After exploring the health of the planet and it’s people on day 1, The Association of Professional Futurists turned toward the heavens on day 2. Recorded live at the Boeing Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA, July 29,2017. Here is a brief overview of what we heard, from the visionaries we heard it from: Brian Tillotson and Marna Kagele, both scientists at Boeing; Jeff Roberts, director of launch programs for Space Flight Industries; and Chris Lewicki, president and CEO of Planetary Resources.
Researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada have unveiled an ambitious project. They are attempting to develop a 3D printer that can make copies of itself. A replicating machine. Why would anyone do something like that? In a word: space. It’s difficult, dangerous and expensive to launch mass of any kind into space. If lunar and asteroid mining are ever to become a reality, let alone colonization of Mars, the ability to use materials in situ to construct many automata, from an initial compact package, would be paramount to affordability and perhaps even viability. Is this possible? No less a personage than John von Neumann said that it is–and supposedly proved it mathematically. What are the challenges, can we control them if we make them, and what happens if we can’t control them? This is the subject of William Mitchell’s 2013 science fiction novel, Creations. And he is my guest of Seeking Delphi™ podcast #14: Replicating Machines.
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Neil might have added, “or have profit motives.” The news about commercial space exploration is almost nonstop these days. Here’s what’s been happening in the past week.
Commercial space ventures–
Elon Musk (who else?) and SpaceX, not to be outdone by anyone or anything, one-upped the Russian space agency’s 2022 moon tourism plans by announcing it would send its as yet untested Dragon capsule around the moon with two tourists by late next year.
“I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”–Elon Musk
Surprisingly, there is no new Elon Musk news this week. In an even bigger surprise, Mars was in the news, but without Elon Musk–at least not by name.
The United Arab Emirates unveiled a 100-year goal to colonize Mars with 600,000 people. The public announcement of the Mars 2017 Projectcame at a World Government meeting held in Dubai and was made in a speech by sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, in which he emphasized his nations long-term commitment to space exploration.
In plans that are much nearer in time and space, the Russian space agency Energia announced plans to send tourists to the moon by 2022. They say they will sell nine places on its Soyuz space capsule, as soon as this spring, for flights as soon as 2022. The craft that will loop around the moon before heading to the International Space Station. This represents an aggressive upgrade from its previous plan, originally projected to be launched in the early 2030’s. No indication of price or selection process for tourists was given. Start saving your Aeroflot frequent flyer miles now.
SpaceX (okay, that is an Elon Musk story, at least indirectly) announced a new target date of 2020 for landing a robotic probe on Mars. This represents a setback from the original target of 2018.
Market Research Future released a study projecting that the global bioprinting market, estimated to have been worth $570 million in 2015, will grow at a compound annual rate of 25-27% through 2022. At present, they estimate that North America holds a 40% share of this market.
The private sector is not the only place where workers are being replaced by AI and machines. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the U.S. military is in the process of developing and deploying automation to streamline its support operations and even reduce personnel on the front lines. Some of the concepts include driverless combat vehicles and robotic frogmen.
Structural engineers may soon be able to determine if London Bridge is falling down–without actually visiting it.
World Architecture News reported that a joint project of Microsoft and the University of Cambridge aims to enable structural engineers to inspect bridges using the Hololens virtual reality headset, rather than traveling in person to the sites. This would be accomplished by creating a combining composite of photos taken locally by non-experts, allowing expert engineers to zoom in and out and take a virtual walk-around of a structure. The idea is to save the time and cost of travel.