The Future ofThe Future of
Harvesting Space ResourcesHarvesting Space Resources
The World Futures Society Conference – Jul...
Expected FutureExpected Future
(Baseline Scenario)(Baseline Scenario)
Domain: harvesting spaceDomain: harvesting space
res...
By 2033 . . .By 2033 . . .
. . . Humanity is routinely present. . . Humanity is routinely present
in Earth orbit.in Earth ...
These in turn . . .These in turn . . .
. . . returned hundreds, then. . . returned hundreds, then
thousands of tons ofthou...
It was acceptable . . .It was acceptable . . .
. . . since success meant a. . . since success meant a
strong marketing pos...
Water . . .Water . . .
. . . benefited all aspects of the. . . benefited all aspects of the
expanding space frontier.expan...
Plentiful water . . .Plentiful water . . .
. . . is the “ore.”. . . is the “ore.”
Separated into hydrogen andSeparated int...
The number of people . . .The number of people . . .
. . . working in orbit has increased. . . working in orbit has increa...
Availability now in 2033 . . .Availability now in 2033 . . .
. . . of water may support the US. . . of water may support t...
The reduction in cost . . .The reduction in cost . . .
. . . could contribute toward. . . could contribute toward
a Mars m...
Back in 2025 . . .Back in 2025 . . .
. . . the mining organizations. . . the mining organizations
shifted attention to met...
The products of metal mining . . .The products of metal mining . . .
. . . haven’t made it back to Earth. . . haven’t made...
This was not unanticipated . . .This was not unanticipated . . .
. . . Even in the 20. . . Even in the 20thth
Century,Cent...
An analogy is the history . . .An analogy is the history . . .
. . . of aluminum. Once regarded. . . of aluminum. Once reg...
In summary . . .In summary . . .
. . . The expected future of. . . The expected future of
space resources is one ofspace r...
Additional DevelopmentsAdditional Developments
Since this forecast was crafted in mid-2013,Since this forecast was crafted...
Bibliography –Bibliography –
 http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/04/planetary-resources-will-have-personal.htmlhttp://nextbigf...
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Best of Houston Foresight: Harvesting Space Resources

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Presented by Kurt Callaway

This session highlights the best student products from the award-winning graduate program in Foresight at the University of Houston. The session will include the best essays, forecasts, scenarios, and plans from the next generation of professional futurists.

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Best of Houston Foresight: Harvesting Space Resources

  1. 1. The Future ofThe Future of Harvesting Space ResourcesHarvesting Space Resources The World Futures Society Conference – July 2014The World Futures Society Conference – July 2014 Orlando, FloridaOrlando, Florida Kurt CallawayKurt Callaway Foresight (Futures Studies) Graduate ProgramForesight (Futures Studies) Graduate Program University of HoustonUniversity of Houston
  2. 2. Expected FutureExpected Future (Baseline Scenario)(Baseline Scenario) Domain: harvesting spaceDomain: harvesting space resources; specificallyresources; specifically material resources frommaterial resources from Near Earth ObjectsNear Earth Objects (NEOs).(NEOs). Time frame: twenty yearsTime frame: twenty years ((~~2033).2033). The domain is still relativelyThe domain is still relatively immature.immature.
  3. 3. By 2033 . . .By 2033 . . . . . . Humanity is routinely present. . . Humanity is routinely present in Earth orbit.in Earth orbit. Using inexpensive probes, theUsing inexpensive probes, the hunt for candidates had begunhunt for candidates had begun around 2015.around 2015. Within five years, a number ofWithin five years, a number of possibilities found among thepossibilities found among the thousands of known NEOs.thousands of known NEOs. Swarms of robotic mining craftSwarms of robotic mining craft were dispatched to the mostwere dispatched to the most promising asteroids.promising asteroids.
  4. 4. These in turn . . .These in turn . . . . . . returned hundreds, then. . . returned hundreds, then thousands of tons ofthousands of tons of frozen water.frozen water. The water began arrivingThe water began arriving back at Earth aroundback at Earth around 2027 – twelve years after2027 – twelve years after the prospecting started.the prospecting started. A long time? The investorsA long time? The investors didn’t think so.didn’t think so.
  5. 5. It was acceptable . . .It was acceptable . . . . . . since success meant a. . . since success meant a strong marketing positionstrong marketing position for the companies.for the companies. Parallels to deep-sea drillingParallels to deep-sea drilling and mining ventures:and mining ventures: • large initial capital outlaylarge initial capital outlay • long project lifelong project life • robotic technology thatrobotic technology that mustmust work reliably yetwork reliably yet autonomously.autonomously.
  6. 6. Water . . .Water . . . . . . benefited all aspects of the. . . benefited all aspects of the expanding space frontier.expanding space frontier. Reduced the cost of manyReduced the cost of many activities:activities: • extended tourist stays in orbitextended tourist stays in orbit • satellite rebuilding, refuelingsatellite rebuilding, refueling • orbital debris reductionorbital debris reduction • manned space stationsmanned space stations The first Chinese manned moonThe first Chinese manned moon mission in 2030 “topped off” inmission in 2030 “topped off” in Earth orbit with propellantsEarth orbit with propellants cracked from asteroid water.cracked from asteroid water.
  7. 7. Plentiful water . . .Plentiful water . . . . . . is the “ore.”. . . is the “ore.” Separated into hydrogen andSeparated into hydrogen and oxygen using solar power, itoxygen using solar power, it becomes a high-efficiencybecomes a high-efficiency propellant.propellant. Launch costs reduced as muchLaunch costs reduced as much as 90%, depending on theas 90%, depending on the mission.mission. Operational fuel no longer needsOperational fuel no longer needs to be lifted from Earth.to be lifted from Earth.
  8. 8. The number of people . . .The number of people . . . . . . working in orbit has increased. . . working in orbit has increased significantly, and now thesignificantly, and now the 10,000 pounds of water/annum10,000 pounds of water/annum needed for each person isneeded for each person is already there.already there. Organizations have also found itOrganizations have also found it cheaper to buy water icecheaper to buy water ice already in orbit to use asalready in orbit to use as radiation shielding.radiation shielding. Several centimeters of waterSeveral centimeters of water protects against solar radiationprotects against solar radiation and cosmic rays.and cosmic rays.
  9. 9. Availability now in 2033 . . .Availability now in 2033 . . . . . . of water may support the US. . . of water may support the US manned expedition to orbitmanned expedition to orbit Mars, which might launch thisMars, which might launch this year during the first of theyear during the first of the decade’s two windows.decade’s two windows. Provisioning with asteroid waterProvisioning with asteroid water will alleviate the mission’swill alleviate the mission’s launch costs.launch costs. It will still be high, since onlyIt will still be high, since only water and not metal iswater and not metal is available so far from asteroidavailable so far from asteroid resources.resources.
  10. 10. The reduction in cost . . .The reduction in cost . . . . . . could contribute toward. . . could contribute toward a Mars mission thata Mars mission that includes an actual landingincludes an actual landing – on one of the Martian– on one of the Martian moons.moons. A manned station on theA manned station on the moon of Deimos withmoon of Deimos with tele-exploration of Marstele-exploration of Mars would drop the overallwould drop the overall cost considerably.cost considerably.
  11. 11. Back in 2025 . . .Back in 2025 . . . . . . the mining organizations. . . the mining organizations shifted attention to metal-richshifted attention to metal-rich asteroids.asteroids. Lots of propellant was available,Lots of propellant was available, and remote mining technologyand remote mining technology was improving.was improving. Prospecting spacecraft hadProspecting spacecraft had already identified metal-already identified metal- bearing asteroids.bearing asteroids. The companies were flush withThe companies were flush with revenue from sales of depotrevenue from sales of depot water and fuel.water and fuel.
  12. 12. The products of metal mining . . .The products of metal mining . . . . . . haven’t made it back to Earth. . . haven’t made it back to Earth by 2033 yet.by 2033 yet. HoweverHowever, the prospect of arriving, the prospect of arriving asteroid metals has alreadyasteroid metals has already begun to have an economicbegun to have an economic effect.effect. Prices drop as buyers anticipate aPrices drop as buyers anticipate a vastly increased supply.vastly increased supply. Investors flee precious metals forInvestors flee precious metals for items that will maintain value:items that will maintain value: industrial metals, carbonindustrial metals, carbon credits, diamonds, and sugar.credits, diamonds, and sugar.
  13. 13. This was not unanticipated . . .This was not unanticipated . . . . . . Even in the 20. . . Even in the 20thth Century,Century, planners recognized newplanners recognized new space resources couldspace resources could affect the globalaffect the global economy.economy. The fall in metals pricesThe fall in metals prices opened the possibility ofopened the possibility of new technology that wasnew technology that was infeasible in a worldinfeasible in a world where the price of rarewhere the price of rare metals remained high.metals remained high.
  14. 14. An analogy is the history . . .An analogy is the history . . . . . . of aluminum. Once regarded. . . of aluminum. Once regarded as more precious than gold.as more precious than gold. Only after its price dropped, didOnly after its price dropped, did aluminum become a widely-aluminum become a widely- used building material andused building material and alloy component.alloy component. The increase in rare metals willThe increase in rare metals will act similarly: depressed pricesact similarly: depressed prices initially, but creating muchinitially, but creating much greater demand within newgreater demand within new products and uses.products and uses.
  15. 15. In summary . . .In summary . . . . . . The expected future of. . . The expected future of space resources is one ofspace resources is one of enabling many aspectsenabling many aspects future civilization.future civilization. From the innovation of newFrom the innovation of new products no longerproducts no longer constrained by materialconstrained by material costscosts To the more affordableTo the more affordable expansion of humans’expansion of humans’ presence and activitypresence and activity beyond low earth orbit.beyond low earth orbit.
  16. 16. Additional DevelopmentsAdditional Developments Since this forecast was crafted in mid-2013,Since this forecast was crafted in mid-2013, additional considerations should beadditional considerations should be monitored as possible change indicators:monitored as possible change indicators: • Effect of the Outer Space TreatyEffect of the Outer Space Treaty • Efficiency of asteroid resource extractionEfficiency of asteroid resource extraction • The Elvis Equation (no, not Presley…)The Elvis Equation (no, not Presley…)
  17. 17. Bibliography –Bibliography –  http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/04/planetary-resources-will-have-personal.htmlhttp://nextbigfuture.com/2012/04/planetary-resources-will-have-personal.html  http://www.geekwire.com/2013/deep-space-industries-entering-asteroidmining-world-creates-competition-http://www.geekwire.com/2013/deep-space-industries-entering-asteroidmining-world-creates-competition- planetary-resources/planetary-resources/  http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/  http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/usage/http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/usage/  http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/composition/http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/composition/  http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2074/1http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2074/1  http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/04/26/asteroid-mining-no-crazier-than-deep-sea-drilling-advocates-say/http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/04/26/asteroid-mining-no-crazier-than-deep-sea-drilling-advocates-say/  httphttp://www.esa.int/TEC/Clean_Space/SEMOBFNW91H_0.htmlhttphttp://www.esa.int/TEC/Clean_Space/SEMOBFNW91H_0.html  http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-05/24/content_11425131.htmhttp://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-05/24/content_11425131.htm  http://deepspaceindustries.com/explore/http://deepspaceindustries.com/explore/  http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast02nov_1/http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast02nov_1/  http://www.adl.gatech.edu/research/tff/radiation_shield.htmlhttp://www.adl.gatech.edu/research/tff/radiation_shield.html  http://www.nasa.gov/news/media/trans/obama_ksc_trans.htmlhttp://www.nasa.gov/news/media/trans/obama_ksc_trans.html  http://www.space.com/11437-mars-moons-exploration-astronauts-red-rocks.htmlhttp://www.space.com/11437-mars-moons-exploration-astronauts-red-rocks.html  http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112523850/asteroid-mining-venture-could-change-supplydemand-ratio-on-http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112523850/asteroid-mining-venture-could-change-supplydemand-ratio-on- earth/earth/  National Space Society, "Ad Astra" Winter 2012, p. 20National Space Society, "Ad Astra" Winter 2012, p. 20  http://www.aluminiumleader.com/files/File/19century_eng.pdfhttp://www.aluminiumleader.com/files/File/19century_eng.pdf  http://www.kemcom.net/EconAnal.pdf, page 4http://www.kemcom.net/EconAnal.pdf, page 4 Image credits: 2: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov; 3: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/stats; 4: http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/mining-asteroids/0; 5: http://www.popsci.com (Kevin Hand); 6:Image credits: 2: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov; 3: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/stats; 4: http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/mining-asteroids/0; 5: http://www.popsci.com (Kevin Hand); 6: http://www.cleanwateraction.org/programinitiative/protecting-drinking-water-0; 7: http://hydrogencarguide.com; 8:http://www.cleanwateraction.org/programinitiative/protecting-drinking-water-0; 7: http://hydrogencarguide.com; 8: http://web.archive.org/web/20011207025921/spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/station/transhab/html/s99_05363.html; 9: http://lightsinthedark.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/; 10:http://web.archive.org/web/20011207025921/spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/station/transhab/html/s99_05363.html; 9: http://lightsinthedark.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/; 10: http://www.space.com (credit: Lockheed-Martin); 11: http://www.astrobio.net (Christine Daniloff/MIT); 12: http://www.agricorner.com; http://geology.com (iStockphoto / Greg Stanfield);http://www.space.com (credit: Lockheed-Martin); 11: http://www.astrobio.net (Christine Daniloff/MIT); 12: http://www.agricorner.com; http://geology.com (iStockphoto / Greg Stanfield); http://www.copper-manufacturers.com; http://www.carboncreditcertificates.com; 13: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/fcv_PEM.shtml; 14: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons; 15:http://www.copper-manufacturers.com; http://www.carboncreditcertificates.com; 13: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/fcv_PEM.shtml; 14: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons; 15: http://spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=39848 & http://www.space.com/17856-nasa-deep-space-station-moon-farside.html (David A. Kring, LPI-JSC Center for Lunar Science and Exploration)http://spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=39848 & http://www.space.com/17856-nasa-deep-space-station-moon-farside.html (David A. Kring, LPI-JSC Center for Lunar Science and Exploration)

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