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Old February 11 2010, 10:20 PM   #334
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Obama Space Plan: Return to Moon: "No Go"

STR wrote: View Post
newtype_alpha wrote: View Post
STR wrote: View Post
^You're close to hitting the mark here. Inflation is the key to spacefaring, but we're not going to have inflation caused by space.
Not on Earth, no. What I mean is, the cost of doing things in space is inherently expensive to the point that any spaceborne economy will already be inflated with respect to its terrestrial counterpart. Since wages will have to keep up with prices, this isn't much of a problem, but it stands to severely complicate exchange of goods between space and Earth.
No one will develop space until it is economically equal or preferable to do things there versus here. If it costs $1million to move a pound of Element X from the moon to Earth, no one is going to mine it until it's comparable to the alternative (mining it here). IF AND ONLY IF Element X reserves on Earth get so depleted that E-X costs ~$1M to find and recover via earth mines, will someone get the capital to go out and get it from the moon.
But that assumes that ALL prices will have to even out before development occurs. Realistically, only the cash cow for development has to break the even point when it makes more sense to hunt for it in space than it does on Earth. At that point you have to develop space in order to capitalize in it, but that doesn't help you if a pound of beef still ends up costing twenty times as much in space as it does on Earth.

This produces a disparity between Earth and Space based prices, basically a kind of orbital inflation rate where (if you're lucky) the price of a basket of goods in space keeps pace with the price of a day's work to the point that direct comparison of costs ceases to be meaningful. When that happens, using those cash cow materials becomes more cost effective for space-based communities than it does for investors on Earth.

Of course, any number of weird things can happen before/after/other than that. So much in economics is just arbitrary mathematical tinkering, it mostly depends on who's in charge when development ramps up.

Until we reach that point, all space expeditions will be for flag planting and science nerds. The sole provinces of governments and non-profits.
Not necessarily. If it became a political priority we could already do it RIGHT NOW, it would only take ungodly amounts of government subsidies to set everything up first. Once the communities are in place, resource exploration and extraction could begin, again with prices balanced by massive orbital subsidies, and slowly develop from there to a point of self-sufficiency.

Those subsidies aren't exactly infeasible; if we spent half as much on space exploration as we did on our military we could have colonized the moon by now. I guess the thing that is required isn't so much a total collapse of our ecology and nautral resources as much as a really good reason to build rockets instead of aircraft carriers.
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