Gary Michael Church
It may seem bizarre to prescribe H-bombs for a sick ecosystem but as someone once said, the universe is not only stranger than we imagine….
The cure for climate change is to completely end the use of all fossil fuels by the end of this century. The promise of commercial nuclear power has proven false and solar and wind energy require massive and self-defeating industrial activity on Earth so there seems to be no answer- but in fact the solution has been available for decades. The only way to power civilization without that energy affecting the ecosystem is to acquire the energy from outside the environment- from outer space. The technology to beam electricity down from space is fairly straightforward and the concept was patented in 1973 by Peter Glaser. A year after the last Moon landing the rationale to establish a permanent lunar colony was being developed by Gerard K. O’Neill in a paper on space colonization, published in 1974, and based on space as an essentially limitless energy resource. Building these power stations in space will require Nuclear Pulse Propulsion. H-bombs.
To power civilization with Glaser’s Solar Power Satellites would require placing several million tons of collectors and transmitters in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO). While the megatons of shipping that travel the oceans of Earth are taken for granted, lifting even a fraction of this total mass into space is not practical. Satellites built in factories on the Moon would entail a far less difficult lift if a powerful enough propulsion system was available. And that is where the H-bombs come into play- both for building the factories and lifting the required mass into space. If no immense lava tubes thought to exist underneath the Moon are found then factory space can be had by way of fusion. To lift the satellite components there is no more powerful device in existence. Stan Ulam first conceived of the idea of pushing an object through space using nuclear explosions in 1947 and published a paper on the subject in 1955. In 1961 project Gnome proved the concept of excavating huge artificial caves using underground nuclear explosions. The fallout and contamination is of course not acceptable on Earth or even in near-Earth space inside the Earth’s magnetic field. Outside this magnetosphere is an entirely different matter.
Ulam, Glaser, and O’Neill presented the technology to power our entire civilization without burning anything. The key enabler of this modern miracle is element 94, that demonic ultra-poisonous substance called plutonium. A few pounds of plutonium can, by fission, ignite a fusion device generating the equivalent of millions of tons of chemical energy. The equivalent of several supertankers of oil held in the palm of your hand. It is the most powerful force ever harnessed by humankind. Without an application the hundreds of tons of plutonium stockpiled around the world are considered toxic waste, a terrorism risk, and a problem with no solution. For applications outside the Earth’s magnetosphere the only question is how to package this magic in a shell that can survive the possible and probable eventual explosion of one of the rockets carrying it into space.
The solution to safely transporting element 94 into space has in part already been addressed with the escape systems necessary for sending up human beings. The Launch Abort System of the Orion space capsule is extremely powerful and was provided in response to the tragic decision to build the Space Shuttle with no escape system. The fist-sized plutonium cores of hydrogen bombs, called “pits”, can be encased in relatively large and massive heat and blast resistant shells and placed in an Orion capsule for transport into outer space. These fission triggers would then be placed in fusion devices and used to first excavate sports-arena-size lunar underground factory spaces. After the factories are in operation manufacturing solar energy components the massive assemblies are then lifted from the lunar surface into space by again using fusion devices in pulse propulsion systems.
The timeline for such a project depends entirely on funding. As the first global public works project an international effort diverting many, many trillions of dollars from existing energy arrangements and the defense industries that protect them would accelerate and lower total cost. Compared to landing on the Moon from scratch it is not so much a technical challenge as a logistical one. The first step is to go back to the Moon to stay and that means Super Heavy Lift Vehicles to carry the necessary manufacturing infrastructure. Thousands of lunar factory workers may seem hard to imagine but if transported a half a dozen at a time with close to a 100 launches a year this workforce would be established fairly quickly. Presently over 50 rockets are launched per year on various commercial and military missions.
The precursor to lunar factories and Solar Power Satellites would be establishing human crewed Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) space stations to replace and clean up the present satellite junkyard. By using empty rocket stages (the Wet Workshop concept) these stations can be assembled in lunar orbit and partially filled with water derived from lunar ice as radiation shielding. These classic spinning wheels would provide the Earth gravity and near sea level radiation levels necessary for health during multi-year tours. The first revenue producer would be the vastly upgraded global connectivity using GEO stations, then lunar factories and the end goal of Solar Power Satellites beaming power down to Earth. Ulam and O’Neill envisioned space travel and space colonies and after completing the space solar project a migration from Earth into space could eventually lower the population of the planet. The alternative is the distinct possibility of involuntary depopulation events.