Space Power Systems on Moon or in Orbit

(A contribution to the Greater Earth's Manifesto)

by Michael Martin-Smith

It is widely realized that our current dependence on fossil fuels (wood, gas, oil, and coal) is not capable of continuing growth into the indefinite future, for several reasons; Firstly, oil, and gas have comparatively small reserves; at current consumption rates, a few decades at most, with significant reductions if the large Asian continental powers of India, and China exercise their rights to develop industrially. Coal has bigger reserves, but they are not infinite, nor replaceable in anything less than geological timescales!

Secondly, irrespective of reserves, current rates of usage are altering the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to a potential for global warming over decades rather than centuries or millennia, as favoured by Nature, with accompanying climatic, agricultural and sea level changes.

Thus for continued growth and prosperity, we need new energy sources on a large scale- these reduce to, small scale, localised but sustainable and renewable- eg wind, tidal, solar power, or largescale, but hazardous, eg nuclear fission, with its waste and safety concerns, or nuclear fusion- as yet undeveloped, and likely to be up to ten times more expensive than nuclear fission stations, accordong to some estimates.

Nuclear fusion could be assisted, some believe, by the mining of Helium 3 on the Moon - physicists calculate that Helium 3 could lower the temperatures required to initiate a nuclear fusion reaction commercially; but none exists here on Earth- or at any rate very little. It is expected that proton bombardment from the Sun may have deposited a significant amount of this isotope in the regolith- upper 60 cms of fine lunar dust.

Alternatively, Nature's own fusion reactor is working well, with 6 billion years to go, requires no fancy technology, and is safely placed 150 million kilometres away- far enough for the most convinced nucleo- phobe! Less than 1 trillionth of its output reaches us for use on Earth, and is so scattered and diluted by the time it does that huge amounts of good land would have to be turned over to collecting it on the ground- 8% of the entire land area of the USA would be needed to supply that country's requirements from Earth collected solar energy! In Space, by contrast, there is no night/day, weather, or atmospheric scattering, so that comparatively small and light weight structures could collect huge amounts of free solar energy, convert it photovoltaically into microwaves, which could in turn be beanmed back to earth to desert collectors ( rectennae). Microwaves would penetrate the clouds, and a network placed at GEO would supply Earth by a global grid whatever the weather in particular locations.

The concept of beamed power by microwaves has been tested and found to be effective and safe( Space Studies Institute, 1982-98). The mass/power ratio of solar power panels is continually being improved, so that each successive study of space based power has reduced the necessary mass for construction; the use of luanr resources in studies now results in a design wherein less than 2 % of the satellite mass - itself reduced by improved materials and design - need come from earth at all! Since launch costs from the Moon are 10-20 times less than from Earth, and since these figures can be vastly improved by Electromagnetic mass drivers- themselves the object of considerable improvement by repeated studies- we can see that the Moon figures largely in the prospects for a clean energy rich Earth.

Some authorities( David Criswell) advocate building solar power stations on the Moon itself and beaming the power to Earth directly ( by microwaves or lasers), while the more classical arrangements ( Peter Glaser) point to the use of lunar materials for construction of SPS in lunar orbit with ultimate shipment to GEO for the benefit of Earth . In either case, the recent discovery of water ice on the Moon, improves the prospects for the necessary lunar base, which will be the starting point for any such developments. The laser power from the Moon concept provides a useful starting point for the technology required to implement lunar based laser deflection strategy for NEOs, or for beamed power to high speed interplanetary missions, if desired later.

Either way, clean and renewable, longlasting new energy sources should be the first major benefit to Earth's billions from the two planet economy of Earth and Moon. This will also make a solid basis for a true spacefaring civilization. It will be the direct counterblast to Spaceship Earth, and break open the box represented by that Ideology for good .

Michael Martin-Smith


A short story to define human economy and basic ethics

(A contribution to the Greater Earth's Manifesto)

by Adriano Autino

A man has nothing, no money, only the clothes he is wearing. He reachs a wilde land. The land is very desolate: only stones and dread brambles. Man sits down and observes. He has two choices: to lay on the ground and to die of starving or to use the time before death making something. He is old enough to choose the second way. He bounds an area, more to remember where he decided to work than to delimit a propriety. He starts extracting stones from the ground. The resulting ground is softer. He breaks a solid branch from a tree and uses it to work the ground. After sometime he has ordred heaps of stones and an equal, soft, ground surface.

The stones, being now grouped togheter, changed their nature: from worthless stones to material for construction. The ground changed nature too: from a wilde hard land to a soft, cultivable ground. The man who had nothing now can use the stones to build small walls to keep humidity in some bounded cultivated areas and to build a house, too. He can now select some plants among the wilde ones and to cultivate them: with time and patience the plants will change their nature, from wilde to domestic, and useful for feeding, plants. The man will do the same with some wilde animal.

A small richness was created, by the human courage and work, where there was nothing before. After sometime, other people will benefit of this good work. This is the principle of economy, and basis of human ethics. If you live in a big city you’ll take a little bit more to understand it, but don’t give up.

Now, to the space, the courage of a man alone or few men is not enough. We need our technology, and the concurrent help of all Humanity, but the principle is not different: the human work creates new richness, the money will register it. If I could express a wish to the “genius of the lamp” I would ask to be a Space Gardner, to contribute to create new richness, before my death, for the future generations.

Adriano Autino

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