All Astronautical Evolution posts in 2021:
Black Arrow and Prospero Fifty Years On (October)
All Astronautical Evolution posts in 2020:
Stellar Engines (August)
Cruising in Space (March)
All Astronautical Evolution posts in 2019:
The Holy Grail of Space (October)
Return to the Moon, 50 Years On (August)
SpaceX Dragon 2 Success (April)
Killing the Doomsday Fallacy (Feb.)
All Astronautical Evolution posts in 2018:
The Atheism Question (Oct.)
The Religion Question (Sept.)
I, Starship (June)
Back to 2017:
Comments by Alex Tolley (Oct.)
Elon Musk’s “Great Martian” (Oct.)
What is a Supercivilisation? (Aug.)
Back to 2016:
New in 2020:
2022: What’s to do on Mars?…
2021: New space company Planetopolis…
2020: Cruising in Space…
2019: The Doomsday Fallacy, SpaceX successes…
2018: I, Starship, atheism versus religion, the Copernican principle…
2017: Mars, Supercivilisations, METI…
2016: Stragegic goal for manned spaceflight…
2015: The Pluto Controversy, Mars, SETI…
2014: Skylon, the Great Space Debate, exponential growth, the Fermi “paradox”…
2013: Manned spaceflight, sustainability, the Singularity, Voyager 1, philosophy, ET…
2012: Bulgakov vs. Clarke, starships, the Doomsday Argument…
2011: Manned spaceflight, evolution, worldships, battle for the future…
2010: Views on progress, the Great Sociology Dust-Up…
Index to essays – including:
The Great Sociology Debate (2011)
Building Selenopolis (2008)
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Planetopolis: Why Is a New Company Necessary?
Planetopolis – the project
I want to start the New Year by putting into practice a train of thought which has been impressing itself upon me in recent weeks.
Axiom: I wish to see a future of growth and progress for human civilisation, together with all the sciences that enlighten us and the technologies which make our lives so much easier than in the past.
This means: a future of expansion into the rest of the Solar System, given that the long-term survival of a high-population, high-tech industrial civilisation while confined on its home planet alone is highly dubious (as discussed in an earlier post).
The destination of the human journey after the next few centuries will either look like Star Trek, or it will look like Game of Thrones – this seems to be the unavoidable consequence of the currently unstable state of our civilisation (as discussed in another earlier post).
The most plausible location for the first permanent, self-sustaining extraterrestrial human settlement is Mars, given that surface conditions there are the least extremely dreadful compared with the worst conditions found anywhere on Earth. (It doesn’t matter if it turns out to be somewhere else – the Moon, or an O’Neill colony: we’ll run with Mars for the present, as it’s the focus of attention of the one venture worldwide which has a non-zero chance of actually making something happen.)
People have a pretty good idea by now of what an astronaut exploration mission to Mars would look like, with high-fidelity simulations being conducted in remote locations on Earth by NASA/University of Hawaii, the Mars Society, and others.
A permanent settlement would be a different matter! –
The question has to be faced: if the supply line from Earth was cut for any reason in the decades after its foundation, would the colony still be able to survive?
The only way to get an answer before committing a huge effort to such a leap into the unknown is, again, through a simulation on Earth. This is why we need a programme of high-tech, progressively more remote, more permanent and more self-sufficient human settlements in desert locations on Earth itself.
I began to toy with this idea in 2016, then under the name Aridopolis. I wrote about it again in issue 18 of Principium (August 2017, p.4-11). But at that time there seemed to be no way ahead for the idea, and I felt resigned to seeing it fall by the wayside, ignored and ultimately forgotten.
Planetopolis – the company
The answer has, of course, been obvious for a number of years. Trust me to be so slow to see it.
What SpaceX is doing is to earn revenue from satellite launches with their Falcon 9 rocket. The profits from doing so in an innovative way (reusable first stage; fast prototyping and development cycle) provide the cash flow to support their more speculative programme aimed at Mars colonisation. The excitement generated by their engagingly presented public relations doubtless helps to attract speculative investment funds. And the profit-making and speculative sides of their business support one another by their shared reliance on big, reusable rocket vehicles.
The question is therefore: can a profit-making company active on Earth support a research programme into making a permanent settlement on Mars a practical proposition?
I’ve long believed that there’s no conflict between improving the ecological sustainability of our cities on Earth and building new cities on Mars. Quite the contrary: the choice which we as a species face is between a high-tech future and a low-tech one.
A high-tech future is one with industrial cities on both Earth and Mars, in both cases using similar technologies to maintain a low-impact lifestyle – on Earth, to save the natural environment, and on Mars, because there is no living natural environment to be parasitic upon, so the low-impact lifestyle is the only one possible. On the other hand, a low-tech future on Earth alone would require a massive reduction in global population size, and would reduce standards of living back to medieval levels. Considering that many countries would resist such a rejection of growth, it could probably only be achieved through world war, or else through some global natural catastrophe.
Star Trek versus Game of Thrones, in fact.
So the technologies we need for life on Mars are the same as those we need to be developing for widespread use on Earth in any case. Let’s set up a company – which I shall call Planetopolis – with two divisions:
When one asks what those products might be, a number of answers suggest themselves –
When I began to research these things, I found that there’s a massive revolution in a whole range of clean technologies in progress right now. But it’s still at an early enough stage, in most cases, that there’s plenty of room for new start-ups to join in.
I need people who find my logic interesting to join me in defining exactly what this company will do, and thus put together an attractive prospectus to show to potential investors.
Clearly, I’m expecting to receive a lot of negative criticism. I’m not experienced in high technology business management, and there’ll be many difficult hurdles to overcome. Please visit the company website to find what I’ve put together so far, including a prospectus in the form of a modest book (92 pages) on Planetopolis available for free download, and my e-mail contact address:
Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Some more recent posts developing these ideas further:
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