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Published:September 2nd, 2009 15:28 EST
Mars Can Wait -- Conquer our Own Orbit First

Mars Can Wait -- Conquer our Own Orbit First

By Rob Roy

You want to talk about stimulus and green friendly power?  The planet`s own orbital field can solve both -- two birds with one nanotube.

US report proposes orbital solar power station

http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2201761/report-proposes-orbital-solar

New report suggests The Pentagon is serious about turning sci-fi style orbiting space solar power stations into a reality

Joanne McCulloch, BusinessGreen, 23 Oct 2007

Quotes from the Pentagon report:

"The study group concluded that space-based solar power does present a strategic opportunity that could significantly advance US and partner security, capability and freedom of action, and merits significant further attention on the part of both the US government and the private sector." 

"In addition to the emergence of global concerns over climate change, American and allied energy source security is now under threat from actors that seek to destabilise or control global energy markets."

[snip]

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Here is the theory behind orbital solar power [something I had been excited about since I was a kid] --

Sunlight is always perfect in Outer Space.  No clouds, no atmosphere blocking the path.  In fact, perhaps carbon could be used as a kind of "magnifying glass" to increase the efficiency [just kidding on "greenhouse" remark].

The energy could be collected and then shot down to a power processing station.  There was concern back in the `80s that such a powerful transmission could kill passing planes.  But with modern satellite surveillance, that is now a minimal concern.

There is only one danger that I foresee -- war.  With more nations gaining space technology, orbital power stations are vulnerable.  Maybe not as dangerous as nuclear plants, but easily destroyed.  Thus, it would be important to develop orbital defense systems as well, something useful in any major conflict regardless.

To get the project rolling, a space elevator would be ideal.  With carbon nanotubes, that is more feasible than people might think.

"A carbon nanotube string the width of sewing thread could easily lift a large car. A nanotube elevator ribbon would need to be no thicker than plastic food wrap."
-- CNN
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2006/03/01/8370588/index.htm

Not only that, but gravity weakens as you near orbit.  And what if you add some helium lifts in the mix?  The world is on the verge of an orbital power revolution, not to mention all the other benefits of an environ-friendly space elevator.

Imagine the economic boom that would result from such a venture.  Mars can wait.  Let`s get more practical use out of space travel.  That will make space travel cheaper anyway.  No need to launch from the earth`s surface; we could launch from space!