Thursday, September 17, 2015

Colonization is a Choice

It is 2015. Why aren't people living and working on the Moon, on Mars, and in asteroid mining facilities throughout the inner Solar System? The technology, the know-how, the professional and labor markets, and the fundamental proof-of-concept all exist in our times. Where is our brave new age that so many science fiction writers of the past assumed would blossom in the 21st Century?

The usual response to calls for space exploration and colonization is that such an agenda is unrealistic, disconnected from the real state of current technology, and doomed to failure because of the divisive nature of Earth politics. But we must also consider the very real possibility that in the absence of a global popular movement demanding the development of space-based resources, and the corresponding creation of job markets for all of earth's citizens within a space-based economy, the exploration of space will become the exploitation of human labor and capital. The billionaires who dabble in the fledgling space industry know that their power and wealth can only grow through off-world prospecting.

Whether we believe it or not, the inevitable and eventual emergence of a global need for off-world colonization is a given. It is either that, or a sudden and radical reduction in the human population will eventually be necessary. Barring that, there are a variety of unpleasant options involving limitations on freedom - including personal and reproductive liberties.

One way or the other, we must reduce the pressure that we place on the ecosystem.

All of these are real concerns, but not all of these concerns are founded upon solid, measurable data. The truth is that colonization is not only realistic, it will ultimately be an unavoidable necessity - if we want to prevent unending wars and reduce the impact of emergent diseases and other environmental disasters. In fact, colonization of the Moon and Mars has been on the agenda of the aerospace industry in the United States for decades, and many other nations have examined the potential for such a venture, including the development of viable plans to place real, long-term, high-population colonies off-world.

What is the hold up?

The absence of effective tech is not the reason for our lack of space colonies. The actual problem lies in two areas, but both of these areas are closely linked, and resolution of one sort of problems is very likely to resolve the others, as well.

First, there is a lack of funding. The basic answer to why the U.S. has not sent a manned mission to Mars is expense. The budget at NASA doesn't allow for such extravagant measures.

Second, there is a lack of interest. The basic answer to why NASA is so underfunded that it cannot truly undertake its mission of human-piloted space exploration is that the United States Congress cannot find sufficient popular will to justify such budgetary expenditures. Without voter demand, representative systems of government have very little incentive to undertake initiatives. There simply is a perception that there is not enough interest in these projects.

SPACE NOW exists to change that, not just in the U.S., but around the world as well.

Funding on a national scale for many countries and/or treaty organizations could potentially create large-scale, highly successful colonization initiatives. For example, the U.S., or NATO, or China, or the E.U. could readily fund massive projects, if these actors were willing to spend money without an immediate return on the investment. The short range economic analyses that we use - forecasting futures over quarters and fiscal years - does not lend itself to support for the development of long-range, expensive programs that "might" pay off in the future.

The answer to this problem is obvious - and it is just as obvious that the current attitudes in the U.S. and around the world truly constitute a problem. In fact, the general attitude is far too dismissive and ill-considered. Off-world colonization is neither a "maybe" nor is it some far-off proposition without grounding in practical reality. Instead, it is an inevitable necessity for avoiding widespread and potentially unending war as an outgrowth of population increase and resource limitations.

There is no shortage of studies, research projects, and cost/benefit analyses available for popular or even professional review:

Mars Base

The bottom line is and has long been that we know how to do space colonization, and we even have a fair idea of how much it might cost - from a start up perspective - to begin the development of industry off-world. But we have done very little in the way of looking at off-world resource gathering and shipping in a practical sense, over many decades, as a real business model. The truth is that this represents a significant capital outlay for even the simplest operations on the nearest heavenly body - the Moon. So short-term analysis is not favorable. But long-term analysis is very favorable - not least because putting permanent human colonies on other planets and planetary bodies means increasing the statistical likelihood that human beings will continue to exist in the far-flung future. The more spread out we are, the less likely that we will all be killed off by some catastrophic event.

Survival is an important goal, but sometimes humans think upside down and backwards, so we are often much more motivated by potential profit than we are by staying alive. After all, what's the use of staying alive if we can't find a way to get rich quick?

But as it turns out, even the most local destination has an abundance of resources that equal industrial and energy production profits, if one accepts an upfront capital investment of literally astronomical proportions. Even small Lunar bases are figured in the billions of dollars.

The fact is that over time, profit is inevitable. In fact, the economic activity that even a few thousand people living on the moon might generate here on earth is considerable. This is because it would take a large amount of support - initially - to maintain such a colony. There would have to be a regular cycle of transit to and from the moon, and a regular schedule of workers going back and forth. This way, no one would be exposed for too long to a Lunar environment with which we remain largely unfamiliar. The potential for harm caused by cosmic rays and various other forms of radiation is great.

One of the significant stumbling blocks in this process is likely to revolve around liabilities for personal injury, negligence, and environmental impact. But here too, a large enough capital reserve can handle the costs. And the potential capital rewards are staggering - given enough time to develop the infrastructure and energy production needed to run a large scale industrial operation off-world.

The issue is simply that no single earth-based corporation or conglomerate is big enough to venture the capital and undertake the risk. And no single political entity has demonstrated the willingness and foresight necessary to force the issue and forge ahead by building and populating a Lunar colony of scale. Our goal is the construction of an economically viable, aesthetically pleasing, truly livable Lunar city of over 100,000 citizens by the year 2065.

We believe the local moon economy can be driven by resource gathering and limited resource refining, with an emphasis obviously on shipping to the earth, while finished goods and needed supplies are shipped back to the moon in return. The model contemplated is similar in form to mercantilism, with the notable departure that any rational approach to economics limits exploitation and encourages a greater sharing of profits.

Basic Mercantilism

Our suggestion is that a global commission be convened to study the overall requirements, and to propose resource allocation tables, schedules, and routines in which all nations participate. The focus of these resource allocations would be to immediately apply production capacity to truly large-scale space industries, created through intra- and inter-industry partnerships. The overall model is a hybridization of capitalist and socialist economic doctrines, so that the balancing of interests can foster growth with a minimum of the friction and resistance so often associated with economic disparity. The great departure from previous political or economic approaches is that SPACE NOW contemplates a world capable of gradual unification through focus and effort expended upon a shared, planet-wide goal: survival and enrichment through colonization of our solar system.

SPACE NOW imagines a Lunar city that has no national or international identity, but is instead a global city, a city for all the people of the world. In time, the world will lose any control over this city, and it will take on an identity of its own - a human city, on a human colony-world we know as our Moon. By then, it will be one world among many. The general trend in the history of our world has been toward larger systems and greater freedom. Let us continue that trend into the future through conscious agency and a will to prosper and endure.

A critical stepping stone is the development of a doctrine that views global resources as composing a worldwide pool. This pool belongs to each and every human being currently living on this planet, with remainder interest resting in generations yet unborn. It is incumbent upon current generations that every effort be made to ensure our continued survival as a species. No less, great prosperity is possible through a global shift of agenda.

If nations gradually dissolve as individual people living in every part of the world awaken to our global political and economic identity, then the need for artificial division is eliminated at the same time as our priorities radically shift. Money spent on sporting events, entertainment spectacles, political contests, and various public works projects is obviously better spent on expanding opportunities for everyone.