Thursday, May 18, 2006

EXODUS TO SPACE
Prelude to Phase 3: A New Ecology

Apart from close proximity to cheap raw materials, another advantage of having an orbital-manufacturing base is, there is no limit on how big you want your factory to be due to the weightless environment. No matter how many rooms you add to it, it will never crash to earth.

In order to prevent the increasing numbers of space stations from crashing each other, a powerful International Space Authority (ISA) will be set up to regulate and authorize the establishment of any man-made object orbiting the earth. Its function is to ensure that every space station/ factory to stay in its approved orbit and the approved orbits will never cross path at the same time or collision will occur.
Any space station, which intends to change its orbital path, will need prior approval from the ISA. The ISA will in turn conduct regular checks on the orbital path of every space station and should there be any discrepancies in them the management of the station will be notified and instructed to adjust accordingly. Failure to comply with ISA can cause the entire station to be disabled and its crew detained. This is a measure to prevent any collision of space stations.

As Phase 2 Industries continue to prosper, a new ecology will develop in the skies. Raw material gatherers and refiners are at the bottom of the “food chain”. The refined metals are then send to the neighboring factories to be made into various applications. Some of the products will be resell to other orbital stations and the rest will be sent to earth via the space elevators.

As explained earlier, trading stations with space elevators will become the center of Earth-Space trades. There will be a number of transport companies using their fleet of transport ships to move cargoes from stations to stations. They will function as the equivalent of trading ships.

As for energy source, the conventional solar panels will not be enough to provide the energy for industries. Nuclear fission power will become necessary (assuming nuclear fusion is still not economically viable). However for safety reason, the ISA will ban the use of nuclear power in space.

A new innovation to bypass this ban is to set up nuclear plants on the surface of the moon. The nuclear plant operators will buy refined uranium and plutonium from the orbital refiners. They will then be split in a controlled nuclear explosion and the energy produced will be used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Additional energy will then be used to compress this gas into liquid. The liquid hydrogen and oxygen will be sold to all the operating stations as energy source with space tankers (the equivalent of super tankers in the sea.)
Over time the space tycoons (those who owned the orbital factories, cargo ships and nuclear plants on the moon) will begin to realize that the lifeline of their industries is the Asteroid Belt (between Mars and Jupiter). The existing way of sending a few convoys of ships to back a few rocks is not a good way to secure the vast riches of the Asteroid Belt.
So, they will start to co-operate and combine their resources and expertise to build the first permanent human settlement in space. It will be the largest space station ever built at that time, able to accommodate at least 10,000 people, shaped like a wheel and able to spin to produce artificial gravity. This station will be called Mars Station 1 because it orbits Mars.
Mars Station 1 will represent quantum leap in the history of space settlement as it will allow a new generation of human beings to live their whole life without stepping a foot on Earth. It will also serve as a rally point in the future Earth-Space Conflict, which will be explain in later chapters.

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