At the core of this project is the realization that solid objects ranging in size from millimeters to kilometers can be assembled automatically into specified complex shapes using potential force fields. Interesting shapes can be tailored using the standing waves of an unsteady potential force field. A multitude of objects can be made to simultaneously arrange themselves along specified surfaces. We have demonstrated this concept in microgravity flight and ground-based experiments. Tailored Force Fields (TFF) could work over a wide range of sizes and force fields. Specifically, this enables the primary goal of NASA’s HEDS Grand challenge: the development of “safe, fully self-sustaining integrated human and robotic presence in space and on other planets, independent from Earth and for indefinite periods of time”.
10.1 Conclusions reached in the Phase 1 project
Previous conceptual studies of large human colonies away from Earth [1-2] have answered several of the concerns expressed by NIAC reviewers.
Why think of a Space-Based Economy at all? Today’s Space programs are driven to miniaturization by the Launch Cost Barrier. Today’s generation must face the reality that only a few Government employees and billionaires will fly in Space in the next 20 years under present plans. Public support for the Space program appears to have peaked. Competing Mission Plans fight for a declining pool of Science dollars – destroying each other. Our solution [6-10] is in resonance with strategic planners [1-2,11] – a coherent, synergistic plan for a Space-Based Economy – one where the Suppliers, Raw Materials, Infrastructure, Manufacturers and end-users are all away from Earth, with little dependence on Earth for bulk materials.
Why Build Large Settlements in Space?
For the same reasons why humans quit living in caves or
tents in the boonies, and move to big cities. Economies of scale.
Scope for derivative / advanced professions. Co-location of essential
facilities. Shared concern over problems – shared cost of solutions. Better
living standards. The critical population size to make a Space colony
viable as an economic entity is estimated to be in the several thousands
Why not on a planetary surface? There is no sense in commuting from the gravity well of the lunar surface if one’s job is, say, maintaining satellites or power plants in GEO. The main attraction of a lunar cave is protection from radiation – a problem being solved here.
Other findings: Within a generation, the “unnatural” aspects of living in variable-gravity will have become “natural”. Project times of 10-20 yrs and $100B budgets are acceptable – the ISS was started circa 1984 with completion scheduled for 2005, with total program cost over $100B – with no promise of rapid economic expansion in Space. We tie our project into a comprehensive plan for a Space-Based Economy.