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American business: heading into orbit.


If you think there's nothing new to be seen on the moon these days, come with us on a brief tour of the future. You'll be surprised.

You can "see,' for instance, the American Lunar Base ("Luna') in Cayley Crater, which could be in operation in the year 2000-- a mere 15 years from now. In 1977 a NASA study proposed the Cayley base as an example of how people could live and work in Luna. In October 1984 more than 100 NASA and university scientists met in Washington to plan how Luna will become the research and commercial center of space industry.

Businesses? On the moon? We don't even have astronauts there now--but we do have planners hard at work here, their eyes on the businesses that could open their doors on the moon by the year 2000.

Implausible? Not at all. After all, in 1900 fewer than 200 miles of hardsurfaced roads existed in the United States. Now there are more than 3 million. Many people can remember the 1920s, when we used a special word, "aeronaut,' for a person who had flown. Today that term is obsolete. We have pilots, flight engineers, cabin attendants and many other jobs: Hundreds of thousands of them routinely fly millions of passengers and earn billions of dollars each year. It's hard to imagine life today without the world-wide economy made possible by cheap air transport. Today the term "astronaut' is used for the rare person who has flown in space. Within a few years jobs in space will employ thousands.

The McDonnell Douglas Corporation has estimated that the 1984-94 space-market size will reach $10-20 billion for communications, $1 billion for remote sensing, $20-40 billion for materials and manufacturing and $4-6 billion for orbital transport services. Rep. D.K. Akaka of Hawaii, founder of the 164-member, bipartisan Congressional Space Caucus, has estimated that commercial space activity may be worth as much as $200-300 billion to our national economy by 2000 and may create as many as 10 million jobs over the next decade. Rep. Robert S. Walker of Pennsylvania agrees. He believes the United States should commit itself to a goal of building a $500 billion space economy to generate 20 million new jobs by the end of the century.

Companies are now sending experimental payloads on NASA's spaceshuttle flights and testing the effects of zero gravity on materials and processes. These companies need to know now what will happen in space to their machines and products so they can plan the scale-model tests, the mockups and finally the machines and procedures they will use to manufacture goods in orbit.

American companies are leading the way to private commercial use of space. In September 1982, Space Services, Inc., of America, a Houston corporation, launched the first private space vehicle to an altitude of 193 miles from Matagorda Island, Texas. Space Industries, also of Houston, has signed a "memorandum of understanding' with NASA to privately develop a commercial space factory that will work with NASA's space station, under development at the Johnson Space Center.

Can't we manufacture goods perfectly well down here for less? Not really. Abundant solar energy, microgravity and pure vacuum mean new types of pure drugs, large, perfect crystals and new metal alloys can be produced in space and on the moon.

The moon is a source of the most necessary item in space travel--fuel. (Liquid oxygen used as fuel is a significant part of the cargo now carried by the space shuttle.) The lunar rocks our astronauts brought home have turned out to be about half oxygen. If we can get to the moon and set up lunar mining outposts, we can produce vast quantities of oxygen to fuel space travel, space stations, space colonies, space farms and space factories.

First we must establish outposts, "filling stations in the sky,' as our stepping stones. Such stations would allow our four planned shuttle vehicles to do the work of eight. In fact, a study by General Dynamics for NASA predicts that up to 90 percent of the material used in space structures can be obtained by mining the moon.

The first permanent step into space, the first "outpost' on the way to the stars, is the space station being developed by NASA and private contractors. The station, designed to provide places for living and working on short, long and permanent projects, will be the first location for space manufacturing and experimental laboratories. Later it will be the supply base for lunar construction. The station will be maintained in orbit and permanently habitable as shuttle flights bring workers and supplies. The unique feature of the station is its policy of operation. It is to be an international project, to allow America's allies access to the benefits of working in space.

Look at the federal budget--we can't afford that! But the federal government won't be doing very much of it alone. More and more Americans are investing in space and creating new companies to take up the challenge and adventure of the High Frontier.

President Reagan has announced the policy of the federal government --to encourage and assist private investment in space. Last October, the President signed a bill that gives the U.S. Department of Transportation power to license private companies for commercial space development. The basic means of transportation used by these companies will be private rockets nicknamed ELVs (expendable launch vehicles). ELVs are the short-term key to space. Such private companies as Space Services are ready to provide launch services with them right now, so other private companies can launch ELVs loaded with their experimental payloads and satellites.

Satellites--aren't there enough to get all the weather reports now? Several weather satellites are in orbit over specific areas of the earth, but more are needed. Space businesses can use satellites in many other ways. For example, Chrysler Corporation is experimenting with a system that uses signals from satellites to display a video map with your car's exact location anywhere in the United States. Other satellites would provide voice communications for your car's cellular telephone.

Besides using communications satellites to relay your long-distance calls and radio messages, you may be getting your private TV signal from space in the near future. New companies are lined up at the government's doors to obtain licenses for private TV satellites to beam directly to your set. Two experimental satellites have already demonstrated that this direct TV broadcast works.

Scientists are using other satellites to take a much closer look at and under the surface of Earth. Remotesensing satellites are looking in various ways at land surfaces and searching for signs of minerals, checking the health of growing crops and forest lands and watching for changes in the chemistry of rivers and lakes. Oceanremote-sensing satellites are sending back data on water temperature, marine life and currents, as well as information on ocean-floor minerals and shifts in Earth's crust. With this information businesses can plan and evaluate crop production and water management.

The data and photos sent back by remote-sensing satellites are also passed along by the United States to developing countries. These countries cannot afford to enter space on their own, so America is sharing the benefits of space with its neighbors to help them make the maximum use of Earth's resources.

Solar-energy satellites now in the planning stages will be arrayed in space to beam solar energy back from the continuous sunlight of space. This solar energy, if developed in large quantities, could be very inexpensive. The strain on Earth's limited energy sources would be relieved, and poor nations could then obtain energy for their growth without damaging the environment.

Free-enterprise companies other than high-technology businesses are also entering space now. Lamar Savings and Loan Association of Austin, Texas, has applied for permission to open a branch office on the moon. Because of the long planning time and the estimated 18-month period needed to get government-agency approvals for the branch office, Lamar was barely on time to qualify for the grand opening of Cayley Crater Lunar Base. Lamar Lunar will process commercial and personal transactions for the lunar-oxygen miners, space-shipping companies, spacestation construction workers and general space traffic.

Private commercial activities in space industries--communications. Many new jobs are being created to space industries, communications. Many new jobs are being created to assist the growth of space industry, and more are being created by American industries using the discoveries made in the space programs. Common household ceramic cookware, high-impact plastics, special metal alloys for machinery--all these products have already come from our earlier steps into space.

The Soviet Union has estimated the economic impact of "extraterrestrial industry' and space manufacturing to be $50 billion as early as 1990. To encourage this expansion of the Soviet economic frontier, the Soviets are developing a launch vehicle capable of carrying from 200 to 400 tons into space--10 to 20 times the payload of the space shuttle. The Soviets are planning a "Kosmograd' space base for the late 1980s. The base will have several hundred inhabitants and will lead to a Soviet lunar base; the government is already training 300 of its brightest children in Moscow at a special school for space colonists.

Public and private, big and small, East and West--people are preparing to do business in space. Just as our forefathers followed the sun and the winds in search of a better life, so we and our children are following the sun's rays back toward their source and beyond.

The first steps have already been taken from the Earth's surface. The scouts have been sent out and have come back with their reports. Next come the outposts, the space stations and the first lunar bases to develop fuel resources, the stockpile for travelers. And not really very far from us today--the routine trip.

Photo: A crane unloads a housing unit from its delivery rocket for burial under the moon's surface at Cayley. This one will be a nursery for lunar miners' children.

Photo: Construction workers in 1990 build a space factory. Products made in space, including medicine and microchips, will create new jobs and growth industries.

Photo: The spirit of the '49ers lives on in space. Independent American companies in the year 2000, with the blessing of federal agencies, will be using high technology to mine the asteroids for rare metals.

Photo: Liquid oxygen processed from rocks mined on the moon's surface and stored at this orbital filling station is used to fuel commercial spacecraft.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Dula, Arthur M.; Zeigler, Ann
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1985
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