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RE: starship-design: Infrastructure in space [was: FTL travel...]

Zenon has a point about oil, or more generally petroleum type substances
which might be found in space. Many Terrestrial products are dependent upon
oil for the basic material used to make them. Although it is possible to
synthesize these products from basic ingredients, the processes for doing so
have never really been developed and are therefore somewhat more expensive
to use as long as there is plenty of oil around.

So finding oil in space might be profitable after all. Not as a fuel but as
raw materials to manufacture plastics, etc.

On the make it in space vs. on the ground issue. Kelly's point about having
learned to manufacture crystal and pharmaceuticals as well on Earth as in
space perhaps needs a little clarification.

Yes, we can now make the same substances _almost_ as well in gravity as out,
and considerably cheaper as well. But we would never have been able to do so
until _after_ we had done it in space. To use an analogy, if one wanted to
paint a picture of an apple, you would take a bunch of paint and paint a
picture of an apple, as long as you had seen an apple. But if you were
blind, or had never seen an apple, it is very unlikely that the painting
would much resemble an apple, even though you _knew_ there was such a thing
as one. These crystals and pharmaceuticals didn't exist - and could not
exist - in a gravity well until we had at least made them the first time in