Thursday, November 1, 2012

Factories in Space

Following up from my last blog post about putting people into space for varying reasons (moon colonies, orbital prisons, and so forth), I read an article about NASA's new "Space Launch System" or SLS.  Now, according to Space.com, NASA is already trying to trim costs.  That brings me back to my initial though, however: why are we aiming for deep space when we haven't done a whole lot with near space?  By 2022, according to the initial article, this rocket will be able to deliver "286,000 pounds to Earth orbit" and I've got a fantastic way to take advantage of that.  Let's start building in space.

Now, I understand that we've got that International Space Station orbiting and providing lovely images of Earth, or of astronauts doing goofy tricks.  Apologies to all who I'm about to insult, including Howard Wolowitz, but I'd like to put up an orbital platform that can do something slightly more useful.  Oh yes, I know, that statement is an affront to science and purists everywhere.  Just bear with me for a moment, however, and consider how I'm looking to make an advancement here.  The "space race" brought about some rather incredible technological advances.  It had to in order to keep people alive and bring them home.  Further, it created jobs.  So why aren't we trying to do both, one more time?

My thought is that we can use the SLS not as a long range ship, but as a courier.  Consider just how much material 286,000 pounds consists of, especially if you're building in space.  We can build a new orbital platform designed for construction out of materials that we ship up.  Then, we can ship up more materials and tools, and begin building.  With plenty of solar power, developing and building an orbital green house shouldn't be that much trouble in the scheme of things.  And from there, how tough should it be to begin assembling transport craft to ferry us to the moon, materials and rovers to build structures on the moon, and construction of farming building on the moon.

If you'll notice, I just mentioned construction a few times.  We're talking about new jobs - people assembling crafts up in space, people come up with pre-fab construction and back-up parts on Earth, people working as farmers in the sky.  Pipe dreams?  At one time, living in the Americas was foolish.  Going into space was laughable.  Walking on the moon was impossible.  It's time for us to retake the possible, refocus our efforts, and make the future begin to happen.  Why should science fiction have all the fun?

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