Rivalry is the best Rocket Fuel for space

Rivalry is the best rocket fuel for Space. This blog talks about the future – a future which will seem more like Star Trek or perhaps the good old movie of Armageddon. It seems only fitting that this fictional movie was created over 20 years ago.

The future concept of mining asteroids comes to life in a heroic attempt to drill into an asteroid plummeting to earth. The difference being that in the future, it will be humans with machines undertaking the drilling, keeping as many humans as possible at a distance. With the private sector’s recent developments in the Space industry, this fiction may soon become science.

November was an interesting month for me for three reasons… The second NASA shuttle arriving on Mars, Space X reaching a 50% success rate of its rockets, finishing my latest book and Deloitte announcing the WA way, where one of the main clusters is the space race.

In 2018 I finished the book “Space Barons” by Christian Davenport. It is a truly inspiring book which gives hope to the many engineers and space fanatics around the world. The book gives a detailed history of the latest space race; it summarises the behind the scenes details right up until mid-2017. It talks of the personalities, the companies, the rivalries, the strategies, the approaches taken and the appetite for risk. The theme running through is the need to be thrifty, to think differently and to identify the way in which the space industry can be revolutionised, mainly by recycling, uplifting, solving problems, working in new ways, not being afraid to have a go and being different from the norm. The book embodies a way of doing things, and as Kirk once said, “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and new civilisations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!” It’s important to borrow from other industries and worlds other than our own, and to push boundaries in Science.

Space pushed these boundaries in the 1960’s during the Apollo missions, and the result was a technological revolution which had a knock on effect to other industries around the world. This included artificial limbs, water purifiers, satellite TV, freeze dried foods (I still remember my first taste of freeze dried ice cream) tyres, cordless vacuum cleaners and image sensors. NASA claims that over 2000 spin-off technologies were created as a result of their work (Wikipedia 2016).

There will be in turn, a knock on effect of this second wave of private sector companies, which will also have a similar effect. As a result of this second wave, we will see technological advancement in many areas, from satellite and sensor technology, to remote operations, AI and quantum computing. The data which will be discovered on the Mars trips will need new ways of processing and transmission. So expect new ways to transmit data, and expect the big data lakes of what we know now to grow exponentially.  With this data we will be able to learn new science from our universe. I expect there to be new technologies invented in this second wave, similar to, or if not more than what we saw in the 60’s, impacting our imagination, creativity and innovation.

If we are going to places that we have never been before as a human race, and becoming interplanetary, things will change rapidly. Travelling from Australia to the UK may one day be comparable to travelling from Earth to Mars, and if the billionaires of today continue to invest into tomorrow, then the only way that the space industry can go is to grow.

So where would a billionaire decide to invest in the development of technologies like this? What are they looking for in a place to grow a private space industry? Anywhere that has a pool of engineers, a wealth of resources, new and innovative technologies and enough land to build. A place which is remote so that testing can be undertaken, temperatures that are hot and a landscape which is baron. Essentially, a place where rugged solutions can be tested to the max.

Over 25 years ago I visited the Kennedy Space centre in Florida and had the opportunity to see a rocket, eat space ice-cream and dream. What I didn’t realise today is that many space landing areas had become dilapidated and then sold off to private companies such as Space X and Blue Ocean – ultimately saving a little piece of space history. In Davenport’s book, he describes the environment as becoming rundown and unused, and I remember feeling sad that what once was, was no more. However I’m extremely glad that a new lease of life has been given to those areas, and maybe one day I can take my children back to the Kennedy Space centre so as to kindle in them a little bit of space.

A star is forming out on the Horizon. New mining companies, like Inter Planetary Resources are investigating in the future, and I am sure billionaires Branson, Bezos and Musk also have ambitions in this industry as it benefits the planet which we live on. Not only does it benefit our planet, but it also benefits the space travel supply chain. If we can use the minerals in space rather than transporting them there, then supply chain costs are dramatically reduced – further impacting the factories of the future. Will we have cities in space which are based on the theory of new towns, built up around a new industry, in a new solar system?

Leveraging existing knowledge in the mining industry makes sense, as knowing how to operate from remote distances is what we do. Mapping and remapping the areas is what we know, and keeping people as safe as possible comes first. Even technologies such as AI and autonomous, digital twin and Industry 4.0 aren’t new at all. Many have been leveraged from the manufacturing sector and applied to the mining industry. In mining the environment is dusty, the geography is remote and teams become family. Maybe there is something in the red dust that connects you to your colleagues, or maybe it’s knowing that you have to have each others back as there is no one else. From personal experience, I love it.

So, what will this world of the future bring? Will it be as dangerous as the fictional world conveyed in the movie Armageddon, or will it be a little less eventful?

In the future there will be a convergence of Space and Mining. In order to keep Earth for future generations, a new way of working and a new way of mining will be formed.

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