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Home > News > The limits to growth and the turn to the heavens

January 2nd, 2007

The limits to growth and the turn to the heavens

As a result the "limits to growth" argument is enjoying renewed popularity, and to a lesser extent, so is the interest in overcoming those limits by going into space. Both the Chinese space agency and a private Russian firm have raised the possibility of mining the moon for helium-3, a potential fuel for fusion reactors. While not explicitly linked to such objectives, the United States and Japan also have plans to establish lunar bases by the 2020s. Along with the planned expansion of civilian and military space programs around the world in general, this suggests a heightening of interest in lowering the cost of space access (an objective long espoused in US National Space Policy documents). Even without deliberate efforts in that direction developments in materials science, particularly the prospect of low-cost carbon nanotubes, may make much lighter spacecraft feasible or, perhaps, even a space elevator. At the same time robotics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence seem to promise automated, miniaturized operations, reducing the launch burden further still.


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