Is space the third option?

Tomas Martin @ 04-10-2007

Out here, noone can here you scream for more resourcesIn a move that will excite many science fiction fans, a political scientist from Norway has suggested there may be a third way to solve the coming environmental problems of the21st century: Space. He posits that there are two theories for sustainable development. One, Ecologism, aims for a post industrial era of lessened use of carbon and requires a change in the way our current political and social climate works. The other is Environmentalism which aims to keep life much as it is, only using funds to develop, repair and nurture the environment. However, he thinks that by tapping into the resources offplanet, it may be able to solve the Earth’s issues. Reading the brief it seems like very much a political rather than scientific hypothesis but there’s definitely a place for space in the coming time when resources become scarce – we just have to know where to look.

[from science daily, photo by Hubble Creative Commons]

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7 Responses to “Is space the third option?”

  1. David Reagan says:

    I don’t understand why the space fanatics don’t scream this at environmentalists. I’ve knocked some suckers on their asses by sweetly suggesting that mining asteroids could, oh, I don’t know, assure that their was never another strip mine on the Earth’s surface.

    That gets their attention.

    When I start talking about using the sun as an incinerator for dangerous waste, they again start to argue, not understanding exactly what a star is. Can’t win ’em all.

  2. RasmusJ says:

    I saw a documentary recently on the whole Helium-3 issue. Might have been exaggerated but it will possibly be the next Klondike.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium_3

    There is loads of this stuff on the moon. The fusion power it makes possible is very clean.
    Apparently, big shot money men in Russia and the US are already preparing for this coming rush, trying to lay claims to moon territories and whatnot.

  3. Jeremy Eades says:

    I’ve always been a big fan of sending our nuclear waste into the sun.

    On the other hand, I have to disagree with David in comment #1. If mining asteroids were economically feasible, we’d probably be doing it already. I think the technology isn’t there to do it. Not yet, at least. We still have a long, long way to go.

    To be honest, I don’t think we’re going to reach the technological level to mine asteroids or the moon. I think if we want to reach that point, we need to develop enough technology to keep our civilization alive long enough to get there.

  4. ShaunCG says:

    David:

    At present I don’t believe we have the technology to efficiently transport waste out of Earth’s gravity well and then into the Sun, or to transport asteroid-mined raw materials back down to Earth. We get a space elevator built, then we’ll talk about these fabulous solutions.

    Also, let’s not act all smug and try to score points by pretending something silly, like “environmentalists” being some homogeneous mass of clueless rubes.

  5. Tomas Martin says:

    The problem that was always quoted to me about taking garbage into space was that there’s a huge danger if even a small percentage suffers problems in transit out of the atmosphere – a container of nuclear or biological waste breaks open in atmo and there’s a huge amount of clearing up to do.

    Having said that, the prospect of mining asteroids and helium is I think very much appealing. With things like Iron and such it’s not really worth it right now but in twenty years or so the cost of precious metal catalysts like Platinum will have sky-rocketed as many of the new alternative fuel technologies need them. One asteroid rich in that metal could provide as much as the whole earth’s supply as far as some metals are concerned. The trick to be making it to be affordable would be to use some form of robotic probe or imaging technique to be certain which rocks are worth having before making the costly journey out to the asteroid belt.

  6. David Reagan says:

    I agree completely on the idea that a space elevator is key to making near Earth space operations financially feasible. It also eliminates the vast majority of the danger associated with getting waste products into space.

    “To be honest, I don’t think we’re going to reach the technological level to mine asteroids or the moon.
    Perhaps we should start a rumor that Al Queda is hiding out in the asteroid belt?”

    I would kinda disagree here — in my mind, it’s just a matter of investing money in basic and applied research. NASA has spent roughly 618 billion 2007 dollars over the last 49 years, roughly the same amount we’ve spent on resource wars in the last 5 years. And as inefficient as they are, NASA has accomplished some amazing things.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_budget

    “Also, let’s not act all smug and try to score points by pretending something silly, like “environmentalists” being some homogeneous mass of clueless rubes.”

    I wasn’t aware that I did that. Oops.

  7. ShaunCG says:

    David, I may have been reading something into your first comment that wasn’t there. It had been a long week. My apologies.

    Moving on, re.:
    “NASA has spent roughly 618 billion 2007 dollars over the last 49 years, roughly the same amount we’ve spent on resource wars in the last 5 years.”

    This is incorrect, given that the Iraq occupation alone has, to date, cost at least two trillion dollars.

    http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-002/$File/rwp_06_002_Bilmes_SSRN.pdf

    Doesn’t change your argument, but just wanted to note that. 🙂