Friday, September 18, 2009

Fantastic Future Friday

I’ve spent a while thinking up a topic to fill the Friday posting on this blog. I realize most people nowadays have been drawn into the consumer over the citizen philosophy that the US government has been pushing for the last 30 years. So people have been working all week to have fun on the weekends instead of enjoying their work. So it would be nice to have a nice uplifting post on Fridays to set the weekend off right. (Although my explanation probably just killed that effect).

I was wondering about what uplifting topic to talk about when I read (and watched a cool video) over at Bad Astronomy, “What does 3.6 Million Pounds of Thrust Look Like” and I thought people might like to read the thoughts of a semi-professional science fiction writer about what the future has to offer. In the profound words of the mighty Crisswell in Ed Wood’s classic film, Plan 9 from Outer Space, “We all have an interest in the future, for someday we will all live there.”


As I noted last week NASA successfully tested their Ares I-X Rocket, Reports are also coming in that congress is pretty receptive to giving NASA the budget it needs to run a real space program.

What that means to you:

In the short-term 2015-2020: the International Space Station (ISS) will continue flying and with a crew of six, instead of the minimal crew of three, real research can start to be done. There is promise that research into micro-gravity pharmaceuticals can produce new lines of drugs that cannot be produced here on Earth.

Enthusiasm for this type of research has died down because it is clear that even if there was a breakthrough in drugs in micro-gravity there would be no way to produce them in quantities to bring them to the market.

If NASA is given a real budget, then by 2015 or 2016 there will be four types of manned rockets able to reach the ISS, the Ares, SpaceX’s Falcon, Russia’s Soyuz, and China’s space program as well as a half dozen unmanned rockets that can be used for cargo.

With a space infrastructure being developed it’s not a stretch to see how if a truly valuable drug can be made in micro-gravity, like a cure for Alzheimer’s or AIDS, a pharmaceutical company could spend several billion a year to produce it in commercial space station by 2025 or so.

With more options to get into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) private firms can take a serious look at working in space, this will lead to them demanding more options for getting into space reducing the costs more and making more products profitable to make in space, leading to more options, making more products profitable.

It’s been known since the days of the Apollo that space offers trillions of dollars to companies that can take advantage of it, but until the cost of getting into space come down no company can afford to take advantage of it.

Once the critical threshold is reached where the profits of working in space outweigh the costs, demand for space access will drive down the costs and space will quickly open up.

With a new budget and a new rocket NASA might help reach that threshold, and that will open up a fantastic future.

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