Monday, July 26, 2021

What I would do if I ruled space

What I mean by ruling space is if I had control over all space activities: NASA, the China National Space Administration, SpaceX, etc. all had to do my bidding.  If it goes into space – be it a military satellite, a science mission to the outer solar system, or scientists doing experiments on a space station – I have the final say.  If I – somehow – had that power, this is what I’d do.

One of the first things I’d do would be to have a review of all rockets.  To be blunt, not all rockets are equal.  This review would weed out the not so good ones.  Any rockets that release massive death clouds of toxic fumes if they fail will be phased out.  The remaining rockets would be ranked on things like: reliability, cost, launch rate, etc.  The idea would not be to cut things down to one or two rockets.  That’s a bad idea.  I’d say more like twenty or so, with different fuels and launch capacities. 

Some nations want to have their own rockets for national pride.  And that’s great and all, but is it really best to spend billions of dollars to reinvent the rocket when – if there is some power that lets you do this – you could spend a fraction of that to launch your payloads on already existing rockets?

I might also start work on a universal rocket.  Basically, this would be a set design that could be built in four or five factories in various countries around the world close to a launch pad.  This would make it easier for customers because they’d know exactly what they need to do for their satellites.  And then they’d just have to get it to whatever launch pad works best for whatever orbit they want.

Now that I have the rockets sorted out, where will people be going?  My first idea is to have several new space stations.  These would probably be of an expandable module type, and would be larger than the current ISS, with a crew of, probably ten.  They would be specialized, one for biomedical, one for material sciences, one for little bit of everything.  My idea is these would have a “home port” which would be the primary launch site for crew and supplies.  So if you were doing research on the biomedical station, you’d launch from Florida, but if you were doing materials research, you’d launch from a Chinese spaceport. 

There would also be orbital hotels, brothels, retirement homes, etc.  I’m sure there are plenty of ideas for zero-g sports, some of which might actually be fun, so there will be stadiums.  Once we get lots of people into orbit, there’s no telling what will be needed or developed.

I’d also work on stations in lunar orbit.  These would be part of my return to the moon to stay plan, which I think would be my main space focus.  The point would be to have multiple research stations across the lunar surface studying the moon itself as well as how best to live there.  That knowledge would led to larger bases and eventually cities.  The idea from the start would be for the moon to eventually become an independent nation(s).

And what of Mars?  I support the scientific exploration of Mars, but I don’t think we are ready for a crewed Mars mission.  When we can go for a couple of years with a self-sustaining life support system on a space station, then I’ll feel more comfortable.  And when we do get to Mars, I just see research stations, not cities.  I don’t buy into the whole we need to colonize Mars thing.  (See my book The Moon Before Mars: Why returning to the moon makes more sense than rushing off to Mars for more details.) 

As to robotic missions, I think we should have orbiters around every planet, dwarf planet, major satellite, and big asteroid.  If there’s a surface a rover can survive on, there should be dozens of rovers.  There should also be missions to comets, interstellar objects, interstellar space itself.  And there should be dozens of telescopes for every wavelength, from gamma rays to radio waves. 

As ruler of space, I would do everything I could to get humanity the knowledge it needs to fully become a spacefaring civilization.  I think that would be the best thing anyone could do.  What would you do if you ruled space?

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