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Space Resource Utilization and Extending Human Presence Across the Solar SystemThe Presidents Vision for Exploration is not a single mission, but an open ended journey that seeks to answer "How can we live on other worlds?" Using space resources is the only known approach for affordable, sustained, flexible, and self sufficient, human occupation beyond Earth orbit. Earth is a large planet. A simple analysis using the rocket equation shows that if Earth were a bit larger, chemical propulsion as a mechanism to access space would become impractical. Thus, even with the most efficient chemical rocket launch capability, the cost of lifting massive payloads into space will remain very steep (currently about $l00k/lb to the Moon and greater than $500k/lb to Mars). Space resource utilization should begin with an aggressive broad based demonstration program as afforded by the precursor missions implementation of the President's Vision of Exploration. Ion engine upper stages, for example, were studied for over 30 years, but only implemented in design after the Deep Space 1 in space demonstration. These demonstrations should include: extraction of elements from lunar regolith, and Martian soil and atmosphere, demonstration of power break even and growth from lunar or Mars moons derived photovoltaics, oxygen extraction for life support and propellant, and metals and alloys for in space repair and the production of habits and radiation shielding. Space resource utilization yields operational dividends through the subsequent programs including: propellant from lunar oxygen which could cut transportation costs from Earth in half, mega watts per year of power grown from lunar photovoltaics at decreasing cost per kW, decreased cost for human Mars missions by a factor of 10 by using propellant derived from Mars atmosphere for return, and in space manufacturing and food production with space resources yielding safe sustained and eventually self sufficient human presence in space. After the demonstration and implementation, the space resource utilization investment enables commercial and private viability beyond Earth orbit. For example, analysis has shown the lunar oxygen production for propellant becomes commercially viable after the exploration program completes the R&D, and power from lunar derived photovoltaics could, according to past NASA sponsored studies, pay for themselves while supplying most of Earth's electrical energy after about 17 years. Besides the Moon and Mars the resources of the near Earth asteroids enable the building of large space structures and science payloads. Analysis has shown that one of the thousands of these objects (some as easily accessible in space as the Moon and Mars), 2 km dia, the size of a typical open pit mine, would cost the total global financial product of Earth for 30,000 years if we were to launch it from Earth. Beyond Mars, the belt asteroids have been calculated to contain enough materials for habitat and life to support 10 quadrillion people. Thus, the development and use of space resources enables the extension of human life through the solar system allowing humanity to move from a planetary to a solar system society.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Curreri, Peter A. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 22, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2005
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Meeting Information
1st Space Exploration Conference: Continuing the Voyage of Discovery(Orlando, FL)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.