17 thoughts on “The High Frontier”

  1. Short of building space based solar power satellites from material brought up from the moon, the economic justification for it just doesn’t exist. And if battery technology gets only slightly better it will kill the need for spaced-based solar. It’s a house of cards built on sand. I’m truly sorry but I don’t see it. Planetary colonies may actually exist first because of the cussedness of those who want to live on another planet, just because. And they’ll see it through just as a matter of survival. Space colonies still seem to violate the principle of TANSTAFFL.

    1. But we could put the molten salt nuclear plants – in space!

      Bezos made a good point about focusing on building the infrastructure and letting other folks figure out what profitable things to build. Even though we can come up with some good ideas, we should bear in mind that North American colonization started as a beaver pelt business because they couldn’t think of much else off the top of their heads. Once people got here they tried all sorts of things, even seeing if Virginia was suitable for raising silk worms.

      1. I never thought much about space based nuclear. I suppose you could but the cost of access, maintenance and everything defeats the sole benefit of isolation. Just like space solar. Or a nuclear missile platform. The cost of access pretty much cancels everything else out as Elon knows.

        Tobacco and the climate to grow it was a big big New World export. Europeans have not sought reparations for exporting cancer. I suppose it’s only a matter of time.

        Cotton as well.

        1. You could use it as a great skateboard park, or slow the rotation and turn it into the only bird sanctuary where penguins can fly.

        2. Large buildings that are centrally located could be repurposed to any number of things if their property managers are creative enough.

  2. I was a member of the National Space Institute and Planetary Society back then, so I was a believer that they could actually make a difference in US space policy. Ah, youth and naivete…
    Despite that I could never figure out what the O’Neill L5’ers were smoking. “L5 by ’95”? You could dream and plan all you want, but other than a couple of Saturn V launch pads there was no infrastructure in place to get any construction materials and people out to L5. They were thinking about the High Frontier without thinking about how to get there.

  3. The problem with L-5 is cost of energy in space.
    A first step to doing something like L-5, is to make chemical rocket fuel in space. Chemical rocket fuel can’t be bought in space, but if could buy it, it would far more expensive than rocket fuel on Earth.
    What I call cheap rocket fuel is LOX at $1000 per kg on the lunar surface, and $1000 per kg is 10,000 times the price LOX on earth surface. If you buy LOX anywhere in space for only 100 times earth’s cost, it might reasonable to consider something like a L-5.
    Musk hope to be able to get LOX at LEO for about 2000 times the cost of LOX on Earth {$200 per kg}, which means one could get cheap rocket fuel on lunar surface and 1/2 as cheap on Lunar orbit.
    Getting $500 per kg at lunar low orbit in some sense better than $1000 per kg at lunar surface, because lowering cost electrical power, depends upon cost to get things to the Moon- and having very cheap rocket in LEO and $500 LOX high earth, makes lunar surface as cheap to get to as ISS. Or one lunar tourist to and return seat at about 20 million or less. You get reusable spacecraft from LEO to high orbit, and lunar surface to lunar orbit.
    Lower cost to get LEO, helps makes lunar water mineable, but never “needed” to get lower cost to LEO to mine lunar, we just needed lunar water to be minable “enough”- and lunar surface could have minable “enough” lunar right now, but it has been explored to determine if such water exists. Or possible to mine lunar water if the cost to LEO was $5000 per kg or more.
    It seems to me if Musk get cost to LEO being as cheap as want, it cause Lunar surface to be explored {and NASA would not needed to do this exploration]. But if Musk did this within year or two, NASA probably will explore the Moon to determine if there is minable lunar water, but if NASA doesn’t it seems without 5 year it will occur, and NASA going to ask it’s self why didn’t explore Moon a decade or two earlier. And I always thought that was good question to ask.

    1. And if Musk could lower launch cost to $200 per kg, then lunar water would worth about $100 per kg {rather than about $500 per kg I consider it’s worth at moment. But $200 per kg to LEO would lower electrical cost on the Moon, and lower electrical cost on Moon, one could could mine mine lunar water at lower concentration, say 1% or less per volume, one extract 10 kg of water per cubic meter of minable lunar regolith. But one might just get oxygen from lunar iron oxide, since has lower cost of electrical power.
      It’s said by some that for SPS, one needs $100 per kg to LEO. And I think lunar to High Earth orbit has be about $1 per kg. So would I say $200 to LEO is not lower enough, and don’t think $100 per kg is low enough, but $200 per kg, would cause $1 from the Moon to High orbit, to happening faster, but still going take fair amount time and lot’s competition to lower it to $1 per kg to GEO, though having very large towns on Mars, would make happen quicker.

      1. Not enough coffee. “one could could mine mine lunar water” is “one could mine lunar water”
        Argh, and the coffee is weak.
        If have enough people on Mars, the Moon could make SPS first for Mars, and thereby make Mars surface electrical power as cheap as Earth electrical power.
        A limited factor with Mars is price of electrical power. But to start Mars settlements- which based upon residential living and farming {Mars has enough solar energy for farming} the cost of water will be more significant than price of electrical power.
        And I think Mars water has start around $1 per kg or less{1000 times more than Earth water}. But if got electrical power in Mars orbit as cheap as Earth surface, Mars could get Musk’s explosive population growth on Mars surface. Say be 10 million people on Mars before 2100 AD. But by say 2050 AD- writing on wall will be, living on Mars is the future. But seems population growth on Mars will limited by whatever politics/governing ability is. Or lots of people might want to live on Mars, stuff like “housing shortages” and other mundane factors could make hard to go to Mars.
        And might have “L-5” with Mars before with having it for Earth.
        And low gravity of Mars might be problem. And Mars alien life could be problem.
        It would been better if NASA had already explored the Moon and Mars.

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