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Space Settlement Advances Despite a Challenging 2020
Like for many TCs, 2020 has proven challenging. Even so, several efforts have laid the groundwork for future space settlement. The MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), was launched July 30, due to land on Mars on February 18th, 2021. This experiment will attempt to harvest oxygen from Mars atmosphere, supporting future Mars settlements. Private space transport to the ISS on the Crew Dragon May 30th paved the way for an orbital economic ecosystem that can enable space hotels like those planned by Bigelow, Axiom and others. Further, several technology investments by NASA were announced including in April three lunar landers from commercial companies: Blue Origin Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV), Dynetics Human Landing System (DHLS), and SpaceX Starships. NASA also announced pricing for delivery of Lunar regolith back to Earth (Notice: 80NSSC20737332Q Sep 10). The pricing of dirt sounds innocuous, but such efforts set funding profiles that allow capital investment in companies by allowing revenue projection. Of note, Space X Starship prototypes completed several hop tests in 2020 leading to the 2024 Starship variants such as the lunar lander. COVID-19 forced virtualization of many effort by the TC, including cancellation of the International Space Development Conference, but will allow the Mars Society Conference (October), and critically, AIAA ASCEND 2020 (November) to reformat and proceed to a broader audience than in-person formats. Another interesting virtualization, the International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC) 2020 in July allowed global teams of high school students to compete in designing very impressive Mars settlements, mentored and judged by many TC members, all virtual. The SCTC also developed a one-page diagram explaining the pathways to long term settlement of the Solar System.
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Name: Space Settlement Pathway
Credit: AIAA SCTC
Pathway to space settlement showing key propulsion technologies and economic resources and manufactured goods trade web.