The idea of a sustainable industry in local space and the moon is one of the mainstays of science fiction, along with travel to other planets. Add to that resource mining in the asteroids and Mars and eventually man moving out among the Solar System’s outer planets and beyond. Tabletop roleplaying games such as source books from Cyberpunk 2020’s Near Orbit and GURPS Terradyne, both decades old, depict a richly detailed environment of earth’s near future.
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser program is yet another major step in man’s exploration of space that began in 1957 with Russia’s launch of Sputnik I. The commercial space corporation plans a test flight launch of the Dream Chaser vehicle with the use of the venerable Saturn V rocket, arguably the best launch vehicle ever built. The launch is scheduled for 2016, which will be unmanned, with a manned version slated for 2017, in collaboration with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), who will provide facilities at the Kennedy Space Center. Dream Catcher is but one of a number endeavors that will eventually turn Cape Canaveral into earth’s first spaceport, another mainstay of science fiction, and bring mankind a step closer to creating industries in space.
Currently two rovers roam the surface of Mars independently of one another corroborate evidence of life on the Red Planet. In 2013, NASA had so much as came right out with the statement of evidence that there was once life on Mars. In the outer reaches of our solar system, Cassini is busy recording images of Saturn and its moons, while the New Horizons probe/robot is expected to arrive in Pluto’s local space by June of 2015, to add further detail to the Hubble Space Telescope’s images taken in 2002-03 of the dwarf planet’s surface. Juno, expected to arrive at Jupiter in 2016, will seek to unlock the secrets of the Solar System’s largest planet while Messenger, which has already accomplished flybys of Venus and Mercury in 2007 and 2008 respectively, is currently in Mercury orbit. Dawn, the probe headed to Ceres, the dwarf planet in the Asteroid Belt, is scheduled to arrive in 2015 to start relaying data about what was once thought to be an asteroid, though a very unusual one. It had just come off of a 14-month orbit of Vesta, the second largest body in the Asteroid Belt.
Then there’s NASA’s Lunar Moon Garden Project, slated for a 2015 launch with experiments designed to explore the possibility of actually living in deep space.
The fly in the ointment of countries pooling resources to take advantage of the limitless resources available just beyond mankind’s reach, is what a visiting extraterrestrial might call “petty differences”: that of killing in the name of ideology, whether it be political, social, or religious in nature, and just plain good old-fashioned naked aggression (insert extreme sarcasm) for the control of territory.
That aside, the very real possibility for the existence of industries in local space in this generation or at the beginning of the next is a very enticing carrot on a very short stick that will eventually lead mankind into becoming a spacefaring species in following generations of space industries.
Editorial by Lee Birdine