What to do with all those asteroids after we get done shooting at them with Japanese space cannon, hauling them to lunar orbit and mining them at our newly established corporate branches on the newly subdivided properties on the Moon?
According to this idea, the always-clever Russians are proposing that we simply turn them into space ships:
What is intriguing here is something that I hinted about in the blogs a couple of days ago, namely, that while there is a rush in some quarters to privatize and corporatize space along the "Venetian" lines of private corporations like the Dutch East Indies Company, there will be inevitable pushback from nations with different space agendas... or at least, seemingly different agendas.
Now, by way of historical background, the Russians have been down this "celestial-body-as-spaceship" road before. In the 1960s, Soviet scientists proposed that our Moon was one gigantic spaceship, that it had indeed been "hollowed out" and used as a spaceship and - quite literally - steered here and parked in its strange orbit around the Earth (and if you don't believe me, just do a little research on all the bizarre things the Moon does, and then try to reconcile that with the "fission-from-the-Pacific-Ocean" or the "rovering celestial object captured by Earth's gravity" models). Later on, as I recounted in my most recent book Covert Wars and the Clash of Civilizations, a Russian astronomer, Shklovski, proposed that the Martian Moons Phobos and Deimos might be hollowed out asteroids and thus "spaceships" of a sort. Indeed, it was Richard C. Hoagland who first drew attention to Shlovski's book in connection with the equally bizarre findings of the European Space Agency when it took radar tomographs of Phobos.
Thus the idea is not new for the Russians.
So why bring it up again now, in an article full of references to asteroid mining? There seem to be two basic possibilities here: (1) a new space race or (2) the Russians are telling us "the other part of the story." And I suspect the latter may be true, but let's deal with the first a bit.
The article, you'll have noted, places the "colonize the asteroids" in a careful juxtaposition with "asteroid mining," the current space meme being promoted in the West chiefly by NASA, along the space collateralization and privatization model we've been examining here on this site from time to time. It would be "easier" the article assures us to colonize asteroids rather than mine them. Thus we are given the outlines of a new "competition" between Russia and the West over the future direction of human activity in space.
But I suspect that the stronger case can be made for (2), that the Russian's, in typical dialectical fashion, are telling us "the rest of the story." In this respect, we need to recall that there are, in spite of all public differences between the USA and Russia, quiet talks concerning the joint construction of a planetary "asteroid defense" system, a system that perforce would require close coopoeration and coordination between the planet's two major space powers. In this dialectical theater, the Russians could equally be preparing the ground for the synthesis already being prepared by the apparent debate between the "mining future"(thesis), and the "colonizing" future (antithesis). The "synthesis" being simply that mining is a convenient way to hollow out an asteroid, and once whatever minerals are extracted, then, not wishing to allow anything to go to waste, they could be turned into habitats or even, as the Russians are arguing, spaceships. There would be asteroid mining companies. There would asteroid reclamation companies, making asteroids the perfect new luxury condos, or, for the Amerikan side of the equation, the perfect new private prison colonies.
In short, there is more going on in this article than mere apparent opposition to NASA schemes for privatization. In fact, it is noteworthy that the article does not strongly challenge the notion of space collateralization or privatization per se, but merely the "mining" version of the asteroid future. In short, by talking about colonization, the Russians are serving clear notice that they intend to be involved as major players in the future of the human presence in outer space, corporatized or otherwise.
See you on the flip side.