Manifesto part 3

Resources from Near Earth Objects

Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are a collection of comets, asteroids and some other objects within the orbit of Mars. Most of these objects regularly come within close range from the Earth, some of those objects are actually easier to reach than the Moon. This seems strange, but in space travel access is not measured in distance but in velocity increments (delta V), which is a measure of the required energy. Because of the Moon’s mass it takes more energy to get to the Moon. And if we want to leave, we have to overcome the Lunar escape velocity.

In order to reach the Near Earth Objects, we have only to overcome a relatively small change in our position relative to the Sun. (Delta V is related to the local escape velocity from the Sun, which is a function of the distance from the Sun.) Therefore we need a rather small delta V to get to the Near Earth Objects. Of course the actual required velocity increment depends on the exact position of a particular object, but since there are several thousands of them we will simply pick one which is relatively close.

The major advantage of NEOs as a mining site, is that they contain a broad variety of resources. Unlike the Moon NEOs contain all chemical elements needed for a modern industrial society. And since NEOs have a negligible gravity, only a modest amount of fuel is required to return resources to Earth or anywhere else in space.

In situ resource utilization (ISRU) is the use of extraterrestrial resources at or near the location where they are mined. ISRU is opposed to importing resources from our planet. One example: the American space company Bigelow Aerospace has designed and built inflatable space stations. Suppose we buy one and we launch it to, say, L4. There we inflate the structure with air, which we have extracted from a Near Earth Asteroid. This example show the benefits of ISRU, by using air from NEO resources we can reduce the payload we need to launch from Earth. Basically we should restrict ourselves to launch only those items which cannot (already) produced in space, in order to reduce launch costs.

The extraction of resources from NEOs, is also important in funding space colonization. Especially the (limited) export of the precious platinum group metals will an important source of revenue for Space communities. The prospect of for-profit asteroid mining also makes it possible to do space colonization without government funding.

After some time, when space based industries are more developed we need to import less from Earth, since more products are manufactured locally. One development which is of interest of space colonization is 3D printing. This technology is also called rapid prototype technology or desktop manufacturing. 3D printing makes it possible to produce complicated structures in short time without a large workforce. Once a structure is stored in a computer file it can be printed on demand. Of course this technology has its limitations, but the prospects are quite promising.

Manifesto part 2

Why Lagrange point colonization

When most people think about space colonization, they think about colonies on the Moon or Mars. Some people conflate the concept of space colonization with faster-than-light travel (which is impossible), and think about conquering other stellar systems. This is NOT what Republic of Lagrangia is about. We are aimed at colonizing free space by using space habitats. A space habitat is simply a large space station able to house a large number of people, most designs rely on centrifugation for generating artificial gravity.

The great advantage of space habitats is that we can locate them anywhere we wish. They can be relocated if necessary, if for example we live in the close neighbourhood of a hostile space colony (or a hostile Earth), we can move away from them. Another possibility is avoiding collision with meteorites. This is impossible if you are living on the Moon or Mars, technically speaking it is possible to move these objects, but it take you an immense amount of energy to make even a slight displacement and due to their masses almost any significant displacement will have unintended consequences for other bodies in the Solar System (Earth in particular).

The next question is of course, where should we locate our space habitat? There are a lot of possible location, each of them has their benefits and disadvantages. Most people would think about placing space habitats in an orbit around the Earth. Main advantage is that they are close to Earth, therefore travel time is short (from a few hours to a few days). This location is historically defended by most space advocacy groups. The foremost problem with cislunar space colonies is that they suffer from regular eclipses. This problem can be reduced by placing space habitats farther away from Earth, but this also increase travel time. Another problem is the lack of resources in the Earth system.

An obvious, but misleading, objection is that there are resources on Earth and on the Moon. Why should you go to live in outer space if you need to import everything you need from Earth? True, during the first days of space colonization a lot of stuff need to be imported, but after some time space colonies will become more and more self-sufficient. And the Moon is rich in some resources, especially titanium, but is also poor in others (most importantly hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen are hard to find on the Moon). Secondly the Moon is massive enough to require a relative high escape velocity (compared with Near Earth Objects) and it cost more energy to reach the Moon than the Near Earth Objects.

An attractive location for positioning space colonies are the fifth and fourth Sun-Earth Lagrange points, which are in co-orbit with the Earth. Bodies placed in or around these points have a stable orbit. Further these points do not suffer from eclipses caused by the Earth, therefore we can rely on continuous operational Solar power. One problem is that it takes several months to reach them, but we have to realize that a few centuries ago it would take several months to cross the Atlantic. But this did not stop European countries from colonizing the Americas. Yes, the long travel time causes several challenges, but we believe that man can overcome this. Proper planning and design are a key to success.

Another advantage of the fourth and fifth Earth-Sun Lagrange points is the presence of so-called Trojan asteroids. Currently the existence one such an object is confirmed, it is reasonable to assume other Earth Trojans exists. As I will explain in the next section, asteroids are the treasures of the Solar System. Even if there no other Earth Trojans, or those which exists are of poor composition, then L4 and L5 can be used as a destination for relocated Near Earth Asteroids. Some space advocates argue in favor of capturing asteroids and to relocate them into an orbit around our planet. I do not believe this is a good idea, we can easily see the danger of this mission. Many people on this planet would consider this as an unacceptable risk.

The long travel time from Earth to the fourth and fifth Lagrange points has also benefits. If for some reason the communities of the Lagrange points got in conflict with terrestrial nations, they effectively protected from military aggression from the Earth. Any hostile missile has to transverse for months through space and can be detected remotely by proper equipment.

Manifesto part 1

Reasons for Space colonization

In this section we will explain why we are in favour of space colonization, and the next section we will also explain why we want to colonize the so-called fourth and fifth Lagrange points of the Earth-Sun system rather than colonizing the Moon or Mars. Although many of our arguments are not original, actually most of our main arguments exist since at least the late 1960s, we will present our reasoning from a point of view which is based on classical republicanism and classical liberalism.

Traditional arguments for space colonization are overpopulation and the survival of humanity. Since the world population continues to grow, some people fear that at one time in the (near) future there are too many people. Overpopulation is the situation that there are more people on Earth than our planet can sustain (this is the idea behind the ecological footprint). Believing that birth control programs will not work or will be insufficient, some people believe that therefore a part of our species should be relocated to other planets or to artificial space habitats. The fear for uncontrollable population growth was especially great in the 1970s (see for instance the establishment of the club of Rome). Since then the growth rate of the world population has declined, and many experts now believe that the number of humans will stabilize at nine to ten billion by the year 2100. Of course we cannot predict whether there will be a baby boom somewhere in this century, but it is unlikely that the world population will triple during the next 100 years.

There are several so-called existential risks for humanity, varying from natural to man-made catastrophes. The idea is that in order to guarantee the continued existence of the human race, a part (or even all) of humanity should be relocated into outer space, in the event of a global catastrophe. However some of those potential catastrophes, especially those created by man, can either be averted or their consequences can be reduced. Other potential risks are only a problem in billions of years, which raises the question why we should take action right now, while there are more urgent problems (like the HIV/aids pandemic). Some people, like for instance the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, would argue that humans shouldn’t reproduce in the first place, and therefore such far-into-the-future problems, such like the Sun entering into the red giant stage, are irrelevant. Given that the chance for a global catastrophe which is able to wipe out the human species, to happen within the lifespans of all currently alive people is rather small, we can ask whether we have a moral responsibility to ensure the continued existence of mankind. Different people will answer this question differently.

Traditionally there is also a third reason for space colonization. Although this one is not as popular as the first two, but we believe this third argument is possibly more important. We could call this one the economic argument (we could call the first and second argument the demographic respectively the survivalist argument). As more people are the joining the global middle classes, more people will buy cars, washing machines and other consumer goods. In order to meet this increasing demand, more and more resources are needed. If for example every person on Earth would be able to buy a car, we should switch to, for example, hydrogen cars. But the required fuel cells need a lot of platinum, and everyone knows that platinum is a very rare resource, at least here on Earth. Asteroid mining could easily provide enough platinum for a full-scale hydrogen economy (I will ignore all criticism of the hydrogen economy here, because that is outside the scope of this manifesto). Beside solving issues of resource depletion, asteroid mining can also reduce or eliminate environmental damage caused by terrestrial mining. The reader may point out that asteroid mining is not the same as space colonization. This is true, but asteroid mining without space colonization is practically impossible. Even if we have a nearly completely automated space mining industry, we still need a (small) space based crew in case of some unexpected problems.

However, we believe that the most important reason for space colonization is what we would call the political or utopian argument. Here on Earth civil liberties are under pressure almost everywhere, and since many resources (e.g. food and oil) are increasingly becoming scarce we expect that political freedoms will be even further restrained. Except for a piece of Antarctica known as Marie Byrd Land, almost all land on Earth is claimed by governments. Therefore it is almost impossible to create a new country on Earth without war. Secondly it is hard to impossible to implement large reforms in existing societies, see for example the massive demonstration currently held in many European countries.

Republic of Lagrangia believes that every society, whether on Earth or in Outer Space, should have the right to organize themselves as they see fit. We also believe that every person should have the right to choose in which society he or she wants to live. Therefore we do not believe in forcing existing terrestrial societies to implement the reforms we wish to implement, our only option is to move to Outer Space.

We realise that different people want to live in different kinds of societies, but the beautiful aspect of Space Colonization is that it provide both the space and the resources for a wide variety of societies. Suppose that one group disagrees how some Space community is run, they can simply take their stuff and go to somewhere else to create their own community. No need for violent separation movements and related civil wars.

Peaceful coexistence will be the cornerstone of the relation between Space Nations, people will move to those societies they like most or they will try to create their very own. This kind of freedom does not exist on Earth nowadays.

3D printing and space colonization

Part One of this of this post was originally posted on blogspot.com on November 4, 2012 and Part Two was published there on November 24, 2012.

Part One

As you can read in our manifesto  we have high esteems of the prospects of 3D printing. This technology will make it possible to produce customized spare parts anywhere they are needed. In combination with in situ resource utilization, 3D printing will lessen the dependence of Space settlers of importation of goods from Earth.

Why do we have such a hopeful view of 3D printing? This article on BBC News shows that it is possible to print the parts of guns with a commercial available 3D printer. Not that we advocate this particular application of 3D printing, far from it. But that some technology may be used for (possibly) illegal application, is not a reason for banning it (this would as absurd as outlawing the Internet, only because Internet has mad it easier to spread child pornography). For instance knifes can be used for legal purposes like cooking, but also for murdering people. The use of technology of illegal purposes should be banned, not the technology itself, certainly if the noble applications are much more important.

That said, I will return to my argument. If it is possible to print parts of guns, it will be possible to create many more stuff. Notice that a properly working gun is a moderately complex object. Within a few years from now, 3D printers will be able to create almost every part we need, including the parts of a 3D printer itself. It is not hard to imagine to bright prospects of 3D printers for space colonization.

Once 3D-printing has advanced to the point that nearly all things can be printed, we need only to bring one 3D-printer (or at least its dissembled components) to outer space. There we can print new printers, thereafter we can produce all the stuff we need, while simultaneously weakening our dependence of Earth based supplies. Which is important, because it makes Space Settlers less vulnerable from extortion and blackmailing from Terrestrial powers.

Part Two

A couple of weeks ago I did a post on 3D-printing, today I found the following article. This article describes a method to print electronic circuits, which a of huge importance for space colonization. We cannot think about space colonization or space travel in general without the extensive use of electronics.

This new development will make the production of cheap electronics reality. And by moving such 3D-printers into outer space, Space Colonies will become self-sufficient much earlier than I would have ever dreamed. As I have explained in my earlier post, the dependence on the import of components from Earth is both expensive and will make Space Colonies vulnerable to sabotage by terrestrial parties.

I am interested to learned what is next regarding 3D-printing.