With another UFO spotted on NASA’s cameras it is a good time to talk about space.
This UFO sighting is not really that interesting because it’s either nothing or so classified that we’ll never know anything for a long time. Instead there are three topics that offer a path forward for humanity.
The three major players in asteroid mining are Kepler Energy and Space Engineering, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources. Due to simply economic supply and demand the first group to succeed in returning mined materials will make a massive profit and crash the commodity market. The metals in asteroids are projected to be very pure and in large quantities. So with regular shipments terrestrial mining could even be set up for bankruptcy.
Major problems include asteroid capture, the actual mining itself, and material return. For the mining traditional methods seem like a generally bad idea. Dust causes enough problems on earth let alone what it can do to relatively fragile space equipment. Hence, many proposals suggest using laser platforms to cut the asteroids into shippable fragments. Unfortunately cooling the components will be even more difficult in space. So the technological hurdle of mining still largely needs to be overcome.
Capturing asteroids and landing mining equipment will probably prove to be the easiest problem to overcome. Plenty of things can go wrong but all the needed math and technology already exists, all that is really needed is a dedicated team to make it happen.
Unless these companies are able to get clearance to drop the materials like meteorites back to earth, the costs will be astronomical to return anything. This opens another possible avenue of use for mined materials – orbital construction.
A limiting factor to many activities in space is the cost of transporting materials into orbit. Rather than returning mined materials to earth, they can be shipped to processing centers in space. Bringing the materials into orbit for processing is likely the easiest option for now. This is because we do not yet have a large space presence. Material science should find many new methods, ideas, and products from expanded zero gravity and vacuum industry. Most importantly everything you can manufacture in orbit is one less thing you need to ship into orbit. With time industry will expand away from orbit unleashing more opportunity.
With a solid space industry in place we will have a base to expand from. There is however a threat to national security for all nations, right now space is the ultimate high ground. Just like how air superiority all but guarantees victory for an army, space superiority guarantees a nation global dominance. Right now as America’s space presence is being degraded other nations, such as China, are not only trying to enter space but also are putting weapons into orbit.
Outside of military expansion there is exploration and colonization. While terraforming will remain in the realm of science fiction for the near future, we could feasibly build orbital colonies. Also rather than rely on fly by space craft to take pictures of planets permanent scientific platforms could be constructed. Once we have a presence across the solar system we will be prepared for looking into exploration of other star systems.
Now most talk of space is still speculation and we are facing a major constraint – government. The regulatory stranglehold makes the few companies trying to engage in space exploration far less viable. The United States should just ignore the worthless U.N. backed space treaties and quickly expand into space before anyone else does. Rather than from sea to shining sea we must have a return to manifest destiny and our target to the heavens above.