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RE: RE: starship-design: The Case for Space


> Sounds like a good concept, but it would have to take less
> energy to heat the
> stuff down here, then to ship it up there for heating?

I was thinking more of dealing with the pollution produced in space by
manufacturing and habitation. On Earth a typical mining operation sends ore
to a refinery where basically it is heated to some temperature to separate
the desired mineral from the rest of the ore's components. The remainder,
called slag, is a waste product which must be disposed of. Earlier proposals
have suggested simply using this slag as a radiation screen on the sunward
side of the habitation. Not only does this seem wasteful, but there remains
a great deal of usable material within the slag that using this new process,
can now be cheaply extracted.

Secondly, refuse and waste such as plastic bottles, foam cups, paper, etc.
can be subjected to the same process, breaking it down into chemicals which
can then be reused to make new plastic, etc.

> But the jobs, and the jobs those workers support, would all
> move off planet.

Here you have to start looking at multiple time spans. At first, it will not
matter where the workers are, their money is kept and spent on Earth, in the
nation, state and city in which they normally reside. This is true even
after there is a permanent presence in space up until, there are people who
live solely, or for the great majority of their lives anyway, in space.

The next stage occurs when multiple consumer oriented industries are present
off planet with money being exchanged solely between these businesses.
Somewhere along this period a balance of trade MAY become important. It
really depends upon how tightly coupled the economies of the off-planet
institutions and the planet are. There is a good possibility that there will
never be a problem at all.

The last stage I doubt we will see within fifty years. This stage requires
companies whose ENTIRE business is off-planet, having and requiring no ties
with Earth at all. All monetary transactions including banking are now
conducted without the money ever going planet side. Now at last there is a
viable off-planet economy where your objection becomes real, the jobs,
workers, AND THIER MONEY have moved off-planet.

> Ignoring the construction costs, again, why could you compete
> with earth
> bound farms?  Construction costs would have to be less,
> easier access to
> water, fertalizer, etc.  Much lower transportation costs.  I
> could see
> nanotech manufacture of food taking over for agriculture
> someday, but no way
> space farms would outsell earth side sources on earth.

Farms in orbit might or might not be cost effective, but thousands of acres
of hydroponic farms on the moon would be. Even allowing for construction
costs, the cost of transportation is precisely what makes them cost
effective. All else being equal, it is much cheaper to boost food from the
Moon than it is from Earth.

Like much else, technology developed for use in space would end up finding
startling uses on Earth as well. The same nano tech used to construct
hydroponic farms on the Moon could be used in countless ways on Earth to
improve farms here, which would in turn lower the cost and increase the
yield of Earth produced food also. This may turn out to be a draw.

> Not true.  Oh the third world would lose its major current
> economic source of
> selling raw materials to us, but they have shown a very
> obvious ability to
> advance faster then us.  Its far easier to copy then innovate.

But they can only copy what has already been done...so they can only advance
to a very finite level. Besides, as has been already pointed out, we have
almost all of the resources we need without importing, so perhaps we need to
look at why we import,  which is quite simply, cost of goods.

The Third World is able and willing to sell both raw materials and
manufactured goods for less than the equivalent domestic product. Something
to remember when addressing an off-planet economy centered around mining and

It must be able to either:

1) Provide a product which is available only from space, or
2) Provide a product for less than it can be purchased on Earth.

I think both of these conditions will apply, and off-planet industry might
eventually become sort of a high tech "Fourth World", supplanting the Old
World, the New World and even the Third World. These things tend to run in
cycles, after a century or so, the societies of the solar system will
amalgamate and there will be a new frontier, the first colonies among the
stars, and it will begin again.