Q: When I think of the steps to settling space, I think of it mostly in terms of technology and economics.
If you don’t need to be economically self-sustaining, we’ve had the technology to build a moon base for decades – just spend $100k/kg on food and other things to sustain it that we don’t have the technology to recycle in space yet.
For the moon, I see it as the first logical spot for space settlement _after_ we have all or nearly all the technology needed to sustain ourselves for 30+ years without supplies from Earth (and even then, only because recycling systems wear out and can’t be maintained anymore, not because the 30-year supply of food we brought with us ran out). We’ll do the learning to get to that point through a combination of development on Earth and testing in LEO.
The big promise of the moon is that it’s where we get to actually _thrive_ in space, not just _survive_. It’s where we’ll go when we not only have all the tech needed to sustain ourselves, but also at least some of the tech needed to expand by building copies of everything we need from local materials. Eventually, we’ll either have all the tech needed to expand on the moon without supplies from Earth, or cheap enough transport systems like mass drivers that the few things cheaper to import from Earth can be paid for with raw materials like metals and propellant.
Until we have this tech (again, developed mostly on Earth but tested on the moon), moon bases won’t be economically self-sustaining. Once we do have it, the sky is the limit.
I agree with the general direction of what you say, especially in part of that we should create conditions when space is more beneficial for us, and it should be a significantly more beneficial for us to live there than on earth.
I do not think that moon itself is a great place for humans, same as any other planet(idk, maybe besides Venus, but it still has downslide of planets), or asteroids or other celestial bodies.
I think space habitats are a better option, which its potential mobility, and ability to create conditions according to our desires(maybe not for every/everyone desire, but quite a fat sliver of potential conditions)
Amazon cloud computing a random instance average price, cheapest condition for it usage costs about $3/hour. m5 instance, hard to tell what it is an equivalent of but seems to be about an average server, not an impressive server. I do not think that energy consumption is higher than 1kW per the instance.
Average energy price is something about $0.1/kWh, and it is what drives the computing itself, so they sell the energy 30 times of its price. Yes, they have capital cost to cover, the price of the physical server, maintenance, and all those things. So information processing is a commodity today and we can have an illustration of the short connection of energy conversion to money producing some result which can be transmitted over the broadband connection.
So if you have cheap energy, and technology of producing server so goes down the price of capital cost for servers so go down the operational costs.
In most places, besides planets, your energy supply option are 24.7.365 and if you manage to sell 1kW for $0.5 profit that way, on average, then a setup which produces 10GWe can bring you $43B a year.
10GWe it is potentially a patch of 4.3×4.3 km, not a big thing for space, 0g and such are advantages here in terms of saving mass and in terms of demands to the strength of structural elements, in therms which materials are good as structural materials.
In terms of mass, 10kg per 1kWe is a reasonable assumption, 20kg/kWe is probably more than enough, so it is, potentially, about 100-200 thousand tons total mass of construction.
So if you set the objective to build such thing (and it does not necessarily have to be one thing, I mean single piece, there are interesting options in terms that server content can be transmitted from one node to another without the user to notice so those things can be located in orbit of the earth, and even if they orbit, the virtual core can be over certain regions on earth, so you can use it for some VR games, why not, I mean there won’t be significant limit of application you can use all those, thus most of earth data servers won’t have significant advantage over the setup)
Then you need to lift about idk maybe 200 thousand tons from the moon, to get a financial source which is bigger than all space programs combined.
You even do not have to have the technology of production of processors for that, you just need to be able to assemble components of servers, I mean produce boards and solder electronics on them. Price of electronics may double if we lift it with current prices but that it. Per weight chips cost an insane amount of money.
So even without self-sufficiency, there are options to get fuel for the further development of the program, without the necessity of physical transfer of a product.
Considering different AI uprises, teaching networks can get faster, so who know’s how much money is the limit for the market.
lifting 200’000 tons from the moon, via massdriver, let’s say in 3 years, it something like 10ton/hour in average, with day-night cycles it something like 1 tone per minute.
It does not look like a huge setup, and to have that you need reach 3 objectives on the moon – be able to build massdriver, be able to supply it with energy and be able to collect and pack regolith.
Yes, one of the goals for humans in space has to be self-sufficiency. For multiple reasons.
But it is better if, from a quite early start, you have the way to fuel the development, development of technologies required, acquiring IP right for existing technologies, develop and adapt them.
Recycling, which you mentioned, isn’t a big deal, it probably the simplest technology from them all.
It isn’t a problem in space as it isn’t a problem here on earth.
The problem is – it can be done in 2 ways – simple or complex, and simple ways require plenty of energy and complex requires R&D and arent that much profitable with exceptions of certain cases and trash isn’t the most precious thing here on earth. If you ready to spend 2 more energy, in average, than we use currently, we could recycle our trash 100%.
On a space station, they do not have that much energy there, the station loses gas and water anyway(however they do recycle water) and they do not have production capacities to produce something even if they recycle stuff they do not recycle atm.
So they do not recycle not for the reasons they can’t, but because it requires additional energy and they do not have capabilities for production, for usage of recycling output.
Recycling can be simply as burn what burns, smelt what smelts. We are good at separating gases, it is old technologies, we are good at purifying metals, and to some degree glasses. We quite good at chemistry, it is not a problem as such. Energy usage means less profit and more expenses – that’s all. The whole problem of landfills is in that, for plastic in ocean etc(besides monkeys trowing sht in places they should not, and not collecting trash at all).
Potentially energy in space can be cheaper in 10 or more times than on earth. just because of microgravity(lesser requirements for structural strength; different means of production;), no corrosive factors(atmosphere, water, winds), 24.7.365 illumination.
If you capable to produce energy in space, the means of collecting energy, you can use less efficient ways of production, recycling etc – it will still be better than doing the same on the moon or on earth.
10-20B is more than enough to create the ability and build the data centers and build gathering and launch capabilities on the moon. Yes solving different problems on the way, but most of the technologies are there, and it is more a question of assembly them in a coherent system.
We do not have to be bound by local materials of the moon.
If you able to build massdriver on the moon, and be able to grow the setup, which is the cornerstone for the thing from the start, you can launch components of massdriver and energy collectors to venus as an example, to have orbital massdriver there which shoots CO2 capsules or pure carbon where you need it to be. Or to Ceres, or to Mercury. Or better than space station living volumes to those places to operate stuff, which gathers resources.
Those initial simple objective – be able to build massdriver, be able to supply it with energy and be able to collect and pack regolith – they open those possibilities too.
Our success in space should not be associated with some silver bullet(it may happen or it may not), but in our ability to see profit in space and seeing it in a system of solutions, we have them, we just need to bring them in action on the battlefield, they are waiting for that.