AE 126

The Pillar versus the Pyramid

The cartoons presented at the ESA workshop

I drew these cartoons for my presentation at the European Space Agency’s Exploration Workshop at Edinburgh in January 2007. I still think they make a good point, despite the fact that ESA was clearly not paying attention.

Microsoft Word - Ashworth_Edinburgh_talk.doc

My argument was that the traditional space architecture would be unstable and liable to collapse at any time. Thus one single space station, followed by one single Moon base, followed by one single Mars base. This is the pillar (first cartoon).

Of course a space agency would justify the pillar architecture by pointing out that they would have neither the need nor the funds to operate more than one space station. In fact they would be more likely to want to scrap the orbital station in order to free up funds for going to the Moon, and scrap any presence on the Moon in order to be able to afford Mars.

In other words, they would assume that only government scientists have any business spending time in space.

A stable, sustainable architecture, by contrast, would require a pyramid architecture (second cartoon)…

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 125

The Way Forward

Towards meaningful progress in spaceflight

Following my criticisms of the space plans of the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency, it’s heartening to read an interview with a man who has his plans clearly set on the right track.


By the “right” track I mean a trajectory leading towards the sustainable growth and progress of civilisation into the Solar System, with all that implies for the long-term security and further unfolding of our human heritage. By the “wrong” track I mean spaceflight regarded as a specialist monopoly hobby of rich governments, sending small numbers of machines and astronauts on occasional high-cost exploration missions in the service of science, prestige, spinoff and “inspiration”, but producing no permanent, let alone growth-capable, extraterrestrial infrastructure.

For the progressive view, read Alan Boyle’s interview with Jeff Bezos at the 32nd Space Symposium, reported on GeekWire.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 106

To the Rt Hon Greg Clark

Time to challenge ESA’s priorities

The greatest political dilemma of our age arises from the facts that a free, democratic society needs to be founded on a condition of continual economic growth, whereas planet Earth can only sustain a finite amount of material growth, and it is widely accepted that the limits to that growth are already being approached.

The Rt Hon Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells

The Rt Hon Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells

Since the beginning of the space age, however, new resources for growth have come within our reach, namely those found on the other planets of our Solar System and its asteroids and comets, as well as the full power output of the Sun.  These resources are greater than those available to us on Earth by many orders of magnitude.  It is easily shown that they could sustain economic and population growth at rates of 1 to 2% per annum for a full millennium into the future

From a political point of view, therefore, the most important task of public space agencies is to develop the technologies that will enable human beings to live permanently and comfortably away from their planet of origin.  It is likewise to assist private industry in ensuring a smooth and prompt transfer of exponential economic and population growth off Earth and out into the rest of the Solar System.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 105

Exponential Growth for Another Thousand Years

Growing into an Interstellar Civilisation: Can It Be Done, and If So, How?

Presented at LonCon3, ExCel Centre, London, 15 August 2014

Addressing the BIS session at LonCon3

Addressing the BIS session at LonCon3

Between the old Limits to Growth argument and the massive but far-flung resources of our Solar System, is it possible to chart a trajectory of growth for human civilisation? How do we answer the critics who say that a technological lifestyle is unsustainable and that exponential growth cannot continue forever?

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 101

A Four-Point Plan for ESA

Return of the limits to growth argument

From the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. When will passenger flight to and from space stations become this routine?

From the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. When will passenger flight to and from space stations become this routine?

A new paper by three researchers at the University of Maryland Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science purports to show how our civilisation could suffer collapse.

Why does the scenario of liberal democratic capitalist civilisation verging on collapse have such a powerful resonance with the public? It is surely because nobody can see the new technologies or the new resources they could unlock. Therefore those of us who look forward to an infinite human future in space need to press the urgent demand that our public space institutions, including the European Space Agency, must prioritise the steps needed to open up these resources.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.