X-Message-Number: 12146
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 08:33:12 -0700
From: Rand Simberg <>
Subject: Re: Asteroids and Space Technology

On Fri, 16 Jul 1999 22:26:11 -0700, Olaf Henny wrote:

>Thirty years ago, when I watched Neil Armstrong take that "small step" and
>heard him promise that "giant leap" for mankind I expected, that this
>"leap" would include 25 to 30 years later at least one moon base, if not
>two competing ones, or some other equally significant presence in space.
>Unfortunately I realize now, that we are not even halfway there yet.  That
>makes me highly skeptical about speculation on any rapid progress in space
>technology.  On the other hand computer technology has provided us with
>technical advances, which I could not even have imagined thirty years ago.

The rapid progress in space will come when private activity starts to
dominate.  It's only been a couple of years since the private funding
passed the threshold of exceeding government funding, but the trend will
continue and accelerate.

>When the Soviet competition in space faded, so did the American effort.
>The problem appears to be the high market barrier in space commerce, i.e.
>the enormous costs involved before a marketable commodity can be developed.  

That is indeed the problem, though some viable business cases are starting
to be developed and see funding.  See, for example http://www.spacedev.com.

>Now we see billions earmarked for nanotech, including nanomed.  Giant leaps
>are clearly possible here too, with great benefits for cryonics related
>revivals and rejuvenation.  The question is: Will this research effort be
>carried through, or will it also stop short before direct benefits are
>derived (there are a lot of spin-off benefits from space research, but no
>direct ones like asteroid mining or establishment of habitable environments
>in space as a first step to terra forming technology).

While the prospects for space development are not as grim as they might
seem, nanotech's are clearly better in the near term.  Despite the billions
spent on space, very little of it to date has been employed to actually
develop space or space technology--it has primarily been aimed at providing
jobs in key congressional districts, national prestige, international
cooperation, and bribing the FSU to not sell military technology to our
enemies.  It's possible to accomplish all of this without actually doing
anything useful in space, and so we have.

Nanotech, on the other hand, is generally being funded with a clear aim to
develop commercial applications, and (at least until we get lower-cost
access to orbit) can be done in smaller, more affordable increments.
  * 310 372-7963 (CA) 307 739-1296 (Jackson Hole)  
interglobal space lines  * 307 733-1715 (Fax) http://www.interglobal.org 

"Extraordinary launch vehicles require extraordinary markets..."

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