In 1961, John F. Kennedy captivated the imagination of people across our planet by announcing his goal of putting a man on the moon within the decade. Eight years later we did just that, and in doing so produced a technology boon that gave the US a science and technology advantage for decades to come.
Recently, innovators like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have taken extraordinary steps toward getting humans to other worlds cheaply and safely. But the challenge remains: How will we sustain ourselves when we get there? Just as important, what are the planetary technologies we need today to ensure our home planet remains healthy long enough for future generations to fully realize our dream of space exploration?
BetaSpace aims to build a tech industry to solve this challenge. It will bring together companies in earth-based industries to explore how to accelerate the technologies and products to sustain human life here and off-planet. Just as SynBioBeta has done for the synthetic biology industry, BetaSpace will be the innovation ecosystem for building a better, sustainable world wherever humans may live.
As we look to an off-planet future, BetaSpace will initially focus on five broad areas:
- Food and agriculture: In addition to generating oxygen and fixing carbon, plants will provide all or most of humans’ nutrition off-planet. What will farming on Mars really look like, and how can this agtech be applied today on Earth?
- Water and waste: We need to rethink our dependency on an abundance water. Water generation, purification, and pollution remediation are key areas of need on Earth and beyond.
- Energy: Fossil fuels are not a sustainable option here or on other planets, and humans need economically feasible alternatives for energizing its growing, power-hungry population. The challenge for fuel production, habitats and other equipment on off-planets is relevant to our home world.
- Habitat and materials: The development of long-duration deep space habitats requires materials and technology that will allow us to re-think sustainable habitats on Earth.
- Fifth Element: This is our placeholder for everything not included above. This category includes important elements such as cultural needs, economics, business models, and the interface with the space travel industry itself (which is not a focus of BetaSpace).
BetaSpace will launch with some small private events in 2019 with key opinion leaders to develop a program agenda for the thematic areas above. The ideas leading up to and coming out of that workshop are being explored in a new BetaSpace Digest. There are also plans for a BetaSpace 2020 public event in the Mojave Desert. You can keep posted on all of the above by registering here.
We want to be clear: BetaSpace is not an academic project. The technologies needed to live on Mars are the same ones we need today to sustain life on Planet Earth. The research and development needed for space travel has resulted in earthly products and services as far-ranging as artificial limbs, scratch-resistant lenses, chemical detection, and solar cells, to name only a few. We expect that the BetaSpace community will create equally vital technologies that humans will depend on to thrive, both here and abroad.4