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Thus even the best of forecasters was bound to fall short of reality in
a long-term prediction. Today the same situation undoubtedly prevails.
Recently the Hudson Institute performed for NASA a study entitled
Long Term Prospects for Developments in Space.* This study attempts to
take a 200-year forward view, seeking to provide perspective, not accuracy,
which would be hopeless.
The general perspective furnished by this study
is that the enormous potential for the future of space almost certainly
will be realized; only the timing is at question.
Even here the time
difference between optimistic and pessimistic projections appears likely
to be but a factor of 2--that is, 100 years is almost certainly enough to
accomplish "miracles" which might well be done in 50, or 200 years those
which might occur in 100.
In the phrase "almost certainly' the "almost"
refers to an inherent human capability to make space (or any other) devel
opment impracticable either by deliberate destructive threats or actions
or by wanton neglect of the required "housekeeping" which, before many
years have passed, could even make space operations impractical. However,
barring such barbarian behavior, the nature of space development and the
rate at which it might proceed will be determined by a number of factors,
the more important of which we have found, can be grouped into the five
categories shown in Table 1.
The first factor, the successful technological development of the
various facilities needed in space, seems to me to be relatively assured.
Although the exact rate of such deve lopments is uncertain, there is little
question that they will be rapid during the balance of this century, and
probably indefinitely when not restricted by fundamental physical laws.
KEYS TO LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENTS IN SPACE
DECLINING TRANSPORTATION COSTS TO NEAR-EARTH ORBIT
2. TOUR I SM
"INEXPENSIVE" SAFE TRANSPORT
However, for the foreseeable future, space-based population will essen
tially be determined by the relative utility of humans to specialized
machines; or at least for as long as the costs for transporting and main
taining astronauts in space are relatively large. Thus, while there will
undoubtedly be many specialists required for space exploration, and for
the construction, operation and maintenance of orbiting industrial facili
ties, we cannot now even roughly determine the optimum number of such
personnel several decades or more hence.
Transportation costs will be a key factor in determining the growth
rate of space industrialization, colonization, and tourism.
For what it
is worth, our long term projections for the costs to place payloads into
orbit are given in Figure 1.
Even the pessimistic projection reduces such
costs about 100-fold over the next 200 years.
Space tourism as a spectacular growth industry appears to be a nearly
inevitable consequence of space development and an important contributing
factor to it.
Of course, tours in space must await a general confidence
in the safety of the journey and the reduction of costs to acceptable
levels--both of which appear to be "in the cards."
Our studies suggest
that such an industry could begin at about the turn of the century.
Initially at a cost of about $100,000 per person (1976 dollars) for a few
days in space, such travel would be restricted to the wealthy.
it may become feasible for almost anyone--much as travel is today.
projections of the growth potential for space tourism are shown in Figure
2 for three scenarios.
The different outcomes in these scenarios are vast.
A hundred years from now the pessimistic scenario visualizes about a thou
sand tourists per year; the optimistic one, about a hundred million.