Billionaires could ‘leave Earth behind for space colony’ as ‘climate collapses’

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Coronavirus, climate change, overpopulation, rising sea levels, and the ever-present threat of nuclear war. Lots of people would leave this planet if they possibly could.

And maybe a few people can.


A number of multi-billionaires – notably Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Yuri Milner – have poured huge chunks of their fortunes into space travel.

Maybe they’re just squandering their unimaginable wealth on rockets in the same way that mere millionaires might buy yachts.

But some people are speculating that the mega-rich might be planning to flee off-planet.

In a New York Times article entitled The Rich Are Planning to Leave This Wretched Planet, Michael Suffredini, who is spearheading the creation of a new “luxury” space station called Axiom, revealed the details of his designer orbital habitat.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk has spoken many times of his long-term goal to establish a Mars colony

He predicted that a holiday on Axiom would cost $55million, and not only had he recruited world-famous French designer Philippe Starck to create the station’s interior but he was close to doing a deal with a major European fashion house to provide custom-made space suits.

He said that three people had already signed up even though the space station had not yet launched. The station is slated to receive its first guests in 2022.

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Elon Musk has made no secret of his plan to establish a permanent settlement on Mars. He has stressed the importance of ensuring that humanity is a multi-planet species so that there will be seem of us left behind if the worst should happen.

Musk says: “Last century, we had two massive world wars, three if you count the Cold War.”

While the PayPal billionaire isn’t predicting a global conflict any time soon, he says: ”I think it’s unlikely that we’ll never have another world war again.”

Bezos’s space company Blue Origin has teamed up with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman

But noted American media theorist Douglas Rushkoff has written that the overall direction of technological development was about creating an escape route for the super-rich.

He pointed out that combat robots would serve very well to guard the bolt-holes of billionaires remaining on Earth once climate change reached its end-game and described Elon Musk’s planned Mars colony as “less a continuation of the human diaspora than a lifeboat for the elite.”

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic venture is currently developing new commercial spacecraft

They can certainly afford a lifeboat. The world’s richest people have seen their share of the world’s total money supply increase from 42.5% at the height of the 2008 financial crisis to just over 50.% by the end of 2017.

That adds up to about or $140trillion (£106tn), according to a report from Credit Suisse.

Virgin Galactic's new commercial spaceport in New Mexico, which is now "operationally functional"
Richard Branson’s new commercial spaceport in New Mexico is now ‘operationally functional’

But how possible is it to establish an off-world base?

Daily Star Online asked NASA’s Cheryl Warner whether there were any serious obstacles to developing a Moon base with today’s technology. She told us: “From a technical standpoint, we’re closer to returning to the Moon than ever before, this time with modern systems that will provide more access to the lunar surface, and allow us to stay on the surface for longer periods of time.

“The White House previously asked us to accelerate our return to the Moon, and we’re working diligently to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, and establishing sustainable lunar exploration by 2028.

“Doing so will prepare us for exploration farther into the solar system, including sending astronauts to Mars in the mid-2030s.”

NASA have confidently predicted that all the technology for a permanent Moon base is already in place

The British Interplanetary society’s Mark Hempsell told Daily Star Online that when it comes to establishing a permanent orbital habitat the only current stumbling block is the need to develop a replacement for the Space Shuttle.

“The key new approach that is required for any of this to happen is reusability,” he said, “and this is what SpaceX and Blue Origin are both addressing.

“However, they are rather tiptoeing the issue. The approaches they are using could have done 30 or 40 years ago.

“So I would argue the hold-ups are all political and economic.”

Russia’s Valeri Polyakov holds the current ISS endurance record with 437 days in orbit.

Mark says that a UK-based launch vehicle currently on the drawing board could ferry would-be colonists to and from orbit comparatively soon, budget permitting.

He added: “The studies I have done have been centred on the British Skylon, from Reaction Engines.

“Those studies suggest Skylon alone can support significant space colonisation on an economic basis with no other launch system required.”

The nuclear-powered Scorpion concept craft has enough power to carry the radiation shielding required for long space journeys

Mark believes that millions, potentially billions, could one day thrive in orbital colonies.

He says that solutions for the problems of food and oxygen supply are more achievable than many people imagine, but “less certain is the impact of long term effect of the low gravity of either Mars or the Moon on the human body and that is an issue.”

The effects of truly long term exposure to a zero gravity environment aren’t likely to be felt on your body, or even on the bodies of trained astronauts, but on the gym-honed tech billionaires with money to burn and a yearning to explore the highest and wildest frontier.

Mark Hempsell’s Skyfarm concept could potentially provide food for 4 million people.

Writing in the Guardian, editor and journalist Jess Zimmerman asked: “By pushing outward while ignoring the problems it causes back on the home turf, are [tech billionaires] effectively creating a galactic upper class that rests on the backs of the earthbound?”

Whether it’s war, or natural disaster, humanity is going to face a fight for its survival in the coming century.

And the people most likely to escape that evolutionary bottleneck are the very few who have the money to help them orbit high above the disaster.





By staronline@reachplc.com (Michael Moran)

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