Five Utterly Convincing Reasons We Must Conquer Space

Much to the frustration of space exploitation fans of a certain age, Mars is not covered by the domed cities promised in our youth, the Earth-Moon Lagrange points do not host marvelous cities clad in lunar regolith, and doughty spacefaring Welsh miners are not pickaxing precious antimatter1 out of main belt asteroids. Why is this?

Obviously, the answer cannot be because doing stuff in space is hard, and the economic benefits have not justified investment in such grandiose projects. It can’t be because nobody has tried to make the case for space development. Perhaps the problem is simply that due to a simple oversight, nobody has assembled in a single, brilliantly convincing essay a bunch of pressing reasons to develop space in the manner foretold in ancient days.

Happily, I am equal to this task. Here are five irrefutable arguments in favour of space colonization that I have encountered in the recent past, assembled in one convenient location.

Abundant Lunar Helium-3

There are many compelling reasons why one might want to shift energy production away from fossil fuels: fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource2 and one might not want to Venus-form Earth.

Fusion is one possible alternative. There is a catch, which is that many fusion reactions produce prodigious amounts of neutrons, which are a pain to manage. Helium-3, an isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron, offers the promise of neutron-free fusion reactions. While helium-3 is scarce on Earth, the lunar regolith is simply bursting with the stuff.

Cynics might try to derail the discussion with irrelevant comments such as:

  • Helium-3 is only abundant on the Moon by comparison with Earth and mining it would require sifting through vast amounts of regolith for a very small amount of helium-3;
  • Due to side reactions, helium-3-based fusion still produces neutrons;
  • Boron-11 offers similar reduced neutron output benefits and is abundant on Earth;
  • We lack the fusion reactors in which to consume helium-3 or boron-11 or even deuterium and tritium and will not have them within our lifetimes.

The important thing is that if we do not act now to secure an impractical source of a substance we cannot use to address a crisis for which it is utterly irrelevant, our rivals might be able to out-helium us! That would be bad.

Boundless Mineral Wealth

While the asteroid belt contains surprisingly little mass (about 3% of the Moon), that mass is in conveniently small packages, thus more accessible than most of the mass of Earth in the absence of a Uranium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator. Even a single asteroid might contain vast amounts of precious material, the go-to example being 16 Psyche, said to contain 10 quintillion USD of valuable metals. All we need do is mine the stuff, divvy up the proceeds (about a billion USD each), and nobody need ever work again.

Economists might ask if the means exist to return material from space for less than the price it would bring. They might also point out that price is, generally speaking, inversely dependent on supply and vastly increasing the supply would likely vastly depress prices, so that 10 quintillion USD greatly overstates the value of Psyche’s metals (if they were recoverable). Particularly annoying economists would muse about what happened when the Spanish poured tons of stolen gold into the European economy. This is why nobody invites economists to orgies.

Nuclear War and Other Planetary-Scale Calamities

At present humans have sufficient nuclear weapons to depopulate much of our planet. The best defense against localized catastrophe would be to be somewhere else when it happens: nobody in Delhi died when Pompeii erupted. Self-sufficient facilities on the Moon, Mars, or elsewhere could sit out even an On the Beach-scale nuclear war.

Tedious realists needlessly distracted by practicality might point out that the other worlds of our solar system are hostile even by comparison with a post-nuclear-holocaust Earth. If your technology won’t keep you alive after World War Three, it won’t keep you alive on Mars, either. Others might rudely interject that we don’t know how to build self-sufficient space colonies, so even if we build off-world colonies, and even if the colonies survived the immediate war, it may be only to slowly perish in the aftermath as vital supplies no longer arrived. Particularly vexing pundits might suggest the same means used to deliver colonists to Mars could just as easily be used to deliver the same mass of nuclear warheads to Mars. Clearly these people have been blinded by mere fact, which as you know can be used to prove anything that is remotely true.

The Menace of the Sun

The Sun will kill its children. The Sun grows brighter by about one percent every hundred million years. One day, this gradual evolution will be replaced by far more dramatic changes. The Sun will become a red giant. Such inner worlds as are not consumed by the expanding Sun will be seared into airless, dry, dead worlds. However, the current, quite narrow liquid water zone in which we live will be replaced by a much larger one ranging from about 50 AU to 70 AU. Clearly, to survive we must plant settlements in the new habitable zone!

Astronomers might mutter something irrelevant about how the red giant phase is billions of years away, so not exactly a pressing issue3. They might also draw attention to the fact the red giant phase won’t last all that long, cosmically speaking. In short order4, the Sun will, after some exuberantly flamboyant events, become a white dwarf, whose habitable zone will be much smaller than the current Sun’s and much, much smaller than the red giant Sun’s. There’s a reason astronomers are provided with observatories far, far away from the rest of us.


Galaxies are monstrous cannibals. To the trained eye, our sky is filled with the corpses of the Milky Way’s victims. However, as the Milky Way consumed smaller galaxies, so too will it be consumed in turn. The Andromeda galaxy is hurtling towards the Milky Way at an eye-watering 300 kilometers per second, six thousand times as fast as Nolan Ryan’s fastest fast-ball5. When Andromeda reaches the Milky Way, the results will be spectacular and violent. Both galaxies will be reshaped. The Sun might be thrown into intergalactic space. Alternatively, the Sun might find itself passing by one of the many stellar nurseries that will follow the collision, a recipe for experiencing supernova up close and personal. Which would be bad. Best to be elsewhere when that happens. Given the scale of the crisis (two galaxies!), this justifies particularly epic colonization efforts.

Biologists, no doubt jealous about the spotlight that economists and astronomers have thus far received in this essay, would point out that Andromeda won’t show up for four and a half billion years, about ten times as much time as has transpired since the Cambrian period. Humans have far more in common with Hallucigenia than whatever will call Earth home by the time Andromeda arrives. Astronomers would then upstage the biologists by pointing out that in this case biology is irrelevant, as the Sun will have long since rendered the Earth utterly lifeless due that whole swelling-into-a-red-giant-before-collapsing-into-a-white-dwarf thing. Economists might mutter something about the utterly negligible value to us of such distant investments, making people wonder who exactly invited the economists6.

The moral should be evident by now: there are utterly compelling reasons to colonize space. The arguments against colonizing space are simply fact- and logic-based naysaying from a collection of joyless buzzkills long since blinded to awesomeness by mere reality. The course of action on which humans must embark is clear. icon-paragraph-end

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top