At this blog site we look at technology in the past and present and try to peer into the future in oracular fashion. Predicting the future isn’t easy but it certainly is a stimulating mind-stretching exercise. And when we apply this to outer space, predictions can take on the feel of science fiction.
Over the next few blogs dedicated to this topic we will look at the progress of our species and our technology in the 21st century and where it will take us beyond Earth. To begin think about the state of humanity and technology in 1900 and where we ended up in 2000. The 20th century packed in lots of technological innovation. And like our ever-expanding universe technological innovation accelerated throughout the last century to a point where knowledge went from doubling over multiple decades to doubling every couple of years.
In outer space we went from our first rocket launches in the 1940s, to placing satellites in orbit in the 50s, to human space flight, walking on the Moon and our first interplanetary robotic missions in the 60s. We filled the space above our atmosphere with ever increasingly intelligent robotic technology, aimed at Earth, to provide us with a planetary-wide picture. We saw our planet suspended in space for the first time, our big blue marble. And finally, as the century closed, we took the first steps to build long-term habitable environments in near-Earth space.
So where are we headed as we approach and reach 2100? Here are some predictions:
- We will establish continuously occupied way stations beyond Earth orbit that will serve as deep space observatories and fuel and resupply stations for both human and robotic missions.
- Near-Earth space will be occupied with not only satellites providing valuable down-to-Earth services but places for tourists to experience space.
- Humans will return to the Moon for lots of reasons including the exploitation of its resources to support off-world and on-Earth human activities.
- Humans will go to Mars and establish permanent inhabited colonies on its surface.
- Humans will seek resources in space exploiting asteroids for their materials more in support of off-world activity than for supplying Earth.
- We will send many robots to the surface of the moons of the planets of the Outer Solar System and before the century ends humans will land on Europa, Titan and Ganymede.
- Having developed technology approaching 40-50% of light speed (close to 150,000 kilometers or 90,000+ miles per second) we will make the leap to send robotic probes to visit and return from our nearest Solar System neighbours. By the end of the century we will have built the first interstellar spacecraft for humans to follow.
2012 = 6
Today our human space population equals 6, the impermanent astronaut and cosmonaut inhabitants of the International Space Station. Once China’s taikonauts occupy their new space station our near-Earth space population will increase by 50% to 9.
2050 = 10,000
In 2050 the human population of space will have reached 10,000. Where will they be?
- In permanent colonies on the Moon.
- In our first colony on Mars.
- In way stations in Deep Space.
- From low-Earth orbit to lunar orbit.
The primary industries of space will focus on maintaining and building capacity for humans to survive in the many different environments we will encounter.
Artists will join engineers and scientists going into space. Tourism will spread from near Earth to the Moon. Human space populations will remain dependent to a large degree on support from Earth but increasingly our human presence in space will become self-managing and self-sustaining.
2100 = 1,000,000
By 2100 human space population will exceed 1,000,000, a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of us on Earth, but still a substantial population. Many humans living in space will have been born there. Human colonies on the Moon and Mars will have spread to multiple locations exploiting the resources available on the surface, the beginning of a land rush.
Permanently occupied mining and manufacturing operations will locate on asteroids and moons to exploit resources useful for space industries. Most of these will be remotely run using telepresence and intelligent machines.
Earth will be a customer of many space enterprises particularly those dealing with rare materials of technological value to the planet’s population.
How Will Humans Organize Themselves in Space in 2100?
Today nations pursue space objectives and only recently have commercial enterprises entered into the picture. Will nationalism remain the identifier for humans in space as we establish permanent occupancy of Deep Space, the Moon and Mars?
If the International Space Station is an indicator of our future then we will see nations forming consortia and commercial enterprises entering into partnerships. But for how long will this be the case?
Once human populations begin to grow on the Moon will it become its own nation state? As human presence on Mars grows will it follow?
Will humans be the only beings and citizens of these new states? Or will intelligent machines be recognized as equal to humans and granted corresponding rights?
In future blogs we will take a look at these prognostications in greater detail. So come along for the ride and send me your predictions, questions and observations. I promise to reply at sub-light speed which by now you know is pretty darn fast.