A human landing on the moon in four years seems like a tall order now. But traveling to orbit for less than the price of a transcontinental flight is about to be a reality.
The Fun Part
“Skeptics….that’s what you all are.” “Not a god-damned believer among you.”
Those were my last words to my family before I boarded the New Glenn rocket for my trip to the Gateway. Oh damn, that wasn’t how I wanted this video to start.
Ok, let’s try that again…My name is Kevin, and I’m the first specialist assigned to Gateway after it was completed last year.
Specialist in what? Computers…I’m the first computer scientist up here.
Oh sure there are others who had computer science degrees who were astronauts, but god knows I’m no astronaut. I’m just the lucky nerd to be in the right place at the right time. I started the artificial intelligence company BlackNet, and we made great progress in applying machine learning theories to orbital surveillance, and cislunar exploration.
What does that mean? Oh right – sorry – that means we are using some fairly complicated custom AI processors slaved to a suite of hyper-spectrum sensors to find resources for mining companies to exploit. It’s all pretty easy…but as my ex says…no one cares about the details….other than me I guess…
Why am I up here? Oh well I’m still asking myself that. The official reason is the equipment up here didn’t work how we advertised, and it was cheaper for me to come fix it than it was to return it back to earth and repair/replace it.
Crazy right!? I mean, I guess with costs of getting to Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1 now down at about $3k a kilogram I’m not THAT expensive to get up here…only about $250k. And now it’s a business expense that I can deduct off BlackNet’s taxes….so after taxes it will only cost…ehh ok – maybe not all math is easy in my head.
Sorry – I rambled there, so yea, I’m up here to service the processors because they have been reacting to the radiation and intermittent loss of connectivity to earth weirdly.
Honestly it hasn’t been since early 2019 that anyone really thought of this. That was when Hewlett Packard finished their experiment with a couple server racks in space. They pioneered the algorithms we all have been using to make cheaper, less shielded electronics for at least the past ten years.
Damn it – there I go again – this is supposed to be a promo video for stupid investors…Jamie, make sure you cut all these shitty parts…ok?
Alright…back to the HP experiment. So they found electronics outside the Earth’s magnetosphere could be taught to weather solar storms and radiation by entering a hybrid ‘safe mode’. We all thought that hybrid mode would work out here at the Gateway…turns out we failed to account for what happens here where gravity fields of the moon and Earth cancel each other out.
I’m no astrophysicist, but what I understand is that in Earth orbit, and even to a degree in lunar orbit, there is something that disrupts the radiation just a bit, and that makes it easier on electronics.
I know I haven’ gotten to why I am on a three month, half a million dollar vacation out here. Why couldn’t I just troubleshoot this shit from dirtside? Yea – so we tried that, and no offense to these professional astronauts, but they really fucking back at what can only be described as surgery on these systems. And after NASA paid about $2 billion to get this system up here and plans to begin selling the data it finds to exploratory mining consortium, there was a bit of pressure to get this system up and working ASAP.
Hence moi being here… I realize I still haven’t gotten to the point of this fundraising video, which I’m praying to all that is fucking holy has been edited to make me sound professional.
Here’s the deal – even though the system up here shut down after the first solar storm, the sensors were still working, there just wasn’t any processing of the data. Now technically the government hasn’t ‘accepted’ this system, and told me if I couldn’t fix it then they weren’t going to. Well that tells me that I still own the system and the data it collected. And that data shows there is literally tons of rare minerals below what appears to be a crash site of an old lunar explorer at 119.1 degrees east longitude and 3.0 degrees north latitude.
Here’s my proposition. I’ll tell there NASA shitheads that the system is fucked and will have to be replaced, a process that will take at least a year. I’ll offer to split the cost with them so they don’t bitch. During that time we form a company and begin launching a shit-load of those new Toyota lunar buggies with the mining attachments, and a handful of those modular smelting and processing stations to the area around the crash site.
Based on my back of the napkin estimates, those minerals would be worth about $650 billion dirtside, and our startup costs would be about $4.5 billion, and about $150 million per return trip where we would gross at least a billion dollars.
Our year head start means we don’t pay anything for this data, and the government doesn’t get to dole out mining rights based on some fucked up senator’s relationship with his secretary. It also means we get at least six shuttles back earth side….recouping our setup cost in less than the first year.
Let me know what you think…but make it quick – I have other investors who I can reach out to if you aren’t interested.
The Real Deal
As NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars, the agency is developing new opportunities in lunar orbit to provide the foundation for human exploration deeper into the solar system.
Since at least 2018, the agency has been studying an orbital outpost concept in the vicinity of the Moon with U.S. industry and the International Space Station partners. As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Gateway in the 2020s.
The platform will consist of at least a power and propulsion element and habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities. While specific technical and mission capabilities as well as partnership opportunities are under consideration, NASA plans to launch elements of the Gateway on the agency’s Space Launch System or commercial rockets for assembly in space. It appears increasingly unlikely that the SLS system will be the one that puts all of the Gateway in cis-lunar orbit based on design delays. But with other systems like Falcon Heavy being able to reach lunar orbit, there are other commercial options for getting the station up and running.
The power and propulsion element will be the initial component, and is targeted to launch in 2022. Using advanced high-power solar electric propulsion, the element will maintain the Gateway’s position and can move the Gateway between lunar orbits over its lifetime to maximize science and exploration operations. Habitation modules are projected to launch in 2024 will further enhance the station’s ability to have scientific, exploration, as well as commercial use. It isn’t yet clear what the plan for NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024 will do to this timeline, but it is likely that it will be accelerated. Once the habitation module is in place, the crew aboard the Gateway could live and work in what is technically deep space for up to 30 to 60 days at a time.
Since 1980, the cost to move a single kilogram (kg) of ‘stuff’ (that’s the technical measurement used by NASA) to low earth orbit has declined nearly 100fold. The graph below shows the current trend, as well as a projection of where costs are headed based on the last 40 years.
To put this in context. I currently travel to Minneapolis once a month, and a one way ticket from my house to there is $250 (yes you can find cheaper ones, but my ticket has someone serving me alcohol while the rest of the plane boards). I weight roughly 80kg, making the travel to Minneapolis cost roughly $3/kg.
Based on the current trend-line, we will reach that cost sometime between 2040-2060. Let that sink in for a second. By the middle of this century it will be as cheap to get to orbit as it will be to fly halfway across the US.
Humans living, working, and generally existing in space still seems like science fiction to the majority of the public. But if you could fly to orbit or Cancun for the same price…where would you vacation?
If you want to learn more about some of the topics we talked about here, check out my posts on owning the moon, mining an asteroid and other cheap ways of getting to space.
5 thoughts on “More than just a Gateway”
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