A few years ago, the universe was simple. It was a small, tranquil place filled with vast emptiness and a breeding ground for romantic gestures. The honeymoon period is now over, and Science is ready to get to work.
Humans have been a one world planet since our existence. While we’ve dreamed about living among the stars, politics and economics have kept us at home. No longer. We humans have been of course prepping for the day we finally move out of our parents house, but until the recent announcement from President Obama, it was just talk. Now, we are committed. And we’ve signed a lease with Mars.
As any college student realizes toward the end of the semester, you’re gonna need a job when you move out. Moving to Mars won’t be cheap, and terraforming is NASA’s way of saying “do your homework and eat your vegetables.” Boring.
Luckily some Earth based entrepreneurs have been investing in technology and infrastructure to start space based industries. Space hotels, space vacations, and space shuttling have all seen a recent boost in activity. However, the real meat and potatoes of space industry belongs to Asteroid Mining.
The Solar System actually has an entire BELT of asteroids. And it’s located right in our trendy new Martian neighborhood. Having a Mars colony is a fantastic way to begin our asteroid mining career. And where there is money to be made, civilization will boom.
Recently we’ve landed on comets, and we’ve been digging into the Asteroid Belt a bit with Dawn, NASA’s current hometown hero. On March 6, Dawn became the first to orbit a Dwarf Planet and the first to orbit two separate objects: Vesta and finally Ceres. Both are considered protoplanets, and including Pallas they make up the majority of mass in the Asteroid Belt. While all are over 400 km in size, Ceres measures 950km in diameter, roughly the size of Texas.
Dawn’s mission is to explore these protoplanets in the hopes of gaining insight to the formation of other planets in the Solar System. But what it does more than that is map a route to future asteroid mining. Dawn is a proof of concept. NASA has shown not only is the Asteroid Belt navigable, but that similar earth elements exist there WITH evidence of water AND further have not only laid the ground work for orbiting these objects, but leaving and orbiting new objects. Private industry now as an instruction manual, and NASA can make a buck from Customer Support.
And heres the why. Putting things into space is extremely expensive. Current launch costs have been restricting NASA missions since its inception. The Asteroid Belt is essentially a pile of unused universe LEGO’s. The building blocks are all there, floating around and waiting to be harvested. Water, costing tens of thousands of dollars per gallon to launch into space, exists in small quantities in these asteroids. Heavy industrial materials such as Iron exist in large quantities. Even Platinum, thought to exist in concentrations three times that as on Earth. Having these materials already in space can help to dramatically decrease the price of space travel, while simultaneously open the door for new industries to emerge.
The Space Industrial Age is upon us. The chips are set, the ducks are lined, the fish are frying. NASA has done the heavy lifting and now its time for private industry to take over. The sky is no longer the limit for the human race.