Cool things to do with your spaceship besides launching billionaires

Fancy some near-term imagination on the opportunities the re-commercialization of space presents us? Yes, have some! Science upside for Starship:

It is, however, a fun exercise to enumerate all the ways in which Starship and related technologies can help execute bold, ambitious missions of scientific discovery.

Giant, poly-lithic space telescopes? Sure.

Probably the coolest telescope concept enabled by Starship, though, is the giant segmented telescope to end all giant segmented telescopes. An unmodified Starship can deliver perhaps a dozen 8 m monolithic hexagonal free-flying segments per launch to a target location such as L2, where they self assemble, calibrate, and then focus incoming light. Over a few dozen Starship flights, a truly enormous spherical mirror section perhaps 1000 m in diameter and with a focal length of 1000 km or so can be assembled behind a free-flying sun shade, pointed in a direction of general interest.

Heating (low-key terraforming) Mars with constellations of mirrors? Okay.

The second is mass producing light sails on Earth, launching them into LEO, then flying them to Mars where they can lurk near Mars-Sun L2 and reflect light back at the planet, reducing heat loss during the Martian night.

“Flood the zone” of our planetary neighbors with exploratory robots? As you wish.

Why shouldn’t we have a dedicated orbiter, lander, rover, helicopter, and submarine on every discrete body in the solar system over, say, 100 km in diameter? Let’s build a fleet of clockwork automatons for Venus and an armada of submarines for Europa, Enceladus, and Titan. Let’s darken the Martian skies with helicopters. Let’s drive rovers across the frozen nitrogen plains of Pluto.

I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds from these pull-quotes. I’ll bet that SpaceX’s starship won’t meet some of these expectations. We will have to hold our nose or plug our ears as Musk bloviates. Despite all that, it’s exciting that folks are thinking, writing, and blogging about this and some of it could come to fruition in my lifetime!

Adam Keys @therealadam