« AnteriorContinuar »
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) development 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 developments 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.
By William M. Brown and Herman Kahn. HI-2638-RR, Oct. 30, 1977. NASA Contract: NASW-2924.
KEYS TO LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENTS IN SPACE
DECLINING TRANSPORTATION COSTS TO NEAR-EARTH ORBIT
ORBITING SPACE BASES AND PROFITABLE INDUSTRIES
PLANETARY SPACE STATIONS AND COLONIES
"INEXPENSIVE" SAFE TRANSPORT
SPACE HOTELS, HOSPITALS, CONVENTION CENTERS
POSITIVE HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
INTERACTIONS WITH EARTH
INCREASING PRIVATE INVESTMENT
QUALITY OF "FRONTIER-LIFE"
FAVORABLE SOCIAL DYNAMICS
RAPID ECONOMIC GROWTH
However, for the foreseeable future, space-based population will essentially be determined by the relative utility of humans to specialized machines; or at least for as long as the costs for transporting and maintaining 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 facilities, 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. Over time it may become feasible for almost anyone--much as travel is today. Our 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 thousand tourists per year; the optimistic one, about a hundred million.