21 thoughts on “Space Settlement”

  1. How about putting ISS in high Earth orbit by 2030, and Mercury distance by 2050.
    Part of putting ISS at Earth high orbit includes making living area within ISS so it is shielded against radiation, so there is less radiation as compared to a airline trip. And safe from solar flares.
    And perhaps space station put near ISS that give 1/2 gee of artifical gravity- so say, less than 30 min trip time between them.
    Then ISS would altered so as to handle solar environment closer to Sun, and moved orbit which doesn’t have the inclination problem of the planet Mercury.

    1. By 2030, ISS will be perilously close to being slum housing. Given that ISS will be at or past its “best used by” date in 2030 – and is both designed for human occupancy and human-provided maintenance, what would be gained by spending 20 years pushing it – sans crew – to the vicinity of Mercury? If we want to, and are able, to send humans into that neighborhood and maintain them there, by 2050, it would make no sense to do so in a cramped, rickety, antique zero-G hab. It’s one thing – and bad enough – to have to constantly send up fresh clothing for its crew to ISS in LEO. It would be preposterous to have to continue doing so over distances of millions of miles. By all means, let’s build rotating habs from here on out where at least it will be straightforward to supply inhabitants with laundry facilities.

      1. “…and is both designed for human occupancy and human-provided maintenance, what would be gained by spending 20 years pushing it – sans crew – to the vicinity of Mercury?”

        Well first, ISS has it’s orbit raised to high Earth orbit (a orbit higher than GEO orbital distance). And a part of ISS is made shielded enough in regards to radiation. The rest of ISS is mothballed.
        And allowing a potential to be un-mothballed and used (by any party and/or nation in future).
        ISS in high Earth orbit could have used related to lunar and/or Mars explorations. And could have used for private or other national governments.

        The general problem of designing space stations that can have a long life time is important issue related human settlements in space. And ISS is an expertimental space station, rather than a operational space station.

          1. Actually, from the thinking of Globus/Strout, LEO might not only be the best location for a space station but even for a permanent habitat. Their thinking is that if you make it an Equatorial LEO, you eliminate the shielding requirement, which profoundly affects total mass.

            I’m a HEO kind of guy, but am trying to update my thinking on this. Maybe space settlement begins in ELEO and only later spreads out to HEO. But I continue to be certain of the latter part, due to the improved access to solar power.

          2. –Mike Combs
            March 1, 2019 At 5:44 AM
            Actually, from the thinking of Globus/Strout, LEO might not only be the best location for a space station but even for a permanent habitat. Their thinking is that if you make it an Equatorial LEO, you eliminate the shielding requirement, which profoundly affects total mass.–

            US doesn’t have an equatorial launch site.
            Maybe Europe could consider it.
            And/or I think we should have an oceanic launch site.
            I think it should a private launch site.
            And I weird idea which I call, a pipelauncher- it’s a large pipe that floats in water vertically, and can add about 100 mph to a rocket launch [any kind of rocket, including something like Saturn V].

  2. ” It is actually the national policy of the United States that we
    should settle space.” – Jeff Greason, ISDC keynote 2011

  3. It is by no means clear that extending ISS to – or perhaps beyond – it’s breaking point will actually advance the cause of settling space. Quite apart from ISS’s growing decrepitude, a hab whose crew is required to spend nearly every waking hour maintaining it, as well as their own bodies, is no model for practical space settlement.

    1. ISS is not a settlement nor can be made into one.
      It’s outpost, sort of lab and/or clean room.
      And largely an experimental place/space.

      And there is not a need to change this aspect of it.

    2. It would be nice to keep ISS until something exists to replace its capabilities. Otherwise, SpaceX and Boeing will have no place to send their capsules and there wont be anywhere to go off Earth.

      They could always expand the living habitat and crew on the ISS to boost productivity. NASA has talked about this, so maybe it will happen.

      I am eager to see how long is takes Bigelow and his competitors to launch their own stations. After that, ISS can go bye bye.

  4. There is, as yet, no economic rationale for space settlement. there is nothing that the settlers could do, on a planet, and asteroid, or a space station, that would let them pay for all the stuff they could not make for themselves, everything from computers to cookpots, but will need just to survive, to say nothing of thrive. I am, however, highly infavor of extending ISS to 2030. I would like to see a BFR docked to it. By then, of course, BFRs and other heavy lift launchers will be building a variety of new stations with assorted uses using Bigelow modules.

    1. –There is, as yet, no economic rationale for space settlement. there is nothing that the settlers could do, on a planet, and asteroid, or a space station, that would let them pay for all the stuff they could not make for themselves, everything from computers to cookpots, but will need just to survive, to say nothing of thrive.–

      I would say, that for what we know [for certain] what you say is true. But what we know about Mars is very little.
      Despite all the Mars missions, it seems fair to say, that we know more about our Moon, than we know about Mars.
      We know more about the Moon because we sent 12 crew members to the Moon and they brought back lunar samples.
      The Apollo program was not even about exploring the Moon- it was about beating the Soviets to the Lunar surface.
      And since we going to the Moon, we had to do some robotic mission to explore it enough so as to safely land crew on the surface, and since we going to the Moon, doing some exploration was thought to be a good idea.
      The Moon was not explored much, and we know very little about lunar polar region.
      Had we known as much as we currently do about the lunar polar region, at the time of Apollo, it seems likely that we would landed crew in the lunar polar regions. But we didn’t and no one has done this yet.
      So as far as flags and footprints, we have gone to the Moon, but the Moon remains large unexplored, but it is the most explored as compared to any planet other than Earth. Though it is commonly said our ocean floor is less explored than our Moon [though a lot exploration of our ocean has been done recently, and perhaps that saying is probably outdated [though much of the ocean remains not explored].
      The moon could have many interesting aspects which could be explored, but it seems to me what is important is determining if and where there is lunar water in the lunar polar region.
      Or I don’t think the Moon is priority if there is not mineable water.

      What we don’t know about Mars, are things like, does Mars have water table as Earth does. And what about the apparent glaciers in equatorial regions of Mars. Roughly does Mars have more or less underground area as compared to Earth.
      We saw a iron meteorite on Mars, how common are these?
      There lots of things we don’t know about Mars- and land is similar to size of Earth’s land area.
      In terms of human settlements, what think is important is the accessibility of water, and what kind of water it is.
      Suppose some places on Mars have as much water as the Sahara Desert.
      “Contrary to common belief, the most important riches of Libya are not the oil wells, but water. The world’s biggest reservoirs of fossil freshwater lie below its desert. Through an extensive pipeline system, these aquifers provide the country with water for consumption and agriculture. The so-called “Great Man-Made River” is the world’s largest irrigation project.
      Libya’s Great Man-Made River (GMMR) currently transports almost 2.5 million cubic metres of water daily. It runs through an underground network of pipelines from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System in the Great Sahara desert to the coastal urban centres, including Tripoli and Benghazi. The distance is up to 1,600 kilometres. The GMMR currently provides 70 % of all freshwater used in Libya.”
      https://www.dandc.eu/en/article/libya-has-worlds-largest-irrigation-project

      So something like that, could make Mars a place to live.

      1. –There is, as yet, no economic rationale for space settlement. —

        So, key factor is, “yet”.
        Or there needs to be exploration, first.
        The moon may not have mineable water.
        The Mars may not viable for settlements.

        One can endlessly search for lunar water and endless look for
        viable location on Mars for settlements.
        Or you have defined the scope of exploration.
        And would tend to limit time and cost of program- particularly
        in regards to the Moon.
        I would also limit it to the top of lunar surface and perhaps to depth of 1 meter.
        And lunar polar regions have advantage of being a small region- unlike Mars.
        And would use robotic mission to further limit the area to explore.
        And finish lunar exploration with crew landings and sample returns.

      2. “So something like that, could make Mars a place to live.”

        Is just water enough to make Mars viable place to live.
        I would say if one can export food from Mars, it could be.
        But it depends on number of things.
        A large factor could be the cost of getting to Mars- what Musk says it will cost, is certainly helpful. But related to this, is that if you get this cheaply to Mars, you can also go to other place other than Mars cheaply. And part of value of living on Mars is related to future value of living on Mars.
        Or basically Mars has real estate value, one has access to water and planet with 25 trillion ton of CO2 [which allows plants to be grown].
        And I would say what critical in terms of future value of Mars real estate is related to the use of the Moon and/or use of space rocks.
        So, if Mars is much cheaper to get to, then Moon is likewise cheaper to get to. But if Moon doesn’t have mineable water, then Moon is less desirable destination or space rocks in the near term could become a better focus than the Moon.
        If one has thousands of people living on Mars, at that point it does not matter whether the Moon has mineable water.
        The moon has hydrogen and it has rock which has oxygen in it- the Moon has billions of tonnes of hydrogen and trillions and trillions of ton oxygen in it’s rocks. It simply more costly to get rocket fuel that way. And if have thousand people on Mars, launch has to lower for this to happen, and so lower costs to get the lunar infrastructure needed to mine rock for rocket fuel.
        But if can mine lunar water, it lowers launch costs and enables settlements on Mars. And if Mars doesn’t easily accessible water, lunar activity could drive factors which make Mars water more accessible [more exploration and/or more infrastructure that allows cheap access to cheaper water].
        So in terms of future value of Mars real estate, the mere knowledge of accessible water “anywhere” in space [other than Mars] is an important factor.

        1. Also I didn’t mention Mars moons.
          We might ignore the Mars moons when we explore Mars, but in terms of Mars settlements, it seems the moons would be important [and an argument not ignore them in terms of a NASA Mars exploration program].

  5. I’m concerned about the linkage of settlement with a “vibrant space economy” for a couple of reasons. It seems as though the argument is being made that either a vibrant space economy is an absolute requirement for sustainable space settlement (i.e. one cannot envision a setttlement that doesn’t turn a profit) or that space settlement will produce a profitable, space-based economy (e.g. by building SPSs, mining unobtanium, etc). So, by contrast, if one cannot make a business case good enough to attract investors then perhaps space settlement is a pipe dream.

    With the first perspective, anything going by the term “commercial space” deserves support because any space-based economic activity is the right way towards settlement. Whether or not we can explain how ZBLAN leads to settlement, it must because the economic development of LEO will lead to settlement, somehow. So, we could end up spending a billion in subsidies each year for a “gapless transition” from the ISS to a commercial LEO station thereby depriving the Moon of funds for the development of those resources which would bring down the cost of accessing and staying on the Moon. Etc.

    With the second perspective, we could find ourselves not recognizing that it is the personal savings of wealthy retirees that will be the major source of revenue and not some profit-making unobtanium.

  6. “So, by contrast, if one cannot make a business case good enough to attract investors then perhaps space settlement is a pipe dream.”

    I think whether we like it or not, that is the reality which we must accept.

    You later discuss wealthy retirees in space. I think that possibility would qualify as “a business case good enough to attract investors”. (i.e. It’s always possible the investors and the settlers will be the same people.) But in any case, there will always need to be a compelling business case, or nothing will happen.

    1. “But in any case, there will always need to be a compelling business case, or nothing will happen.”
      It seems NASA going to launch any lunar landers which can explore the moon.
      It seems there was many people who wanted to do this kind of stuff a few/several years ago, but got nowhere. And maybe now is the time- though I would make sure NASA is actually serious [this time].

        1. “If all goes according to plan, Beresheet — whose name means “in the beginning” in Hebrew — will be captured into lunar orbit on April 4 and touch down on the moon’s surface on April 11. A successful landing would be momentous, marking the first time a privately funded team, or any team based in Israel, had pulled off the feat. To date, only the Soviet Union, the United States and China have soft-landed craft on the lunar surface.”
          https://www.space.com/israel-moon-lander-beresheet-engine-firing.html
          Doesn’t matter who does it.
          …but NASA is being paid to do something, and no one is preventing them from doing their job

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