Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ecological Benefits of Space Mining

At The Space Economy we continually work to explain the benefits of space commercialization. One that has been overlooked by ourselves and the industry has been the ecological benefits of using resources from space. This pertains particularly to the mining industry.

Mining has a tremendous ecological impact on our planet. Mountains are literally removed every year on order to supply the raw materials needed for our increasingly industrialized planet. But this may not be a sustainable or required practice. Space mining would be capable of replacing it and without negative ecological impact.

Asteroids are rocks out of the ground already floating in space. Excavating them has no negative impact on our solar system, as long as it is not done in orbit. Thousands of times more material is also available in our solar system, which can be exploited, with proper infrastructure, which is growing ever closer.

Many space advocates sell it as something which is the future of our race as a means of survival from cataclysmic asteroid strikes and the like or as a means to satisfy the human needs to explore. While these reasons are founded, they do not resound with some parts of the population on earth. Space has to provide some other benefit than simply making money, exploring, and preventing destruction. Space must create a more encompassing return for Earth to be worth it. Ecology is one of those returns. The fact that the commercialization of space will help to solve ecological problems on Earth is a grand reason to work toward space.

Now, certainly many will argue that space mining will still have negative affects on earthen ecosystems. Because dirty rockets must be launched and rocks dropped from the sky.

This view has little credence as it assumes that rocket technology will remain as it is, which it won't, and that the asteroids would have to be delivered as raw materials to the surface of the Earth, which they won't. Space mining will revolve around the refining and manufacturing of materials in orbit (or possibly on the Moon) which can then be delivered to earth with a gliding space plane. And rockets are already powered by combinations of hydrogen and oxygen which combine to create...water. In fact, the kerosene burning Falcon 9 is "cleaner" than the solid rocket boosters of the space shuttle so we are already creating a greener space industry.

Mining companies would do well to explore space mining as a part of their future. Not only are the resources abundant, but the good will that it would generate by "working to preserve earth ecosystems" would be valuable to the company. And along the road space technologies developed could be applied to Earth problems. Caterpillar, which makes mining machinery, apparently sees this potential as it is partnering with NASA to develop space mining technologies.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Crashes and Accidents

A piece of SpaceShipTwo
"Space is Hard - but worth it" Sir Richard Branson

At the writing of this post the private space industry has suffered two major accidents. A failed launch of an Orbital Sciences Antares Rocket and the crash of SpaceShipTwo during a test flight, which killed one pilot.

These accidents will no doubt have huge detrimental effects to the industry which was just beginning to gain a bright outlook on the future. Public opinion will likely swing back into fear of space as opposed to the wonder of it.

It is important to remember that at this point space is at the same place aviation was after Lindbergh's flight. The technology is proven to get us to the moon. Private companies can make it into space. Now we are all waiting for the space age Boeing 247 to take us to the stars.

But creating a space liner is leaps and bounds more difficult than building an airliner, and that was difficult. There have been and will continue to be accidents as space develops. But we must not let those change the resolve to go to space.

Space is far more than a commercial opportunity. At the moment there is actually very little money in it compared to other industries, due to the expense. Space is a future that only a few really believe in and others fear. The trouble is that those who fear it want to project that fear onto others. And that fear is unfounded because it is like being afraid of the first Russian spacecraft. The fear is of what it is today and not of what it will become tomorrow. They point to the accidents and warn of the dangers which come with space travel though they have never experienced it and don't see that the "now" is not the "future."

The people that died in the accidents were not afraid because they could see what the future held and it excited them. And the only way to truly honor their memory is to continue on towards the goal that they themselves gave their lives believing in.

Any space travel company will have to come face to face with the possibility of the loss of life. But the only thing they can do is work to avoid it as much as possible. Negligence cannot be allowed, for it is the only thing which causes these accidents.

Space travel is more than a half a century old but commercial systems are coming into service. It took aviation 30 years to go from first flight to airliner. Considering the challenges and the cost of space travel we are doing decently well. But fear and accidents cannot be allowed to stop the progress, otherwise it may be delayed decades.

Space companies must be able to take the lessons learned from their mistakes and work to improve. While it may be tragic, fear cannot be allowed to win.

Fortunately fear of progress never wins. As is proven by aviation and any number of other advances. Fear is only able to slow something down but never stop it. Possibilities outweigh fear any day. These accidents may cripple the industry but they will not stop it

But possibilities only become real when they are made real. Space companies and entrepreneurs must learn how to create possibility out of tragedy. By doing this they will be able to progress without so much as a break in step. People may die but they would not want it to be in vain by having their work undermined by the failure of the company or industry that they represented in life. They are the leaders of the space crusade and others must take up their positions.

Space is the future of the human race. What better industry to support and be a part of.