Thursday, July 30, 2009
The argument that space development has had a net cost or that the world's poor would be better off if we had given that money as "aid" to their governments (letter [Bob Taylor,] Thurs) is completely wrong.
Space development, [even run in the grossly bureaucratic method used by NASA (& even more ESA)] has been a massive net profit to humanity & nobody moreso than the world's poor. [In] improved weather forecasting alone [it has saved far more than it cost simply from knowing in advance where hurricanes are going to strike.] In the 3rd world this has saved literally millions of lives over the last 40 years. [On top of that we have a worldwide communications net through satellites - can anyone even imagine what the world would be like without that. In fact space related industry creates £160 billion a year of value directly. mainly telecommunications & satellite TV, which is 50% greater than the entire Scottish economy.]
The potential of space beyond that is, literally, infinite. [Solar power satellites can provide unlimited amounts of reliable, continuous power for the entire world. The amount of metals, from iron through to gold & platinum, available in asteroids is in the many trillions of tons. In a zero G environment, materials of different weights can easily mix & crystalline materials which would fracture in gravity are possible. What the qualities of such materials are we cannot know until they have been created but since they potentially exceed, by orders of magnitude, the total of materials creatable on Earth there are clearly going to be some spectacular ones. It is, metaphorically, raining soup & we are complaining about the cost of buckets. If we refuse this bounty the Chinese, Russians & Indians won't & good luck to them.]
What we should be doing, rather than putting money into sclerotic government bureaucracies is providing it to an X-Prize Foundation which would offer prizes, like the $10 milliion X-Prize that produced the first free market astronaut & kickstarted Virgin Galactic[.A prize of £500 million would produce a commercial reusable shuttle able to fly at least 3 times a month. That is less than Britain puts into ESA over 2 years & would therefore be ready & waiting when that new shuttle lands if we put up that prize tomorrow. It would only require a tiny amount of vision by our political leaders.]
Refs - $257 bn space industry http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/06/257-billion-spent-each-year-on-space.html$750 million for X-Prize shuttle http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/search?q=x-prize