Trucks stop in the space: extract from "Space 2.0" & # 39; from Rod Pyle


Rod Pyle is an author, journalist and historian of space. He has written thirteen books on the history, exploration and development of space for major publishers published in seven languages. He is the editor of Ad Astra, a quarterly publication of the National Space Society, and his articles have appeared frequently in, Live Science, Futurity, Huffington Post and Wired.

In his latest book "Space 2.0, "released today (26 February), Pyle provides an overview of the future of space exploration, resource extraction and settlement. "Truck stops in space" explains how much infrastructure will be essential to human expansion beyond the earth.

Read more for the excerpt:

Related: Best books on spaceflight and history of space to read in 2019

Infrastructure It's not a very exciting word. As for the priorities of an advertising director, he has absolutely no flash, no glare from a rocket launch or the first boots on Mars. But when we discuss the new era of spaceflight and the new business opportunities that come up, that's all. The infrastructure will make the planning and colonization of the space affordable and routine. This is the only serious way to go from the front. That's why a lot of space people talk about it with such passion. Infrastructure is what it is.

So what is it space infrastructure, exactly? Perhaps a metaphor is called. Space infrastructure is very similar to the services that make your daily life liveable in modern society. When you get up in the morning, you operate a switch – the power supply that is part of the infrastructure. Take a shower? The water distribution is an infrastructure. Take the car out of the garage to go to work? Roads and highways are infrastructure. You had the idea. The gasoline that you stop at, the Starbucks driving service, and the Internet that sends you the 113 emails you search when you get to work are all part of the infrastructure of daily living.

An orbital refueling depot as planned by NASA in 1971. This structure was intended to store the fuel drawn from the Earth; the idea of ​​collecting resources from the moon and asteroids was not yet widely accepted.

(Image: © NASA)

Of course, the specific elements of the spatial infrastructure needed will depend on how we proceed. We could first build fuel deposits in orbit, or maybe orbital bases for building gigantic structures. Private companies plan to build hotels in orbit. Industrial and academic groups, both in the United States and in China, are studying solar-powered satellites that can provide energy for both space operations and terrestrial uses. Some deep space mission concepts will require base stations for assembly of ships bound for Mars and beyond. Reusable rocket fleets built by SpaceX, and soon ULA and Blue Origin, are also part of the space infrastructure. These are just a few examples.

Space is such an immature industry that the idea of ​​a satisfactory infrastructure is relatively basic. Instead of the new paved highway, we will take a two-lane highway. We still need fuel, but we will settle for regular fuel instead of premium. No snack or five-hour energy drink is needed – just give us the essentials for this successful business. In essence, we need the equivalent of office space, hospitals, hotels, gas stations, marshalling yards and garages in orbit and beyond. In the new space age, if we want to go beyond the expeditionary model of exploring the human space – short trips to recognize other worlds, then a return to the home – an infrastructure solid will be crucial. If we want to expand the reach of our species beyond Earth, living and working in space, the infrastructure, after affordable launch capabilities, is the next crucial step in the colonization of the planet. 39; space. And for Space 2.0, the participants in the construction of this infrastructure hope that it will bring them a profit over time, which is essential for private investment.

The National Space Society launched its Space Settlement Summit in 2017 and is now an annual event. In the first year, a number of leading thinkers imagined and implemented Space 2.0, including private contractors, NASA leaders, military leaders and members of the investment community. They were there not only to discuss the space colonies – human outposts in the space – but also problems related to the infrastructure needed to allow space settlement – the development of space in many forms, both robotic and human, for a global benefit. Both are inextricably linked.

Like many topics in Space 2.0, it may be easier to think about distant goals rather than immediate goals. We want fuel deposits in space, the extraction of resources to provide this fuel, manufacturing using other in situ resources, outposts, intermediate stations, communities and more. But the first steps to achieving these goals are the most frustrating.

Last American Expedition Beyond the Low Earth Orbit: Apollo 17 in 1972. Gene Cernan driving the lunar lunar vehicle.

(Image: © NASA)

Humans have spent the last six decades on expeditionary expeditions into space. There were these first incursions into orbit. . . the jump to the moon . . . then nearly fifty years in orbit around the Earth, in stations and spaceships. But none of this is a real infrastructure. Space Shuttle could only be reused in a limited way. Even the ISS is an intermediate step and can only be used by continuous replenishment from Earth. The ultimate goal of space infrastructure is the ongoing availability of the assets and resources needed to live and work in space, derived from space sources – The water and building materials of the moon and asteroids, for example.

Related: Building Apollo (Photos)

One of the key lessons learned from the Space Settlement Summit was that no single response can enable a space infrastructure. There are a variety of plans and ideas, and we need to collect and agree on the best subset available and chart the way forward.

Bruce Pittman, NASA contractor and NSS leader, summarized the importance of infrastructure early in the process: "The idea is to engage in a dialogue about how to work in the solar system for the next 50 years It will take more than rockets, let's expand We need to talk about deep space economics We know how to make money on GEO, a geosynchronous Earth orbit How do we close the business case over of the? "

The distribution of ice water on the moon. This ice cream is a valuable resource for creating breathable air, drinking water, fuel for rockets, etc.

(Image: © NASA / Brown University)

This statement posed an important question to which the entire space community, but especially the unconscious, was confronted. I say that because we can always formulate a justification for going into space for science – NASA, ESA and Russian Roscosmos have been doing it for decades. But space science has always been supported by the government and taxpayers and is not fundamentally profit oriented, although the spin-offs of the technological development that it produces are tangible. Business in space will significantly increase economic returns. Indeed, the telecommunications sector alone has generated several billion in orbit, but to bring humanity deeper into space and allow it to stay, a sound economic model is essential – the term "economy" "Far Space" says it all.

In the early stages, this means using the easiest resources to achieve in the simplest way. Lunar soil water and possible ice deposits on the moon, as well as water from asteroids, can potentially be used for fuel, drinking water, breathable air and rocket fuel. Martian ice deposits and its atmosphere contain the necessary components for the same products. The lunar, asteroid and Martian soils can all be exploited to create bricks, concrete and 3D printed structures. Metal, glass and other elements can also be extracted from each of these bodies. Ongoing work at the ISS and in research centers around the world has shown that edible plants can be grown and produced in a state of weightlessness and on other planets, with appropriate techniques. . With sufficient seed stocks and some improved sources of adequate nutrition, foods should not be a major problem.

United Launch Alliance's CisLunar-1000, with a gross space product of nearly $ 1 trillion a year by around 2030.

(Image: © ULA)

So, if we are looking at a period in which we have allowed the development of these basic supplies, we can consider the next step. Pittman then discussed a future where these resources were extracted and stored in fuel depots. "If I have a surplus of goods, I can start selling them to other people," he explained. "This is how you advance the border and the process continues, what we want to know now is how to do it at the best cost and with the greatest flexibility."

Let's be more specific about what it really means. Not surprisingly, many intelligent people have been thinking for decades about various aspects of large-scale space infrastructure at NASA, aerospace companies, and universities. However, funding for Space 2.0 is limited and new initiatives across the Apollo Lunar Landing Program are unlikely. Costly taxpayer funded space shuttles are a thing of the past and it is unlikely that we would build another $ 150 billion space station with taxpayers' money. Sprawling infrastructure programs fall into the same category – government funding will not be enough. A new model must be found to facilitate the construction of this infrastructure. The creation of an early infrastructure will undoubtedly depend on NASA's money, probably through commercial partnerships such as NASA's trade agreements to replenish the ISS, but private investment will move this process forward. .

An example of this type of partnership was presented at the conference by George Sowers, former vice president of ULA and currently a professor at the Colorado School of Mines. The plan he talked about called himself the CisLunar-1000, ULA 's initiative to make live and work in space to 1,000 people by 2045 in an autonomous economy. The plan is for the ACES tug, which you may recall in Chapter 9. The ACES system could be used to transport supplies – air, water, fuel, etc. – from where they are extracted in space to the places where they are most needed, then stored. in the depots. Some of these deposits will be in Earth orbit, others near the moon and others near Mars.

Related: How could the exploitation of asteroids work (infographic)

"There is [about] ten billion tons of water on the lunar poles. We can start with refueling services, "Sowers said," water from lunar sources would be turned into fuel and then stored. " This availability of fuel allows commercial routes to use ACES and XEUS. "XEUS is a lunar robot that can transport lunar devices – useful supplies from the lunar surface to storage depots.

While space contractors are studying ways to extract, transport and store these resources, this can be too risky for even billionaires without a government partnership. Lori Garver, former NASA Deputy Administrator, believes that partnerships between government and the private sector are a good way to encourage growth in the sector. "I believe immensely in democracy and capitalism, and developing them in space is a fabulous idea."

Some may see a contradiction in terms. Why should the government and, ultimately, the taxpayers fund or co-finance these efforts with the sole purpose of generating profits for corporations in the future? Garver responds elegantly to this question: "As we have seen in our capitalist society, the government is investing in difficult activities that eliminate some of the risks and allow the private sector to gain a foothold and open new markets. competitive and means that we are going to enter space as a civilization as a just and democratic society, so for me a space program of the future continues to expand the envelope while the private sectors rely on reinforce behind, and sometimes jump a little ahead, but they are actually symbiotic ". And, she continues, when private companies develop this infrastructure, the economic benefits ultimately accrue to the nation that financed them, as was the case for the railways in the nineteenth century and airlines in the twentieth.

Our experiences on Earth have demonstrated that competition between entities, commercial or otherwise, promotes innovation and growth. Space companies will be the same – competition between businesses, large and small, will create affordable access to reach, live and work in space, ultimately benefiting national and then global economies. Despite the billions invested by people such as Musk and Bezos, the government will still have an important role to play, both in the United States and internationally.

NASA is the spearhead of this type of public-private partnership. No other national space agency has been confronted with the rise of an entrepreneurial sector comparable to that of the United States. As we have seen, this has already given rise to innovative and enriching collaborations. The relationship between NASA, traditional aerospace companies and entrepreneurs, however, is interesting. Identifying the right mix will be one of the most profound challenges for NASA and the governments of other invading countries in space, over the next two or three years.

Artist concept of a Dragon 2 spacecraft bringing astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station under contract with NASA.

(Image: © James Vaughan, used with permission)

It follows that NASA would continue to be an agency "we take care of all the major US projects in the field of space sciences and human spaceflight", in an agency "we work with you in space doing the work the hardest first and investing in the private sector. NASA has always relied on external contractors – traditional aerospace companies – to build most of its space equipment, and until the 21st century, this was mainly done with contracts "to the rest of the world. cost-plus cost ": contractors are paid for the expenses incurred in accordance with the contract, then an additional sum allowing them to make a profit.

Over the past decade, NASA has shifted some of its purchases from this model to what are known as "fixed price contracts", as well as other similar agreements, to work more efficiently with SpaceX and Boeing to bring astronauts to the ISS. The goal is to share the risks and benefits, and to encourage entrepreneurs to invest more of their own resources in the development of new space technologies. This allows NASA to outsource routine work, such as operating the ISS, launching rockets and possibly creating space-derived fuel deposits. NASA can then pursue the more exotic missions of science and exploration in deep space – both robotic and crewed – with which it has been so successful in the past.

The idea that NASA should help to ensure the development of space infrastructure with cooperation agreements enjoys broad support. The question is therefore how best to achieve this type of collaboration. What would such a NASA-led infrastructure look like? How is NASA's money spent in relation to private investment? Where do the NASA missions stop and where do the private and entrepreneurial missions begin? Who benefits and how?

Bill Gerstenmaier, associate director of human exploration and operations for NASA, proposes a plan to merge NASA's assets and those of the private sector. "If someone builds a lander, I have infrastructure .If I have a residential capacity, like a Orion CapsuleI can then potentially use private sector freight transportation to and from an installation on the moon. I have all the infrastructure elements that will allow someone else, at a cost of LG, to have a lunar surface capacity. Then we would team up with them. . . come and go from the moon. This allows NASA to gain more experience on the surface of the moon. So, I do not have to pay for it right off the bat; it's covered by the interests of another party who wants to do things there. That's our general approach. "

In this model, NASA provides the elements of a business that it has already developed or makes sense to develop, and that the private sector fills the gaps in public-private partnerships, possibly at will. . The growth of the communications satellite market provides useful examples here. The first versions flew in 1958 under the sponsorship of NASA. Then, in the 1960s, more and more satellites were sent into orbit, subcontracted by NASA and built by private contractors. In 1962, Telstar was the first privately launched communications satellite, a joint venture of AT & T, Bell Laboratories, UK and French national postal services, and NASA. Many others followed.

Artistic concept of a 3D printed structure made from a lunar floor.

(Image: © NASA)

An example of how this could evolve with respect to space infrastructure would be NASA providing rockets to get to the moon, while the private sector provides landers and surface machines for mining resources and treatment. That's exactly what Blue Origin is offering with its lander Blue Moon and Silicon Valley start-up Moon Express with its lunar robots. The eventual expansion of such partnerships could result in the exploitation of lunar ores and the construction of structures of refined lunar material, with human occupants backed by moonlit water and oxygen.

Related: Moon Rush: these companies have big lunar exploration plans

Since 1985, pioneering astronaut Buzz Aldrin has talked a lot about his ideas about space transportation infrastructure. It envisions spacecraft that follow permanent orbits between Earth and Mars, to dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of sending a large number of people and cargo to this planet. These spaceships call Aldrin Cyclers.

The primary purpose of Aldin's concepts is the permanent colonization of space by man. It provides a logical progression of capacity to maintain the population on the Moon and Mars, more and more remote enclave made possible by its predecessors, starting with new laboratories in low Earth orbit. Scalable design is a key element, as is the use of Moon resources, artificial gravity and a combination of high-efficiency and high-thrust transport systems. International participation will be important. These approaches provide a solid and affordable way to get people from Earth to Mars: cyclists. 120

In Aldrin's designs, these cyclists use the gravitational assistance provided by Mars as they fly over the planet to return to Earth. Periodic corrections of the trajectory would be provided by a propulsion system, whether it is chemical reaction rocket engines or modern solar engines, which use sunlight to provide a slower thrust but longer duration. In both cases, most of the flight is a "free ride".

An Aldrin Mars Cycler model would cross a permanent orbit between Earth and Mars. Similar models could be used for transport on the moon.

(Image: © Buzz Aldrin / NASA)

The beauty of the concept of the cyclist lies in the fact that the great mass of the vehicle needs to be launched and assembled only once, then that he continues his never ending journey between the worlds, as long as it works. Small shuttles would make trips between the Earth and the cyclist, then between the cyclist and Mars, as the cyclist passed his different destinations. Cyclists would be able to carry the survival gear necessary to maintain the crew. Even the massive radiation shielding required would no longer be a problem – materials from Earth or found in space should only be purchased once, then stolen indefinitely. Larger cyclists could include centrifuges that would provide the crew with a low-gravity environment, which would help keep them healthy during extended spaceflights. The cyclists were flying two by two, one passing by the outgoing leg, the other by the opposite way, returning simultaneously from Mars to Earth.

While Infrastructure This may not be an exciting word, it is certainly an exciting prospect: the creation of facilities for extraction, transportation and storage of resources in space near the Earth, the Moon and, eventually, Mars will open the solar system to human beings like never before. science fiction. This will not only result in increased opportunities for space exploration and development, but also real benefits for people on the ground. Hundreds of thousands of jobs around the world will have to be provided to support these efforts, and the return on investment in space will begin to take off considerably once the actual infrastructure has begun to cut costs and to increase opportunities. It is time to make it a reality.

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