The 100-ton Mars mission in 2022, followed by a manned mission through 2024, is a direct stage of Elon Musk’s SpaceX plan, which aims to create a self-contained city on Mars by 2050. It sounds like a fantasy just a few decades ago, but today it seems like that time frame is completely fixable. The space mission will undergo revolutionary changes, and Elon Musk’s vision and schedule are an indicator of that. The cosmos is increasingly being viewed as a treasure trove of valuable minerals as well as a future human habitation for the extraterrestrials. Investors in the global private space industry believe that space mining can shape and define the 21st century. NASA estimates that the “asteroid belt” contains five million dollars worth of minerals. American astrophysicist Neil Degras Tyson believes: “The first billionaires will be the ones to pass the asteroid.”
The “main asteroid belt” lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, about 450 to 650 million kilometers from Earth, with millions of asteroids inside. For decades, governments and private institutions have carried out extensive research along with the Moon and Mars, examining the composition of the asteroids, their probable excavation, and extraction value – the $ 670 million “Bennu” asteroid and the “2011 UW158” asteroid. at $ 5.7 trillion.
However, the transport of resources taken for recovery creates major obstacles. The BBC Future report by Sarah Crudas puts the cost of transporting a ton of water into space around $ 50 million. According to Chris Levitsky, president of Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company, it takes more energy to avoid the first 300 kilometers than the next 300 million kilometers. Likewise, the logistical return of a little more than a few kilograms of samples from space to Earth would be more complicated. Therefore, global investors in the space industry initially concentrated on preserving the space resources mined in space itself for “use of the resources on-site”.
The presence of water on the moon, Mars, and asteroids offers very interesting prospects; Not only is it essential for sustaining life and growing food, but it also opens up the possibility of using its constituents, hydrogen, and oxygen, to make rocket fuel. Currently, the ability to build tools and even build habitats on the moon or mars seems to exist with 3D printers using iron, nickel, cobalt, gold, platinum, and iridium, etc. Available on the moon, Mars, and asteroids. becomes inaccessible. Researchers are working on using regolith, weathered rock particles on the lunar surface, to produce moonstone with a 3D printer.
These bricks are the main building material for the first month’s station and even for the first month’s hotel. Aerospace industry players believe that a $ 4 billion investment in space water production could generate an estimated $ 2.4 billion in annual sales. There is also a new community of customers who are already looking to buy fuel in outer space. US space rocket supplier United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture with Lockheed Martin and Boeing that sells launch rockets, has announced that ULA is willing to pay about $ 3,000 per kilogram for fuel in low earth orbit.
There is rapid development in space technology with private actors taking the lead. Concentrated sunlight optical extraction, robotics, automated extraction applications, sophisticated drilling machines, etc. are just a few examples. The involvement of private actors has reduced the investment burden and significantly increased the breadth and pace of innovation. It is believed that the launch of the first asteroid mining vehicle, as well as the creation of the first gas station on the moon and in low-earth orbit, could become a reality within a decade.
Japan’s ‘Hayabusa’ mission was the first to bring samples from an asteroid to Earth in 2010. ‘Hayabusa – 2’ transmitted close to the asteroid ‘162173 RYUGU’ in June 2018 and left the asteroid after collecting samples in November 2019 and will return to Earth on 6 December 2020. Likewise, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, valued at approximately $ 1 billion, launched in 2016, must return to Earth on December 24 with samples from the asteroid “101955 Bennu” September 2023 US last launched on July 30, 2020, Mission for Sustainability in Space will land on Mars on February 18, 2021.
He will deploy helicopters on Mars, which will be the first helicopter deployment outside Earth. Apart from taking samples from Mars and looking for signs of living conditions on Mars, the possibility of producing molecular oxygen from the carbon-rich Martian atmosphere is being tested.
However, beyond the possibilities of technology, there are complex legal questions. While the production of fuel and water in space and the use of resources on-site can be done with care, commercial exploitation of space can be done through mineral extraction, tourism, real estate, etc. This can be very controversial within the international legal framework for space. The current legal framework is adopted when space activities fall entirely within the sphere of national governments and are limited to research.
However, given the nature of space activity, the transition from purely research activities to military applications to commercial activities, and the influx of private actors and new user communities into space, the Space Treaty vintage is simply inadequate. Contract uncertainty does not apply to “new use” or “new user” space. In his dissertation, Louis de Guon Matignon noted that “some countries have accepted the lack of an explicit ban as a sign that the use of spatial resources is acceptable, as has the United States, and Luxembourg recently passed national legislation that explicitly allows it. “
However, this sparked a backlash from the international community, which rejected the unilateral initiative and recommended a collective approach under the high sea and deep-sea law. Regardless of whether a new, widely accepted space treaty arrives or not, digging into space is a reality, and the early participants will likely retain enormous monopolies and economic gains for a very long time.
Where is India From humble beginnings to launch small rockets weighing 30 to 70 kg to the currently useful capacity of 4000 kg, ISRO has grown rapidly and is one of the world’s leading companies in rocket and satellite development and launch, as well as remote monitoring and applications communication.
India’s Mars orbiter, launched in November 2013, entered Mars orbit on September 24, 2014. This makes ISRO the fourth institution to reach Mars orbit. In 2017, ISRO set a world record with 104 satellites in one rocket. India also successfully tested its anti-satellite capabilities in March 2019. The ambitious Chandrayan-2 in July 2019 came close to spectacular success. Apart from India’s renowned space capabilities, there are no known companies in research, remote sensing, and communications in areas such as space tourism, space excavation, human settlement, etc.
Recently, however, there have been many encouraging developments aimed at realizing the commercial potential of ISRO’s capabilities and adding private actors to the Indian space industry. The establishment of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) as an ISRO trading office in March 2019, the latest declaration by ISRO on the transformation of India into a “global space hub” in five years and the government announcement in June 2020 that IN-SPACe (Indian Center for Space Promotion and Empowerment) ), an autonomous body in the space division as a separate industry that paves the way for the Indian private sector to build rockets and satellites commercially and to properly provide slug launch services to the Indian space industry. Industry. Advanced technology, large capital investment, high risk, and long lead times are associated with the space endeavor.
Compared to ISRO’s annual budget of $ 1.2 billion, NASA’s budget is $ 21 billion, while its Chinese and Russian counterparts have $ 8.4 billion and $ 3 billion, respectively. Despite having a very large budget, NASA is working with other international agencies to reduce budget burdens and work together to achieve technological excellence. The International Space Station (ISS), in partnership with the US, Russia, Japan, Europe, and Canada, is a prime example. Private players such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galatic are also major players in the space industry.
The global space economy costs about $ 360 billion today and is projected to grow to a trillion by 2040. United States, Russia, China, Japan, Australia, the European Space Agency (ESA), and even a small country like Luxembourg with 10 registered space mines. already completed. In contrast, India now represents only 3% of the global space industry. The pace of extraordinary new developments in aerospace technology and large budget requirements have led developed countries to collaborate with other nations. These factors, combined with the real legal chaos and the fierce battle for an upcoming slice of “Space Pie” are sure to leave space explorers like ISRO far behind.
Therefore, working with other leading space players without further delay is the only way for India to go. India’s existing space agency and its ability to contribute fair and equitable financial assistance make it a welcome partner in any space alliance.