Space Cowboys, Chinas New Long March, Interplanetary Opportunities And Existential Risks Our New Age In Space – Forbes

Posted: November 23, 2019 at 11:59 am

In 1508, King Ferdinand II of Spain drafted his memoires. Youd guess the voyages he and Queen Isabella funded would have featured prominently in his personal puff-piece. Imagine bragging about your man Columbus discovering the New World as it was Eurocentrically termed. Oddly, Ferdinand didnt even mention the voyage in his first version.

Ferdinand II of Aragon, King of the Crown of Aragon (1452-1516) detail of wooden altar, Peruvian ... [+] folk art.

While a few monarchs were plotting routes to world domination, the preponderance of Europe paid little attention during those early years.

When forces begin to fundamentally challenge our worldview note the Earth-centric notion worldview only a few people truly pioneer.Most fail. A few make history. Thus we are poised for frontiers in space.

Space Cowboys and Cowgirls

I recently spoke for the New Worlds 2019 confab in Austin, Texas, an annual gathering of space enthusiasts. Hosted by Rick Tumlinson of the Space Fund and Earthlight Foundation, New Worlds focuses on space exploration and colonization. Tumlinson joined me for a trialogue at TWIN Global 2019 earlier this year (find our conversation here), then invited me to join the space race.

Comic book detail from the exhibit, Cowboys in Space and Fantastic Worlds, at the Bullock Texas ... [+] History Museum through December 1, 2019.

The venue for the event, the Bullock Texas State History Museum, hosts an intriguing exhibit Cowboys in Space, which explores the cultural synthesis of space and the American cowboy ethos. Surviving on any true frontier requires self-reliance, a conditions-relevant code of ethics and extraordinary courage the cowboy ideal.

As the exhibit and event explored, science fiction (cowboy or otherwise) generates visions for where we might go in the future.

Not Just For Billionaires And Comiconers

While the space community is still small, its passionate and making progress. Its not just for billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk though their commitment is essentialand Comicon enthusiasts though New Worlds did include a fair dose of Comiconisity. Real businesses, from healthcare and resources to aerospace and defense, are actively investing in these early days.

Investors such as Dylan Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, see investable opportunities. We now have second and third generation entrepreneurs. The business cases are becoming more viable and industry expertise is becoming stronger. I expect this trend to accelerate.

While many presenters and companies impressed me, a group of young researchers and designers stood out. They were selected for their innovative, insightful work on challenges facing our future in space.

What struck me about their work was how relevant some of their insights are for us here on Earth. Out-of-this-world (literally) challenges catalyze ideas relevant for nearer-term terrestrial purposes.

Designing Our Futures In Space And On Earth

Many science fiction authors envision complicated physical environments in space, to help astronauts and travelers feel at home. University of Houston Space Architecture program student and MIT Media Lab visiting student Tamalee Basu is taking an alternative, low-cost holodeck-like approach. With few resources, she decided to try to create a light-weight immersive AstroPod within which an individual can experience any environment.

Some of Tamalee Basu's sketchs for her AstroPod concept, 2019

Basus building a cloth cocoon with 360-degree projection and interactive capabilities. One could envision running simulated environments or having near-real time conversations with colleagues or dinner with loved ones back on Earth.

While Basus idea arose from considering the challenges of spending years away from Earth, we wont need to wait for space to benefit from her idea. When AstroPod or some similar solution works, we could enjoy such devices on earth. Or anywhere. Low cost, fully 3D, 360-degree immersive virtual spaces.

Mockup of a real-time Space-to-Earth meal experience with two participants, via an AstroPod. ... [+] Tamalee Basu

Over the next decade, well transcend the notion of virtual reality goggles and create dedicated virtual spaces with a variety of form factors and use cases. Basus insights from considering potential needs in space could inform progress here at home.

Near-Space Opportunities

Even in space conventionally defined by the Krmn line, or 100 km above Earths sea levelinvestable opportunities already exist. Aquarian Devices endeavors to build communications networks orbiting Earth, and eventually to the realm between Earth, the Moon and Mars. CEO Kelly Larson explained, Were already signing MOUs with customers who already have needs for orbital-to-earth communications not well-satisfied by current solutions, or who see rapidly expanding requirements in the near future.

Whether building the definitive telecommunications network for near-space requires 3 years or 30, someone will win big. Many players will die painful deaths, but any business or government with reasons to engage should be paying attention. Inter-galactic prizesand investment black holes loom.

Chinas Centennial Vision

Whilst space race veterans like the United States, Europe, Japan and Russia continue apace, and new entrants like the UAE and India rise, the most compelling plans explored at New Worlds came from China. Namrata Goswami, a MINERVA grantee from the US Office of the Secretary of Defense, presented an overview of the Peoples Republics long-term vision and activities.

China endeavors to be the foremost nation in space by 2045ahead of their 2049 Centennial Celebrations. Initiatives include Lunar and asteroid mining by 2034 with a permanent presence by 2036 and industrial scale space-based solar power by 2050. Thus far, China has largely achieved announced timelines.

The Shenzhou X spacecraft carried by a Long March-2F carrier rocket installed at the launch pad in ... [+] Jiuquan, Northwest China's Gansu province the morning of June 3, 2013. China launched the Shenzhou X spacecraft to advance their manned space program. The spacecraft carried three astronauts to visit the Tiangong-1 space module, state media reported. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Meeting epochal objectives requires deep, motivating belief. Chinas leadership equates their space ambitions to a new Long March, referring to the multi-year retreat of the Chinese Communist forces in the 1930s that enabled them to overcome their Nationalist adversaries and eventually found the Peoples Republic of China.

Chinas long-term vision to conquer space deserves respect. The countrys activities also pose cooperative opportunities and competitive threats for the US, Europe, India and others.

Americas To Win Or Lose

In contrast to Chinas centrally controlled efforts, a few commentators at New Worlds espoused Americas decentralized, entrepreneurial ferment of thousands of organizations generating many paths to the future. The American Cowboy ideal.

But we must humbly recognize that China has also proven itself capable of impressive success at new ventures. Entrepreneurial advantages require entrepreneurial commitments.

Space is not Americas birthright, though neither is it anyone elses. America must take a leadership role with willing partners worldwide to ensure globaland interplanetary security and prosperity. This will require Herculean efforts over decades, though failure could be existential.

America must up its game. Provide more public funds for space-related research, technology and infrastructure at a scale necessary to de-risk opportunities for investors. Encourage initiatives like Tumlinsons efforts to expand public and private sector engagement and build the community dedicated to space.

Expect many hype cycles and crashes (financial and physical) before space becomes a normal course of business. Nonetheless, be assured the heavens will look very different 30 years from now thus so will life on Earth.

Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand might not have recognized the magnitude of change they catalyzed, but others did. Some attained fame and fortune, while many others died on the high seas. They collectively transformed the world. Yet again, limitless frontiers await.

Tomb of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, Spain, engraving by Lemaitre from ... [+] Espagne, by Joseph Lavallee and Adolphe Gueroult, L'Univers pittoresque, published by Firmin Didot Freres, Paris, 1844.

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Space Cowboys, Chinas New Long March, Interplanetary Opportunities And Existential Risks Our New Age In Space - Forbes

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