Monday, February 10, 2014

Prospectors On The Final Frontier

Being able to go into space is an incredible achievement, but one must ask what the goal of going to space is?  Besides ambiguous science and maintaining the fleet of satellites in earths orbit, whats really the point?  According to NASA and others involved in space technology, one of the primary goals is to mine for resources in outer space or on other planets.Yesterday NASA announced it was looking for private companies to help search for resources like helium and rare earth metals, because of NASA's limited budget they are working with companies such as Planetary Resources in order to speed up the complex process.  You can read more about this here:

So is this the beginning of a new space rush?  If the technology cooperates it is quite possible we will start mining huge amounts of raw material from asteroids and the moon.  The abundance of raw materials in space is thought to be incredible, but what might be more revolutionary is the possibilities that mining in space opens up for every day people and for the earth itself.

Colonizing another planet like Mars would give people the opportunity for a new life, as well as taking stress off the system here on earth.  This would create the possibility for radical change on earth in the direction of environmental protection and ecological stability, especially when combined with renewable technology like solar power and electric cars.  Colonizing Mars could allow a great many people trapped in cities to leave the planet, this could do a great deal to reduce humanities impact on the environment.

Colonizing another planet involves a process known as "Terraforming", this is literally transforming the world from one that is inhospitable to one that is rich in atmosphere and life.  At this moment in time, we don't have the technology to approach this massive task, but we can imagine creating artificial closed environments such as domes or even underground cities.  Large complexes of green houses could create food and maintain atmospheric stability inside the settlement, self sufficiency would be the key to this kind of operation.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk has made it his goal to get to Mars, he first imagined sending a greenhouse to Mars as a public relations stunt to attract interest for building a Mars colony.  He has since gone on to found the private rocket company Space X and develop cheaper and more efficient rocket technology to help speed up his quest for the red planet.

Ultimately it is hard to imagine what kind of benefits and dangers space colonization could have, both for the colonizers and those who stay behind on earth.  The best scenario is that humanity uses this as an opportunity to clean up our act and let the earth be maintained as a place of growth and beauty.  It is a reasonable goal to imagine moving most industry into the vastness of space, there are countless uninhabited moons and worlds to mine and settle, we should leave what is left of our own planet and concentrate on the resources that wait in the sky.

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