Courtesy Surf Wax Travel News / Yahoo News / / by Leonard David

The prognosis for space colonization is good, said Edward McCullough, principal scientist for The Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, California. He pointed to numbers of technologies that are on exponential growth curves - that is, showing signs of increasing rapid growth.

"During the last half of the 20th century, a host of technologies and disciplines which had witnessed millennia of slow or no growth suddenly went exponential," McCullough reported at the STAIF meeting.

McCullough pointed to photography, chemistry and quantum mechanics that have combined to produce a new industrial revolution. Electrical and mechanical engineering are on courses that appear to indicate unbounded exponential improvement. Delving into the structure of DNA has spurred a better understanding of the cellular processes. The human genome has been sequenced and micro biomechanics has taken off, he said.

Furthermore, the centuries old technology of printing has been extended to three dimensions with inks of polymers, ceramics, wood and metals.

"These technologies have affected other technologies so that now at the dawn of the 21st century, one technology after another is assuming an exponential trajectory," McCullough noted. And all this is good news, he suggested, when one speculates on what these technologies portend for space colonization.

Out of the blue

"There are so many technologies coming on," McCullough told "The commercial drivers of these technologies are so massive, and the money is so large, that they they're going to come right out of the blue," he said.

There are many more advancements that are already in the pipeline, McCullough said. "Some of the technologies that are out there are going to allow us to do some things that people are going to find incredible."

A few favorites on the Boeing scientist's list are:

  • Large scale, micro scale and high-speed fabrication with metal, ceramics, plastics and electro active polymers;
  • Autonomous robotics capable of interacting with complex objects and capable of piecing together modules and performing complicated repair duties unattended;
  • Smart programmable shape materials and intelligent materials, along with microscopic fluidic computers;
  • Space suits amplified with artificial muscles and polymer electronics;
  • Artificial organs for life support, chemical processing and water treatment;
  • Genetic engineering of Mars adapted plants and intelligence-boosted domestic animals, including e-coli delivered pharmaceuticals and other very advanced health care remedies.

Decade of deliverance

But behind any mass colonization movement there are, of course, a few assumptions.

First, McCullough explained, is that advanced lunar infrastructure will provide semi-finished modules and other lunar materials for integrating and expanding space systems. Secondly, large vehicles can be fabricated in space using mostly automated methods. These great vessels could shuttle between planetary LaGrange points far from Earth. Lastly, large passenger-carrying vehicles will need to haul a massive "water radiation shelter" to protect occupants on outward bound flights.

McCullough estimates that a nominal size of a settlement on Mars would support 1,000 people, with a larger colony housing 10,000 individuals.

Once an interplanetary vehicle is crafted that's the size McCullough envisions - and at four flights per year - upwards of 400,000 people could call Mars home in the first decade of deliverance.

Late stage colonies will require large scale equipment. Technologies are needed to assemble these types of vehicles "with little or no touch labor," McCullough said.

Mars: a user-friendly world

Why put Mars in the colonization crosshairs'

"Mars is a planet that has many unusual and spectacular features that will draw people to it," McCullough told the STAIF gathering. "Being a planet rather than a moon, it has undergone many of the geological processes which have caused the formation of minerals on Earth," he said.

That being the case, Mars is a user-friendly world, rife with many industrially useful minerals for construction and manufacturing purposes. It has a suite of "ates", "ites" and "ides" of common metals with common non metals, McCullough pointed out. The red planet is also wrapped in abundant carbon dioxide which will be fairly easy to condense, he said.

Water availability on Mars is another huge plus.

There is abundant evidence of past water activity on Mars. It should be present in permafrost at higher latitudes on the planet. It may also be present in hydrated minerals, McCullough stated.

"The availability of water on Mars in significant quantities would once again simplify our projected industrial activities. This makes extensive bases leading to colonies more likely," McCullough concluded.