2012 Innovation Expo: NASA Engineering and Technology

Uploaded by NASAKennedy on 29.10.2012

  Announcer: Please welcome Philip Metzger, research, physicist and scientist engineer of
  the year for the NASA Kennedy Space Center. [ APPLAUSE ]
  Philip Metzger: I thank you very much. I'm going to talk to you today about the energy barrier at the end of the world.
  Some processes in nature are continuous, like walking up a hill would be a continuous process, but if there
  are a series of ravines that cut across the hillside, then you'd have to stop and leap over those barriers
  every so often and that would be a discontinue use process.
  I want to make the claim that the growth of civilization is like a discontinue use process.
  Mostly it grows continuously but certain barriers we run into, we've had the barriers in the past and when
  you get to one of these barriers it takes the bravest of us, the most creative and most innovative to get
  civilization over that hump to the next level.
  The Russian astronomer Kardishov was looking at how do we find signals from outer space as evidence of alien
  civilizations and he wisely noted that we shouldn't make the assumption
  that every civilization is at the same level that we are.
  Some civilizations could possibly be vastly older than us and
  far ahead and so he came one this classification scheme.
  He said a type one civilization is one that is sort of like us, basically like us.
  It's grown to spread across the planet and utilizes essentially all the resources of its planet,
  whereas a type two would be a civilization that has gone beyond its home planet and it's using vastly more
  energy up to the energy of an entire star, a type three civilization would be one that has gone into
  interstellar space beyond a single star and it's using the energy of an entire galaxy, and he noted that if
  there are any type two or type three civilizations out there, their signals might not look the same as our own.
  Well, what I want to say is what about earlier categories?
  Let's think about where we've been already and what does that tell us about the growth of civilization.
  We could continue the numbering scheme backwards, so maybe a type zero would
  be a civilization that encompassed an entire continent.
  It hasn't yet developed the technology or the social structures to span the oceans,
  and to become a type one civilization.
  Spanning the oceans was quite a feat.
  It was only done about 500 years ago, and we often create the analogy to space flight.
  It's a good analogy.
  Going back even further we could say a type minus one would be a civilization that encompasses an entire
  river valley, the birthplace of civilization in four river valleys, the Nile, the Mesopotamia,
  the Indus River Valley and the Yellow River.
  When people figured out there was a vast quantity of energy that could be had in river valleys by using human, animals and labor to do irrigation,
  to grow crops in the rich soil from the flood plains you could have such a concentration of food energy that
  you could support a larger population than we've ever had in
  one place before and that was the birth of cities, of civilization.
  It was a big leap forward, but going back even further, let answer say a type minus two with the isolated
  enclaves when humans were pre-agricultural, doing hunting and gathering, find safe places to live.
  If you think about it, going from one type to the next is always involves a leap, first you have to leap
  beyond the limited energy in one area, and the safety of your enclave,
  set-up social institutions to enable large scale agricultural.
  Once they got the large scaling agriculture the cities rapidly filled out the flood plains,
  they didn't go beyond that because they didn't have the logistics, transportation or the armies to protect
  the logistics to send large quantities of food outside the river
  networks to support cities in the mountains or across the deserts, for example.
  Once they got global or continental size empires, then we could fill out the continents, but it was another
  leap to go to an entirely planetary global civilization.
  We've reached another one of these points now, where we are starting to feel the barrier, the next limit
  that we're pushing up against. We're already feeling it.
  I just want to point out that all of the global challenges we're facing are really symptoms of one problem,
  we've reached toward the limit of a type one civilization and hitting the barrier we've got to leap across.
  Here's some predictions, we are essentially type one right now.
  I don't think we'll get any closer to the technical definition of type
  one than we are today unless we can go beyond the planet.
  If we do go outside a single planet, it was within 50 to 100 years we would reach type two already or if we
  don't go outside the planet we might never achieve it ever because achieving sustainability where we don't
  use non-renewable resources anymore, people predicted the earth might support only
  2 billion people and we're already way beyond that.
  If we can't replace the non-renewables, then going backwards is really painful, and I think the only ethical
  thing is to go forward, beyond a single planet towards type two.
  If we do achieve type two, the technologies indicate that leaping on to type three is no problem at all.
  The reason I say we're running up on to a barrier and I call it an energy barrier is because energy is
  really the key to everything, if you've got abundant energy, you can recycle and you can use resources that
  are not as valuable, it's really not a problem if you've got all the energy you want.
  All the indications are the nonrenewable energies, even with fracking can't possibly last another century.
  They say we have enough natural gas from fracking to last 100 years.
  It doesn't account for the fact that china is industrializing, now the number one energy user in the world,
  still one-fourth per capita of our energy usage.
  India is industrializing.
  If the entire world spends energy at the level of the U.S., we can't just replace the non-renewables.
  We need to replace them ten times over, even if we can reduce our energy usage by a factor of three, with
  fracking we only have 30 years' worth of energy if the world achieves a level,
  a standard of living that the west has.
  So the sense that we're starting to reach the limits of our planet it's being felt by everybody,
  even when you go to donate clothes you'll notice it doesn't say goodwill. It says planet aid.
  You donate your socks to save the planet.
  And there's a growing feeling, a growing sense that we really are at a point where everything we do is
  planetary, it's global, because we've reached the limit of a type one civilization.
  I want to say we really don't have a resource problem.
  What we have is an imagination problem. We live in a hugely rich part of the galaxy.
  We have a billion times more of everything in the solar system than what we have on earth.
  I didn't just say a billion because I made it up.
  We really have a billion times more accessible metal in the asteroid belt,
  2 billion times more energy leaves the sun than what falls on the earth.
  There's a billion times more water in the moons of Jupiter than in the earth so the order of magnitude is billions.
  So there's really no resource problem.
  We just need to know how to go beyond this to type two. People say think globally, act locally.
  Thinking globally is the new way of thinking too small. That's the problem, not the solution.
  We have to think extra globally and people also say let's think outside the box, that's good but we can
  improve on it because it's not really a box that's our problem, it's the limitations of the sphere that we live on.
  We need to think outside the sphere and when you've expanded your civilization all around the two-
  dimensional surfaces of the globe and you've filled it out, there's no other dimension you can travel in
  except perpendicularly outward towards space.
  A lot of people think this is not really feasible, because it's such a paradigm shift to imagine
  transporting resources across the vastness of the solar system.
  Think what a paradigm shift it was for the people living in the pacific, when the European ships showed up.
  The people in Tahiti and Hawaii they could actually cross the ocean without any significant source of
  metals, which limited their technology capabilities, because they didn't have the resources that were
  available on some of the continents, but it was a heroic task to cross an ocean.
  Think about this little device here, this clicker.
  The materials that went into this include metal and plastic, metals came from Africa,
  the plastic came from petroleum from Arabia.
  The materials were processed in America, chips were made in America,
  it was assembled in china and it was shipped back here and sold in the U.S.
  There was at least four ocean crossings that went into little device that probably cost $15.
  The people in Tahiti just a few hundred years ago would not have believed you if you said those ships
  carrying resources were possible and economical, but here we're doing it.
  There's no reason we can't take the next leap to go to a type two civilization.
  We are a species that has a history of leaping over those barriers.
  We've done it so many times before. We can do the next one.
  So people have started to envision what it might be like to have industry in space, in the '60s through
  '90s, Gerard K. O'Neill led the charge talking about manufacturing outposts in space.
  In his scenario you would need 10,000 people living and working in habitats like this before it became
  economical, which unfortunately was a little too expensive for congress to fund so we didn't do it.
  In the 1980s, in 1980, the Ames Research Center hosted a summer study for self-replicating lunar factories
  and this was an advancement forward and they showed with just 100 tons of hardware on the moon you could set
  up one self-replicating node which would grow and produce this gigantic industrial power in space.
  It was an idea before its time. The technologies weren't ready yet and 100 tons is a lot to put on the moon,
  an expensive thing to pay for but there's been game changers recently.
  First of all, robotics has been leaping forward, and just go to YouTube and search for "learning robots" and
  see some of the things that are going on with robots nowadays.
  Computing speed, you need computers to have robots that can build things in space,
  Mohr's law continued without any signs of stopping.
  We're getting to the point where you could have a really smart robot on a small platform now.
  Manufacturing technology, a revolution going on right now 3-d printing.
  We have one of our collaborators here from the University of Southern California, Brock Kashenevicz,
  the inventor of 3-d printing of entire buildings so these are things that are made with 3-D printing.
  Another game changer is the discovery of ice on the moon, our co-worker, Tony muscatel said now there's
  nothing that can't be made on the moon because now we know the ice has nitrogen compounds and carbon
  compounds and carbon, nitrogen are fully abundant and everything we need for a fully healthy industry on the
  moon in earth orbit and we during constellation we used the funding to
  develop these technologies to test them and we've shown they work.
  We can use space resources.
  We can mine in space and build things in space and we've tested these things and reduced gravity lights.
  Van Townsend and Adam Ducose testing and removing soil out of the processes, lunar soil.
  We proposed a new approach. I also want to mention this is a part of my charts, the international space
  university just completed their 2012 study and they've come up with a concept called oasis, which shows how
  you can economically, every step of the way is economical to mining water in space, to producing propellants
  into selling them, to a low earth orbit space tug business that will carry satellites the rest of the way,
  the high earth orbit, and it will vastly reduce loss costs.
  They've shown the business cases there. You can make money doing this.
  There is a business case for people right now to mine the moon and begin doing
  industry and space economically without congress having to pay for it.
  The key idea is taking the next step beyond oasis,
  and we want to put industry on the moon so don't launch it, evolve it.
  When the colonists came to America from Europe they didn't put entire cities on ships and launch the cities.
  They just brought the tools. They brought its first generation of tools.
  The colonists had to build the second generation of tools which are typically more crude than the first
  generation and then they started working back upward from there.
  You use appropriate technology. It doesn't need to be high tech.
  It needs to be easy to make in space and we don't have to pay for all the technology.
  It's being paid for by this humongous technology engine that we have in our economy.
  We need to find them and spin them in, and finally, let's not forget that technologies are advancing
  exponentially, so let's answer not underpredict what's possible.
  An idea, a concept of appropriate technology look at housing in America
  in 1620 versus what the Europeans were living in, in 1620.
  We need to be prepared to build things on the moon with inferior materials, but make them so that they can
  work with those inferior materials. That's the way we need to be thinking.
  Appropriate technology water pumps, people found that if you deliver a high-tech water pump to an
  underdeveloped area, they can't maintain it, because they need to maintain it with local processes and local materials.
  So with these things in mind, we've laid out a strategy, one possible strategy of six generations of
  spiraling technology upward on the moon, and we've shown that for as little as 60 tons of hardware or even
  getting it down to 12 tons of hardware, you can get self-sustaining industry eventually within six
  generations to where you don't need to launch anything anymore, and then all you need to launch are the
  people to go out and enjoy what you're making, and utilize what you're making, so the industry can grow
  exponentially by the end of six generations, you could have 100,000 robots on
  the moon and 100,000 tons of manufactured hardware.
  This is detailed modeling where we've shown this is feasible using
  technologies not too advanced beyond what we can do right now.
  There needs to be technology advancement but it's not unbelievable technology advancement.
  Another 20 years beyond this you'll have a million times the industrial output of the entire united states,
  and by the way, the next step beyond the moon is the asteroid belt, that's where you really want industry to
  be, and then ten years beyond that, you've got a billion times
  the industrial capability of the entire united states.
  What could you do with a billion times the industrial capacity?
  Well the question is really what can't you do with a billion times the industrial capacity?
  You could have a global relief effort. You could land manufactured goods, land resources.
  You can bring, beam energy down. You don't have to launch the energy generators.
  You can terraform planets and people can migrate to space, you can have a backup to civilization, the space
  endowment would fund things people do in space, there's also the negative side, if we don't do this,
  somebody is going to and we need to do it right, so in conclusion, we are near the limits of a type one
  world, and there is a barrier at the end of type one, and we're starting to feel it, and it's going to hurt
  and it's going to hurt worse if we don't jump over it, going to hurt worse if we try to move back and so we
  need to leap over that barrier, and it's going to take the creative innovators to do that, and we need you
  to leap over the energy barrier at the end of our type one world. Thank you. [ APPLAUSE ]