Space Colonization For Real. And Why Humanity Needs It, To Keep On Being Human.


It’s fashionable among intellectuals of the lesser sort to spite technology. Of course, that’s perfectly idiotic, hypocritical, and base: they would not even exist without the technology and the capability to use it, which our ancestors developed, already millions of years ago… As a species. Yes, the arrogant thinker, thinking where no thought has been thought before, on which all of civilization rests, is a direct biological creation of exponentiating technology. That, and apple pie.

Arrogance is great, as long as it bears fruit, such as thoughts the commons find astounding,and one could not have had them otherwise. . But arrogance for the sake of denial bears no fruit.

Water at the poles of the Moon, where it condensates in perpetual shadows. (Artist representation).

What’s the spatial bodies we can hope to colonize? Well, it used to look real hard. If one had to lift water from Earth to space… We didn’t have the capability of launching all this water cheaply enough.

Friend Stephen Jones observed:

“Mars is our only potential candidate to colonize. Beyond our own solar system? Nope. We will never reach another solar system.”

Well, indeed, we need water, and lots of energy. Fifty years ago, it looked as if there was only one planet with water in the Solar System: Earth. Now we have found so much that we have to demonstrate life did NOT evolve out there in the Solar System. The same is true, even more so, with exoplanets. 

Now we know that Mars, Europa, Enceladus, Ganymede, Pluto… have lots of water. Europa may have more than Earth (we don’t know how deep its ocean is). Some asteroids, comets, the poles of Mercury have water. It’s also very likely that the Moon water is usable. The largest asteroid, a spherical dwarf planet, Ceres, is a water rich body, with eruption of brine in several places. Once we have water, all we need is energy to make livable quarters. NASA is fully aware of all this.

Ceres is an ocean world where water and ammonia reacted with silicate rocks. As the ocean froze, salts and other telltale minerals concentrated into deposits that are now exposed in many locations across the surface. The Dawn spacecraft, which orbited it ever closer, also found organics in several locations on Ceres’ surface.

Altogether, Ceres seems to be approximately 40% or 50% water by volume, compared to 0.1% for Earth, and 73% rock by mass. So no more lifting water up there in space: it’s there already. We just need to get there, with lots of (nuclear) energy…

And how to get there? Well Elon Musk’s SpaceX has landed one particular rocket six times already (crushing down the price to orbit: it would take just one million dollars to repair and refurbish tat rocket, SpaceX says…). His Starship is supposed to be as reusable as an helicopter (revolutionizing point to point transport on Earth, no doubt) [1]. 

But the ultimate grail is portable thermonuclear fusion… Give us this, oh Lord, and the galaxy is ours… Nobody knows is that is feasible: the Sun is not big by accident. Thermonuclear fusion works better, the bigger the reactor. we are trying to do in a room what a gigantic Brown Dwarf can barely achieve. And Red Dwarf stars are eminently unstable… 

IF portable fusion is feasible, we will conquer the entire Solar System, and missions to proximal stars are imaginable, if we master hibernation (all sorts of rodents do it, after all…)

The philosophical question is why bother? 

Why to conquer space? The answer is simple: because it raises the bar of our understanding.  

An example? NASA just announced that its perpetually deferred new space telescope the James Webb, will be launched even later than last forecast (Fall 2021 now). Why? It’s immensely complex. To fit inside the fairing of the Ariane V rocket (or any rocket), it has to be folded. The mirror system and the solar shield enfold themselves in 180 different operations… This has to work 100% on 180 operations, as the telescope will be at the L1 Lagrangian point, where Earth and Sun gravitational attractions balance each other, 600,000 kilometers away, twice the distance of the Moon.  

So this telescope is perhaps the most complex machine ever. It uses several new and finicky technologies… And so it is throughout space exploration. New tech, all over. Mastering space forces us to master those technologies. We are in a debate with space, and it teaches us a lot, this demanding master.

Look at the blackouts and fires in California: both are all about energy management. Yes, there was not enough energy to take care of the forests. Now there is not enough energy to fight fires burning into groves of 3,000 year old trees. Space teaches us to optimize energy management… in particular of creating, and using energy as efficiently as possible.

Space forces tech to go higher, better. And only new tech will save us, the Earth, and our high mental and spiritual standards… 

Space is not a luxury, it’s not just a refuge from disaster, or reality. It is the future, because humanity is a force that goes. Up.

Patrice Ayme

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[1] Supporting Elon Musk directly and indirectly, I was against: it looked like a case of celebritism. Now I am happy to report I was in error (as I already said). Supporting Elon Musk with beaucoup dollars is actually the best thing Barack Obama ever did. What characterizes Musk is the boldness of vision, the “ALL HOPE AHEAD!” attitude, what Charles Quint called :”PLUS OULTRE!”

Musk’s Starship, if he gets it to work, will revolutionize transportation (the Pentagon is going to be very interested). If there is no will to reach much higher, there is no way to change much deeper, this is true all over. If there is no will for a different, better world, there is no way, and there is not even any thought going that way. Instead, the “Inch’Allah” way rules all… Suivez la direction de mon regard…

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14 Responses to “Space Colonization For Real. And Why Humanity Needs It, To Keep On Being Human.”

  1. brodix Says:

    Don’t you think resolving some of the issues on Earth would be a priority? My view is it’s the same “go forth and multiply,” “Go West, young man,” ever increasing GDP, irrespective of the debt solution, meanwhile trashing everything in our wake approach, that was us to the edge of the current precipice. How can we derive an ought, when we obviously are clueless about the is?
    Nature is cyclical, while people are linear and all the projection and dreaming isn’t going to change that.

    Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Brodix:
      Of course. This is like asking: don’t you think your health should be a priority? That’s why I run in the woods and through the mountains.
      Right now we have effective treatments against COVID 12 from Monoclonal Antibodies (“mAbs”). Unfortunately, too few facilities can make them, and they are busy making drugs for cancer, insulin, etc… We need tech, ever more tech. Where I am, 15,000 fire fighters are fighting 600 fires. Several had to be rescued by helicopters… If not for that possibility, many may not want to go out there in the woods to save 4,000 years old trees…

      There is nothing cyclical about nature right now. It’s changing very quickly, thanks to people, mostly.

      Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      An old argument of mine that I forgot to mention, about why we need space, is that this would stabilize civilization. A particular case is the threat of a comet impact (Apollo asteroids have long acquired stable orbits, in resonance). Bezos and Musk have brandished that one (although we could probably divert/explode a comet with mega H bomb brought by heavy lift rockets like those of— Bezos and Musk).

      As you know, my point of view is that colossal debt is made, NOT to be reimbursed, and there are several ways of doing that. I rather worry about not spending. For the right things. The forest fires in Northern California, more than a million acres burned in 5 days already, 10% containment… could have been in part avoided by… spending… and it would have cost, much less…

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      • brodix Says:

        Needing space and colonizing space are two different things. I’m not even against colonizing space, just making the point that we need a better reason than the fact we’ve screwed the earth up so much.

        The problem is not so much what we put our efforts into, but how the process works. Creating public debt means that someone will be holding that debt and use it to siphon value out of everything else. Predatory lending, disaster capitalism is a pretty old trick.
        We think of money as a commodity, because it originated as a receipt for some tangible value, be it gold, or grain in the communal granary, but what gets overlooked in the process is that receipt is a contract, where the asset value is backed by some form of obligation, ie, debt. So what the government has done, is to replace the tangible, gold, with a public obligation, bonds.
        Eventually when the government cannot effectively issue more debt, those holding the biggest piles of it will use their considerable influence to trade them for any remaining public assets and we get real oligarchy, not this behind the curtain variety. Disaster capitalism coming home to roost.
        That is why public debt is exceedingly dangerous.
        Logically the government could tax out what it borrows, but that goes against the powers that be.
        The federal deficit began with the New Deal, quite minor in todays terms, yes, but it effectively put unemployed capital back to work, by putting unemployed labor back to work. Then WW2 turned this flow over to the military and the rest is history. We can have endless, strategically inept wars, with no one held to account and court marshaled, because their real function is to spend the money, in order that more can be borrowed.
        The functionality of money is in its fungibility. It makes a very useful medium of exchange, but poor store of value.
        As a medium, we own it like we own the section of road we are using, or the air and water flowing through our bodies. It is a public utility and needs to be treated as such.
        Blood is a medium, fat is a store. Roads are a medium, parking lots are a store. The hallway is a medium, the hall closet is a store. The average five year old gets it, but economists have other agendas.
        They try to tell us it is both medium and store, but to store it requires equal debt and that allows those managing this process to use positive feedback, aka, leverage, to suck value out of the rest of the economy.
        Government, as the executive and regulatory function, is analogous to the central nervous system, while money and banking are analogous to blood and the circulation system. There was a time when government was private, but as monarchs lost sight of the fact they served a function to society, in order to be served by it, they were usurped. Banking is now having its, “Let them eat cake.” moment.

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        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          “Screwing the Earth so much” is often an argument used to justify space colonization.
          My argument is different.
          It is the MENTAL EXERCISE argument… One of the reason I practice mountain running. Space colonization forces us to achieve more, mentally in all ways. That can, could turn out to be very practical… But it’s not the only reason… Nor the most important one. Understanding more is the essence of our genus, and genius…

          Like

          • brodix Says:

            Intelligence should be respected, not worshipped. Otherwise it becomes ego. We need a little humility at the moment.

            Like

  2. Gloucon X Says:

    We don’t know how to prepare for predictable fires, we failed to prepare for predictable viruses, the upcoming election is expected to be a chaotic catastrophe where we may not know the outcome for weeks, if ever. How can such an incompetent society establish colonies in space where everything must go perfectly? Where everything outside your enclosure is trying to kill you? All it takes is one mistake or one delusional psychopath to destroy everything. We have yet to proved we are competent enough to live within the much friendlier confines of Earth.

    Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Gloucon X: We still don’t know Bush-Gore…Gore seems to have won… But he folded because the powers that be wanted Bush, and they bought off Gore (now he is a Nobelized billionaire…)

      Precisely because space doesn’t allow incompetence. The contrast between the Space X Dragon capsule and the Boeing one was telling. Musk cares about engineering, Boeing about money changing (nowadays). So their capsule nearly crashed 3 or 4 times (and couldn’t achieve proper orbit). However Boeing got twice the financial help of Space X to do so, and was NASA’s main contractor for sixty years…

      Space teaches what we need: minds which go where none have been before. For all to see, very clearly. This is why China intends to build a base on the Moon, having understood the error of its technologically shrinking ways ways under the Mings and the Jurgen/Manchu/Qing.

      Space teaches us we are living on a spaceship… Because that’s all what Earth is.

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      • Anonymous Says:

        Space and tech didn’t teach us that we need to cherish our Earth and it didn’t teach us that we need to remove the death grip of plutocracy. All the scientists and techies need to work on a human-political technology that removes the plutocratic Alien-like face-hugger from human society. Maybe then we can talk about space colonies because only when that happens will millions of minds enslaved by needless poverty would be freed to becomes great scientific and ethical minds.

        Like

  3. Gloucon X Says:

    Space and tech didn’t teach us that we need to cherish our Earth and it didn’t teach us that we need to remove the death grip of plutocracy. All the scientists and techies need to work on a human-political technology that removes the plutocratic Alien-like face-hugger from human society. Maybe then we can talk about space colonies because only when that happens will millions of minds enslaved by needless poverty would be freed to becomes great scientific and ethical minds.

    Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      To be living in space one has to love, cherish, and meticulously take care of the tiny space one is living in. Meticulousness is a way of being one is then forced to embrace. Sailors tend to be like that, for the same reason.
      Also space forces tech to reach new performance level: see the automation in the James Webb telescope: it is supposed to take 6 months to… deploy, through 180 operations…

      Those contemplating space colonization have to contemplate the human factor. They know it, and I know two top scientists who long worked at NASA in that department. Some are inclined to send compatible couple. The Crew Dragon team of 2 commanders which just flew have been very close friends for more than 20 years, and both married fellow astronauts… This is what space colonization will be all about…

      Several non-European powers, heir to great civilizations have perfectly understood all this. This is why Japan, India and China have roaring space programs. To develop, one has to go to space. If India wants to get rid of its slums, it has to go to the Moon. Where there is a dream, there are the means.

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  4. ianmillerblog Says:

    Patrice. your comment on thermonuclear reactors have to be big followed by your analogy with stars is a little misleading. The reason stars have to be big is they need extreme temperatures and pressures to make neutrons. 2He is extremely unstable. Brown dwarfs merely have heat through deuterium fusion and gravitational collapse, but there is not much deuterium in interstellar hydrogen. Our reactors will work with presupplied neutrons, e.g. with tritium.

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    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Agreed I omitted that point, which is most significant, and I was misleading. I took a shortcut to drive at my personal point that the bigger the star, the more stable (until one gets more massive than the sun by a factor of two or three). In particular, I suspect Red Dwarves are unstable because their thermonuclear reactions are unstable… This is a wild guess. Basically the analogue of thermonuclear plasma touching the walls of the reactor in our small machines… OK, I may be 100% wrong. But for the small machines, the bigger they get, the more stable…

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