For more than ten years now, human beings have occupied the International Space Station. Likewise, a handful of dreamers have promised commercial space travel and routine space missions for consumers soon. However, are these just dreams or yet-to-be developed realities? Deep space offers a number of advantages in many areas when compared to Earth. Moreover, based on recent events, space exploration efforts are showing promise. The question is who will reach their space missions first and what will deep space look like in the future?
Deep Space Industry – Taking Off Gravity’s Handcuffs
Billionaires like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos are pouring investments into space exploration — and for a good reason. Deep space solves many challenges that hinder various industries on Earth.
For example, microfiber cables can be made much faster and without defects in deep space because gravity no longer exists. LED chemicals mix much more uniformly in space. Also, human stem cells can grow into perfectly shaped hearts without structural supports in deep space. For many businesses, gravity poses problems. For this reason, select firms are excited about the possibilities that space exploration offers.
The Larger Promise of Space Exploration
Recent interviews with Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos notes that he envisions a trillion people living and working in deep space in time. While this may be many generations away, the opportunities for industries to excel in space are more apparent and immediate.
Energy represents the largest sector on Earth totaling $8.4 trillion in expenditures globally. Growing human energy consumption suggests that space exploration is the only way to avoid serious energy constraints in the future. The advantage of deep space for energy production is mainly two-fold. Solar power is much more readily available (without atmospheres in the way). Likewise, chemical energy production from oxygen, hydrogen, and methane shows great promise for rocket fuel propellants. Some foresee self-reliant energy systems in deep space that will provide support for ongoing space missions.
From moons to asteroids, deep space also offers the opportunity to tap into new sources of resources. While space missions will focus on water resources initially, space exploration of metals and other non-metal minerals will eventually be important. Though this sounds far-fetched, the absence of gravity could make mining in deep space easier than on Earth.
Luxembourg has invested $227 million in space missions to explore planetary resources. With sustainable water and metals, in-space human existence and construction become feasible.
Existing space missions and research at the International Space Station support some manufacturing operations currently. Imagine if such operations were scattered throughout deep space. Many manufacturing plants on Earth are already autonomous using robotics systems. If base materials could jumpstart such activities in deep space, resources from mining and energy production could create a self-sustaining system. Without the hindrance of gravity, many manufacturing operations would be more efficient and more productive as well. Many private space missions today have this vision in mind.
Space Exploration and Deep Space Travel
Many of us dream of the possibility of traveling in deep space. Though still not yet a reality, several space missions conducted by private industry are making real progress towards this goal. Not only have costs come down for space exploration, but recent gains in safety and performance offer a reason for excitement. Here are some of the likely industry leaders in future space missions.
Virgin Galactic recently launched a rocket-powered space exploration mission that reached speeds of nearly 2.5 times the speed of sound! More importantly, the vessel reached a height of 170,800 feet in 42 seconds. The height is the edge of deep space and provides weightlessness. It is technically the mesosphere. Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic’s CEO, continues to promise commercial space exploration travel to private passengers in the near future. Estimations for the price of Virgin Galactic’s space missions hover around $250,000.
While space exploration and transportation are also important to Space-X, Elon Musk is taking a different approach. The Falcon Heavy rocket has 27 powerful rocket engines and can carry a load of over 140,000 pounds into deep space. This would be notably helpful in jumpstarting manufacturing and mining operations in space. Space-X also plans to offer passenger space missions, and it is also heavily invested in energy systems. Its most recent launch, which was considered a great success, was in February of this year.
Founded by Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, this space exploration company has conducted several recently successful rocket launches this year. Its New Shepherd Rocket reached a height of nearly 400,000 feet with ongoing testing to come. So far, the New Shepherd has been unmanned expect for “Mannequin Skywalker.” Bezos plans to use the rocket for passenger and light commercial space missions into suborbital space. However, he also is investing heavily into deep space energy systems and reusable rockets.