Monday, June 18, 2007

Halfway to anywhere in the solar system

Charlie Stross - a SF writer from the UK - set down his thoughts on The High Frontier and why the whole thing is unlikely to happen.

  • Space is big. Really, really big.
  • It's going to be really hard to do.
  • All of these arguments go out the window when we build a space elevator.
Space elevators, if we build them, will invalidate a lot of what I just said. Some analyses of the energy costs of space elevators suggest that a marginal cost of $350/kilogram to geosynchronous orbit should be achievable without waving any magic wands (other than the enormous practical materials and structural engineering problems of building the thing in the first place). So we probably can look forward to zero-gee vacations in orbit, at a price. And space elevators are attractive because they're a scalable technology; you can use one to haul into space the material to build more. So, long term, space elevators may give us not-unreasonably priced access to space, including jaunts to the lunar surface for a price equivalent to less than $100,000 in today's money. At which point, settlement would begin to look economically feasible, except ...

The except is this: It's really inhospitable out there.

All of which can be summed up - and was - by the pithy quote from Mr. Heinlein
Reach low orbit and you’re halfway to anywhere in the Solar System.

Cross posted to LiftPort Staff Blog.
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