Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t Benny Peiser – Congress has just voted to legalise the mining of Asteroids. In doing so, they have opened the way to the next phase of human history – the unlimited expansion of industrial human civilisation throughout the Universe.
According to Popular Science;
After much delay, an important space bill has finally passed in the Senate.
The Space Act of 2015 would do a lot of things to encourage the private space industry–including extending the “learning period” wherein fledgling spaceflight companies can operate without too much government oversight. It would also give companies the rights to the resources they might one day extract from asteroids, such as platinum and water (which, believe it or not, is a valuable resource in space).
The bill has just passed in the Senate with unanimous approval and a few amendments. Now it will be sent back to the House of Representatives, which is expected to approve the changes, and then on to President Obama.
Although the bill hasn’t officially been signed into law yet, Planetary Resources–one such company that hopes to extract resources from asteroids–issued an effusive letter thanking the Congressmen who supported the bill.
“Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multi-planetary species,” said Planetary Resources Co-Chairman Eric Anderson in the press release. “This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space.”
Obviously there is still the issue of how to get to your Asteroid – launching traditional rockets is prohibitively expensive. But most alternatives to rockets suffer substantial drawbacks, which have so far prevented their use.
For example, Project Orion powered spaceships would have no difficulty carrying a large payload into orbit, and propelling it to the vicinity of any Asteroid in the Solar System. The tough part is convincing a government to allow a private company to detonate nuclear bombs inside the Earth’s atmosphere, to propel the Orion ship into orbit.
Thankfully there is one solution, which involves far less controversial technology than atomic bombs. A solution which has already been tested, which worked, and which successfully delivered payloads, at a fraction of normal launch costs, into near Earth space.
The man who proved inexpensive launch into near Earth space is possible was the legendary Canadian artillery engineer Gerald Bull. Gerald Bull is well known in military circles. He was a ballistics genius, whose revolutionary design ideas dramatically advanced the world’s artillery capabilities. During the 1960s Bull was the director of Project HARP. His modified artillery pieces successfully launched payloads up to a peak altitude of 180km (110 miles), well above the lower boundary of near Earth space – proving that ballistic launch into space is possible.
Bull wanted to go further, to prove that he could launch a satellite into stable orbit using his cannon. Payloads launched from a cannon need a course correction during flight to achieve a stable Earth orbit, so Bull wanted to build gun big enough to launch an unmanned spaceship, which could perform that required mid flight course correction. But Bull’s desperation was his undoing. The only person at the time who was willing to support his final project was the infamous Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein.
Of course, Saddam wasn’t interested in space research, but he was very interested in a gun powerful enough to deliver large payloads all the way to Israel. Thus was born the infamous Iraqi Supergun.
Bull was assassinated shortly after he became involved with Saddam Hussein. Nobody knows for sure who assassinated Gerald Bull, or exactly why he was murdered. But Bull’s work didn’t die – the knowledge of how to replicate the launch technology which Gerald Bull pioneered lives on.
Now Congress has guaranteed people can keep the fruits of their efforts, other people can and will build on the ideas Bull pioneered, and the ideas of other space pioneers, and will use those ideas to open our way to the stars, to access unlimited resources from beyond the Earth.
Once you achieve a stable low Earth orbit, you are halfway to anywhere. There are a host of high efficiency low thrust space drives which could easily carry a low earth orbit satellite to a rendezvous with an Asteroid. Its getting into orbit in the first place which is the difficult part – the problem which Gerald Bull solved.