A lesson at the National Space Centre
Next up Leicester, the home of the National Space Centre
Nick Jackson and George the boxer take one step for man, and one giant leap for dogkind, as they visit the home of the National Space Centre, Leicester, in #7IMStepsuptotheSummit.
Wednesday 20 January
Written by Terence Moll, Head of Investment Strategy
“One giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong in July 1969 as he stepped onto the Moon. Suddenly space seemed within our grasp. Science fiction writers imagined rockets criss-crossing the solar system by the year 2020.
They were wrong. And if you want to know why, visit the National Space Centre in Leicester.
The answer is all about energy. Getting stuff into space takes an awful lot of energy. (The Saturn V rocket was huge, the Command Module was tiny.) And it’s hard to make a profit from your space station or Mars colony when so much energy is needed to get there.
When Armstrong took his leap, the oil price was about $3.30 per barrel. Its price jumps around, but allowing for inflation it has roughly doubled since then.
By contrast, the cost of solar energy these days is about one thousandth of its inflation-adjusted cost in 1969. Solar technology is improving every year, which will benefit us all in the long run.
Clean is the future of energy here on earth. And if we ever claim the solar system, it’ll be by developing better ways of getting around in space. We’ll need to develop much cleverer sources of energy – which scientists are working on furiously.
Back on earth, our total consumption of energy every year from all sources is about 1/10,000 of the energy that reaches the earth from the sun each year. Solar has a long long way to go. (Think of all those empty deserts …)
The ultimate, though, would be for us to begin using fusion energy, the process that powers the Sun. It could provide gigantic quantities of carbon-free energy at ultra-low cost, possibly within a couple of decades. It will be the ultimate emissions game-changer.
And it could put the solar system within our grasp.
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