Also, spending on space continues to be and has been a very small expense, not only smaller than cosmetics, but entirely dwarfed by military spending and welfare, both of which are highly contested as to whether they provide net benefit at all to the people of Earth.
You'd have to be ideologically possessed or completely ignorant of reality to believe this anti-space bs.
> American citizens need to decide what they prioritize. Is it space exploration or is it a decent standard of living at home? Is it the moon, Mars, or Earth?
No they don't.
We can prioritize both, and frankly, life on Earth will be better the more we priotitize space exploration, not worse.
The future of humanity is not only on earth. Too much risk, too limited resources.
HOWEVER the future of humanity in space is NOT "tomorrow we lift off a giant spaceship with everyone on it." If we survive a few hundred years we might see some amount of human civilization outside of earth, but for many hundreds of years after more practical space tech comes about most of humanity will still be born, live, and die on earth.
Maybe in a thousand years we'll see more humans outside of earth than on earth. But that's a long long long ways from now. If we are to become an "immortal" race (doesn't go extinct) then I can see the human race abandoning earth in a hundred thousand years or so due to many possible conditions. But even if we can colonize and terraform other planets, why would we want to when we already have a perfectly terraformed planet we're already on. Life has survived on earth farily well for billions of years, there's no reason why if we don't completely obliterate the climate we can't survive here till the sun blows up.
Where are you going to go?
Outside of Earth, there is no place for us in the entire Solar System. Sure we may build some research stations here and there, just as we did in inhospitable places on Earth (like Antarctica), but there's no long-term option anywhere. Interstellar travel is science fiction, but even if it wasn't, there is no place for us to go as well.
Obviously this is far beyond our current level of technology, though.
Now, this(1) it's beyond our current level, but one can dream.
It's obvious to me that this is the most probable future and I would not be surprise if, at some point, most humanity is living in this kind of environment instead of planets.
Planets have a lot of disadvantages.
(1) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop_Ring_(habitat)
Early spaceflight up through Apollo was done with an army of humans with slide rules and rivet guns. We did it because there was a political imperative to do so. A lot of new technology was developed as a result. But it ended up being unsustainable because it was too expensive.
I think the key to making O'Neill cylinders feasible will be large scale outer space resource mining and in-space manufacturing. Both will require advanced robotics and AI. We could throw a bunch of money into developing that ... or we could just wait for the technology to develop here on Earth and then apply it to space.
Likewise, as much as I'd like to see a Mars outpost in my lifetime, it would be a lot cheaper and safer if we didn't rush it. Maybe by 2075 we'll have cured cancer and radiation won't be an issue, and we'll have self-repairing life support systems and one of those automated medical pods from the Alien movies.
Much like pilgrims who founded Massachusetts, founders of space habitats will be groups of people who don't enjoy living on Earth badly enough (due to persecution, or because of desire of some grand reforms) to fund a move elsewhere.
I bet the first Martian colony will quickly be recognized as a place not controllable by any Earth government, and that will be a huge selling point for tickets to Mars.
Being far away is one thing, but when I look at how powers on Earth exert influence and control over others, it seems you also need to be self-sufficient (protection from blockades, trade embargoes, or other modern "seiges"), and also sufficiently defended/defensible to avoid military threats. Sure, your Martian buildings may be underground, but would they be safe from heavy objects flung at them at high velocity? Seems like it would be easy enough for Earth to "put down" any Martian activities that rubbed people the wrong way for the foreseeable future.
Raw/rare materials and elements are mined in the Belt and are then sent to Earth for use in manufacture. You pick up the high quality goods and tools from Earth and ship them to Mars/Moon. Since there is water on Mars/Moon, you grow food, 'wet' supplies, and unfinished goods in the weaker gravity well for shipment to the Belt. These arrive in the Belt and you repeat the process, profiting at every spaceport.
As the metropole has overwhelming manpower/firepower due to it's high class manufacturing base and population, the threat of violence is just plain bad for business all around and is discouraged.
Now I'm gong to speculate very hard: Eventually, the lesser manufacturing base (Moon/Mars) will gain in economic and political power as their frontier life becomes more civilized and independent of the metropole. And they may try to declare independence fully. However, in the case of Moon/Mars, you're looking at a fully independent multi-generational extraterrestrial biospheres at that point and probably millions of people, if not 10s of millions, to run the whole thing. Lots of people that have never been to Earth and never plan on going. I really don't see that much trade/mining would be needed to go to Earth to build up and support permanently independent biospheres of a few generations of native Martians/Moonies.
There will almost certainly be stuff like gold and rare metals shipped from a Mars colony to Earth, but only because returning the ships from Mars makes vital resupply easier. From a total system perspective it'd be better to keep the ship on Mars and scavenge it, but Mars will be on such an economic imbalance that they will want to make it easy as possible for Earth to resupply them. And if you're going to return the ships anyways, you might as well put something in them.
The diagram at the top of  is a good illustration of import vs make in situ vs export.
Consider all the precious metals ever mined on the planet. Now consider this is litterally scratching the surface of the total contained within the planet. Note, these dense metals will be concentrated toward the planets core, due to gravity.
The asteroid belt easily holds our planet's mass, but it is all spread thinly and relatively easy to access.
That seems...quite high:
"The total mass of the asteroid belt is approximately 4% that of the Moon."
Asteroid on the other hand are mostly just a few kilometers in size with a very few being bigger than tens of kilometers. That might quite possibly open much bigger mining volume than what's currently avalable on earth - rather than a big sphere with much stuff inaccessible due to being too deep, you now have millions of chunks floating around with a lot of stuff to dig through in the 4 km limit.
No oceans, cities or glaciers to block you as well.
And the arbitrary 4 km limit most likely does not really apply for asteroids - they are all long cooled down & the gravity is negligible
so nothing should really limmmit you from digging hundreds of kilometers through Vesta looking for valuables. Also some findings indicate that processes that lead to dilution of minerals on earth might have taken place after asteroids formed, so it might be possible to find the stuff we look for in quite a pure and ready to use state.
Inside the asteroid belt there's nobody to trade in gold with, at least not yet.
You know, people don't buy stuff (just) because it looks nice and shiny but to use to to do things. Aluminium used to be more expensive than platinum yet we survived it's price tanking & it made practical airplanes and drink cans possible!
BTW, once you can have your payload trajectory intersect with Earth, you will get braking for free thanks to the atmosphere, effectively shaving half of the needed delta-v. Same thing on Mars.
I’m eager to live in one of these, but I don’t think we actually know enough to build one at all yet, never mind safely.
Also while Earth is pretty ideal, it is not perfect - for example some places in Japan can be regularly hit by earthquakes, tsunami, flooding, Typhoons and even volcanic eruptions!
If done right, habitats could be much better than planetary environments.
No we can't. The gravity of Mars is always going to be a problem. The lack of magnetic field is always going to be a problem. Most of its atmosphere was lost to space and there is not enough water on the planet to replenish.
>we could redirect an icy asteroid to collide, providing water, atmosphere and heat.
I read the Mars trilogy too.
>On the order of decades from now.
>No we can't. The gravity of Mars is always going to be a >problem. The lack of magnetic field is always going to be a >problem. Most of its atmosphere was lost to space and there >is not enough water on the planet to replenish.
Nothing a world house could not fix:
Bonus point - it can be built incrementally, so you get immediate results instead of waiting for generations of effort to get anything back as with planet wide terraforming!
I agree low gravity would be a problem, but life finds a way, right? Current generations of humans wouldn’t do well in 1/4 G, but maybe we’ll see significant adaptations 100 generations down the line! Who knows?
How? Because to me, that seems extremely far-fetched. My understanding as to why Earth has a magnetic field and why Mars does not (or has a weak one) is that Earth has a highly dynamic molten core surrounding a solid inner core, whereas Mars only has a molten core with not as much activity. It is my understanding that Earth's geodynamo plus its rotation helps create the magnetic field that protects our atmosphere.
So unless humans are able to alter planets in such...planetary ways, then I don't see how we'll suddenly be able to give Mars a sustainable magnetic field.
And that isn't giving Mars a magnetic field in the implied sense. It's building an external structure to perform a protective field that would have similar effects. You may consider it semantics, but they're different.
It is an interesting idea, but this seems to simply be a proposal with a lot of "ifs" and "mights" and "possibles", with even the proposer calling it "fanciful". So indeed, I suppose we will wait. Even with this novel idea, it doesn't seem possible in 100 years. The articles I see came out three years ago from the conference it was presented at, and I didn't see any immediate results returned as to the progress of the idea.
The tech is available, it’s the politics that I doubt.
It’s like the “self replicating” 3D printers where they can produce 98% of the structure by weight and approximately 0.001% by complexity. A base that’s producing it’s own food is doable, shipping machines to say build solar panels or a specific chip isn’t a problem.
However, even just the effort to figure out a minimal slice of earth’s technology to be self significant is hard. Aka building even a single type of LCD requires a massive number of different components, and the ability to build all the machines to make those components, and machines to make those machines, ... Now realize that’s just for an LCD, manufacturing every type of Medicine is a whole other list.
Finally you need to accept everyone on Mars living in relative poverty for generations due to the inefficiencies involved.
I think this point is by far the easiest one to address. Historically, there have always been people willing to do dangerous things (ie exploring the Arctic / Antarctica). I don't think you'd have any trouble finding people willing to give up their Earth lifestyle for a chance to explore the "frontier" even with the knowledge that they couldn't come back.
I doubt many people are willing to live the entirety of their lives in constant danger and constrained resources. And even fewer of those people will have the skills needed to run a complex technological society (and you will need a lot of technology to survive on Mars).
Yet a very large majority of North America is descended from people who did exactly that.
And those, who settled, came here looking for a better life, which should tell you about the conditions they were coming from.
And that is especially true for the many of the early colonists.
But the most important thing: we no longer live in the 1500-1600s which is a very important factor overlooked by everyone breathlessly talking about enduring hardships on Mars
I also think you take the idea of poverty way too seriously. People adapt to their environment remarkably quickly and the idea of poverty and wealth with it.
Also people now have much better mental picture of the manufacturing tech tree than ever before thanks to Factorio. ;-)
beside, earth manufacturing is biased toward efficiency and low cost, with the driver of capital gain, not sustainability, you don't actually need lcd if crt are good enough and could be manufactured in situ.
sure it won't make for a good nor a pleasant standard of living, but then again, that's moving the goalpost.
The US for example is below replacement rate, which is fine if you has constant immigration or it’s going to increase as the population falls. Less so if having 10% fewer people means everyone else dies.
Technology is only half the battle you also need to avoid negative feedback loops where if conditions are bad enough you don’t get doctors and surgeons immigrants. Which then makes things worse. A few year shift is fine for a token settlement, less so if you’re shipping 100,000 people there and 100,000 people back every year.
A good reference is Casey Handmer's blog or book.
Sure, you can stay here. But then in a few thousand years the descendants of the people who did leave turn up with advanced weapons and ideas about bringing you the “benefits of civilisation”.
It leads to a very delayed gratification despite very real near term costs. So it’s easy to attack the costs and focus and prioritization...
But if you don’t invest in science as a whole, eventually you start running out of new things that improve life generally.
Space exploration is one of those areas where we learn and continuously bring back learnings to the rest of society.
A lot of people would choose to suffer some now in order to go to some peaceful space colony where they don't have to live with any of the consequences for our biosphere. They'll just get to go live in a different one. The reality is that if we continue to ignore the very real problems on our planet we won't ever see the day that we're living on other planets.
It doesn't matter that there are real, quantifiable benefits to space exploration. Most people who believe it's important don't know anything about those benefits, and they don't think it's important because of that. It's all about the promise of a "heaven" in the sky in which they won't have to struggle anymore.
I already live in a "heavenly" future compared to most of my ancestors.
I have hot and cold running water. My waste is whisked away. I can travel far and harness powerful energies with the flick of a switch. I can summon almost any food or item imaginable to my doorstep. I can open a portal to anywhere and speak with people there. There are still mysteries however, and the human body is rich with them.
There is a growing sense that using our powers comes at a terrible cost.
Many feel that the only solution is to abstain, although some factions believe that we can "purify" our technology.
Because the problem, filtered through the human psyche, is seen as a moral one. That it's _wrong_ for so many things to be too easy. Ten dollars shoes, drive-thru fast food and plastic bags must be evil because anyone can see it's absurd that these things are even possible.
Naturally, developing new powers (such as space exploration) would come with more terrible costs, and this must be stopped until we address our sins here on earth.
A counter argument to your theology: I personally know of no one who has proposed banning space exploration. Banning space travel would follow your created theology, since banning is what morality normally does.
A more widely held theology might be that “anti-space” believes that human space exploration is a cowardly, and not a heroic, endeavor. One person’s exploration is another person’s escape. That is off-message for selling space tourism and tchotchkes, so there could be some pushback from those with “skin in the game”.
And it shows some unintended disrespect for those who gave their lives during early space missions.
PS: In fact, I know of nobody who, now and then, hasn’t wanted more human space travel.
They just want to choose who gets sent and whether they are permitted to come back alive. Two birds, one stone...
And a heavy dose of fatalism.
The bigger problem is that there's no political will. It will have to be an effort by all countries.
I don't think this is a strong supporting argument because it applies to any major technological development. Anytime you invest people, billions of dollars, etc. into major technological goals, you're going to get advances and spinoffs that have broader applications. Space exploration is already basically a spinoff of military projects, goals, and investing, just like a huge amount of existing and future technology.
> that support a safer, more peaceful world for humans, with improved agricultural efficiencies as well as advanced warning and a better understanding of extreme weather events and climate trends
A citation would be very helpful there in terms of creating a more peaceful world for humans, as I do not think it's so cut and dry. Further, one could argue that exploring the oceans instead of space would be far more beneficial to understanding life, climate, ecosystems, etc. and would have just as much if not more technological spinoffs as sending man to the Moon or Mars.
My personal viewpoint on space exploration is to currently concentrate on drones and robots being sent out to space and to turn the money that would otherwise be invested into manned missions towards understanding the ocean and Earth itself. It's difficult to imagine a more perfect place for sustainable life than Earth, and yet we are not sustaining. That is a big gap and a big goal for humans: sustain life on Earth in a healthy way. If we can't do that on Earth, then I truly do not understand how we'll do it anywhere else.
I like to remember that these types of flawed arguments are the best at getting viewership up and ads viewed.
Why not to start to invest into research and technologies allowing us to terraform planets? We have a climate catastrophe in a near future, why no to try something to do. Like to grow forest over Sahara, I mean no just Egypt trying to do it in a small scale, but as a multinational project, with tons of invested resources? It could allow to try technologies, to learn economics of such projects, to check climate models and so on.
Or maybe there are better ideas than turning Sahara into a rain forest? What they are? Should we try them maybe?
I think you have just offered a good reason why homo sapiens is a threat to other worlds. (o:
Are you saying there might be an overall net benefit, but not a net benefit to everyone individually? I'm fine with extra support for the disabled even if everyone else doesn't necessarily get an individual net benefit from it. Everything doesn't need to be pareto optimal, it is just a no brainier when it is.
I appreciate your civil clarification, however, I still honestly don't see a reasonable path to your view.
If we find extraterrestrial life, this poses perhaps the greatest opportunity we've ever had to learn more about the limits and fundamentals of life on Earth, as we will finally have a sample size of more than one rise of life in multiple environments.
If we learn to inhabit other planets or moons, this requires perhaps the greatest project in engineering across many specializations ever attempted, constraining us to stricter boundaries than we face on Earth, and thereby inevitably teaching us a lot more about improving life on Earth.
If you can play football against the pros, you can definitely play it against amateurs. Training in the NFL doesn't take away from your ability to play at home, it improves it.
I don’t think asking a government to get it’s priorities straight is “anti-space bs”. I’m not from the US, but I too would be mad if I saw the gov talk about man in the Moon/Mars while I don’t have healthcare and the country is on fire.
Velcro! Tang! Teflon! Computers! NASA PR used to make a big thing of that. But those things didn't come from NASA's space program.
The ISS was a huge disappointment. It's the best argument for not putting people in space. Hugely expensive, and not very useful.
Yeah, that was another NASA spi
This is a pretty baseless claim. Space exploration, within the next 50 years, will yield utterly nothing for humans on earth. We want to colonize Mars or the Moon? Great, but what for?
You know how much all these things cost? Trillions per large economy. With that money you can do quite a lot to increase our life here on earth. What we need right now is not space exploration, we need tech to combat climate change and to combat the general destruction of ecosystems on this planet.
Like it or not. The earth is not an eternal resting place for humans, but we are not going to leave it anytime soon either. So for the next 100 years we need to keep this thing going at the very least. 100 years, at the current levels of destruction (which is as it looks like only going to increase) is going to be tough. Space is not where to look, we don't have the tech to colonize space and we are not gonna get it fast enough to just abandon earth right now.
Global collective decision making seems to be less likely to happen in the next century than having people on Mars.
Sorry to say, but almost EVERYTHING big that happens on this planet helps to perpetuate the current socio-economic system that is designed for the one percent to stay in power and the working class to stay working.
> After all, it’s easier to sell American citizens on space exploration — and the $22.6 billion dollar budget afforded to NASA in 2020 alone — when there is a promise of a future utopia.
What future utopia? They're selling Americans on future American prestige in the world, during an election cycle. You're reading far too much into this.
All three. They have the capability, just not the equality.
That's hilarious. $23 billion is nothing. You can add to that all the other countries' budgets and all private investments, it's still nothing.
More money is spent on recreating the same consumer products every year, creating brain numbing entertainment, creating military equipment that will be retired before it's used, disseminating misinformation around the globe, keeping people in prisons.
The space exploration budgets are tiny, all around the world. Same goes for money allocated for climate change.
Even if we managed interstellar travel (and that's a big if), it's highly unlikely we would ever find anything remotely as good as Earth, when it comes to being tuned precisely for our human needs. Evolution has geared us for this world. We might be able to cobble together a survival elsewhere, but I doubt we could ever thrive.
Beyond that: space exploration and research obviously still has value. It's just that it's a very long-term and theoretical value, and at this particular moment in history there are much more pressing concerns.
People on Earth thrived in the Arctic, which is incredibly far from the savannas of Africa, and did this with the technology of 10,000 years ago. Saying that people with the technology of 1000 years from now can't possibly thrive on an airless rock is a little pessimistic to me.
And that's ignoring space habitats, which would plausibly be better tuned to our human needs than Earth is.
It's also worth pointing out that Arctic peoples adapted to their environment largely by utilizing the capabilities of existing fauna (e.g., hunting existing apex predators, or using reindeer furs to keep warm). And when non-Arctic peoples tried their hands in the region without similar adaptations, the result tended to be "everyone dies," as in the Shackleton and Franklin expeditions.
Note that there are places on Earth we haven't been able to successfully inhabit. For example, somewhere around 17,000 feet appears to be the maximum possible altitude for permanent human habitation.
 Who arrived in the Arctic circle around 4-5kya (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleo-Eskimo)
Can you define "thrive"?
Because according to my definitions, I wouldn't "thrive" if I lived there - I would actually "cobble together a survival" like the parent wrote, and think I'm not in a minority that thinks so.
There are so many things we take for granted that probably don't exist, exactly this way, anywhere else in the universe.
We could probably satisfy our basic survival needs on a planet like Mars. We could make water, and nutrients, and oxygen, and shield ourselves from radiation. But it would mean living inside a box, possibly underground, forever, in constant precarity because if our artificial biomes ever have problems, we're out of luck. We can't fall back to nature; there is no nature. The world outside doesn't have a life of its own, it's fully dead. Even the very most optimistic version of this scenario is a bleak shadow of the life that can be lived on Earth.
"Nothing human makes it out of the near future."
Like blowing up people living in mud huts in deserts going by US economic priorities. A regime largely in place to protect biased trade relations for cheap materials and goods from around the world and more importantly (to those orchestrating the regime) to the line the pockets of select defense contractors.
Investments in space represent, what, .1% of the US GDP? Astoundingly the single mother raising her kid in food scarcity in <insert dystopic cityscape here> actually probably really doesn't give a hoot about terraforming in 2500, but would really give a damn about having healthcare and avoiding societal collapse from climate catastrophe in her lifetime.
A lot of unreasonably rich people are unreasonably obsessed with space, but thats largely because they are sociopaths. Thats how they got rich in the first place, or were born to such extreme luxury they are psychologically impaired to be unable to relate to anyone outside their class meaningfully. So they go full scifi because they don't think the world we have with all its problems not so easily solved by throwing money at them (that isn't for their own immediate personal gain) is worth it.
Haha. How on earth did they convince US citizens that indeed sending highly trained soldiers each worth their weight in gold to fight a war of attrition in the desert against sons of goat farmers?
At what point did everyone agree and say "this is a brilliant idea Mon general!" and proceed to send their sons to die in the desert?
Or they think that expanding the amount of clean energy available to humanity a million fold - which a significant space economy would make possible - would do more to elevate the quality of life humanity enjoys than any other endeavor.
This hyper-cynical outlook, where you assume a focus on pushing the technological boundaries to make more of the universe accessible to humanity is motivated by sociopathic priorities, is toxic and totally inconsiderate of the goodwilled individuals it maligns.
If our ancestors would have used this they'd never would have, say, colonized the Americas, or even left Africa. Because there's always something broken at home. Has there been a single moment in history that would have satisfied that argument ?
When we'll arrive to the only planet in reach where it is even vaguely conceivable to survive for more than a couple of hours, we'll find a freezing desert with high radiation levels and no air where every cubic centimetre of living space will need to be created from scratch and maintained.
Whatever you think of the difficulty or possibility of it, it will be easier to work out how to support 2x or 5x the current human population on Earth, compared to the effort and difficulty involved in supporting 0.001x the population (~8 million people) on Mars.
The risk of staying on a single planet is crazy.
> The risk of staying on a single planet is crazy.
Unless you plan to clone yourself, you are staying on a single planet whatever happens.
If you think disaster is coming any time soon, you'd save more people trying to avert or survive it on Earth. To prioritise saving a, what, 50 person research base on Mars that doesn't exist yet over billions of people who exist right now on Earth by spending your resources on a research base on Mars instead of an asteroid detection and diversion system for Earth is crazy.
If your priority was saving the most people, Mars wouldn't be on the list. Orbital space stations are closer. The Moon is closer. Under-ocean habitats are closer. Underground habitats are closer. Self-contained arcologies are closer. (Wearing a mask is closer).
structural metals harvested from not earth means environmental destruction from mining would not only be unnecessary, but fiscally stupid, in orbit construction could build an equivalent loving space as your floating cities, and more, and provide theoretical backups to humanity.
Like the difference between building an offshore oil-rig (happens a lot) and building a self-sustaining colony on the ocean (never happens), only much moreso.
I think it's pretty clear the parent post is talking about the first people to migrate to the Americas.
- the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.
- the action of appropriating a place or domain for one's own use.
The argument is that focusing on space exploration deflects from facing the realities of climate change on our planet. If people start to think that space exploration could yield a solution to an increasingly uninhabitable climate on Earth, it could create a scenario where we spend even more on space exploration and less on addressing Earth's climate.
Once we are dealing with scenarios where hundreds of millions of humans are dying, it becomes harder to rule out the possibility of some desperate political or military leader resorting to using nuclear weapons. From there it is a small step to full nuclear war and the deaths of billions of humans.
Perhaps the "optimistic" scenarios are ones in which the hundreds of millions of humans that die are located far away from any nuclear armed countries, or at least those countries aren't destabilised by the economic and migration consequences of those deaths. I can, unfortunately, imagine militaries being routinely used this century for wiping out the remaining civilian populations of failed states.
This thinking seems backwards. How can we learn to take a totally dead planet and make it living when we can't even figure out how to keep this one healthy?
Mars and Venus are, as far as every experiment has shown, dead as doornails. Using them as a testbed for experiments that are too dangerous to do on Earth without first practicing is a good use for them.
To give two examples among many:
SpaceX's next major goal after making Starship capable of flying to Mars is to develop the infrastructure to refuel Starship on Mars. They plan to manufacture their fuel using the Sabatier process, which is also a form of carbon sequestration.
Research and development into Martian food production pushes the envelope in many agricultural research areas like vertical farming, high efficiency production with few inputs, et cetera.
Furthermore, cheap space travel does solve global warming because it makes the solution of orbital sun blocking feasible, which unlike currently available geoengineering tech, is instantly reversible.
Both is more than one.
Does it? It's not an either/or proposition.
Researching and developing technologies to allow humans to live in space in a sustainable way seems like it would almost certainly also create applications of such technology that can benefit us on Earth.
Whether that's methods to scrub the atmosphere of a space-based habitat of toxins/pollutants, utilize waste in productive ways and a raft of other stuff would be incredibly useful on Earth.
As an aside, I'd point out that even if we start colonizing space habitats, other planets and/or even planets around other stars, there are no technologies available or imagined that could transport colonists from the Earth faster than birth rates would replace them and continue population growth.
Yeah, you should avoid needing that but it is certainly not impossible given high enough tech level & in-space infrastructure. Launch loops and orbital elevators should have more than enough capacity to enable that.
For a science-fiction-backed-by-real-science account of it might go, see this Orions Arm article:
Much bigger problem actually is where to put those billions once you have to move them in a hurry off a planet.
I think you're underestimating the effort, resources and logistics something like this would require.
In 2016, there were ~256 live births per minute. That works out to ~369,000/day.
Even multiple space elevators couldn't hope to come anywhere close to that, but perhaps with launch loops as well we might be able to approach that.
But even if we could, how much of global production of, well everything, would need to be dedicated to getting even 350,000 people and the stuff they need off the earth every single day?
>Much bigger problem actually is where to put those billions once you have to move them in a hurry off a planet.
An excellent point. Even if you didn't need to hurry, the resources required just to stage such a migration are staggering and would likely exceed the production capabilities of the planet.
But as you point out, we don't really have any place to send all those "colonists" so the point is moot.
In order to make this argument, you have to first figure out what percentage of NASA's budget is spent on space exploration versus things like GPS systems, weather satellites, climate monitoring, solar monitoring, physics experiments, etc etc, which have direct or indirect benefits to things happening here on earth.
NASA's budget for entire actual space exploration would be more-or-less a rounding error on our defense budget which routinely has $5b projects which benefits very few people and arguably makes the quality of life worse on our planet.
Space exploration is more though, because not only is space exploration an investment in a back-up plan, it brings very real benefits home to earth. The whole point of exploration is that you don't know what you are going to find or what the repercussions of what you find will be.
In the early 70's, physicist Gerard K. O'Neil asked the question "Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?" 
You would seem to answer this question with 'Yes.' Why?
As far as we know, we are the only part of the universe that is capable of consciousness. The argument is that it is worth going to great lengths to insure against species-wide disasters (e.g. runaway global warming, giant meteor, World War 3)
Its macro-level thinking versus micro-level.
But they have. Bezos has invested heavily into Rivian, and Musk into Tesla.
And as you've mentioned it helps create new technology opportunities which also generate efficiency/value/taxes like space internet and in the longer term mining without destroying our planet.
There are plenty of benefits to society. Although there will always be a contingent who thinks everything not an altruistic social giveout = bad use of excess capital.
And what exactly is "addressing Earth's climate" ?
This naive hope that green parties keep pushing "if we cut carbon emissions it's all going to go back to the way it was" ?
Carbon levels have already risen and climate change is already happening - nobody can realistically predict the specifics or the time scale. All existing predictions I've seen have been way out of error margins - and stuff like thawing ice and releasing trapped methane etc. can have huge non-linear contributions.
Saying that X% cut in emissions is going to reduce temperature increase by Y on Z timescale is just wishful thinking, and we don't even have mechanisms to enforce X% cut across the world.
Investing in technology that could help settle Mars is a way to protect from the inescapable negative climate effects we will have to live with, the sooner we start to deal with those the better (eg. start building for hurricanes/floods/large temperature differences, etc.)
People are having a hard time when orange man does or says something that they actually agree with.
They need to find a glass half empty way of looking at it.
Space exploration is not a fix for local and urgent problems, nor is a contingency plan. That is an idea that should be eradicated. Something that may blow off, at least partially, this century, can't wait the hundreds to thousands of years for the backup plan that may provide the space exploration.
Yes, it is something that we should keep researching. But it won't be a solution for our urgent problems.
Most people who already considered these were a waste of resources probably didn't bother talking about it much. Now they are, because they have a clear rallying point to shout about.
I'm very pro-space exploration, and I think highlighting those priorities right now is absurd. Imagine being someone who already thought they were a distraction from more immediate needs seeing this tweet.
EDIT: I should clarify, their first reply to that tweet went on to mentioning a vaccine, but most people just saw the first tweet.
We can’t take care of our people on this planet, what makes you think everyone, or even most people, would be the ones chosen to be on the ships headed for a new life? Just look at what billionaires spend on private doomsday shelters, you think they’re willing to accommodate the masses? Migration from Earth under those circumstances would look a whole lot like the Titanic tragedy: life boats for the rich and powerful and certain death for everyone else.
Or maybe it's the aliens who noticed Elon Musk and finally started taking the risk of space colonization by humans seriously.
In reality, NASA’s budget is a rounding error in the context of the US budget - 0.4% of the federal budget. Further, SpaceX presents a realistic path forward to privatizing Mars travel, trivializing the budgetary concerns anyway.
Who would benefit from English-language anti-space rhetoric?
Technology has a cost in that people expect to be paid for their participation in the sector. Economies built on "defense" have huge technology capital in terms of knowledge and skill workers. This begs existential questions on the goals of productivity shared as nations and humans.
Tangentially, if the captains of Space really believed in life on mars or the moon, why aren't terraforming efforts being undertaken as center peices to the master plans to inhabit the moon or mars?
Orange man like space travel. Orange man bad. So space travel bad.
Believing we have no destiny outside Earth is believing we have no destiny at all.
- Oppressive government controlling you or your land? Move elsewhere in the solar system.
- Resource extraction destroying natural environments on Earth? Asteroids and other planets have far more natural resources and long term, it is inevitable that mining will be off-planet.
- Overpopulation? On a universal scale, there is no such thing.
Obviously most of these won't be solvable in 20, or 50, or even 100 years. But, they seem conceivably doable in 200, or even 150. In the greater scheme of things, this is a very small amount of time.
We're much better are polluting and creating useless gadgets than we're at long term meaningful technological innovation.
> Oppressive government controlling you or your land? Move elsewhere in the solar system.
Migrants can't pay for proper boats to cross the Mediterranean but they'll pay for interplanetary travel ?
In other words, forcing the entire world to address some contemporary issues (like overpopulation, for example) might be more difficult than just accelerating the production process that makes space colonization possible (thus solving the problem).
> Migrants can't pay for proper boats to cross the Mediterranean but they'll pay for interplanetary travel ?
I had in mind more the early settlers to America, and early frontier America itself really. When "leaving Earth civilization" becomes conceivably affordable/doable for a small group of people and/or with investment, it will happen.
> When "leaving Earth civilization" becomes conceivably
> it will happen.
You're less skeptical than I am apparently. Leaving the solar system and terraforming planets isn't really comparable to crossing an ocean in a boat. What you describe would be a best case scenario and for now it is pure sci fi.
> forcing the entire world to address some contemporary issues (like overpopulation, for example) might be more difficult than just accelerating the production process that makes space colonization possible (thus solving the problem).
Yeah it might, or it might not, by the time we'll figure it out it'll be way too late to revert. It's the "move fast and break things" mentality, it's fine in software but we already know how it ends up when you apply it to other systems...
We just don't know how fast and how bad it'll get if we continue, you have to be extremely optimistic to think that ignoring the real world, already existing, problems to focus on hypothetical non existing solutions is the way to go. (and we're not even focusing on solutions, we're focusing on shitty half assed money making gimmicks such as electric cars and autonomous vehicles, which aren't solving anything on a global scale)
But remember, even with sublight travel, to populate the entire galaxy would take only a few million years. Including say a thousand years to rebuild the capability in each new colony. It grows geometrically you see, and there's no beating that.
So on a Galactic scale its certainly possible to overpopulate, and in the blink of a cosmic eye (a million years). In fact that's a powerful argument for 'we must be alone', since it hasn't happened already (not getting radio signals from every star system everywhere).
The more likely situation is that we need to A. get over our racism and xenophobia to use the population bombs going off in less developed countries to replace our populations that don't want to replace themselves and B. eventually start seeing human replacement as a societal cost that will need to be afforded in some way once the entire world is sufficiently developed to go below the natural replacement rate. At which point we get to set population targets and hold our numbers stable.
A is something that we should have been doing for 30 years now. B is going to be of concern next century after the population plateaus.
And 'evolutionary adaptation' is irrelevant. We can change ourselves (are changing ourselves) genetically already. That will only increase. The result will be a species more adaptable than any in a billion years. If it has the will to colonize other planets, it certainly can.
'A shred of evidence' is really not hard to find, if we aren't needlessly negative and contrary.
All of the resiliency that you've seen in life is due to the fact that the environments to which we're adapted are uniform. Oceans everywhere are nontoxic and water. Air everywhere is mostly clean and breathable. There is no example of life being resilient under conditions as varied as other planets. We are only able to adapt within the confines of our clean-room Earth. We can't even adapt to the bottom of the ocean or Antarctica.
Optimism isn't going to overcome 6 orders of magnitude of error.
To get people to tolerate more salt, we'd have to have a fish's ability to regulate it. Ok, genes for that. Air issues? Filters, microstructures to migrate particulates out, baffles (like many creates already have). Deep-ocean pressure? Only a couple of issues there, and certainly life thrives at the bottom of the ocean.
It's not optimism; its simple observation of what we have already on Earth in existing life forms.
And 30,000 years changes not a thing. The log of 1 Trillion base 2 is 39. In 40 generations of space colonization, that's 40 times 30,000 times however long it takes to rebuild the capability on each colony. In a dozen million years the galaxy would be covered. Its 20B years old. So, nobody's tried it yet.
Assuming each generation survives. Stop making that assumption, and see how many ways there are for you to reach a similarly empty universe.
>It's not optimism; its simple observation of what we have already on Earth in existing life forms.
I wish you'd observe that none of Earth's lifeforms have colonies on other planets. Goldfish didn't colonize other worlds, is that then a strong argument that Goldfish don't exist?
What you're saying makes no sense: just because animals can colonize a single planet over many generations does not mean they will be able to colonize an entire galaxy in even less time.
I would not be so sure about dolphins. ;-)
Or, to bring a concrete element to the question: all known rocket fuels require some nonrenewable Earth resource. How much fuel does it take to launch a vessel built with currently-known technology that would be capable of landing a living human being on a hypothetical planet around Alpha Centauri? And what does that fuel number look like, when expressed in terms of "years of current resource extraction" (or, somewhat more audaciously, percentage of known proven reserves)?
To my knowledge, interstellar colonization is flat-out impossible with current technology. (I'd argue that even intrastellar colonization is impossible, rather than impractical). Arguing that we should discount this non-knowledge of how to do it when explaining why it hasn't happened to our observation is irresponsible to me.
Methane + oxygen popular in the new generation of rockets is not much different, you basically add some carbon to the process & Methane can be made on Mars from local resources.
Best fuel for nuclear thermal rockets is again hydrogen, abundant everywhere.
Current Ion Engines run on noble gases, but supply does not seem to be a problem so far.
Sure, the uranium needed for Orion and Nuclear Salt Water rocket indeed is not really renewable but given the performance &opening the way to grab more of it from space make it a non-issue as well.
20 years ago, before we had direct evidence of exoplanets, we had evidence from the spectrum of stars that about 80% of the ones which had grown large enough to swallow any of their planets had previously had gas giants.
: There are a few trillion planets in our galaxy. If you asssume the mean population supported by a planet is within an order of magnitude of what Earth can support the math holds.
But talking about humans populating the universe is also meaningless, since the speed of light and expansion of the universe means we can't reach anything but a tiny fraction of it, and by the time we have the technology to travel quickly enough to even begin contemplating intergalactic journeys only a fraction of a fraction will be within reach.
Theoretically if you shred earth for material and build habitats from that, it can definitely support much more than a magnitude more.
You certainly don't. You have a serious misunderstanding of the sheer scale involved in space travel. Its great to think that an individual will be able to pack up their space car in 200 years and move on out west to mars or something, but there literally wont be anything to do but crash land once you get there, or maybe if you're lucky, walk around for a few hours before suffocating.
Im not saying it's not possible to colonize another planet, but I am saying that disintermediated space travel in the sense of a Heinlein novel is overwhelmingly a pipe dream.
There's no scientific reason we are aware of that would make living in artificial habitats worse than living on a planet, and a lot of reasons that it would be better. It's just that those of us talking now live on a planet, and find the idea of continuing to live on a planet comforting.
Someone born on an O'Neill cylinder or similar will likely have no such compunctions.
But this is just so obviously backwards. Your assumption is that an artificial environment would be monotonically better to live in than the one in which we evolved? There's simply no evidence for it, and if you take a look at how the people on the ISS live, a strong argument against it. As for scientific caveats...well bone density and muscle mass loss in low-g (pretty much every target location for colonization) are fairly well substantiated, as well as the cosmic ray issue, which is even harder to deal with.
These are possible (if not remotely practical) with our current level of materials science and solve for both the gravity and cosmic ray/radiation issues. There's lots of other designs that should go larger, but require further advancements in things like carbon nanotubes, etc. to be possible.
As for why it would be better - control. No worries about pollution. No worries about earthquakes, volcanoes, or other natural disasters. No droughts, no hurricanes, no tornadoes.
No one is talking about living on space stations like the ISS - we're talking about building purpose built large scale structures that are designed from the ground. And these aren't things that are the realm of science fiction authors and futurists with no grounding in reality or physics - they're things that have been and continue to be seriously researched by NASA and other space agencies.
"You can't really control the weather, it varies by the year and there is earthquakes and flash floods at random ? Not to mention no Free-Fall-Racing ? How the hell have you survived till now down there ??"
Physics today are incomplete and very flawed, with major theories being incompatible with one another and failing to answer basic questions. Even though they describe certain aspects of reality with some accuracy, it's universally agreed that they are a far cry from a grand unified theory that describes everything consistently. Everyone is still looking for that one. So realistically whether we have a destiny outside Earth or not is a very open question we will still be looking the answer of.
The choice of whether to set a Moon base or not will bare 0 effect on those that wish to stay in the cave.
Your comment easily stands on its own without first committing such a dramatic, emotional insult. It's quite easy to accuse people of being violent murderers of you just frame it as "N hundreds of years ago".
What point are you trying to make with this statement?
Most of physics that is well understood and agreed upon has been verified to the limits of the instruments that we can currently create. See, for instance, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200409100338.h... and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_special_relativity
Similarly Newtonian physics was also well understood and worked great, and still does; but as it turned out, there is a bigger story. The way things go, i think it's reasonable to suggest that current physics is just another stepping stone on our way to something even better that will unlock much more capabilities. It's been what - ~300 or so years since Newton and ~100 since quantum mechanics. We're basically in our infancy, can't draw ultimate conclusions about what is possible for our destiny. What will happen in the next 200 years?
Had the Americas not existed, Columbus would have had had to make his way back with no fresh water or food, and a high risk of scurvy.
Space is different. The analogy between the discoveries of new continents and the exploration of space is terribly naive. I would understand if it came from a 12 years old with his bedroom full of sci-fi novels, but not from grown ups.
Currently organized human civilization as we know it has a much less than 1% chance of surviving the next 400 years.
At the same time - this doesn't mean we shouldn't explore space! Just that we should understand that exploration as low-to-no-return investigations, not investments in the foreseeable future. I also don't think we've reached the limit for that kind of research. Our society could safely tolerate much higher levels of investment in space exploration (as long as it remains a very small proportion of all investments). We have many other "pure research" fields which are key to long-term health, but do not meaningfully contribute to our current survival.
Like Roko's Basilisk, this is a good reminder of the dangers of using resources that we have today to try to reach a future we may never see. The human ability to plan for an imagined future is key to our humanity, but so is our ability to deceive ourselves.
Many of these minerals exist in abundance on astroids, and I would love to see us protect the Earth by mining there instead of here.
I like to believe that we can achieve this within our lifetime. Having the price of certain rarer metals come down significantly would be amazing!
It might work out and we might get a lot, but we should make investment choices with the assumption that it won't. If we are ever in a situation where civilization makes asteroid mining work or it falls apart it would be very bad because asteroid mining is hard! It's likely easier to use platinum more efficiently.
Also aluminum used to be super expensive and only used for jewelry until it became dirt cheap and is used for about anything.
So much depends on demand, one of the more sophisticated analyses I've seen realised that Nickel (at the time) was a good bet since it was fairly expensive and in high demand.
Also people hold gold as a store of value, if it becomes cheap then they might as well sell that too. Sure we could start using gold as ship ballast...
This article puts it into perspective just how much metals exist out there.
Seems like most of the precious metals we have access to are from previous asteroid collisions. There is a theory that the last age ~12k years ago was from an asteroid impact, and that it can be traced due to changes in platinum levels.
Whoever figures out how to mine metals from space rocks is going to have an interest problem to face. They can't just dump it all onto the market -- they'll have to pull a move similar to the diamond industry. Stockpile it and constrain supply (because of their monopoly) to keep the prices high enough to make a profit from the (risky) endeavor.
One can dream :)
Just make sure to choose the right entry angle and speed, or else the locals won't like you. Either for burning op their packages or due to delivering them rather too directly to the surface at high speed.
This is what I was saying at the end about investing resources we have now into futures we may never see. If you argue from the point of view that projects will always work out as you imagine they will, then your investing ideas will always make sense. I just don't think that's how things work in practice.
It's about how we understand resource expenditures. Spending resources to research how to improve crop yields cannot replace food production. You have to invest resources to feed everyone with current technology, then spend surpluses on researching improvements.
We should explore space, but we shouldn't expect exploring space to solve our current problems.
Edit: fixed some typos that messed up the meaning.
As right as you are, contraction is inevitable. Even if colonize space, it is not going to happen in any significant scale the next 100 years.
So, maybe we are doomed because people in power will always want more power and that creates a downwards spiral for non-growing societies. Maybe that is the "great filter" that await for us.
I believe that societies will accommodate for the new situation. Not only Americans, but humans, always do the right thing after trying everything else.
Everything has to be politicized these days.
Earth is going to get annihilated at some point. It would be nice if our species didn't go with it.
On a semi-facetious note, why would it be nice? If the species did the annihilation, isn’t that just good galactic hygiene? Or perhaps humans are just a beta version of a dodgy app. It goes down the “why is there something rather than nothing” rabbit hole, but the post started it...
Or, more charitably in the case of humanity actually ending Earth, further opportunity for learning. Even if it's because of humanity that Earth ceases to be a viable life-bearing world, if our species learns from that and doesn't do it again, then what's one planet in the grand scheme of things?
It's good to think that we should be able to leave Earth at some point. The problem is not that line of thinking.
The problem is that we're spending money on military eq instead of medicine, proper education and development. I think we'd be a lot further than we are now. For now we are still "savages" in the grand scheme of things.
There’s undoubtedly much we have yet to learn about the universe, and exploring it is the obvious way to learn. Yet I have long seen it as the height of hubris to think we could replace this planet from which we arose.
Everything from gravity to day length to soil composition, never mind the atmosphere which is at least theoretically reproducible, is something with millions of years of adaptation encoded into our genes, and has no compatible world within our known universe.
We can and should explore, and some will choose to make their home among the stars, but as a species, nothing can replace our Earth.
And now we can do it deliberately. Never mind genetics, a large part of our makeup is now mental models, which can simply be taught. "Don't go outside without taking your anti-fungals and putting on sunscreen!"
The author seems to be mixing up a tweet with the actual party platform. You can't say that they're making it a priority until we start to see NASA budget increases of the magnitude we saw during the Apollo era. Until they put their money where their mouth is, the tweet is just marketing fluff
>This myth not only allows the government to ignore the ongoing climate crisis on Earth, which scientists say could reach an irreversible tipping point in less than 10 years
Bullshit. No one thinks that humanity is going to have self-sustaining colonies on the moon or Mars within 10 years. Our government may be ignoring climate issues here on Earth, but it's not because they expect to leave the planet
>At a time when American unemployment the worst since the depression era
This article was published today. Why is the author citing unemployment statistics that were published 7 months ago? It seems like intentional cherrypicking
>It might or might not be a coincidence that the news of SOFIA discovering water on the moon came just days after the GOP announced their otherworldly priorities for a second term.
Is there any evidence that it's not a coincidence, or is the author just trying to spread FUD? How much influence does Donald Trump have over Nature's publication schedule?
>Is it space exploration or is it a decent standard of living at home? Is it the moon, Mars, or Earth?
This is a false dichotomy if there ever was one. For a decade, the US military spent more money on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan than we did on NASA. Imagine what NASA could have accomplished if our military only occupied temperate regions
Edit: another thing that bugs me is this implication that NASA spending is orthogonal to quality of life here on Earth, as if they were just launching billions of dollars into the ether. What would communities like Huntsville AL look like if NASA's budget was 0'd out? How much of the climate science they quote earlier in the article would have happened without NASA funding?
SpaceX seems to be the dominant player in the launch market with RocketLab quickly eating up the small satellite market. BlueOrigin is supplying the rocket engines for the NASA rocket to the moon. NASA is contracting private companies for the moon landing.
Unless this point of view advocates banning space colonization, private companies will take people to space, the Moon, and Mars. I wonder if this person’s position is really to ban colonization of other worlds and habitats in space.
If we as a species can't successfully fulfil our caretaker role on the one planet we currently occupy, expansion would be happening with the wrong motivations and the end result will be perpetuating the same patterns of harm on an even larger scale.
Article chooses to frame the question in an American political context which reduces a wide philosophical issue worthy of discussion to a narrow partisan hack piece that only feeds petty argument and division. The USA doesn't have a monopoly on space exploration, so should we/shouldn't we hand wringing is irrelevant.