Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Mars Moon NASA Power

Can Humankind Establish a Supply Chain in Space? (arxiv.org) 209

Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor shares a new paper by NASA planetary scientist Philip Metzger, "detailing a roadmap for humanity to take control of the Solar System in order to solve problems on Earth" by utilizing the resources that are already on the moon. In a 2013 paper, Dr. Metgzer wrote: "[B]ootstrapping" can be achieved with as little as 12 metric tons landed on the Moon during a period of about 20 years... The industry grows exponentially because of the free real estate, energy, and material resources of space. The mass of industrial assets at the end of bootstrapping will be 156 metric tons with 60 humanoid robots or as high as 40,000 metric tons... Within another few decades with no further investment, it can have millions of times the industrial capacity of the United States...
Dr. Metzger wrote in 2013 that "This industry promises to revolutionize the human condition." (See RockDoctor's original submission for more details.) While Metzger now notes that "It will require a sustained commitment of several decades to complete," his new article points out that a lunar supply chain outpost "will cost about 1/3 or less of the existing annual budgets of the national space programs," thanks to advances in both robotics and artificial intelligence, and will help humanity develop renewable energy and greatly expand the availability of other limited resources.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can Humankind Establish a Supply Chain in Space?

Comments Filter:
  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @05:38PM (#52863695)

    a matter of when not whether.

    • Short answer: no.

      Long answer: no, not going to happen. The will and commitment are not there, the "free power" arguments are bs, we don't know where (or even if) the needed resources exist in viable quantities or concentrations, human colonies are a death sentence to anyone living there permanently (ignoring the too-low gravity and the radiation, even a minor "oops" will kill you), and at the rate we're avoiding meeting even our moderate climate change goals, we'll have a massive depopulation or extinctio

      • Why humans? Who says it won't be our non-human successors?
      • Re: Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @07:28PM (#52864021)

        I think you are being too pessimistic, Barbara.

        Space industry as of 2015 was $335 billion in economic activity ( see page 7 of http://www.sia.org/wp-content/... [sia.org] ), with about 1400 operational satellites in total. We don't have a way to effectively repair or refuel these satellites. When they stop working, we have to replace them at great expense. Saving money or increasing profits provides plenty of "will and commitment" to build the first generation of space mining and production. This would start with propellants, since just about every satellite uses them, and they are a simple product to make.

        > we don't know where (or even if) the needed resources exist in viable quantities or concentrations

        On the contrary, nearly all satellites operate on solar energy, so we know that is feasible. The total solar flux passing closer than the Moon is equal to the whole world's fossil fuel reserves *every minute*. That's more energy than we know what to do with, provided we can tap it economically.

        Meteorites are pieces of asteroids that hit the Earth and survived re-entry. So we are able to examine those in detail, and then infer the composition of asteroids still in space by comparing spectra. For a handful of asteroids, and the Moon, we have visited by scientific missions, or in person, and gotten more direct information. So, for example, we have detailed geologic maps for the Moon ( http://www.lpi.usra.edu/resour... [usra.edu] ) and are building up our knowledge of other bodies.

        > human colonies are a death sentence to anyone living there permanently

        I will set aside the fact that the human condition has a 100% mortality rate so far, and that a minor oops driving to work will kill you on Earth. But I helped design and build the Space Station, and it's been occupied for 15 years now. Think of it as a proof of concept. A space colony in orbit or on the surface can deal with gravity by rotation. On the ground that means a merry-go-round or racetrack setup that people use for as many hours as required to maintain health. Bulk rock is easy for surface locations, and not so hard for orbital ones. Enough thickness will provide good shielding. Most illustrations of space colonies are "artist's concepts" and don't address safety in the way engineers building bridges and skyscrapers have to. A real colony would have multiple layers of pressure shell, compartmentalization, emergency shelters, and other safety provisions. Yes, accidents and failures will happen, but we live with fires and natural disasters on Earth. The question is can you bring the risks down to a comparable level as on Earth. I think the answer is yes.

        > at the rate we're avoiding meeting even our moderate climate change goals, we'll have a massive depopulation or extinction event long before that.

        We are installing over a hundred billion watts of solar and wind capacity worldwide this year. Coal use has dropped by a third in the US in the last 10 years. Things could move faster, but when oil states like Saudi Arabia and Dubai are installing renewables, it should be obvious change is happening ( http://www.pv-tech.org/news/sa... [pv-tech.org] )

        • The moon has dust storm, space not so much. So solar cell which are fine rated for twenty years may not do so well on the moon surface. So that means you need to add dusters to your panoply of robot. And satellite are engineered to have a finite life : and we so then can decay them safely once they don't have enough propellant anymore. And then the "abundant" resource still have the problem they must be refined in low gravity, and then sent back (yeah the usual "use them to build more stuff in orbit" has no
          • Dust presence on the moon can be ameliorated by sintering the untouched surface layers. Certainly, if your efforts are large enough to transform most of its surface, you should have means to do that. Orbital mirrors would probably do; they could go into power densities of hundreds of kilowatts per kilogram and the lunar surface, as I'm led to believe, has poor thermal conductivity.

            Plus, he didn't even say anything about bringing things back to Earth. The $300B business alone was mostly about communication a

            • Sorry, that should have read "10% of our total electricity consumption", quite obviously. 10% of total energy consumption would be mind-boggling.
      • Re: Yes (Score:4, Informative)

        by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @10:21PM (#52864463)

        The will and the commitment are there in the private sector, which is willing to tolerate far more personal risk than the public sector and is not saddled by the 'priorities' argument.

        • Nonsense. The private sector has become dependent on governments making the general population absorb the risks for th e"too big to fail." It would have cost less to bail out every single homeowner in the housing crisis than it did to bail out the banks.

          And then there are subsidies and tax breaks ...

          Look at Apple - sitting on a cash horde it doesn't want to pay taxes on and won't repatriate until it gets a tax holiday, reduced to removing a headphone jack as "innovation".

      • the "free power" arguments are bs

        Its bs only in some regards. If you are in an environment where engineering doesn't target

        we don't know where (or even if) the needed resources exist in viable quantities or concentrations

        So let's find out! If we don't try we won't win.

        human colonies are a death sentence to anyone living there permanently

        How is that different from life on earth? You die here too. Yeah, maybe life expectancy in space is lower, but it was low on earth as well: just think of the stonemen, they had a hard life having to fight for survival. Thanks to civilization, we easily forget that earth is a harsh place. Of course, space will have its own challenges, and it IS a rougher place than earth w

      • by no1nose ( 993082 )

        I have to agree. We can barely get people to work on Earth on time. Imagine the delays in getting supplies to space colonies. Hopefully, they can grow potatoes like The Martian did.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Longer answer - China and Russia care less about the problem you have identified with living in space for long periods of time. It remains to be seen if they have the will or commitment to take the steps but colonists with a reduced lifespan are not seen as a showstopper.

        We've been there in the west not so long ago and may still be in that situation in some places - dangerous jobs were not so uncommon only a couple of generations back. My grandfather worked at a mine where apparently nobody lived past fi
  • ...will be getting sufficient supplies of Brawndo, The Thirst Mutilator, to people stupid enough to try to live in space.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @05:44PM (#52863727)

    Nothing is free, especially in space because of not just the resources but the industrial capacity to create those resources -- and in space you'll need a lot, since not only aren't there any on the Moon, but you need to claw out of a really deep gravity well to get that stuff to the Moon -- required to take advantage of that so-called free energy and material resources.

    • There's one important resource that's really scarce on the Moon, comparatively to what we might want: carbon. Other things I'm not so sure about. After all, Moon is made basically of the same material that the Earth was formed with.
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        According to this graph, there isn't too much carbon.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology_of_the_Moon#Elemental_composition [wikipedia.org] "Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) appear to be present only in trace quantities from deposition by solar wind." No citation, so take it with a grain of salt.

      • by GNious ( 953874 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @06:06PM (#52863793)

        After all, Moon is made basically of the same material that the Earth was formed with.

        Slightly more precise, the Moon is made out of Earth's crust, so primarily consists of the lighter materials.

        • But it also wasn't subject to the same amount of stratification. And if Earth contains more iron at its core, it's not all that useful to us anyway since it's not accessible. Ore genesis didn't take place on the Moon but the surface material seems to be reasonably mixed to not require it. Any exploitation, however, would require very different processes, not just because of the diffuse nature of the source materials. For example, the aforementioned lack of carbon basically excludes smelting.
          • by khallow ( 566160 )

            Ore genesis didn't take place on the Moon but the surface material seems to be reasonably mixed to not require it.

            You think based on very little evidence. An obvious rebuttal here is that certain ore genesis processes on Earth required volcanism or asteroid impact, both which have happened on the Moon. For example, the nickel deposits of Norilskâ"Talnakh are thought to be formed by sulfur chemistry transferring nickel and other metals into a layer of magma pinned under the Siberia Traps eruptions (which would be in the top ten lunar maria by surface area, if it happened on the Moon instead of on Earth).

            The famo

            • An obvious rebuttal here is that certain ore genesis processes on Earth required volcanism or asteroid impact, both which have happened on the Moon.

              I was under the impression that lots of them that we took advantage of as a resource-based civilization required water as the transport medium. Obviously, I won't claim that all of them do, even on Earth. I will unhappily admit that I know next to nothing about geology but I'll look up your examples, since I'm still kind of interested in it.

              • by khallow ( 566160 )

                I was under the impression that lots of them that we took advantage of as a resource-based civilization required water as the transport medium.

                Sure, hydrothermal ore genesis is right out. There's apparently very little hydrogen on the surface of the Moon and much of what is there comes from the solar wind.

                There's also the possibility of exotic mineral transport processes with chlorine or fluorine gases and compounds according to computer model. That might be a way, for example, to get naturally occurring CFCs and concentration of uranium (via uranium hexafluoride). Not worth speculating more on it since we need real evidence from underground fl

          • by GNious ( 953874 )

            +1 comment :)

            I'd observe smelting could be done using electricity - giant solar panels (but...no water to wash them regularly)!

            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              Typically smelting is a chemical process so it needs heat and a reducing agent (eg. CO).
              Just melting rocks doesn't get a lot done unless you add other rocks.
            • The problem is not the energy but the chemical reaction: carbon in smelting not only provides energy but it also binds to the oxygen and takes it away. However, experiments in direct reduction have been undertaken (think something similar to aluminum electrolysis).
              • You can reduce metals directly in a vacuum. The point of the reduction reaction in smelting is to remove the oxygen from the mineral oxides. Carbon can do it because the oxygen has a greater affinity for it than for the metal. But simple heating in a vacuum can break down molecules, and the oxygen pumped away. It's not as easy on Earth, but in space we usually have an abundance of vacuum to play with.

        • by c ( 8461 )

          After all, Moon is made basically of the same material that the Earth was formed with.

          Slightly more precise, the Moon is made out of Earth's crust, so primarily consists of the lighter materials.

          What a happy coincidence... the Moon is made from exactly the part of the Earth that humans are most familiar with exploiting.

          • by GNious ( 953874 )

            My (limited) understanding is that material on the moon tends to more "mixed" and less layered (also, see above comment about stratification), making mining less efficient. Also, if you're in space, things like palladium group metals might be "easier" to get from metallic asteroids?

            • by c ( 8461 )

              My (limited) understanding is that material on the moon tends to more "mixed" and less layered (also, see above comment about stratification), making mining less efficient.

              True, we'd be hunting for chunks rather than veins. On the other hand, digging should be easier, assuming we're cool with strip mining the Moon.

              Asteroid mining seems like more bang for the buck in the long term, especially if you're going after specific materials, but I have a feeling that in order to pull it off successfully we'll need s

          • What a happy coincidence... the Moon is made from exactly the part of the Earth that humans are most familiar with exploiting.

            Other people?

      • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @07:58PM (#52864089)

        That's why you want to build in high orbit *near* the Moon, and not *on* the Moon.

        The three main types of asteroids (chondrite, stony, and metallic) are all different from each other, and from the Moon, because of their origins and history. In particular, the chondrites have up to 20% water and carbon compounds. You can deliver asteroid rock to high orbit using solar-electric propulsion, which is very efficient. You can deliver Lunar materials to orbit with an electric centrifuge, also very efficient. In high orbit you get sunlight 100% of the time to power your equipment. The Lunar surface only gets sunlight 50% of the time, and the gaps are two weeks long, which is annoying.

        > After all, Moon is made basically of the same material that the Earth was formed with.

        They started out similar because the Moon is made from debris from the Theia-Proto Earth collison. But the Moon remained hot for a long time due to original collision energy, later bombardment, radioactive decay, and tidal heating when it was much closer to Earth. Because of the Moon's smaller size, it lost most of the "volatile" compounds (anything with a vapor pressure at lava temperatures). They either escaped directly, or were stripped by solar wind particles. So the Earth and Moon are fairly different today.

        • Solar electric propulsion for hauling stuff around seems rather time consuming. Assuming you have enough water in the asteroid belt, perhaps you could just start hauling ice blocks around using hydrolox fuel and efficient detonation engines? (Isp approaching 500 s and much higher average thrust than any SEP I can think of.)
          • Typical mission times for Near Earth Asteroids in good orbits is 2-3 years. That's going out, grabbing dirt off the surface of an asteroid, and coming back. You can use Lunar gravity assist in both directions, which reduces the acceleration time on the electric propulsion. Current ion thrusters are too small for mining tugs. What you want are 200 kW plasma thrusters, like the VASIMR, and gang up 5 of them for 1 MW total power. That gives you 28.5 N @ 1 AU, sufficient to accelerate a loaded tug (1000 to

        • Being near the moon doesn't seem to me immediately better than any other place in orbit, and in many ways worse. If you want to mine regolith, just plant your colony on the surface. If you want to be close to Earth, LEO is closer and you get radiation protection from the magnetosphere. If you want to mine asteroids, go to where they are, or bring them to LEO. If you want something planet-like, Mars has more resources that are easier to use (ice, plenty of carbon readily accessible in the atmosphere).

          I know

          • I know people get excited about L1 and L2 and low-energy transfers,

            Yes, but not for the reason you're looking at.

            Say you're on Earth and you hear that a robotic tug bringing a 500m diameter lump of asteroid belt to LEO has malfunctioned, and will be 500km off from it's target location/ time/ velocity heptuple. And that 500km error will plant it into an ocean that borders your home. you are advised to take your suicide pill sometime in the remaining month before your death.

            Miss your target by $DISTANCE$ wh

      • There's huge amounts of carbon in lunar ice, as shown by the LCROSS impact and the analysis of the debris cloud it threw up from a lunar ice deposit. This makes sense because the ice is apparently the residue of carbonaceous asteroids and comets, both of which are water-rich and carbon-rich.
    • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @07:48PM (#52864057)

      That's where self-bootstrapping automated production (seed factories) come in.

      You build the first ones here on Earth. That's my day job, by the way - building prototype seed factories. The first generation factories are built in moderate environments, like Atlanta where we are working. They produce parts for more equipment, eventually growing to industrial size. They also produce useful products to pay for their upkeep. Eventually you send new seed factories to more difficult locations, like the oceans, ice caps, and deserts. Finally, you tell your collection of factories to build rocket factories and launch pads, and off you go to space.

      The starter sets (seed factories) won't be free, but they will be low cost because they are small. They pay their own way after that, by making things people need and want.

      > but you need to claw out of a really deep gravity well to get that stuff to the Moon

      The actual escape energy from Earth is 62.5 MJ/kg = 17.375 kWh/kg = $1/kg at wholesale electric rates, about what I pay for potatoes. We just have been terribly inefficient about how we get to space.

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        The actual escape energy from Earth is 62.5 MJ/kg = 17.375 kWh/kg = $1/kg at wholesale electric rates ... We just have been terribly inefficient about how we get to space.

        Completely ignores that the energy has to be converted to 40,000 k/h escape velocity.

        (Don't even mention "space elevator"... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAXGUQ_ewcg [youtube.com])

        • I agree beanstalk-style space elevators are ridiculous for the time being, and there's a real possibility that we may never develop materials strong enough to actually build them on Earth with adequate margins of safety.

          But that's only the most dramatic and convenient kind of elevator, There are many other far more achievable designs being considered, including my favorite, the tumbling cable or wheel elevator, which is potentially *far* more cost effective per launch since it doesn't require actual

          • by Nutria ( 679911 )

            my favorite, the tumbling cable or wheel elevator

            I googled, but no joy.

            we may never develop ... potentially ... great potential ... if it can be achieved

            The pie is great in this one's sky.

            it doesn't require actually spending energy for every launch

            Let's pretend that doesn't break physics. The lot of energy still has to come from somewhere, be stored somewhere, and be transmitted to the "car".

            and then reabsorbing it when they return.

            Friction, among other things, will steal a lot of that energy.

            • AC is correct about the skyhook being another name. And no, there are actually relatively negligible friction losses because none of the components are moving relative to each other - it's conceptually a big wheel perpetually rolling around the planet in vacuum, with it's bottom just outside the atmosphere. The bottom part is just above the atmosphere and is essentially stationary with respect to it, and the top part is moving at roughly twice the orbital speed - just as the top of your car tire is moving

              • A 6 km/s tip velocity skyhook is not an optimum design at present. When you do the actual numbers, it comes out closer to 3 km/s, and the remainder is supplied by a ~4 km/s single stage rocket. The totals are not the same because the faster skyhook is larger, and has a higher center of mass. In turn, that means slower orbit velocity. Also, 3 km/s is sufficient to reach high orbits from low orbit, and that's all you really need. Finally, skyhook mass is highly non-linear in tip velocity. Assuming carbo

        • I've spent 39 years doing space systems engineering, and know more than most about getting to orbit. I *will* talk about space elevators, having taught a class about them last year. But not space elevators "as we know it", to paraphrase Spock. The ground-to-60000 km single cable version that most illustrations show is unworkable, even with carbon nanotubes. A feasible version uses two rotating cables, one in low orbit, and the other in high orbit, with nothing between them but orbit mechanics. Their co

          • by Nutria ( 679911 )

            A feasible version uses two rotating cables, one in low orbit, and the other in high orbit, with nothing between them but orbit mechanics.

            Thanks for the info.

            Their combined length is under 2000 km

            How would you keep them from vibrating and twisting, thus losing "station keeping"?

            You still need a way to get from the ground to half low-orbit energy

            Wouldn't those forays into LEO slow down the lower cable due to the same atmospheric drag that plagues the ISS?

            even a chemical rocket can do that, easily, with good design margins, and a single stage.

            Getting a rocket to meet a hook that's rotating at 3000 m/s seems... tricky.

      • "The actual escape energy from Earth is 62.5 MJ/kg = 17.375 kWh/kg = $1/kg at wholesale electric rates, about what I pay for potatoes. We just have been terribly inefficient about how we get to space." that's the price of fossil fuel. Which don't cut it for launch in space. If you got an efficient process to go up in space at those price I am sure you can tell NASA, ESA, Elon musk and many other, they will be interested. Hint : there isn't any or we would be jumping on it.
        • Any aerospace engineer, but apparently no member of Congress, knows the right approach to get most of the cost reduction:

          * Stop throwing away several kg of aerospace hardware @ ~$1000/kg every time you launch. *

          There's roughly 160 MJ/kg of fuel energy in a good conventional rocket, which results in 1 kg of payload with 31 MJ of orbital energy, so around 20% energy efficiency at best, and often 10% in not so good designs. But propellant is *cheap*, around $1/kg. By far most of the cost is the hardware.

          Outs

  • by superposed ( 308216 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @06:03PM (#52863783)

    About half of the Earth's land is virtually uninhabited [wikipedia.org], which means nearly free land; and most of that land has good access to "free" energy (wind and solar power). So why would we have to go to the moon to setup an exponentially growing robot-run supply-chain? Is it ethically better to make rocket fuel and metals on the moon than in Antarctica or the Sahara Desert or northern Canada?

    • It's not. That's why we are building the first self-bootstrapping automated factories here on Earth:

      https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/... [wikibooks.org]

      Once we have enough factories that have grown to full capacity, we tell them to build rocket factories and launch pads, and send new seed factories into space:

      https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/... [wikibooks.org]

      • It's not. That's why we are building the first self-bootstrapping automated factories here on Earth

        We are? When is the first self-bootstrapping automated factory going to be completed? Where is it? Who is funding it?

        All you linked to are a few web pages you wrote yourself, which simply describe your very, very high level concept for a program to do this with, despite the numerous bullet points, no actual details, just concept verbiage.

        Building an actual self-bootstrapping automated factory on Earth is absolutely essential before we can start talking about putting on the moon - for reasons that should be

        • > Until such a thing exists this is just fiction. As far as I can tell, at the moment all plans for building a self-bootstrapping automated factory on Earth, much less the actual operating factory, are fiction also.

          Industrial automation is a thing, and has been for decades. We don't have to reinvent that part. What makes a seed factory different is the CAD/CAM files include making parts for more machines, besides the salable end products that any factory makes. Again, most of this has already been don

  • Before we maintained supply chains, we just pillaged what we needed.
  • Seed Factories (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @06:57PM (#52863953)

    I'm part of a project to build this kind of self-bootstrapping Seed Factories, for Earth first, then later in space. There's a report on applying the concept to space at:

    * https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/... [wikibooks.org] (part 1)
    * https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/... [wikibooks.org] (part 2)

    I've corresponded with Metzger, and agree with his general idea, but disagree about placing the seed factory on the Lunar surface. The surface only gets sunlight half the time, while in high orbit you can get sunlight 100% of the time. The Moon is severely depleted in volatile compounds because it was baked for hundreds of millions of years, and is too low mass to hold on to easily vaporized materials. Near Earth Asteroids complement the Moon in terms of ore types, and the optimum place to bring everything together is a high orbit near, but not on, the Moon.

    • As I commented above, as far as I can tell - based on all the evidence you provide - this project you are part of is just you typing up web pages describing your project concept.

      Let us know how much money this project currently is funded for, how many people are on its staff, and its timeline for building the first self-bootstrapping Seed Factory. Can you show us any actual equipment designs or prototypes, or tell us who is preparing same? Anything real?

      • We currently have $95,000 of income producing assets and a 3 acre R&D location being developed. We are an *open source project*, not a venture capital startup, so we don't have paid staff, at least not yet. People contribute their time and funds to the project, and we do the best we can with it. Our workshop won't house all the machines and tools we need to build our prototypes. For that we rely on a network of makerspaces, individually owned equipment, university labs, etc.

        We don't have a timeline f

    • Valid points. I like the lunar surface for a number of reasons including the ability to put human crews on the Moon to do geology and get them to also help the industry get started. There's a lot of science that needs to be done on the Moon so we can leverage that. I do think asteroids play a crucial role in getting space industry started by providing propellant for cis-lunar operations (etc) and again at the end after space industry no longer needs material input from Earth because the resources are more a
  • While not exactly the best research, the combination of two games has shown me how delicate the balance to achieve anything has to be. EVE Online has shown me the commerce and piracy side, however that required infinite lives in order to be made possible. Planetbase showed me how the building of a single structure out of a delicate balance, or not cultivating humanity in the proper training balance could cause a rapid collapse of the entire system. You have no natural air, water, food to fall back on. A
    • And that is the problem with games - they're designed to provide an entertaining challenge, not a realistic simulation. Even the most "realistic" games typically have only a passing resemblance to reality, for two main reasons:
      1) Reality is *complicated*, way beyond our ability to simulate much beyond simple physics, especially on a PC.
      2) Reality is *boring* - given any set of input conditions, people mostly muddle through somehow. Things may be touch and go sometimes, but smart people will rarely be brou

      • Of course there are reasons. Imagine your population is growing, so you need to do a new O2 facility. You need more plastics and metal to build it, because you just had to build a storage facility and a hydroponic lab. You lose a water facility to micro meteors, which takes out an existing O2 facility. Now you already needed more O2, and you have about 3 hours to produce a facility and components expected to take 18 hours, while short on resources. This means everyone dies.
        • >This means everyone dies.

          Or, you know, aside from the ridiculous timescales, you simply implement zero population growth - whatever it takes. Kill 2% of your population so that the rest survives. Or put 10% into an artificially induced deep sleep to reduce oxygen consumption until you can provide sufficient levels, like they did with the Apollo mission when the O2 scrubber died. In reality people muddle through.

  • by PJ6 ( 1151747 ) on Saturday September 10, 2016 @08:15PM (#52864163)
    He's talking about recursive manufacturing, and honestly I'm surprised we haven't developed it already. Its power will utterly dominate our civilization's future, we have the tech to start development right now, and... we don't even have a Wikipedia page on it yet?

    When we develop true RM, going to the Moon will be a footnote.
    • Automation is still hard, even for something as "simple" as an automated hamburger joint. You can easily enough automate specific tasks, such as filling drinks or cooking burgers. But automating EVERYTHING, from cleaning to repairs, is a lot harder. And then automating the manufacture of all of the machines needed to manufacture hamburgers, is another order of magnitude more difficult and complex. It's not at all surprising to me that we haven't done this yet.

    • > we don't even have a Wikipedia page on it yet?

      We have a WikiBook half written about it: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/... [wikibooks.org]

      There's a Wikipedia page on self replicating machines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      But "fully automated self-replication" is both a limiting concept, and *hard*. There is no reason you can't make different machines than the ones you start with, or different sizes. So a "starter set" can be smaller and simpler than the final factory. All the complexity is in the stored comput

  • Somebody has played too many build-up strategy games. Not only can we now not do this on earth, doing it on an airless rock is at least an order of magnitude more complicated. Lets revisit the idea in 50 years or so.

    • Sorry, but this is wrong-headed. We have to start working on it *now*, so that in 50 years we have the experience to build the space factories. It was 60 years from the Wright Flyer to the 747, but you can't skip all the steps in between.

  • Why go into space? It is vastly expensive in time and resources. There is nothing out there - except for everything.

  • I suppose the old-fashioned "mankind" is now as politically incorrect as a blackboard?

  • Amongst so many other accomplishments, Dr. Max Hunter outlined Reusable supply chain concepts for earth-moon, earth-asteroid and earth-asteriod systems. If we are lucky, in the next 10-20 years do we may get this by cleverly mixing what SpaceX, ULA and SLS are doing. (Obviously, some methods are more cost effective than others.) Eric Berger just wrote an excellent article on the realities of SLS in ArsTechnia. We already know the successes of commercial crew, SpaceX, etc.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.

Working...