Space Age came to and went from popular imagination. My father never ceases to wonder about man reaching to the moon. I never cared much.
Amongst a host of reason the shine wore off was lack of concrete financial motivation to continue pushing the frontier and various risks.
Then for decades the only space terms we heard were Space Station and Space shuttle, Hubble Telescope and its cousins.
Suddenly Mars Rovers generated modest interest in the topic in the mind of a common man. Then I also heard a bit of noise about hypersonic planes reaching to the space for frictionless fast journey.
Of late, I have started seeing stages in which human progress in space may eventually be divided:
- “In orbit space” – Rockets – just getting something in the orbit – done
- “In orbit space” – “Reconnaissance planes” – Sputnik onwards – done
- “In orbit space” – Permanent towers – geostationary satellites – done
- “In orbit space” – Eye in the sky – Hubble etc. – done
- “In orbit space” – Prolonged stay in space – space station – done
- “Solar System – irrespective of gravity” – Explorations to other heavenly bodies – Voyagers to Rovers – done
- Long pause – Space Slumber I – because there is no financial motive to carry on the research. Later, globalization provides the first trigger of the next phase
- “In orbit space” – Dash through space – hypersonic planes, space elevators etc. – experimental stage – will bring Space to a consumer grade service, will push commerce to next level and make the world shrink a little bit more – there is work going on by a number of companies
- “Solar System – with gravity as a limiting factor” – asteroid and moon mining – Tantalum, Titanium, Thorium, Lithium, Rare Earth elements – probably even Potassium and Phosphorus! – will make it economically viable to build cargo fleets and much faster ships – at least one company is formed around this idea
- “Focus Moon” – surprisingly will come later than asteroid mining – for data backup centers, mining and probably tourism – will prove elements of colonization of a non-Earth place; will also provide economic motivation to build further faster ships and safe landing
- Long pause because most mining needs will be addressed with little fight with gravity. Till some new economic – or political – changes force change, we will be in a Space Slumber II
- “Peeping Tom, the other guy’s orbit” – Remote sensing like “utility” satellites around at least Mars and its moons to establish economic motivation of colonization. Faster ships and safer landing from earlier two stages will help
- “Neighborhood exploitation” – Mars, its moons and probably Venus and Mercury will be exploited for mining – mind you, this could be simple telekinetics – this will generate sufficient wealth for further stages like colonization or Terraforming. Given the gravity challenge, the mined material must be very valuable to make it economically attractive – probably gold
- Long pause – Space Slumber I. I don’t think of any economic motivation will propel human exploration further – say to Jupiter’s moons or Titan
If we need to mine asteroids, moons and other planets, what is your choice of mineral? [Do not write coal, petroleum or graphite please!]