Putting Together the Puzzle of the Future

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arobie

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Putting together the puzzle of the future of our presence in space. There are so many pieces that will form our future: The X-Prize, all of the X-Prize contenders individually...especially Scaled Composites & The Da Vinci project, the new space elevator contest, Bigelow's(sp?) inflatable habitat, Nasa's possible Moon to Mars vision, and Nasa's future prizes are just some of the puzzle pieces off of the top of my head.<br /><br />What will all of this lead to? How long untill suborbital tourist flights? Orbital flights? Space Hotels? What will come of the Moon to Mars vision? In...I don't know, 10, 15, 25 years what will everything look like? Any predictions?
 
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spacester

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Excellent questions.<br /><br />We have entered an era where speculation on the future is much more difficult than before.<br /><br />When gummint programs were all there was to talk about, it was much easier to discuss the relative merits of this or that program, the relative odds of success, etc.<br /><br />In an era where private spaceflight is leading the way it becomes much more difficult to prognosticate. Not just because of the myriad players on the field, but because the rules of the game have changed.<br /><br />With the marketplace being the impartial referee, one must understand the marketplace to understand the rules. And who can claim to understand the marketplace?<br /><br />Anyway, I'm dodging the question, aren't I? <img src="/images/icons/laugh.gif" /> OK, I'll take a stab at it . . . <br /><br />I predict that the deep-pocket guys (Musk, Branson, Bigelow, Allen, Carmack, Bezos, etc.) are smart enough to realize they need to coordinate their activities at some level in order to achieve their individual dreams.<br /><br />Bigelow cannot succeed with his orbital hotels without a means of getting folks there and back. Orbital tourism may not be able to generate the volume and revenue they need without a destination. So there's an obvious win-win collaboration.<br /><br />In nature, we see competition and cooperation as rather equal approaches to survival and progress. I see this as being true for space development, with cooperation initially leading the way.<br /><br />IOW, the deep-pocket guys will initially collaborate, and form strategic partnerships in order to create an industry that did not previously exist. At some point after they establish profitability, you will see more competition. Look at the history of the relationship between MS & Intel as an example of this.<br /><br />How long until the first examples of .. . <br /><br />Suborbital Tourism: 2006<br />Orbital Tourism: 2009<br />Space Hotels: 2010<br />Lunar Hotel: 2015<br />MtM program: will join the other bi <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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meteo

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"Now if we can get corporate America to make an investment for more than 5 years....."<br /><br />Or find a market for that much metal! World mining = 400billion annually. Another problem would be the legal difficulties in this 1km asteroid (I assume processing would be done near earth) possibly hitting earth and causing an enormous disaster.<br /><br />A better approach may be small asteroids. However, look at the difficulties in sending a man into space (man rated) for a reality check. I'd like to see it happen but will it? I'll put a maybe on small metal NEA's since it would be cheaper to use resources not in the gravity well.
 
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SteveMick

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Meteo writes: "Or find a market for that much metal! World mining = 400billion annually. Another problem would be the legal difficulties in this 1km asteroid (I assume processing would be done near earth) possibly hitting earth and causing an enormous disaster. "<br /><br /> Another option is to do initial processing at a large asteroid by heating in a solar furnace to seperate oxygen and other gasses from the elements to which they are chemically bound. The gasses may be used for propellent for solar thermal rocket propulsion to deliver the metals or other elements back to GEO where they could be telerobotically processed. The total load would merely burn up if it reentered.<br /> As for the market for the metals, I would imagine that since platinum is such a great catalyst that it will have such a large market for fuel cells alone that it will still sell at an adequate price provided the mining costs are low.<br /> The key enabling technology for space development is telerobotics and it makes me quite uncomfortable to find O'Keefe championing this tech for Hubble repair as I disagree with him on many issues. Still, telerobots allow cheap on-orbit telepresense with a constant quarter second delay at GEO which is about at the human comfort limit for real-time interaction. Robots can work much longer and cheaper and their presence will insure human space travel if only to do specialised repair work on the soon to be vast space manufacturing infrastructure.<br /> By the way, some time ago I was basically told I was crazy for suggesting that any solar cells made could take 150 suns concentration. As it turns out, I was wrong - the limit is much higher- see:<br />www.spectrolab.com/DataSheets/Tercel/tercell.pdf<br /><br />Steve<br />
 
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arobie

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My own predictions (not that far off from yours):<br /><br />The First...<br />Private Suborbital Flight: June 21, 2004<br />Suborbital Tourism: 2006<br />Private Orbital Flight: 2006<br />Private Orbital Tourism: 2008<br />Private Orbital Modules: 2007<br />Orbital Hotels: 2010<br />Lunar Hotels: 2020<br />MtM: Very iffy at this point. Don't know what will happen with it.<br /><br />All of these predictions are just rough guesses, but that's when I think those things will first occur.
 
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lunatic133

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That sounds extraordinarilly optimistic but I like the sound of it. Lunar hotels by 2020 ... that would be even more ambitious than MtM! I would like to believe that MtM will be successful but realisticly I find that it is just too difficult to keep funding year after year and I fear it will, like most NASA programs, be killed before anything great comes out of it. I promised myself I wouldn't turn into an O'neillian but it becomes increasingly difficult not to.
 
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astrophoto

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Who would you sell the metal from that 1km asteroid to? If you intend to bring any of it back to Earth to sell, you face the problem of that cost to recoup, the fact that Earth based companies can mine it cheaper, and you have the potential to flood the market.<br /><br />Now, if you simply wanted to sell that refined metal to Space companies, you would corner THAT market, but where is that market to begin with?
 
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arobie

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Yes, I agree. That is VERY optimistic, but I've always been an optimistic person. The way private industry works, I think that they will make advances more quickly and readily than govn't programs.<br /><br />Also as soon as tourism begins, I think an explosion of activity in space will begin. Private Industries pace will definitely quicken then.
 
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spayss

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The earth doesn't need metal from space. For every copper, gold, iron mine open and producing...there are 10 closed and another thousand potential sources never developed.<br /><br /> Any extra-terrestrial resources from the Moon, asteroids, etc. will be used in space. In fact for any meaningful human activity in Space, resources will HAVE to come from outside the Earth. Bring copper, titanium, gold or any other metal back to Earth in large quantities and the price of the metal drops to uneconomic levels. These materials brought back to Earth in reasonable quantities would make their value next to useless...in Space, the reverse, they are as valuable as gold. <br /><br />
 
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kelle

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I doubt the technological evolution will move this fast. Things usually takes longer to do than we think it will. For instance, when you read older sci-fi novels the authors always exaggerate the level of technology of the future (at least some technologies). Like in 2001: a Space Odyssey, with it's spinning wheel space stations and all that awesome stuff, but all we have today is that ugly ISS. I will be satisfied if space tourism becomes relatively cheap before I die (I'm only 19 so it'll be a while), but I hope the evolutions goes faster. And now, a tendency for private companies putting money on space stuff seems to be growing, and things usually goes a bit faster when it's in the hands of private companies, so it's not unlikely that space tech will get a huge boost in the coming years. At least, I hope so.<br /><br />Here are my (wild) guesses:<br />Suborbital Tourism: 2007 <br />Private Orbital Flight: 2007 <br />Private Orbital Tourism: 2013 <br />Private Orbital Modules: 2018 <br />Orbital Hotels: 2024 <br />Lunar Hotels: 2040<br />Space Elevator: 2100<br /><br />Of course this also depends on prices like the Ansari X price, which has given growth to the private space industry. Hope we get a lot of similar prices, which will undoubtly speed things up quite a lot!
 
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arobie

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<font color="yellow">Here are my (wild) guesses: <br />Suborbital Tourism: 2007 <br />Private Orbital Flight: 2007 <br />Private Orbital Tourism: 2013 <br />Private Orbital Modules: 2018 <br />Orbital Hotels: 2024 <br />Lunar Hotels: 2040 <br />Space Elevator: 2100</font><br /><br />All of that I can understand except for one thing...the last thing. I think we will have space elevators much sooner than that. I am willing to be optimistic enough to say we will have them within 25 years. At the bottom of your post you mentioned that prizes will have an speeding up effect on private space industry.<br /><br />Well right now a contest is being put together for the space elevator. In this contest teams will have to build components for the space elevator, and even a prototype of a space elevator. This contest will turn the concept concrete, and will gain publicity and investors. It will have the speeding up effect on the space elevator.<br /><br />Here is a link to the MSNBC article on the contest, and here is a link to the discussion about it on these forums.<br /><br />Also I wanted to post a quote from Burt Rutan about space tourism:<br /><br />"I think within the next two to three years there will be tickets available for sub-orbital flights," proclaimed Burt Rutan, the designer of SpaceShipOne, at a recent lecture at Edinburgh University. According to The Scotsman newspaper, Rutan also told the audience, "In 12 or 15 years, there will be routine, affordable space tourism not just in the US but in a lot of countries… When you come back from your vacation, instead of having pictures of snorkelling and hiking, you will actually be the next astronaut. For quite a while that is going to be a very prestigious thing to be."<br />--Burt Rutan<br /><br />I go
 
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kelle

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Oh, I didn't see that space elevator contest until now. Well, with a contest on it, it might move along a lot faster than I predicted.<br /><br />But still, there is a long way from finding how to build something theoretically, to actually building it. To build this space elevator we would need a lot of carbon (and/or other materials) for this thousands of km's long cable. And the optimal would be to gather one big or several small asteroids for an anchor and for materials for the space elevator and start building it out from this. Currently we cannot bring asteroids to Earth orbit, but perhaps we will soon. Or perhaps it will take a long while until we can do that, after all, going all out to the asteroid field is much farther than going to Mars. Perhaps capturing comets or asteroids passing near Earth or something would be possible, but it is still a long time into the future. Perhaps 2100 was a bit pessimistic, or perhaps not. Political issues, economical matters, private companies, accidents and disasters, there's several things which can greatly affect the time until the space elevator is finished (affect in both positive and negative ways), things we cannot predict. Only the future can tell who was correct and who was not!
 
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nacnud

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No we don't need to start moving asteroids around or even that much more technology. The main thing missing is the cable material. Take a look at what ISR has to say on the matter, especially the Phase I NIAC paper. It is very thorough overview <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" />
 
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kelle

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Oh, after reading that, I've downgraded the time I think it takes until we have a space elevator to 2040. <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br />Thanks for the interesting read! It even made it sound very simple to build.
 
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arobie

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Thanks Nacnud. I hadn't seen that before. Very interesting.
 
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arobie

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<font color="yellow">"Private Orbital Modules: 2018"</font><br /><br />I think we will have orbital modules before that time. With Bigelow Aerospace working on their inflatable modules, I don't think we have to wait quite that long. Thats why I had said 2007 for orbital modules, but after thinking about it, I'll give it another year. I think we will have the first private orbital module up by 2008.
 
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arobie

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Well it looks like the puzzle is starting to fall together.<br /><br />Scaled composites is selling plans for Space Ship 2 to VirginGalactic for space tourism. The first flight will be in one and a half to three years. Here is the Space Tourism piece.<br /><br />Bigelow is setting up a $50 million prize for development of Orbital Craft. This Prize is modeled after the XPrize. Here is part of the orbital spacecraft piece.<br /><br />There is also a prize for Space Elevator developments. And here is part of the space Elevator piece.<br /><br />There are still alot of unknowns, but things are starting to piece together.
 
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arobie

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eburacum45,<br /><br />The technological problems are being worked on. The Space Elevator prize will help with technological development, and even create prototypes.<br /><br />It would take that long for government to build it, but we don't only depend on governments, we also have private industry. Private industry doesn't care if the general public laughs at it. <br /><br />Knowing the general public, they won't even know about, much less care to laugh. Private industry also doesn't get it's funding from the general public, so if the public doesn't support it, that doesn't matter. Private industry doesn't need public support to do things.
 
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wvbraun

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My predicitions:<br /><br />2008: suborbital tourism (Virgin Galactic)<br />2009: privately financed orbital spaceflight (SpaceX)<br />2011: privately financed orbital space station (Bigelow's Nautilus)<br />2014: orbital tourism<br />2018: privately financed lunar landing<br />2022: private lunar base/hotel<br />2025: privately financed Mars landing<br />2035: space elevator<br />2040s: L5 space colonies<br /><br />Should be interesting to watch...
 
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