocket carrying enough fuel to reach escape velocity which means the rocket has to be bigger and so more fuel is..... , the cost of launching a payload into orbit has decreased since the 1960's but it is still a very expensive procedure.
Of course many solutions to this problem have been proposed and a few are being seriously researched and we can expect that within a few decades we might see the first space elevator
beginning construction just as soon as the lads and lassies currently working on carbon nanotubes get the finger out and begin building or growing carbon nanotube cable longer than a few inches
But as in everyday life, often its not the lads working on the big glamorous projects which keep the ball rolling, sometimes its the less ambitous but well thought out smaller step which hurries us to our destiny.
I especially like the 3D printer part of this project, thats real innovation.
Asteroid-mining 'FireFlys' will be ready for action by 2015, vows space firm
A second commercial venture to mine the near infinite resources of outer space has been started, and Deep Space Industries (DSI) is promising its spacecraft and 3D printers
will allow successful mining operations within a decade.
The venture says that it will have its first class of 55lb (25kg) "FireFly" probes ready for action by 2015, hitching a ride on other commercial launches, and during their six-month missions will explore Near Earth Objects (NEO) for useful materials.
Gump explained that the probes wouldn't just be looking for metals, but also for liquids that can be broken down into oxygen, hydrogen and methane and used to refuel satellites once it has been brought back into the Earth's orbit, adding another revenue stream.
"It cost around $20,000 per kilo to get the fuel for a geosynchronous satellite into position, we're sure we can supply it more cheaply than that," he said. "If you can then extend the lives of these satellites, then operators will be able to save millions of dollars in costs."
Key to the success of the project will be DSI's patent-pending 3D printing technology, dubbed the Microgravity Foundry. He said..........................................
"We will only be visitors in space until we learn how to live off the land there," said DSI chairman and long-time space activist Rick Tumlinson in a statement.
"We are squarely focused on giving new generations the opportunity to change not only this world, but all the worlds of tomorrow. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
Read the entire article here
Asteroid-mining 'FireFlys' will be ready for action by 2015, vows space firm ? The Register