The Long Run Geopolitics of Space Settlements

NSS CEO Mark Hopkins writes on The Long Run Geopolitics of Space Settlements in the latest issue of Ad Astra magazine. Below is a précis.

The vast majority of the resources of the solar system are in space rather than on the Earth. As I have argued in an earlier column, there are enough materials in the solar system to build O’Neill space settlements with a combined land area of one million times the land area of the Earth. Given the available land area, it is likely that the vast majority of humans in the solar system will eventually live in space. Let’s assume this is true and ask, what are the geopolitical implications?

If the vast majority live in space and their per capita income is at least as large as those who live on the Earth, it follows that the size of the space economy will be much greater than the Earth economy. Thus, space settlers will eventually dominate human solar system civilization in the economic, military, cultural and technological spheres.

To better grasp the enormity of what this means, consider what happened when the Old World (loosely Afro-Eurasia) added the New World (loosely North and South America) to create the first worldwide economy and civilization. The result was profound. Yet the increase in land area of the Old World plus the New World compared to the Old World by itself was only a factor of 1.5 – not one million.

Who leads the space settlement effort will have a profound impact on the future of human civilization. This is a fundamental geopolitical consideration that all those who care about the future of humanity need to take into account.

Read the whole article.

Virgin Galactic Appoints Former NSS Executive Director George T. Whitesides As Its First Chief Executive

Former NSS Executive Director George Whitesides joins Virgin Galactic from his recent role as Chief of Staff of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At NASA, Whitesides was responsible for working to implement the NASA Administrator’s policy agenda and staffing decisions.

Prior to his role as NASA Chief of Staff, Whitesides served as a member of the NASA Presidential Transition Team, Executive Director of the National Space Society, and Chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. Whitesides’ earlier career experience in the aerospace industry took place at Orbital Sciences Corporation, Blastoff Corporation and the Zero Gravity Corporation. A licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach, Whitesides is a graduate of Cambridge and Princeton Universities and a former Fulbright Scholar.

Welcoming Whitesides, Virgin Galactic President, Will Whitehorn, said: “We are delighted that George has agreed to become our first Chief Executive to guide the Galactic project as it transitions into a fully fledged operating business. George brings with him a wealth of experience in space business, policy and regulation. He joins Virgin Galactic at a momentous moment in the development of the company. Test flying of the first SpaceshipTwo (VSS Enterprise) has commenced and our future home at Spaceport America in New Mexico is at an advanced stage of construction. In addition our commercial team has accepted over $65m worth of reservations from 335 future astronauts and the Company is holding deposits of over $45 million.”

Commenting on his appointment, George Whitesides added: “I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead this historic business which will open the experience of space travel to people around the world. There is much to achieve at Virgin Galactic over the coming years as the company moves from the extensive test flying program and FAA licensing process into commercial operation of frequent spaceflights from our new home at Spaceport America in New Mexico. There is a great team at Virgin Galactic and I’m greatly looking forward to growing the business and establishing operations at the Spaceport.”

Virgin Galactic has developed the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo air launched space system over the past six years using technology developed by Scaled Composites based on the X Prize winning SpaceShipOne which was piloted twice into space in October 2004 and now hangs in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. The recently developed SpaceShipTwo is capable of carrying eight people into space. The finished vehicle was officially named VSS Enterprise by Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger at an unveiling ceremony on the 7th December 2009 before commencing test flights which are now under way in Mojave CA.

Virgin Galactic is the first space company in the world to have developed a network of over 100 accredited sales agents now accepting deposits from participants in 42 countries. Over 50% of Virgin Galactic’s current customers are from the United States.

Space Adventures enters sub-orbital space tourism market

Space Adventures, Ltd., the only company currently providing human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, announced that the company has entered into an exclusive marketing agreement with Armadillo Aerospace, LLC, a leading developer of reusable rocket powered vehicles. Space Adventures will exclusively market and sell commercial passenger experiences on Armadillo Aerospace’s future suborbital spaceflight vehicles that are currently in development.

“I am very pleased to announce Space Adventures’ agreement with Armadillo. I plan to provide more details next month at ISDC on the reasons why we chose Armadillo as our partner and how we envision this as a critical turning point for public access to space,” said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures.

“A decade of research and development has gotten us to the point where we can credibly talk about commercial passenger experiences. Everything is coming together – there is enough clarity in the technical, regulatory, and market factors that it is the right time to form a solid partnership with Space Adventures to help us take things through to commercial operation,” said John Carmack, president and CTO of Armadillo Aerospace.

Costs for a flight were announced at $102,000.

Details regarding the partnership will be announced on May 27 at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC)  2010 at 11:15 a.m. (CDT). For conference registration details, please visit