“Becoming a multi-planet species and spacefaring civilization — this is not inevitable — it’s very important to appreciate: this is not inevitable. The sustainable energy future I think is largely inevitable but becoming a spacefaring species is definitely not inevitable. If you look at the progress in space — in 1969 we were able to send somebody to the moon. Nineteen sixty-nine. Then we had the space shuttle. The space shuttle could only take people to low Earth orbit. Then the space shuttle retired and the United States could take no one to orbit. So that’s the trend. The trend is like [downward hand movement]…down to nothing. This is not — people are mistaken if they think that technology automatically improves. It does not automatically improve. It only automatically improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better. And actually it will, I think, if left by itself degrade actually. If you look at civilizations like Ancient Egypt and they were able to make the pyramids, and they forgot how to do that. And the Romans, they built these incredible aqueducts. They forgot how to do it.”
“SpaceX Founder, CEO, and Lead Designer Elon Musk discussed the long-term technical challenges needed to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation focused on potential architectures for sustaining humans on the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.”
Ice extracted from asteroids or lunar craters will not be competitive with fuel launched from Earth on reusable rockets costing fifty thousand dollars. This should concern us.
15 tons of high quality fuels trucked from sophisticated refineries in Houston then launched for $250,000 on Falcon 9s in Brownsvile will always outcompete expensive fuels cracked from water-ice extracted out of lunar craters using as of yet non-existent multi-billion dollar technologies. In fact, the ability to launch tons of fuels from Earth to LEO on reusable rockets may delay the development of in-space resource utilization for decades.
When Musk achieves reusable rockets, development of all near Earth resources may be delayed from any cislunar source – even unfortunately asteroids with their superior concentrations of ore and favorable zero g environment. This ironically however provides a reason for taxpayer support of asteroid retrieval: private/public research partnerships teleoperating on an asteroid in Earth orbit owned by all U.S. citizens (NASA) could jump-start technologies humanity will need to develop asteroids. Humanity needs access to asteroids long-term. Asteroids – not the moon – will fuel a billion-fold increase in our industrial base. Despite a huge disparity in initial cost-competition with launches from Earth, government subsidized R&D on asteroids placed in an elliptical orbit around Earth could advance for-profit Free World leadership of in-space resource utilization by decades.
AeroAstro Centennial Symposium