A fully functioning, remote system of robotic excavators and simple machinery still is years away from reality, and much research on asteroids needs to be undertaken. The building blocks of a successful system, however, appear to be in place, the study concluded.
"Robots and machines would just make the metal and propellants for starters," Metzger said. "The first generation of robots makes the second generation of hardware, except the comparatively lightweight electronics and motors that have to be sent up from Earth. It doesn't matter how much the large structures weigh because you didn't have to launch it."
The study was undertaken in part because companies on Earth are quickly building business cases for pathfinding missions to evaluate available resources in the solar system with an eye on collecting them.
* Robots and machines would just make the metal and propellants for starters
* first generation of robots makes the second generation of hardware, except the comparatively lightweight electronics and motors that have to be sent up from Earth. It doesn’t matter how much the large structures weigh because you didn’t have to launch it.”
* in six generations of robotics, these machines will be able to construct themselves and operate without any need of materials from Earth.
Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are looking to commercialize asteroid mining.
Golden Spike is trying to commercialize trips to moon and moonbases for countries and super-rich individuals.
Spacex is trying to make reusable rockets to drastically lower the cost of space access.
Bigelow Aerospace is looking to make inflatable moon bases and space stations
Advances in robotics and additive manufacturing have become game-changing for the prospects of space industry. It has become feasible to bootstrap a self-sustaining, self-expanding industry at reasonably low cost. Simple modeling was developed to identify the main parameters of successful bootstrapping. This indicates that bootstrapping can be achieved with as little as 12 tons landed on the Moon during a period of about 20 years. The equipment will be teleoperated and then transitioned to full autonomy so the industry can spread to the asteroid belt and beyond.
The strategy begins with a subreplicating system and evolves toward full self-sustainability (full closure) via an in situ technology spiral. The industry grows exponentially because of the free real estate, energy, and material resources of space. The mass of industrial assets at the end of bootstrapping will be 156 tons with 60 humanoid robots or as high as 40,000 tons with as many as 100,000 humanoid robots if faster manufacturing is supported by launching a total of 41 tons to the Moon. Within another few decades with no further investment, it can have millions of times the industrial capacity of the United States. Modeling over wide parameter ranges indicates this is reasonable, but further analysis is needed. This industry promises to revolutionize the human condition.