I continue to watch the developing space story with some interest, and now there is this news, which, in the context of other events, I take both as space news and as geopolitical news. This article came to me from a regular reader here, Mr. S.D., and it is significant enough to pass along, and, as always, calls forth our usual high octane, or in this case, high orbital, speculations:
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, and its wake-up warning message about the dangers of fission-nuclear power, one can certainly understand and sympathize with Japan's quest for an energy source that is both clean, reliable, and, from a terrestrial point at least, not interdictable by foreign powers.
But once we have entertained this thought, then there are others that immediately come to mind. The first is the Fukushima context itself. At the time of that disaster, there was a body of speculation that raised the specter that there was more going on than met the eye. There were speculations that the TEPCO reactors may have been part of a secret nuclear weapons program. Given, at that time, the fact that Japan had a government that was attempting to make attempts to reconcile with China, and given the fact that that same Japanese government was entertaining the idea of imperial state visits to Beijing, and also politely requesting that the USA close its base on Okinawa, and given the then US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' scarcely concealed treats to that country in response, a covert nuclear weapons program on Japan's part made some arguable geopolitical sense.
But in the wake of all of this, a Japanese architectural firm then proposed a solar panel array on the Moon, spanning its entire equator, for the ostensible purpose, again, of beaming power back to the Earth in the form of convertible microwave energy, which I blogged about on this site. A few days later, China announced a similar plan, but with the modification that in the Chinese version, a clear military purpose was stated: their version was called "the Death Star." Small wonder, since the same basic technologies the Japanese were talking about then, and are talking about with this latest version of essentially the same idea, could be modified to convert such a power plant into a powerful microwave weapon, able quite literally to fry whole regions on Earth, or targets in space(such as asteroids, which could conceivably be pushed onto different orbits if the microwaves were powerful enough, or simply vaporized if even more powerful). And the need for space-based solar power is itself pressing on us, rushing at us from the future: planet Earth is quickly approaching the point it is going to need vastly much more resources and energy, and the Sun is the most obvious plentiful neighborhood supply of energy there is.
Can you say Type II Civilization?
The long and short of all this is: humanity eventually must, and probably sooner rather than later, come up with alternative forms of energy, and that will include space-based solar power. And that, in turn, will completely change the energy-financial system. The petro-dollar will become the solar-dollar, for maintaining such expensive and complex platforms will require, inevitably, a military capability in space, a capability that, in turn, may utilize weaponized versions of the same technology. Japan by pursuing such technologies, is saying that we need to do so sooner rather than later, and China, by pointing out the military potential of such technologies (and Japan's plans), is serving notice that it will not be left behind in either way.
With the Cold War Act Two that seems to be emerging, this spells, as we shall discover tomorrow, some new opportunities and new dangers.
See you on the flip side.