Almost all of Obama's Green Technology was tied to creating an economy and living conditions for a small percentage of global citizens. It is as well tied to technology needed to build and maintain planetary colonies and mining. Robotic insects------in the air and soil is a made for planetary colonial geometric dome greenhouses more so then on our earth for at least the coming several decades. GLOBAL GREEN CORPORATION JILL STEIN KNOWS THIS----OBAMA'S FAKE ENVIRONMENTAL CZAR VAN JONES KNOWS THIS----that is why most Green Party candidates are simply CLINTON/OBAMA global Wall Street.
Hundreds of billions in Federal funding for green energy/solar panel research much tied to planetary survival.
Remember, when we allowed Clinton/Bush/Obama corporatize our universities the science is all geared to corporate profit and not human interest.
Planets of course have no life including insects needed for food.
Scientific American March 2013
The Robobee Project Is Building Flying Robots the Size of Insects
Thousands of robotic insects will take to the skies in pursuit of a shared goal
Not too long ago a mysterious affliction called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) began to wipe out honeybee hives. These bees are responsible for most commercial pollination in the U.S., and their loss provoked fears that agriculture might begin to suffer as well. In 2009 the three of us, along with colleagues at Harvard University and Northeastern University, began to seriously consider what it would take to create a robotic bee colony. We wondered if mechanical bees could replicate not just an individual's behavior but the unique behavior that emerges out of
Since there is no/not much water on planets sometimes not much sunlight there is a need for artificial lighting, battery, and especially solar panel for growth, temperature control, and lighting. Greenhouse technology will be the SKILLED LABOR sent to planetary colonies ---it will be that white collar sweat shop labor in STEM needed to build, operate, and maintain planetary life-support systems. The manual labor mining slaves come next.
Think about what career pathway to which you are being tracked -----while some of this is relevant to community gardens-----much of it is not.
IT IS VERY COMPLICATED TO CREATE AND MAINTAIN A FUNCTIONING BIOSPHERE SO DON'T THINK ONLY MANUAL LABOR GOES TO CERES!
Oh, this will happen to that population group---maybe this population group---not to my population group---no, I'm sure everyone is in and no one out of a
TOTALLY UNNECESSARY MOVING FORWARD GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY NEEDING PLANETARY MINING.
When a candidate for office pushes all these global online businesses----all that SMART CITY surveillance system---they are pushing the very economy that drives this need for more minerals------ergo, planetary empire-building.
Urban Gardening, Part 2: Greenhouse Technology
By Ned Madden
Jun 29, 2010 5:00 AM PT
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Part 1 of this series explores the practical aspects of locating greenhouses in urban environments.
These are not your grandpa's greenhouses.
Anyone familiar with common plastic-enclosed passive solar structures designed simply to hold plants over cold seasons or grow flowers and less-hardy fruits might be surprised about how these humble buildings have transformed into today's dynamic hydroponic "bio-structures."
The modern high-tech greenhouse represents the timely convergence of some of the most sophisticated scientific know-how available from a variety of industries -- agriculture, horticulture (the scientific cultivation of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and ornamental plants in nurseries and gardens), energy (solar, wind and fuel cells), greenhouse manufacturing, hydroponics (soil-less growing), environmental control software, lighting, heating and ventilation, polymers and many more.
Properly built and operated, these state-of-the-art, computerized food producing machines can enclose valuable unused urban space in glass to produce abundant crops of commercially grown food for local consumption.
Controlling the Environment
Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is a high-tech industry for the production of food crops, flowers, houseplants and medicinals within controlled environment greenhouse structures.
"Once food production is put on a rooftop -- or any confined area -- the need to develop intensive, high-productivity, year-round growing systems demands CEA technologies," said Gene Giacomelli, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Program at the University of Arizona.
CEA combines engineering, plant science and computer-managed greenhouse control technologies used to optimize plant growing systems, plant quality and production efficiency. CEA systems allow stable control of the plant environment, including temperature, light and CO2 (which plants must absorb in combination with water, nutrients and sunlight to produce the sugars vital for their growth). CEA also provides separate control of plant root-zone environments.
Computer-coordinated CEA activities include environment control (encompassing air temperature and movement, humidity, supplemental light and CO2 concentration) and mechanization and automation of operations that were formerly done by hand-mixing, fertilizing and placing root media, seeding and transplanting, nutrition management, hydroponic crop production, "fertigation" and material movement at harvest.
"Systems from many companies have been developed during the past 30 years to monitor and control greenhouses for flower and vegetable production," Giacomelli told TechNewsWorld. "They were developed to improve the capabilities of CEA, the quality of the products, the savings of labor allowed by automation, and the effectiveness of sensors that can at times more accurately determine the environment or climate of the crop, and then immediately make necessary changes."
A "gold standard" already exists for hydroponic greenhouses. The North American Greenhouse/ Hothouse Vegetable Growers (NAGHVG) was founded by leading North American greenhouse growers: Village Farms, Eatontown, N.J.; Windset Farms, Delta, British Columbia; Eurofresh Farms, Willcox, Ariz.; Houweling's Hot House Nurseries, Camarillo, Calif., and Delta, B.C.; and Gipaanda Greenhouses, Ladner, B.C. Based in Bellingham, Wash., the NAGHVG has developed a "Certified Greenhouse" program. Standards include:
- Every aspect of the growing process is monitored and controlled, from irrigation to climate control and growing medium.
- Vegetables can be protected from pollution, wildlife and other potential contaminants, which creates conditions for the safest possible produce-growing methods.
- Eco-friendly integrated pest management (IPM) is used.
- The greenhouses must be able to provide reliable supplies of produce throughout the year.
The NAGHVG's "Certified Greenhouse" program involves ongoing audits to ensure that certified producers continue to meet the standards set by the association. Certification is granted exclusively to greenhouse operations that comply with NAGHVG's definition of a greenhouse:
- Facility includes a fully enclosed permanent aluminum or steel structure clad either in glass or impermeable plastic for the controlled-environment growing of certified greenhouse/hothouse vegetables.
- Facility must use computerized irrigation and climate control systems, including heating and ventilation capabilities.
- Facility must use hydroponic methods and must grow produce in a soilless medium that substitutes for soil.
- Facility must practice IPM.
Computers can operate hundreds of devices within a modern greenhouse (vents, heaters, fans, hot water mixing valves, irrigation valves, curtains. lights. etc.) by utilizing dozens of input parameters, such as outside and inside temperatures, humidity, outside wind direction and velocity, CO2 levels and even the time of day or night. A computer can keep track of all relevant information such as temperature, humidity, CO2 and light levels. It dates and time-tags the information and stores it for current or later use. Such a data acquisition system enables a grower to gain a comprehensive understanding of all factors affecting the quality and timeliness of the greenhouse product.
Dozens of software developers have developed CEA-oriented applications. Major players include:
- Priva: automated climate and process control in the horticultural and building intelligence markets;
- Argus Control Systems: automated control systems;
- Hoogendoorn Growth Management: process automation systems;
- Micro Grow Greenhouse Systems: greenhouse environmental control systems;
- Link4 iGrow: intelligent environmental controllers.
Virtual Grower is a decision support tool for greenhouse growers to monitor plant growth and control energy management in greenhouses. It was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Application Technology Research Unit at the University of Toledo (Ohio). Users of the software can build a virtual greenhouse with a variety of materials for roofs and sidewalls, design the greenhouse style, schedule temperature set points throughout the year, and predict heating costs for over 230 sites within the continental U.S. Different heating and scheduling scenarios can be predicted with the input of a few variables, with accurate data based upon historical records collected by USDA monitoring stations across the country.
"Specific software is not important," said UA's Giacomelli. "But including it within a monitoring and control system that is dependable and effective is one of the most important aspects of CEA with emphasis on urban agriculture."
Solar and wind power are the two primary renewable energy forms most commonly used by greenhouses for energy sources that are "off-grid" -- not connected to an electricity distribution system. A third technology is fuel cells.
Active solar greenhouses use supplemental energy to move solar-heated air or water from storage or collection areas to other regions of the greenhouse.
PVs are arrays of cells containing a solar photovoltaic material that converts solar radiation into direct current electricity. Materials presently used for photovoltaics include silicon, cadmium telluride and copper indium selenide/sulfide.
Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) are increasingly incorporated into new domestic and industrial buildings as a principal or ancillary source of electrical power, and are among the fastest growing segments of the PV industry. Typically, an array is incorporated into a building's roof or walls, and roof tiles with integrated PV cells can now be purchased. Arrays can also be retrofitted into existing buildings.
Productivity is also improving. Since flat solar panels only get direct sunlight for three to four hours per day, Sunflower Solutions developed a patent-pending manually adjusted solar power tracking system that dramatically increases the amount of sunlight that solar arrays can capture.
In addition to free-standing PV solar arrays, greenhouses can capture solar energy through the use of enclosures made of a special PV glass with integrated solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity. The solar cells are embedded between two glass panes and a special resin is filled between the panes, securely wrapping the solar cells on all sides. Each individual cell has two electrical connections, which are linked to other cells in the module to form a system which generates a direct electrical current. This means that the power for a greenhouse can be produced within the roof and facade areas. Manufacturers include SCHOTT and Pythagoras Solar.
The growing demand for renewable energy sources has dramatically advanced the manufacture of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays in recent years. However, due to expenses related to implementation, use of solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) heating systems for greenhouses remains cost-prohibitive for most small businesses unless used to produce high-value crops.
Wind turbines are mechanical rotary devices that extract wind energy and convert it to electricity. In addition to traditional turbines utilizing familiar paddle-shaped blades, a new class of vertical-axis helical turbines from companies like San Diego-based Helix Wind have proven to be superior in producing electricity in the variable winds of urban environments. Using the twisted-ribbon shape of a helix, these generators overcome problems like noise, impact and price. Helical turbines are nearly noiseless because they spin at the same speed as the wind blowing into them.
Small "hybrid" electric systems that combine wind and solar technologies offer several advantages over either single system. Many hybrid systems are standalone units operated off-grid. For times when neither the wind nor the solar systems are producing, most hybrid systems provide power through batteries and/or an engine generator powered by conventional fuels, such as diesel. If the batteries run low, the engine generator can provide power and recharge the batteries.
Adding an engine generator makes the system more complex, but modern electronic controllers can operate these systems automatically. An engine generator can also reduce the size of other components needed for the system. The storage capacity must be large enough to supply electrical needs during non-charging periods.
Since traditional renewable energy technologies like solar and wind are often intermittent, greenhouse operators have turned to fuel cells as an energy alternative. Fuel cells convert air and nearly any fuel source like hydrogen, natural gas or a wide range of biogases into electricity via a clean electrochemical process, rather than dirty combustion. Even running on a fossil fuel, the systems are much cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant.
Fuel cells are devices that produce a continuous electric current directly from the oxidation of a fuel, e.g., that of hydrogen by oxygen. They were invented over a century ago and have been used in practically every NASA mission since the 1960s. But until now, they have not gained widespread adoption because of their inherently high costs.
Legacy fuel cell technologies like proton exchange membranes (PEMs), phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFCs), and molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFCs) have all required the use of expensive precious metals, corrosive acids or hard-to-contain molten materials. Combined with performance that has been only marginally better than alternatives, they have not been able to deliver a strong enough economic value proposition to overcome resistance.
Among the newest technologies is the solid-oxide fuel-cell (SOFC), available from companies like Bloom Energy and Technology Management. The technology is gaining wide acceptance due to its use of low-cost ceramic materials and its extremely high electrical efficiencies. In addition to their use as auxiliary power units in vehicles, SOFCs can be used for stationary power generation in greenhouses, with outputs from 100 W to 2 MW.
Developed originally by SOHIO/British Petroleum, the TMI system operates on a range of liquid and gas fuels and is designed for operation and maintenance by end-users without special tools, equipment or access to a trained service workforce.
SOFC is an ideal alternative energy technology of choice for greenhouse applications, according to Tim Madden, president of Akron, Ohio-based hydroponic greenhouse development firm Biodynamicz, which is integrating TMI's fuel cells into its designs.
"We're focused on SOFCs as auxiliary power sources because they're able to convert a wide variety of fuels like hydrogen, methane, butane or even gasoline and diesel, and because they do it with such high efficiency," Madden told TechNewsWorld. "TMI's SOFCs are attractive as energy sources because they're clean, reliable and almost entirely nonpolluting. And because there are no moving parts, the cells are vibration-free and quiet, which eliminates the noise pollution associated with power generation."
Fuel cell technology improvements are continuing to come from places like the automotive industry and so prices will continue to drop as production quantities increase.
Let There Be Light
As for the use of modern light-emitting diode (LED) semiconductor technology in plant grow lights, LEDs present many advantages over traditional lighting technologies like high pressure sodium (HPS) and High Intensity Discharge (HID).
When electric current flows through an LED, electrons travel through an energy "bandgap" in the diode crystal, releasing energy in the form of light. This effect is called electroluminescence and the color of the light is determined by the materials used to make the LED. A single LED grow light directly replaces 600-watt HPS light while consuming 50 percent less energy and is rated for a lifecycle of 50,000 hours. Cool-running LED lights also eliminate the need for ballasts (current regulators in lamps), reflectors, noisy fans or expensive cooling systems.
Even though LED technology is more expensive than traditional HID lighting, the units require less maintenance, bulb replacement costs are eliminated, savings on energy costs start from day one of ownership, and total ROI is generally 12 to 18 months.
A recent IMS Research report stated that while Nichia, Osram Sylvania and Philips Lumileds remain the leading suppliers of packaged LEDs, they are being challenged by companies in Taiwan and Korea, notably Seoul Semiconductor.
Leading manufacturers of LED grow lights for greenhouses include LumiGrow and Lighting America of Ohio.
"Artificial lighting is too expensive to install and operate to be economical in vegetable production due to the high amount of natural sunlight needed, especially for crops like strawberries and tomatoes," Verti-Gro's Tim Carpenter told TechNewsWorld. "LED light does not offer a full spectrum of light for flowering vegetables and fruits. LED for commercial use is a ways off but is improving rapidly, especially for vertical growing. I believe there will still be a need for a substantial amount of real sunlight in order to produce vegetables and berries profitably."
BioDynamicz' Madden likes LED lighting in greenhouses.
"The light produced from an LED source is better absorbed by plants, and greenhouse growers have been trying for years to eliminate hot HID fixtures because heat can damage crops," he explained. "LEDs solve that problem."
The MARS LAND ROVER used just such technology ----solar panel driven ----pre-programmed SELF-DRIVING-----testing its ability to analyze the soils to find that MINERAL CLAIM.
Much of Obama's battery/solar panel/self-driving technology funding was geared towards planetary transit and mining equipment. RIO TINTO the global mining corporation has already gone to self-driving mineral cargo trucks. There is lots of technology JOBS for those planetary white collar professionals to troubleshoot once mining begins----they need lots of intelligent people in CERES IN THE SKY!
Think about that career path and know global corporate K-career tracking into these fields will be selective as to pre-existing expectations on who goes planetary and who is simply pushed into global labor pool. Both are bad ------there is a WORST.
NASA's Mars Rover 2020 Mission in Pictures (Gallery)
By Tariq Malik, Space.com Managing Editor | July 31, 2014 02:41pm ET
Tariq Malik, Space.com Managing EditorTariq joined Purch's Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.
Tariq Malik, Space.com Managing Editor on
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NASA Mars Rover 2020 Diagram
A sketch of the design for NASA's 2020 Mars rover. Planning for NASA's 2020 Mars rover envisions a basic structure that capitalizes on re-using the design and engineering work done for the NASA rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, but with new science instruments selected through competition for accomplishing different science objectives with the 2020 mission. See images of NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission in this Space.com gallery.
I know, people are saying WHAT AN OLD FART-----no, I am not a LUDDITE ----I love technology ----I simply want goals that bring quality of life to 99% of global citizens especially our US citizens and none of this has goals for that---it all is tied to making life very, very, very bad with little or no quality of life for WE THE PEOPLE.
Here is another technology getting tons of Federal funding sold as democratizing and opening all kinds of small business startups=====3D printing.
The articles I shared today show how much of the use of 3D printing came from global planetary space mining corporations in staging the movement of people and mineral cargo. Remember CAMERON and his 3D movie-----AVATATAR----this was several years in the making and was that DEVELOPMENT stage for expanding 3D printing tied to space mining---CAMERON is one of those global 1% partners in space mining.
3D PRINTING is great--- very interesting applications in medicine for example but the 99% will never be that innovator---that product-maker for the most part because PATENTS ARE HANDED TO THE GLOBAL 1% AND THEIR 2% to move to corporate operations.
3D Printing In Space: 21st Century Space Manufacturing and Technology
The rise of 3D printing technology is not confined to Earth. Private companies, NASA and other groups are quickly developing new concepts to launch 3D printing into the final frontier. See the latest news, videos and photos of 3D printing in space here.
- These Three Killer Apps Could Help Humans Colonize MarsApril 03, 2017 | ArticleAsteroid mining, giant orbiting internet antennas and space-based solar power could create a space economy that brings a Mars colony within humanity's reach.
- 3D-Printed 'Laugh' Is 1st Major Artwork to Be Made in Space February 16, 2017 | ArticleOn Friday (Feb. 10), a 3D printer aboard the International Space Station created a sculpture that represents human laughter — the first significant piece of art ever to be produced off Earth, project representatives said.
- California Startup Made In Space to Make Optical Fiber in OrbitOctober 28, 2016 | ArticleEarly next year, California-based startup Made In Space plans to launch a machine to the International Space Station that will produce ZBLAN optical fiber.
- Design a 3D-Printed Tool for Astronauts to Use Aboard the Space StationSeptember 09, 2016 | ArticleTo make life easier for astronauts, an electronics company is asking college students to design tools that astronauts can 3D print aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
- 13 Things 'Star Trek' Gets Right (and Wrong) About Space TechAugust 02, 2016 | Countdown"Star Trek" science may be fanciful, but the iconic franchise's creators were prescient in a number of ways.
- 3D Printing Human Organs In Space? Microgravity Test Successful | Video June 21, 2016 | VideoFor the first time, cardiac and vascular structures were 3D printed in a microgravity environment using adult human stem cells. Three companies led by NASA contractor Techshot Inc. developed a "space hardened 3D bioprinter" prototype.
- Space Station's Commercial 3D Printer Makes Its 1st Tool (Photos)June 14, 2016 | ArticleThe Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), which was installed aboard the International Space Station in late April, printed out its first tool last week — a wrench that astronauts can use to perform light maintenance work.
- How 3D Printing Will 'Rock the World' — and SpaceJune 10, 2016 | ArticleJohn Hornick, author of "3D Printing Will Rock the World," said 3D printing will fundamentally alter the way people manufacture things, and that includes working in space.
- Plan to Turn Asteroids Into Spaceships Could Spur Off-Earth MiningJune 06, 2016 | ArticleCalifornia-based company Made In Space is investigating how to turn asteroids into giant autonomous spacecraft, as part of a long-term plan to enable space colonization by helping make off-Earth manufacturing economically viable.
CAMERON'S 3D movie-making brought product development critical in transmitting visuals from space and planetary mining colonies. It took Cameron several years to complete---we can be sure Cameron himself may not be the talent but hired the genius to make what was brought to market as a populist green environmental movie! Think that AVATAR looked like building a planetary colony with the army of GLOBAL MINING CORPORATIONS moving to take hold of that civilization?
So, is CAMERON really being INNOVATIVE if GALACTIC GOOGLE tells the global 1% they need this technology and then here comes a 3D movie---of course not---innovators drive economic growth----inventors provide products. Who funded Cameron's movie for several years? Likely his current planetary mining corporate partners.
NASA: James Cameron to develop 3D camera for Mars rover
Avatar director helping to give NASA a 3D view of Martian surface
By Sharon Gaudin
Senior Writer, Computerworld | Apr 30, 2010 7:56 AM PT
Movie director James Cameron, of Avatar and Titanic fame, is helping to build a 3-D camera for the next robotic rover that NASA will send to Mars.
NASA announced this month that Cameron is working with Malin Space Science Systems Inc. of San Diego to build an updated camera that, if completed in time, will be installed on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, which has been dubbed Curiosity. The rover's cameras will be the machine's "science-imaging workhorse," according to the space agency.
Curiosity is scheduled to be launched in 2011.
Earlier this month, Malin delivered two cameras to be installed on the rover's main mast. The cameras, which are set up for high-definition color video, are designed to take images of the Martian surface surrounding Curiosity, as well as of distant objects.
NASA, however, has provided Malin with funding to work with Cameron to build alternatives of these two cameras - both would be 3D and would have zoom lenses.
"Restoring the zoom is not a science issue, although there will be some science benefits," said Michael Malin, president and chief scientist of Malin Space Science Systems, in a statement. "The fixed focal length [cameras] we just delivered will do almost all of the science we originally proposed. But they cannot provide a wide field of view with comparable eye stereo. With the zoom [cameras], we'll be able to take cinematic video sequences in 3D on the surface of Mars. This will give our public engagement co-investigator, James Cameron, tools similar to those he used on his recent 3D motion picture projects."
Cameron's Avatar, which is the highest-grossing movie in history, is widely considered to be the most ambitious 3D film ever produced.
Engineers, teaming up with Cameron, are just beginning work on the new 3D cameras being built for Curiosity, according to NASA. To make it on the new rover, they will have to be designed, assembled and tested before NASA begins its final testing of the rover early next year.
Curiosity is an SUV-sized super rover that will carry cameras, chemistry instruments, environmental sensors and radiation monitors to investigate the Martian surface. According to NASA, all of these instruments are designed to help scientists figure out whether life ever existed on Mars and prepare to send humans to the Red Planet.
The new super rover was scheduled to be sent to Mars in 2009 but its launch has been delayed by funding problems.
NASA has been heavily focused on exploring Mars with two rovers, the Phoenix Mars Lander and an orbiter already studying the planet.
And with the success that NASA has had working on Mars, there has been a lot of excitement brewing to send up a new one.
The two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which have worked on Mars, are some of the best pieces of technology that the Jet Propulsion Lab has ever built, said Bruce Banerdt, project scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers, in a previous interview.
See why global Wall Street RACE TO THE TOP COMMONER CORE----VOCATIONAL K-CAREER STUDENT TRACKING-----CORPORATIONS HAVING THAT SCHOOL CHOICE OF STUDENTS-----is being pushed as hard as possible by 5% to the 1% CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA?
Indeed, global corporate campuses will be the ones tracking Johnny and Jane deciding who is tracked to PLANETARY MINING ---who is tracked to GLOBAL LABOR POOL FOREIGN ECONOMIC ZONE in MYANMAR-----who is tracked into coding and programming enslavement careers that will be enough to drive anyone crazy. That is what SCHOOL CHOICE, CORPORATE CHARTERS, CEO SCHOOL BOARDS, and deregulating all our strong Federal EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND ACCESS----public schools are about---it is our US Constitutional right---we have centuries of Federal legal and court precedent being totally ignored-----and the tens of trillions of dollars looted in global Wall Street fraud is what makes these global 1% BILLIONAIRES----rather than simply millionaires.
WE CANNOT KEEP ALLOWING MOVING FORWARD ONE WORLD ONE GOVERNANCE US FOREIGN ECONOMIC ZONE POLICIES! PROTESTING IN 20 YEARS WHEN THEY MARCH FOLKS INTO THESE PLANETARY STRUCTURES WILL BE TOO LATE.
WE THE PEOPLE do not have to simply march over that cliff as sheep---take control of US city economic development and make it about building community economies for local economic development-----Baltimore is ground zero for all that is planetary mining!
Top 10 Reasons School Choice is No Choice
January 27, 2016 stevenmsinger #BlackLivesMatter, Budget, Charter Schools, Civil Rights, Corporate Education "Reform", Education, Local Control, Parents, Politics, Poverty, Prejudice, privatization, Propaganda, Racism, School Choice, school closings, School Funding, school segregation, school vouchers, Schools, segregation#blacklivesmatter, #LetTeachersTeach, #StandUpForPublicSchools, Budget, charter schools, corporate, Corporate Education Reform, education, education reform, Politics, public schools, racism, School Choice, school vouchers
On the surface of it, school choice sounds like a great idea.
Parents will get to shop for schools and pick the one that best suits their children.
Oh! Look, Honey! This one has an exceptional music program! That one excels in math and science! The drama program at this one is first in the state!
But that’s not at all what school choice actually is.
In reality, it’s just a scam to make private schools cheaper for rich people, further erode the public school system and allow for-profit corporations to gobble up education dollars meant to help children succeed.
1) Voucher programs almost never provide students with full tuition.
Voucher programs are all the rage especially among conservatives. Legislation has been proposed throughout the country taking a portion of tax dollars that would normally go to a public school and allowing parents to put it toward tuition at a private or parochial school. However, the cost of going to these schools is much higher than going to public schools. So even with your tax dollars in hand, you don’t have the money to go to these schools. For the majority of impoverished students attending public schools, vouchers don’t help. Parents still have to find more money somewhere to make this happen. Poor folks just can’t afford it. But rich folks can so let’s reduce their bill!? They thank you for letting them buy another Ferrari with money that should have gone to give poor and middle class kids get an education.
2) Charter and voucher schools don’t have to accept everyone
When you choose to go to one of these schools, they don’t have to choose to accept you. In fact, the choice is really all up to them. Does your child make good grades? Is he or she well-behaved, in the special education program, learning disabled, etc.? If they don’t like your answers, they won’t accept you. They have all the power. It has nothing to do with providing a good education for your child. It’s all about whether your child will make them look good. By contrast, public schools take everyone and often achieve amazing results with the resources they have.
3) Charter Schools are notorious for kicking out hard to teach students
Charter schools like to tout how well they help kids learn. But they also like to brag that they accept diverse students. So they end up accepting lots of children with special needs at the beginning of the year and then giving them the boot before standardized test season. That way, these students’ low scores won’t count against the charter school’s record. They can keep bragging about their high test scores without actually having to expend all the time and energy of actually teaching difficult students. Only public schools take everyone and give everyone their all.
4) Voucher and charter schools actually give parents less choice than traditional public schools
Public schools are governed by different rules than charter and voucher schools. Most public schools are run by a school board made up of duly-elected members from the community. The school board is accountable to that community. Residents have the right to be present at votes and debates, have a right to access public documents about how tax money is being spent, etc. None of this is true at most charter or voucher schools. They are run by executive boards or committees that are not accountable to parents. If you don’t like what your public school is doing, you can organize, vote for new leadership or even take a leadership role, yourself. If you don’t like what your charter or voucher school is doing, your only choice is to withdraw your child. See ya.
5) Charter Schools do no better and often much worse than traditional public schools
Pundits and profiteers love to spout euphoric about how well charter schools teach kids. But there is zero evidence behind it. That is nothing but a marketing ploy. It’s like when you’re in a bad neighborhood and walk past a dive that claims to have the best cup of coffee in the city. Yuck. Surely, some charter schools do exceptionally well. However, most charters and almost all cyber charters do worse than their public school counterparts. Fact.
6) Charters and voucher schools increase segregation
Since the 1950s and ’60s, we used to understand there was no such thing as separate but equal education. Before then we had Cadillac schools for white kids and broken down schools for black kids. The Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional. But today we have Cadillac schools for rich and middle class kids (most of whom are white) and broken down schools for the poor (most of whom are black or brown.) After making tremendous strides to integrate schools and provide an excellent education for everyone, our public schools have been resegregated. Charter and voucher schools only make this problem worse. They either aid in white flight or leach away minority students. This just makes it easier to give some kids a leg up while keeping others down.
7) Charter and voucher schools take away funding at traditional public schools
It costs almost the same amount of money to run a school building of a given size regardless of the number of kids in it. When students leave the public schools for charter or voucher schools, the public school loses valuable resources. It now has less revenue but the same overhead. So even if you found an excellent charter or voucher school to send your child, you would be hurting the chances of every other student in the public school of having their own excellent education. This is what happens when you make schools compete for resources. Someone ends up losing out on an education.
8) Properly funding parallel school systems would be incredibly wasteful and expensive
We could fix this problem by providing adequate funding for all levels of the school system – traditional public schools, charters, voucher schools, etc. However, this would be exorbitantly expensive. We don’t adequately fund our schools now. Adding additional layers like this would mean increasing national spending exponentially – maybe by three or four times the current level. And much of that money would go to waste. Why have three fully stocked school buildings in one community when one fully stocked building would do the job? I don’t imagine residents would relish the tax hike this would require.
9) School choice takes away attention from the real problems in our public schools – poverty and funding equity
We have real problems. More than half of public school students live below the poverty line. They are already several grade levels behind their non-impoverished peers before they even enter kindergarten. They need help – tutoring, counseling, wraparound services, nutrition, etc. The predicament is even more complicated by the way we fund our schools. Throughout the country, poor districts get less money than wealthy or middle class ones. The students who go to these schools are systematically being cheated out of resources and opportunities. And instead of helping them, we’re playing a shell game with charter and voucher schools. The problem isn’t that parents don’t have several excellent choices. If they’re poor, they often don’t have one.
10) School choice is not supported by a grass roots movement. It is supported by billionaires.
The proponents of school choice will tell you that they are only doing the will of the people. This is what parents want, they say. Baloney. While there are individuals who support school choice, the overwhelming majority of money behind this movement comes from conservative billionaires actively trying to dismantle the public education system. They want to steal the public system and replace it with a private one. They don’t care about your child. They just want to steal the hundreds of billions of tax dollars we pay to educate our children. This is not philanthropy. It is a business transaction meant to screw you and your child out of your rights.
If we really want to ensure every child in this country gets an excellent education, the answer isn’t school choice. Instead, we need to commit to supporting our public school system. We all need to be in this together. Yes, our schools should look at the needs of each child and tailor education to fit appropriately. But that shouldn’t be done in parallel school systems. It should be done under the same umbrella. That way, you can’t defund and defraud one without hurting all. It can’t just be about your child. It has to be about all children.
That’s the only choice worth making.
Left social progressives don't like GOOGLE'S CLOUD COMPUTING because global Wall Street is taking all ability to access data files and hands arbitrary control over whether a business tied to the cloud loses that brick and mortar building AND possibly all that business data in the CLOUD. It is a very, very, very, very bad infrastructure for 99% OF WE THE PEOPLE.
The driver of THE CLOUD COMPUTING is indeed planetary mining and colonization. They will need THE CLOUD for data collection from the planet----by a space shuttle---on a space elevator----so all these technology advances telling the 99% they are going to have access to all kinds of technology to make their lives even more carefree----are being told a great big LIE. Indeed, the number of space solar panels----the connections of space battery technology---the self-driven vehicles are all tied to planetary mining. Yes, it will indeed fill our SMART CITIES as well----
WHEN GLOBAL GREEN CORPORATION OR A FAR-RIGHT CLINTON/OBAMA WALL STREET NEO-LIBERAL PRETEND THESE TECHNOLOGIES WILL BE FILLED WITH SMALL BUSINESS STARTUPS------ALL THOSE CODING AND PROGRAMMING JOBS, JOBS, JOBS----THIS IS IT. IT IS NOT JUST ANY JOB.
So, that 5% to the 1% think they are getting in on stocks and being that temporary startup business-owner instead of fighting and protesting to stop MOVING FORWARD GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY AND ESPECIALLY PLANETARY MINING. SHOW THEM THE MONEY!
This is a very long article but please glance through to see the terms used----global Wall Street could care less about anything other than getting that MINERAL CLAIM.
The idea of a STAR TREK with inter-galaxy travel is a grandiose Hollywood sale of a mission that will likely not get beyond this solar system and the money that was what made American great is all being spent on WILD WEST PLANETARY MINING by sociopaths. We see below how the global 1% simply enriched by these few decades of ROBBER BARON FRAUD----pay people with genius to build these structures for them.
'Humankind’s expansion into space may never meet with crowning glory on other planets or pass far beyond Earth’s orbit. But the years and decades to come will see something bolder and more inspirational than the staid circlings of those just past'
This is why all our US airwaves tied to high-speed internet were sold---making room for ONLY THIS====meanwhile all computer and internet access and opportunity for online business is going, going, gone.
A sudden light
SPACE: A sudden light
New capabilities, new entrepreneurialism and rekindled dreams are making space exciting again, says Oliver Morton
SHORTLY after sunset there had been juddering green stabs of lightning to the south, but by a quarter to one in the morning there is nothing in the warm, wet July air over Cape Canaveral but a thin patchwork of moonlit cloud. And then, precisely at the time it was meant to happen, there is a sudden light on the horizon, some 18km away. A light that rises.
A 550-tonne machine taller than a 20-storey building is throwing itself into the sky. Its initially unhurried ascent burnishes the clouds bronze. As the rocket climbs above them, its pace quickening, the roar of its engines speaks to its power as the sharp line of its exhaust illustrates its precision.
Two minutes and 21 seconds after launch, 61km above the Atlantic and still well in sight, the first-stage engines shut down. The two stages of the rocket—a Falcon 9, built by a company called SpaceX that is seeking to reinvent space travel—separate; the single engine of the second stage ignites, driving its cargo ever faster to the east where it is quickly lost to sight. When, nine minutes after departure, that engine is turned off, the rocket will be in orbit 240km above the Earth, travelling at 7.5km a second. Two days later its cargo of provisions and scientific experiments will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS).
Will ye no come back again?
The spectacle, though, is not over. Shortly after separation, at an altitude of more than 100km and while still climbing, the rocket’s first stage slews around before bringing three of its engines back to life to change its course. It reaches the highest point of its trajectory and starts to fall back to Earth, engine-end first. A bit more than halfway there, the engines fire again to cushion the shock of its re-entry.
When it is about 10km up, and still falling at well over the speed of sound, the engines fire for the last time. The rocket’s return has none of the stateliness of its departure; the bright light plummets to the horizon with swift purpose. As it reaches the ground, a flat, fiery flower spreads out from its base. Four landing legs the size of oaks smack into the concrete pad. A second later the double whipcrack of its sonic boom signals the end of the eight-minute journey.
Next year it will be 60 years since people first witnessed the majesty of a satellite being launched into orbit: Sputnik 1, hurled into the night sky in Kazakhstan early on October 5th 1957. Such knocking on heaven’s door remains a thrilling experience, and probably always will. The heavens themselves, though, have over that time become significantly more pedestrian.
Just 15 years separated the launch of the first satellite and the return of the last man from the moon, years in which anything seemed possible. But having won the space race, America saw no benefit in carrying on. Instead it developed a space shuttle meant to make getting to orbit cheap, reliable and routine. More than 100 shuttle flights between 1981 to 2011 went some way to realising the last of those goals, despite two terrible accidents. The first two were never met. Getting into space remained a risky and hideously expensive proposition, taken up only by governments and communications companies, each for their own reasons.
Now SpaceX, founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, an entrepreneur who around the same time also set up Tesla, a car company, is trying to provide the cheap, reliable, routine route to orbit that the shuttle could not. It is the first company since the 1980s to enter the launch business with newly designed rockets, and has developed some completely new tricks. Though the July lift-off of its ISS-resupply mission was the sort of thing Cape Canaveral has seen hundreds of times, the successful return of a rocket’s first stage had been witnessed there only once before, late last year.
Mr Musk intends to keep up the pace of innovation. Late this year or early next his company will launch a rocket with three reusable stages, the Falcon Heavy, capable of handling bigger payloads than any other launcher working today. SpaceX is also developing a rocket engine more powerful than any previously developed for a commercial programme. More striking still, before the end of 2017 it is due to start delivering human space travellers to the ISS—the first private company to do so, unless Boeing, which has a similar contract with NASA, pips it to the post.
Impressive as its prospects are, SpaceX is only one contender. Blue Origin, a company backed by Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon, has a sub-orbital rocket, the New Shepard, that can come back from the edge of space to land under power in the same way the first stage of a Falcon 9 does. It may well take a capsule with people on board into space next year. A number of other new companies with unmanned rockets are entering the launch business, too.
New rockets, though, are not the only exciting development. The expense of getting into space during the 1980s and 1990s led some manufacturers to start shrinking the satellites used for some sorts of mission, creating “smallsats”. Since then the amount a given size of satellite can do has been boosted by developments in computing and electronics. This has opened up both new ways of doing old jobs and completely novel opportunities.
The 24 satellites of the American government’s Global Positioning System probably represent the world’s single most important space-based asset, vital to the American armed forces and tremendously useful to a couple of billion smartphone users. Building up the constellation to its current size took two decades. Now smallsat companies talk about launching constellations several times that size in just a year or two. Those satellites will be in low orbits, but not all small spacecraft will stay close to home. By the end of 2017 Moon Express, based in Florida, hopes to deliver a 10kg payload including a rover to the Moon, making it the first commercial company to land anywhere beyond Earth. Other companies are looking at smallsats as a way of prospecting asteroids for mining.
No single technology ties together this splendid gaggle of ambitions. But there is a common technological approach that goes a long way to explaining it; that of Silicon Valley. Even if for now most of the money being spent in space remains with old government programmes and incumbent telecom providers, space travel is moving from the world of government procurement and aerospace engineering giants to the world of venture-capital-funded startups and business plans that rely on ever cheaper services provided to ever more customers.
As they prove that they can make money, they will grow further, and fast. But in many cases money is not the only aim. Their founders are people who think that going into space can benefit the human race more broadly. Mr Musk wants to set up a permanent colony on Mars in a couple of decades. Mr Bezos hopes that millions of people will one day work in orbit. Neither of these aspirations seems likely to be realised. But the effort to get there may well re-establish space as a realm of possibility and inspiration.
Flocks of cheap little satellites could transform the space business
ROCKETS are the thrilling, spectacular bit of space flight. But without something useful to carry they are basically just fireworks. To get a sense of the new entrepreneurial approach to unearthly enterprise, start instead with the radical changes in what it takes to make a spacecraft.
In Palo Alto, California, there is a factory that has been making spacecraft since the year Sputnik was launched, and before anyone in Palo Alto had heard of Silicon Valley. SSL, previously known as Space Systems/Loral, has built more than 100 communications satellites, of which 81 are still in operation today. The dozen or so currently spread through this warren of clean rooms the height of cathedral naves represent more than a year of the company’s order book.
They are all based on the same structure: a cylinder 1.2 metres across enclosed in a square box. The more the satellite has to do, the taller the box it is built on, the longer its solar panels and the larger and more complex the array of antennae and reflectors through which it sends data to its earthbound clients. Sky Muster II, nearing completion, is among the biggest. Designed to provide broadband communications across the less densely populated parts of Australia, it stands nine metres tall, with a complex array of reflectors tailored to serve the outback.
The communications-satellite business is dominated by four operators, Eutelsat, Inmarsat, Intelsat and SES. They make most of their money from companies that want to send television signals to people’s homes, but also serve markets for data transfer and mobile communications. They demand ever more of the handful of aerospace companies like SSL that have the expertise to compete for their custom, says Paul Estey, head of engineering and operations at the factory.
Small objects, large numbers
The industry is innovative but also very loss-averse. The smallest of the SSL communications satellites may sell for $100m or so, the biggest for perhaps three times that. Add on $100m for the launcher, and the satellite may not start showing a profit for a decade. Because of the need for a long lifetime in a hostile environment with no chance of any repair, a new technology that carries any significant risk will simply not be flown.
An hour’s drive up Route 101 you will find a very different spacecraft factory. Planet, until recently known as Planet Labs, occupies a shabby-chic building in the South of Market area of San Francisco. A room the size of a largish Starbucks on the ground floor houses the desks and tools needed to build 30cm-long satellites each weighing about five kilos. If you know what to look for, you will recognise many of the components as coming from other sorts of device, most notably smartphones. Making one of these “Doves” (pictured), as Planet calls them, takes about a week. At the back of the room there are dozens packed up ready to be shipped off. This is the new face of space: small objects, large numbers.
Doves are part of an extended family of very small satellites known as cubesats. In the late 1990s researchers at Stanford University and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo realised that a certain amount of standardisation would make very small satellites much easier to launch. They came up with a standard called the “1U” cubesat: a box 10cm by 10cm by 11.5cm with electronic and physical interfaces that would allow it to fit alongside others of its ilk in a dispenser that could fly as a “secondary payload” (launchers often have more capacity than they need for their main cargo). The standard caught on. By early 2013 some 100 cubesats had flown, and the tools required to design and build one were so well developed that a class of schoolchildren with an inspired teacher could take on the task.
Planet’s founders, Chris Boshuizen, Will Marshall and Robbie Schingler, thought cubesats might be the basis of a business. While working at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in the early 2010s, they looked at what could be done with the largest telescope that would fit into a “3U” cubesat, three 1Us stuck end to end. Pointed towards Earth from a low orbit like that of the ISS, such a telescope could take pictures with a resolution of five metres or a bit better. That was nothing like as good as the images being sold by companies using bigger telescopes in much larger satellites. But 3U cubesats could be deployed by the dozen or the hundred. For some markets, such as agricultural monitoring, the sheer quantity of the information gathered by such flocks might make up for the low resolution.
The first 28 Doves were sent up from where they were deployed to the ISS in 2014. The launch was celebrated at Planet’s headquarters with a pancake breakfast, as has been each of the 13 launches since. Planet currently operates 63 spacecraft. Their capabilities may be limited by their size, but the company claims that the sophistication of their technology is a match for any satellite anywhere. And they support a promising business model. Mr Marshall says Planet now has over 100 customers for the data that the Doves send back. It looks poised for significant growth.
Planet’s success stems partly from the continuously falling cost and rising capability of consumer electronics—especially components for smartphones, which sell by the billion and where size and low power usage are crucial. But that would be of no use without a willingness to improve the satellites frequently—indeed, incessantly. By June this year the Doves had been through 14 upgrades. Today’s spacecraft have a different camera from their predecessors, new antennae, rebuilt electronics and a power system based on the lithium-ion battery packs used in Tesla cars, rather than the original AA battery format. The satellites now “see” in four colour bands rather than the original three. They have become much better at telling where they are and which way they are pointing. According to Mr Marshall, in terms of performance per kilo the Doves are now 100 times better than the state of the art five years ago. Such agile innovation is normal in Silicon Valley, but it is not something the satellite world has seen before.
Fly, my pretties
To do things this way requires an attitude to risk alien to the world of big, expensive satellites: Planet expects some of its innovations to fail. It knows that Doves launched from the ISS have only a short life anyway, re-entering the atmosphere after nine to 18 months aloft. This attitude speeds up progress and provides resilience for the company as a whole. A big communications satellite can carry the fate of a whole company with it. When Astra1A, the first dedicated direct-broadcast television satellite, was sitting on top of Europe’s first Ariane 4 rocket in 1988, Rupert Murdoch knew that if it blew up, his nascent Sky broadcasting business would blow up with it—quite possibly taking the rest of his media empire down in flames too. Planet has twice had the bad luck to see a flock of Doves fall to Earth from the fiery wreck of a failed launch, and lived to tell the tale.
A company can welcome risk only if its investors take the same view. Planet’s do. This is another consequence of building a business on small, cheap satellites; the amount of capital needed is relatively modest. Planet has raised almost all its capital from Silicon Valley angel investors and venture funds. Just as technological improvement can be accelerated when your satellites weigh just a few kilograms and have parts lists in the 1,000s, so getting funding is a lot easier when their cost is a few hundred thousand dollars or less. The total invested in Planet to date, after three rounds, is $158m; at SSL that would buy a single satellite.
In 2001-05, venture investments in space businesses worldwide totalled just $186m. In 2011-15 they had risen to $2.3 billion, according to a study by the Tauri group. Half of those investors were based in California, and most of this money has gone either into small satellites or into new launchers tailored to those satellites’ requirements. Venture capitalists feel increasingly at ease about the technology involved.
The business aspirations of companies like Planet are familiar, too. As the Tauri report puts it, the new wave of space companies has been able to sell itself to VCs as a way to “follow the path terrestrial tech has profitably travelled: dropping system costs and massively increasing user bases for new products, especially new data products”. Fashion is another factor. Like Doves, Silicon Valley investors flock; the past few years of success for SpaceX, founded by one of their own, has made space a particularly appealing place for the flock to settle. This new source of capital looks like producing a great many satellites. In July Euroconsult, a consultancy, estimated that in the period from 2016 to 2025 some 3,600 commercial small satellites might be launched, including over 2,000 flown by VC-funded Earth-observing companies.
Others, including some with deeper pockets, want to take the smallsat revolution further. Today’s big communications satellites are almost all to be found in an orbit 36,000km above the Earth. This is because, at that height, it takes them 24 hours to go round once—which means that, seen from the ground, they seem to sit stationary in the sky. In businesses that depend on a single antenna pointed in a single direction, that is a huge advantage. But it has costs. The amount of data you can handle with a given antenna and amplifier drops off according to the square of its distance from the surface. This means that closer to Earth you can do more with less. You can do it faster, too: going 36,000km up to “geostationary” orbit and back again delays a radio signal by a quarter of a second, a problem for some applications.
All the same, communications satellites have mostly forgone the advantages of lower orbits, for two reasons. The lower the orbit, the more satellites you need to make sure one can always be seen from the ground. And satellites that move across the sky require receivers that can track them. This does not mean moving dishes; today’s receivers can track electronically. But such technology is demanding.
The more the merrier
OneWeb, a project being put together by, among others, Intelsat, the Virgin Group and Airbus Industries, is based on the idea that modern antennae can surmount this communication problem, and that the smallsat approach can sort out the coverage problem. It plans to use some 648 satellites in orbits just 1,200km up to offer seamless communications to any spot on Earth. Its business plan turns the need to cover everywhere to cover anywhere into a feature by focusing on developing countries; nowhere will be too remote for it to serve. The first satellites are to be launched next year.
This is not something you can do with cubesats, or on a startup budget. OneWeb is a multi-billion-dollar proposal. Its prototypes are being made at an Airbus plant in Toulouse. In Florida OneWeb and Airbus Space and Defence are building a factory where they hope to produce up to four 150kg spacecraft every day, using highly automated systems; that is more by an order of magnitude than anything the satellite world has seen before.
Not only is the project technologically very ambitious; it also faces a lot of competition. Google, where OneWeb’s innovators were working at one point, is looking at stratospheric balloons as an alternative way of providing connectivity in the developing world. Facebook is eyeing high-flying solar-powered drones.
The incumbent communications-satellite industry is paying attention, too. At Google the OneWeb founders worked on a system called O3B, named for the “other three billion” people not yet getting data services. After they left, the system went forward without them. When it is finished, it will consist of 20 satellites orbiting at about 8,000km. This summer SES, one of the big four comsat operators, took complete control of the project, buying out Google and its other original partners. Meanwhile SpaceX, which until now has operated purely as a launch provider, is talking about a low-orbit communications system of its own, with perhaps 4,000 small satellites. That one project would use three times as many spacecraft as there are in the skies today.
Earth-observation satellites are changing the world—yet again
IN TERMS of engineering ambition, operational complexity and capital requirements, big communications-satellite constellations outstrip the small-satellite revolution in Earth observation. In terms of world-changing potential, though, things may well be the other way round.
Satellites are only a marginal part of the communications business; they matter in some niches, such as multichannel television, but they represent only a small fraction of the $2 trillion telecoms business. The marginal can still matter. The as-yet-unconnected “other three billion” that projects like O3B and OneWeb aim to serve are on the margins of the world economy, and systems that connect them up affordably would be a great boon. But it would be an expansion of the remarkable transformation in computing and communications already being wrought by smartphones connected in all sorts of other ways. What is now happening in Earth observation, on the other hand, is a whole new story. For the fourth time in 60 years, space is revolutionising the way people think about the planet.
The first revolution might be called an anywhere revolution. From the early 1960s on, spy satellites were able to look wherever their handlers wanted them to, even deep into enemy territory. They allowed cold-war adversaries to assess each other’s nuclear and other capabilities and provided a way of monitoring arms-control agreements. That helped to keep the cold war cold.
The second revolution was an everywhere revolution. The pictures of the Earth taken by the Apollo astronauts gave the planet’s inhabitants their first sight of their common home seen from afar. Contrasted with the dead husk of the moon and the infinite emptiness of space it seemed small, beautiful, intensely precious. Those pictures accelerated the advent of modern green politics.
The third revolution was another anywhere revolution. This time, though, the novelty was to know your position anywhere that you happened to be. The GPS satellites launched by America’s Department of Defence allow billions of devices to pinpoint their precise positions. That smartphones, cars, goods containers and girl guides know exactly where they are is now central to everything from orienteering to Uber.
The current, fourth revolution is both an anywhere and an everywhere revolution. It is the transformation of the Earth into a gigantic set of data that can be both interrogated and extrapolated.
The number of Doves Planet is able to fly allows it to provide images of every point on the planet fairly frequently; its ambition, likely to be realised fairly soon, is to use “sun- synchronous” orbits (see graph) to image everywhere on Earth at the same time every day. Spire, another cubesat startup based in San Francisco, does not look at the Earth’s surface but listens to its radio signals. Every ship on the planet is required to have a transmitter that continuously broadcasts its location, and before long Spire expects to have data on every ship on the planet every hour.
The potential of these new data seems inexhaustible
BlackSky, a startup based in Seattle, is at the anywhere end of the market. Its satellites are larger than Doves, and their bigger optics give them better resolution (one metre or so, meaning that they can pick up cars, which matters for a lot of applications). They can also be made to take pictures of targets off their orbital track, rather than seeing only straight below them. With 60 of these satellites in a range of orbits, the company aims to be able to produce a picture of any point on the Earth’s surface between 55ºN and 55ºS within 90 minutes of being asked. Other new outfits offer different combinations of resolution and repeat visits.
Cloud storage and processing play a big part in this new revolution. Planet has invested heavily in the pipeline that takes raw data from its 12 ground stations around the world and turns them into a usable product, but it buys storage and processing power as needed from cloud-computing companies. Without such services, startups could never cope with the terabytes of data that their satellites produce every day.
New markets matter too. The Earth-observation companies that started up in America in the 1990s all had a single dominant and expert customer for their high-resolution images: the little-known National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Virginia. Serving its requirements made money for the companies involved but hardly encouraged diversity. The industry eventually coalesced into a single company, DigitalGlobe. It is thriving; this September it will launch another of the big, capable high-resolution satellites it puts into orbit every few years. But the government still accounts for well over half its sales.
The new companies will also sell to the government, but few if any of them are relying on it. Instead, their hopes of rapid growth rest on customers who have not previously used satellite data but have questions they want answered. Both the satellite companies and the third parties that use their data have invested heavily in machine-learning technologies that can extract those answers from the huge amounts of data stored in the cloud by understanding what they see and recognising when things change.
They can tell a shipping line—or, soon, an airline—exactly where all its vessels are. They can chart economic growth by recognising the spread of cities and the traffic within them, or the amount of light that they give off at night. They can provide a reinsurance company with daily updates on any changes relevant to its risk portfolio. They can inform futures traders about the state of crops across an entire continent, or individual farmers about the state of crops in a particular field. They can combine their data with other georeferenced data, such as Twitter feeds, to produce images of disasters, demonstrations, conflagrations and celebrations as they happen.
If you think the best way to look for some truth about America is to count the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, it is easily done. The same applies to any equally obscure metric in any other country. The potential of immense sets of data that cover the world in growing detail, are refreshed more or less in real time and can learn to pick up all sorts of objects and phenomena autonomously seems inexhaustible.
In among all the novelty, old sorts of forecasts will be overhauled, too. As well as hearing radio signals from the Earth below, Spire’s satellites can listen to the transmissions from America’s 24 GPS satellites, and from similar systems being fielded by Europe, Russia and China. Given their different orbits, the Earth will sometimes come between the two satellites, and its radio signal will have to pass through some of the Earth’s atmosphere before the planet blocks it out completely. The way that the signal fades in the atmosphere can be used to calculate the temperature and pressure along the line connecting the two spacecraft, providing a valuable new source of raw data for weather forecasting. Spire has 12 satellites today and hopes to have 44 before the year is out. By the time it has 100, it could be producing 100,000 atmospheric cross-sections every day: terabytes of valuable data from thin air.
Being cheap is not the be-all and end-all of a launcher
FOR decades, lower launch costs seemed to be the sine qua non of progress in space travel. Enthusiasts saw reducing them by orders of magnitude as the key to being able to do much more in space. That is one reason why there is so much excitement around SpaceX, which has undercut the competition enough to take a significant share of the launch market. Its potentially reusable spacecraft seem to promise continuing reductions in launch costs in the future.
The smallsat revolution shows that this stress on dollars per kilogram was too simplistic. If you can get much more capability out of each kilo, then the cost of doing things in space will drop even if the cost of launches does not. In the smallsat world innovation comes first and new launch services follow. The key factor is not necessarily a very low cost per kilo, but new standards and speed of service.
This is the market that Peter Beck, CEO of an American-owned, New Zealand-based company called Rocket Lab, wants to serve. His company’s Electron rocket is due to make its first flight from New Zealand’s North Island later this year. Backed by Silicon Valley money, the Electron is designed to deliver a 150kg payload to a sun-synchronous orbit for just under $5m—the same price as that currently charged by Spaceflight, a Seattle company that brokers “ride-share” opportunities for smallsats to fly as secondary payloads on big launchers.
Rocket Lab’s $33,000 per kilo sounds dear when a Falcon 9 can deliver a kilo to low orbit for a tenth of that price or less. But you have to buy in bulk, paying $62m or more for launching 20 tonnes on a whole Falcon 9. And you may have to wait for a couple of years because there is a queue. For little agile companies currently shopping around for shared rides to often suboptimal orbits, like that of the ISS, 30 3U cubesats in just the right orbit within months of signing a $5m contract sounds a lot more appealing.
Building rockets with the low unit costs that smallsats require is challenging, even if the payloads are modest. Mr Beck’s response combines mass production, new manufacturing techniques and materials and new ideas. Rather than have different engine designs for both the first and the second stage, he has gone for just one type, nine of which are used for the first stage and one for the second. Not coincidentally, this is the same cost-saving approach as that taken by the Falcon 9: SpaceX has shown it is cheaper to build lots of engines to the same design than smaller numbers to a range of them. Rocket Lab also uses 3D printing to produce the engines, and makes its fuel tanks out of carbon composites, which being lighter give the engines less to lift. And it has some tricks all of its own, notably the use of battery-powered pumps to push fuel and oxidiser into the engines.
Alpha, a smallsat launcher being developed by Firefly, a company set up by SpaceX veterans, uses similar materials, but has a different new idea for getting the fuel into the engines, and is also using a novel clustered-engine design called an aerospike on its first stage. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is in the market too. The company’s original purpose was to give tourists joyrides in sub-orbital spacecraft, and that is still on the cards, but the company is also planning to launch smallsats using LauncherOne, a rocket that will be carried under the wing of a converted Boeing 747. Again, the engines are largely 3D printed and the tanks made of carbon composite. The first flight is expected next year.
A crowded space
In its early days SpaceX, too, was aiming for the small-launcher market; the Falcon 1, which first flew in 2007, was much the same size as the Electron. But it was ahead of its time. There was a need for it but not a viable market, the company’s COO, Gwynne Shotwell, has since said. Luckily for Mr Musk, a NASA contract for resupplying the ISS made possible the development of the Falcon 9. Once it was making big launchers and space capsules, SpaceX did not return to the smallsat market; instead it branched out into the market for launching multi-tonne communications satellites to geostationary orbit, which had been dominated by Arianespace, a European consortium.
Mass-produced engines and other innovative approaches have made SpaceX very competitive on cost, but there are limits to how useful that is in this market. Russia, China, Japan and India, as well as Europe, all have their own launch industries, and will keep them for national-security reasons. That might not matter if SpaceX were able to increase the overall size of the market, but rockets typically cost less than the satellites they launch, and it is the total cost that sets demand. Making rockets $10m or $20m cheaper is neither here nor there.
SpaceX (which declined to comment on the record for this article) has little commercial incentive to slash its prices, and at present is has no obvious new markets. Modest smallsat constellations do not make sense for it; the manifest that Rocket Lab hopes to spread over 50 launches in a year would fit on a single Falcon 9. And the only really big smallsat constellation, the OneWeb communications system, has signed launch contracts with Arianespace and Virgin Galactic (both companies in which OneWeb’s owners have stakes). This may be why SpaceX is talking about building its own constellation of 4,000 communications satellites. A venture on that scale might get real benefits from very low-cost Falcon 9 launches.
It’s not what you launch, it’s what you do with it
ON EARTH, valuable assets are serviced, upgraded and recycled; they are also protected and, now and then, attacked. None of this is yet happening in space. But all of it could.
Some satellites break down; all of them, eventually, run out of fuel. Robotic service spacecraft that can identify a satellite, grab it and manipulate it could get around those problems. Orbital ATK, an aerospace company based in Virginia, has developed a spacecraft along these lines that works a bit like a mobility scooter; it provides somewhere with an engine for an elderly spacecraft to settle down in when it can no longer get around on its own. Orbital hopes to use such spacecraft to extend the lives of communications satellites that are out of fuel but still making money, and has signed a contract with Intelsat to this end.
An alternative to assisted mobility is refuelling. The Naval Research Laboratory, NASA and DARPA—the Pentagon’s advanced-technology arm—are all working on various projects for spacecraft that could refuel satellites and even repair them in orbit, using a range of tools and complex robotic arms.
A more radical approach is to use orbiting robots to make new spacecraft rather than service old ones. Tethers Unlimited, based in Washington state, is working on a “SpiderFab” that would combine robotic arms with a form of 3D printing to create structures much larger and more delicate than anything that can fit into the fairing of a launcher. Satellite-makers have become adept at folding up solar panels and antennae so as to fit a lot of spacecraft into those small spaces. But the complicated unfurlings, articulations and poppings-into-place required tend to increase both expense and risk, and make some approaches impossible.
Structures built with technologies such as the SpiderFab could change the way the communications-satellite industry works. Platforms with big solar panels and engines would take care of the housekeeping for a whole range of communications packages that could be smaller and launched more frequently, thus keeping the technology much more up-to-date and reducing risk.
All this might have an even bigger effect on science. Space is a great place for telescopes, but it is very difficult to get a big one up there. One reason why the James Webb Space Telescope that NASA and the European Space Agency are due to launch in 2018 has a budget of $8 billion is the need to fold a sunshield the size of a tennis court and a polished mirror 6.5 metres across into the 5.4-metre fairing of an Ariane 5. A combination of big structures and techniques that let a number of small mirrors spread over a large area do the work of a single much bigger mirror would allow remarkable new instruments to be built. Such instruments might be much better than those on the ground at observing, for example, the fascinating planets being discovered around other stars.
One use for robots is asteroid mining
Another use for robots in space is asteroid mining. Some asteroids have orbits similar enough to the Earth’s to allow a spacecraft in orbit to get to them with a relatively small amount of fuel—much less than what is needed to get it into orbit in the first place. Like many other staples of science fiction, mining these flying boulders and mountains is now on the Silicon Valley startup agenda. The commodity of greatest interest is not a precious metal (though some of those are to be found on asteroids) but something that in space is much more valuable: water.
Human space travellers need water, as well as oxygen, which can be made from water. They, and their spacecraft, also need fuel: hydrogen made from water fits that bill. Once a certain amount of activity is taking place in orbit, especially if it involves a human presence, getting water from asteroids, in some of which it can be found either as ice or as hydrated minerals, could start to make more sense than hauling it up from Earth.
This will take time, but Deep Space Industries and another asteroid-mining startup, Planetary Resources, recently found a patient investor. Luxembourg knows a bit about space; two of the big four satellite operators, Intelsat and SES, in which its government is a shareholder, are based there. It is also well able to afford a flutter, and tightly knit enough to give a far-out idea with a few enthusiastic supporters a hearing. This summer Luxembourg announced that both companies would benefit from the 200m it will be spending on asteroid-mining initiatives.
What goes up must come down
Fuel from beyond could keep some satellites in orbit indefinitely. Others, though, need to be got rid of. In the lowest orbits—those of the ISS and below—the problem has a natural solution: drag in the outer reaches of the atmosphere will bring anything down in a matter of decades (the ISS has to be regularly boosted). But in other orbits space debris—consisting of dead satellites and their fragments, as well as the leftovers of discarded launchers—builds up. Even in the most debris-ridden orbits, between 700km and 900km, the risk of hitting something is pretty low; the chance of a close call is perhaps 1% per satellite-year, according to Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation, an American NGO. But satellites have been lost to such collisions; more satellites mean more such collisions; and collisions create yet more junk. Left to itself, the problem can only get worse. “It’s like climate change,” says Mr Weeden. “By the time it becomes a really big problem it may be too late to do anything about it.”
One answer is to make satellites more responsive and ensure that their operators are better informed. America’s armed forces use radar and telescopes to keep track of everything bigger than about 10cm across, and provide warnings when a bit of junk is going to come close to a functioning satellite. Analytic Graphics, a company that sells orbit-planning software, is moving towards offering a similar service that is better tailored to the needs of commercial-satellite operators. Like Earth-observation startups, but in reverse, it is using ever cheaper commercial technology to do what only governments did before. It is currently tracking about half as many objects as the US Air Force provides data on, but its capacities are fast increasing. It may soon offer its customers a better service.
The other answer is to clean things up—yet another job for robots. In 2017 an ESA spacecraft built by Surrey Satellite Technology, a pioneering smallsat company now owned by Airbus, will test its ability to ensnare a nearby cubesat in a net, reel it in and attach a “dragsail” to consign it to death by re-entry. It will also look at a technology for harpooning bits of junk. In the same year Astroscale, a Singapore-based startup, plans to launch a satellite to get a better measure of space junk. (Ground-based radar can see little that is less than 10cm across; the size of a cubesat was chosen in part because anything smaller would risk being invisible from Earth.) In 2018 Astroscale plans to try out a satellite with an adhesive patch to which any piece of junk can stick.
As it happens, very similar technologies might also be used for removing satellites that some people want in position and others do not. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons that target satellites have been developed by America, China and Russia, but if they were used it would be fairly obvious who the attacker was. A stealthy little satellite that could take them out from close by might work better; the victim might never know for sure if its satellite had been attacked or just broken down.
Here, too, better local information would help. America recently sent a pair of small satellites up to geostationary orbit to keep a much closer eye on both its own satellites and those of other countries. A second pair was launched on August 19th. But there are limits to this approach. As Doug Loverro, America’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Space Policy, puts it, space is an environment which, at the moment, favours attack over defence.
Star wars writ small
That said, Mr Loverro identifies three ways of ensuring a continued satellite capability, all of which America is pursuing. One is active defence: measures that would make an ASAT attack more difficult. The second is resilience. Commercial service providers and America’s allies have more assets in space than ever before. The use of those capabilities, both on a routine basis—relying on commercial satellite links rather than bespoke military ones for many operations, for example—and as required in an emergency would make it harder for an adversary to deal a crippling blow with an ASAT strike. There would be just too many targets.
The third response is replenishment, which means having some back-up satellites safely on the ground, ready to be sent into space at very short notice. Another of DARPA’s space projects, XS-1, is challenging commercial teams to develop partially reusable launch systems that could get a couple of tonnes into orbit every day for ten days in a row. That could improve the economics of small satellites yet further, and allow the armed forces to feel much more certain of their ability to keep using space.
But there is another side to that use. Some systems designed to hit satellites might also be able to take out an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) during the part of its trajectory when it is above the atmosphere. In the 1980s America’s “Star Wars” programme came up with the idea of so-called brilliant pebbles—thousands of small satellites that could spot and intercept rising ICBMs. The viability of such a system was hotly debated until the first Clinton administration pulled back from all space-based missile defences, on the argument that they would prove destabilising. That rendered the question moot.
The geopolitics of missile defence remain tricky. However, it is a sure bet that in a world where a smartphone has as much processing power as a Cray supercomputer had in the 1980s, and startups are launching satellites by the hundreds, a brilliant-pebble constellation is technologically a lot more plausible than it used to be, even though it might still prove politically unacceptable. Moreover, these capabilities, though at their most developed in America, are not unique to it. Warfare, both defensive and offensive, may yet prove to be an application where, as with communications, navigation and observation, space-based assets offer a regional or worldwide service that provides a distinct edge over surface-based alternatives.
There is no compelling need for people in space, but they will keep going anyway
SPACE need not necessarily become a battlefield, but the possibility is not without precedent. Military strategists have long known the value of taking the high ground, and the remarkable kinetic energy that comes with orbital velocities is a gift to weapon designers. The space race was a way to pursue the cold war by other means; its rockets were the children of V2s and the cousins of ICBMs. And its heroes were warriors, representing their nations in a strange new form of single combat.
The early astronauts had no real technical or operational purpose; their presence, like their combat, was symbolic. But the symbolism was central to the whole enterprise. Well before Sputnik, science fiction had established space travel as one of the fundamental metaphors for future transcendence, a rising above and beyond the limits of the human which would be meaningless if humans were not involved. Superpower competition made the same demand. If space was a race it had to have winners, and those winners had to be people, singular people whose achievements, made possible by the work of hundreds of thousands, would inspire not just their fellow citizens but the whole world looking up at them.
And inspire they did. A generation of children watched the Apollo landings and wondered what was coming next. That wondering went on for the next 40 years—wistful, fitful, sometimes angry, hungry for more. The “orphans of Apollo”, to borrow the title of a documentary film, watched the flying and failing of shuttles; the growth of the comsat industry; the Star Wars programme; the ISS; the roverisation of Mars: and none of it satisfied them. It was not simply that they wanted more astronauts. Astronauts kept flying almost all the time, because the powers that put them in space felt that giving up would entail a loss of prestige, a small but real diminishment. The orphans wanted those astronauts to do something, to take things further. Human space programmes stuck in low orbit with no higher purpose than self- perpetuation could not make good their loss.
Now some of those who wondered “what next?” are answering their own question. Many involved in the new generation of space ventures are motivated by more than profit. They want to extend humankind’s grasp and its sense of what it is. Some of this can be satisfied through the technologies of the small, the many and the robotic. These can do more than make money and serve humanity; they can inspire a wonder of their own (see Brain scan below). But for some the promise of space cannot be fulfilled just by hardware and imagery. And the radical improvements in earthly technology that have made ever more capable spacecraft possible have also made some of the technologically attuned entrepreneurs interested in space travel rich enough to direct their efforts beyond the near-term dictates of commerce.
Elon Musk is the foremost of these superpowered orphans. He has shown that he can drive the costs of space travel lower, possibly far lower, than a government bureaucracy can. For more than a decade he has talked about the need for a self-sufficient colony of people on Mars to ensure that the human race could survive an Earth-wrecking cataclysm. He has made it clear that his company, SpaceX, which recent investments have valued at $12 billionCK, will not become a publicly traded company before it is well on the way to getting that colony started. His purpose is not to maximise shareholder value but to make history.
At the end of September Mr Musk will reveal his road map for Mars colonisation at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. A key part of the scheme is likely to be a new engine, the Raptor, far more powerful than the Falcon 9’s Merlin. Reusable rockets powered by clusters of Raptors will lift both Mars-bound spacecraft and their fuel to orbit. That fuel, unusually, will be liquid methane, which yields more energy per kilogram than the kerosene that Merlins use—and can quite easily be made from ice and carbon dioxide, both of which are available on Mars. Thus methane-powered spacecraft could not only get to the planet; they could also get back.
Billionaire boys’ club
Mr Musk is only one of a number of billionaires with a yen for space. In the 1996 Peter Diamandis, who is now co-chairman of an asteroid-mining startup, Planetary Resources, set up the Ansari X prize, a $10m reward for anyone who could build a vehicle able to lift three people higher than 100km—and thus, technically, into space—twice in two weeks. It was won in 2004 by SpaceShipOne, an experimental aircraft built by Scaled Composites, an outfit that excels at such things, and financed by Paul Allen, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates. Mr Allen is now funding Stratolaunch, again in partnership with Scaled Composites. It aims to build the world’s biggest aircraft as a platform from which to launch satellites and, conceivably, people into space.
Richard Branson, a British businessman, founded Virgin Galactic to build a space-tourism business out of Scaled Composite’s X-prize-winning know-how. His SpaceShipTwo should let six paying customers fly into the blackness of space and experience zero gravity; about 700 people have paid deposits for tickets. Its development has been far slower than expected, and in 2014 an accident claimed one of its aircraft as well as the life of one of its pilots. But SpaceShipTwo should be back in the air soon. And Mr Branson can call on more than just his own wealth to cushion the blows of fate: Arbor Investments, an Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund, has invested $380m in the venture.
Mr Branson’s main rival in the space-tourism business is Jeff Bezos of Amazon. New Shepard, the small reusable rocket built by Mr Bezos’s private company, Blue Origin, is capable of taking a reasonably roomy space capsule to the same sort of height as SpaceShipTwo. But Mr Bezos’s ambitions go far further. Blue Origin is building a new engine much larger than that used by New Shepard, similar in size to SpaceX’s Raptor. He is talking of selling this rocket to others, but doubtless also has plans for using it himself.
When Mr Bezos outlines his long-term vision for space, he conjures up dreams strongly influenced by ideas championed in the 1970s by Gerard K. O’Neill, a professor at Princeton. O’Neill imagined a future in which all the heavy industry on Earth would be transferred to orbit, there to be powered by unlimited and uninterrupted sunshine, some of which would be beamed down to Earth by huge solar-power satellites. Industry’s workers would live in vast space settlements; its raw materials would come from the Moon and the asteroids; its effluent would be swept away by the solar wind. Mr Bezos talks of a similar “great inversion” in which orbital space becomes a swarm of industrial satellites employing millions of people while the billions below restore Earth to a pristine patchwork of cities, parks and wilderness, receiving much of the hardware they need as industrial manna from heaven.
Blue Origin’s motto is “Gradatim Ferociter!” (Gradually ferocious!); it could be the tortoise to SpaceX’s hare. Rather than racing off to Mars, Mr Bezos is building up a sub-orbital space-tourism business first, then, presumably, a high-capacity, low-cost reusable launcher. From there, maybe, the assembly of an orbiting destination (another of Apollo’s wealthy orphans, Robert Bigelow, made his money in Las Vegas hotels, and longs to expand into orbit). Later perhaps some installations on the Moon, or on asteroids, to provision the guests? If Mr Bezos is willing to devote a significant fraction of what he has earned from Amazon to such things over the coming decades, his slow and steady approach might achieve a lot. Among other things, satisfied space tourists—well off, by definition—may swell the ranks of future space investors.
Such undertakings could outstrip, or absorb, national human space-flight programmes. China and Russia both aspire to putting people on the Moon. Europe’s space agency has similar plans, though it lacks a crewed spacecraft. America talks of Mars as its next destination, but seems in no hurry; and if Mr Musk’s big rockets head there, NASA may pivot back to the Moon. It is good for doing interesting science, and there are resources, too: bits of the Moon, like some asteroids, have ice. A largely scientific moonbase may become America’s default destination.
Such a moonbase might turn out significantly cheaper than the ISS—which is, at a cost of some $100 billion, the most expensive object humans have ever built. Just as post-shuttle NASA now uses contracts with private launchers like SpaceX to resupply the ISS, and will soon rely on them to get crew members there and back too, it will surely take a similar attitude to a future moonbase, contracting with Blue Origin, SpaceX, Boeing or some other company for the delivery of supplies and other services. That should keep costs down. So should the provision of robot assistance and the adaptation of other new space technologies to human needs. Companies such as Moon Express that are planning private missions to the Moon are not driven solely by the Google Lunar X prize, which promises $20m to a mission that meets certain objectives. They see themselves making money providing infrastructure for lunar science and, eventually, settlement.
Stretching the magic
None of this is yet certain. Mr Musk’s record is impressive, but he is trying to change the world not once but twice, both re-energising Earth with the solar-panel, battery and car business built around Tesla and providing an alternative to it with SpaceX. The magic could be spread too thin. So, perhaps, could the cash; both Tesla and SpaceX have in the past come within hours of bankruptcy, just as both have repeatedly failed to meet ambitious timetables. Even if Mr Musk can make spacecraft that get to Mars much more cheaply than previously thought, it is hard to see how they can be paid for with just part of the $5.5 billion launch business.
The powerful Raptor could be a risky beast, at least early on. Taking hundreds of people to Mars is a task of a different order from taking a handful to the ISS. And some aspects of Mars itself could scupper the plans. The planet’s surface is laced with poisonous perchlorates; its gravity may be too low for women to carry babies to term, or children to grow up healthy. Mr Bezos’s Earth-centric ideas may look more reasonable. But they require manufacturing industries that greatly benefit from being in space. And those industries have to consider people who need air, food and places to live as more desirable workers than tireless solar-powered robots specifically designed for vacuum and microgravity—unless people to want to do the work so much that they will pay for the privilege, or contrive to receive subsidies.
As far as a human presence goes, perhaps the most that space can hope for is to become a new Antarctic, protected from military expansion by treaty, suited only to research and tourism. It would not be a new Earth, or a greatly inverted one. But it would be an addition to the human realm well worth having; Antarctica, after all, is a wonderful thing. And the efforts of the orphans to create a yet greater future will, as long as there is no terrible loss of life, provide insights into what visionary drive, technological acumen and capital can achieve.
Humankind’s expansion into space may never meet with crowning glory on other planets or pass far beyond Earth’s orbit. But the years and decades to come will see something bolder and more inspirational than the staid circlings of those just past. And whatever the fate of the most ambitious ventures, the navigable, networked and knowable world that today’s satellites are creating, reinforcing and enriching will endure.