Geekwire has a fascinating post up today about a trip to Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rocket factory. During this trip, it appears that the notoriously elusive billionaire treated journalists to his vision for space colonization.
Here's what Bezos's vision entails:
Today, huge industrial complexes on Earth build components that are sent into space, at a cost of thousands of dollars per pound. Bezos foresees an inversion in that flow of goods. “We’ll make the microprocessors in space, and then we’ll send the little tiny bits to Earth,” Bezos said.
In the long term, Blue Origin could set the stage for moving heavy industries completely off Earth, leaving our planet zoned strictly for “residential and light industrial” use.
You should read the whole thing, which delves into some of the delicious technology of it all.
That said, let's think about what zoning the planet for "residential and light industrial" use really means.
First, Bezos's vision relies on another critical element: natural resources. Clearly, we've fucked up the planet we already live on by mercilessly exploiting ours. That's why Bezos mentioned being able to iterate new technologies in space. His plan requires the cooperation of another nascent industry: space mining.
Planetary Resources, another Seattle-area company, is on the forefront of the private space mining industry. It aims to find water in asteroids, which opens up an entirely new world of possibilities for not just traveling to outer space, but staying there.
Last year, Planetary Resources also won a significant, if not controversial, piece of legislation at the federal level. Congress unilaterally created a framework for space mining rights, presumably so companies like Planetary Resources could get to work in a more comfortable regulatory environment.*
Eric Anderson, the cofounder of Planetary Resources, characterized the US SPACE Act as "the single greatest recognition of property rights in history." The company went on to praise the passage of the SPACE Act in a press release last November:
Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, praises the members of Congress who promoted historic legislation (H.R. 2262) that recognizes the right of US citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain as property, and encourages the commercial exploration and recovery of resources from asteroids, free from harmful interference.
Got it. But here's more food for thought: If the process by which we over-industrialized Earth is now being exported to space, what's to keep humanity from carelessly exploiting resources outside the planet? Is climate change not the ultimate lesson in the unintended consequences of runaway, natural resource capitalism? And is continuing to artificially segregate humanity from "nature" going to help us become better stewards of our surroundings?
I could go on, but I'll leave my thoughts there for now. Interested to hear yours, too.
*Other legal experts have claimed that the US SPACE Act violates another treaty—the international Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The 1967 treaty (which was ratified by the US, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and more) states that outer space is not subject to "national appropriation by claim of sovereignty."