Author Topic: Predictions for 2050  (Read 25433 times)

Offline Eric Hedman

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Predictions for 2050
« on: 04/22/2022 10:23 pm »
Each year on this site we do predictions for the following year.  While I like taking part in that, I think predictions for where the space industry will be by December 31, 2050 might be more interesting.

Elon Musk has predicted he will have a million people on Mars by 2050.  As much as I like what SpaceX is doing, I don’t believe the million people for a second (Sorry Elon).  It is only twenty-eight years away.  We’d have a hard time building an efficient new city of a million people from scratch on Earth in that time frame.  Figuring out how to build a large efficiently designed and livable pressurized city on Mars is going to take a long time.  A lot of lessons will have to be learned along the way.  We don’t even know if humans can survive for generations in the low gravity.

Why 2050?  It’s the year Musk made his predictions for Mars.  It’s close enough that many of us might live to see it (I would be 91).  It’s not so far out that it is likely that some out of the blue technological breakthrough will make all our predictions moot (example: somebody invents a transporter that can beam us to Mars).

I think it would be interesting to see what people on this forum think advancements in space will reach by 2050.  All topics are open.  Predict what launch vehicles will be like.  Predict what we will have done on the Moon, in LEO, on Mars, etc.  Predict commercial development in space.  Predict what SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA, etc. will be doing and if they are still even in business.  Predict what our robotic planetary exploration programs will have accomplished.  Predict away.  I think the responses should be interesting.  I’m working on my predictions.

Offline jmt27

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #1 on: 04/23/2022 12:18 am »
Assuming the war in Ukraine doesn't lead to full blown WWIII and eventualy rolls us back to the dark ages, I can only hope that we'll have at least a small base on Mars to do experiments a la ISS. At best we'd have starship bringing lots of building materials and have a bigger outpost, mining, ISRU, but nowhere near a million people... a hundred or 2 at the most with robots helping with building stuff.

Offline vapour_nudge

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #2 on: 04/23/2022 01:12 am »
Two or maybe three crew landings on the moon
Nobody on Mars or anywhere near it it is always 20 years away
(I reckon as soon as Elon Musk passes away Spacex will fade away too)
Starship won’t be successful
Falcon 9 the mainstay
No successor to the ISS after it is ditched in 2036
Just one probe to an ice giant by then
No life found on any moon or planet or anywhere else in the universe
Plenty of amazing discoveries by JWST”
Another Earth sized planet found in our Solar System
I reckon BO will be the next big thing only because they don’t rely on Bezos technically
Vulcan still going but not a main player
Europe won’t do anything of significance in that timeframe as they will be still reeling from fallout from Russian involvement today
And I will still be pessimistic especially of Mars

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #3 on: 04/23/2022 01:39 am »
Between now and 2035 at the latest, ongoing advances in AI will result in the emergence of a superintelligence (SI) that will take control of all of civilization's resources. A human attempt to evaluate the goals and motivations of an SI are equivalent to a mouse attempting to evaluate humans, so there is no way to predict what will happen in 2050.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity
It's a long shot but an SI might choose to allow a merely human civilization to  remain continue on Mars.

Offline SweetWater

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #4 on: 04/23/2022 02:33 am »
SpaceX still exists as a private company providing launch, human spaceflight, terrestrial data (Starlink), deep space data (communication with moon and Mars bases and deep space probes) and transportation services to both government and private customers. Musk (~78 y/o in 2050) has at least 25 children and still claims to be involved in day-to-day operations, however this is generally acknowledged to be in an emeritus capacity. He has not retired to Mars. Starship/Superheavy in some form continues to fly.

Blue Origin still exists as a private company providing launch, human spaceflight, and LEO space station services. They have contracts with both NASA and ESA for ISRU operations at the lunar south pole. Uncrewed asteroid mining demonstration missions have given promising results and they are ramping up a commercial operation with a crewed component to start NET 2060. Jeff Bezos (~86 y/o) is still the titular CEO but is retiring comfortably in his volcano lair. New Glenn no longer flies, but Blue continues to build BE-4 engines out of spite.

ULA, while perhaps not under the same name, continues to exist. It no longer provides launch services but has switched to focus on in-space transportation services leveraging Centaur V and ACES technologies as well as propellant depots. It also has at least 1 permanently crewed commercial LEO space station and at least 2 commercial crew-tended free flyers (1 in polar orbit and 1 in GEO). Tory Bruno (would be ~88 in 2050) sadly passed several years ago; however astronauts posted to the Mars base occasionally report seeing a figure wearing a cowboy hat and riding a horse in the distance during dust storms. These reports are generally dismissed but their consistency gives NASA psychologists pause.

In terms of institutional US government launch capacity, SLS or some version of it remains as NASA's A-10 Warthog, with congress committing NASA to flying it whether they want to or not.

Reusable launch and propellant depot technologies have enabled a robust human presence on the moon, with the overall program bearing a resemblance to the US Antarctic Program. Several dozen scientist astronauts visit the moon each year, most for 1-2 week missions during the lunar daytime. NASA, ESA, JAXA, and a handful of international partners have collaborated on this project, which includes a handful of semi-permanent bases at sites of geologic interest, 1 permanently crewed base at the lunar south pole, and 1 permanent crew-tended base on the lunar far side for radio astronomy research.

The first crewed Mars landing took place circa 2040; a permanent base with a rotating crew of 10-20 exists in the Melas Chasma region. This base has the same international NASA, ESA, JAXA, etc. sponsors as the moon base described in the paragraph above.

China continues to operate a LEO space station, several 'commercial' crew-tended free-flying stations, as well as a crewed south pole Lunar base. Overall, tensions between China and the west remain high; however, in space, for practical reasons (esp. proximity of the respective lunar bases) relations are generally cordial. China has not conducted an independent crewed Mars program but has sent at least 2 astronauts to the international base at Melas Chasma.

Russia's human space program ceases most operations with the end of the ISS in 2030. Several cosmonauts visit the Chinese space station / free flyers throughout the 2030s as passengers on Shenzhou capsules (or their successors). 

Offline Star One

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #5 on: 04/23/2022 09:57 am »
Future casting this far forward is far too much a hostage to fortune. I mean by then the Earth could be a smouldering nuclear ruin.

Offline geza

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #6 on: 04/23/2022 01:48 pm »
For sure, I'll be 94, dead, or alive. I'll know if we would have reached net zero CO2 emission, or not. That is, I'll know the climate future for my granddaughter.

For space, affordable spaceflight will be a solved problem. SpaceX Starship seems reasonable. If it fails, somebody else will do it better by 2050. This will open up a huge LEO tourism market. Orbital flights and orbital hotels for the average people. I don't see the point for significant orbital industry or large crewed research stations. Moon will become tourist destination also, for a smaller number of people. Geologic expeditions to different locations of the Moon will be commonplace, not much different from an expedition to a remote site on Earth. We will learn a lot about the early Solar System on the Lunar surface. I do not see much point for centralized research stations on the Moon. Reaching a geological destination from the station would not be easy; why don't fly there directly from Earth, if spaceflight is no longer that expensive? I don't see the case for a large propellant producing industry on Moon, either.

Then, Mars. We will fly there on each synod and maintain at least one research station with large power and propellant production and increasing self-reliance. I can imagine that some people will opt to become a permanent resident, but I don't believe in the 1 million inhabitants any time soon. The research base will be a hub for geologic expeditions to every interesting point of Mars. They can be either crewed, or robotic. History of Mars will be understood as much as Earth's one is understand today. Robots will play a huge role on Mars, so there will be no need for 1 million people to do this-or-that. Most people there will work on science, technology development and human services. There will be no need for e.g. factory workers.

While people will visit some asteroids (why not?), maybe even Callisto, most of the beyond-Mars research will be done robotically. Just because the flight time will be too much for human convenience. However, this will not be with once-in-a-decade multi-billion assets. Instead, we will have mass produced interplanetary spacecrafts, many of them. Developing a submarine for the icy bodies will not be cheap. However, many of them will be built and sent to different locations on e.g. Europa and Enceladus, maybe on Ceres and Pluto. Quite a few huge telescopes will be sent to Sun-Earth L2; human serviceability will be easy there. Large radio dishes will be sent to distant corners of the Solar System for VLBI.

Maybe, we can send a telescope to the focal point of the Sun, as a gravity lens?


Offline spacediver

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #7 on: 04/25/2022 06:56 pm »
In 2050 a company from Augsburg, Germany, will be the world's leading launch service provider! 

Offline marcus79

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #8 on: 04/25/2022 07:49 pm »
I am going to be an optimist here, in a fashion. ;)

After Artemis had nearly collapsed from the demise of the SLS and Starship, due to a combination of technological problems and economic crises, it was revived in a smaller and more sustainable form. Medium lift reusable rockets will serve propellant depots that allow travel to the lunar gateway at a modest cost, and they will also enable lunar landings in the 2030s and travel onwards to Mars and asteroids in the 2040s. The entire program is focused on science and international cooperation. It is in effect a kind of Carl Sagan space program, mixing inspiration and prioritising science. Not just Canada, Japan and Europe are on board with this, but many new space powers as well, I am thinking of countries like Brazil and South Africa.

China will be the first to land people on the Moon again, around 2030, using the '921 rocket'. They, too, will face economic headwinds that force them to cancel the Long March 9. Together with the Russians they will cobble together a small base on the lunar surface that is mostly automated but results in good science. There will also be an attempt by them to work together to achieve a breakthrough in nuclear electric propulsion. Some results are achieved, enabling them to transport larger masses through interplanetary space. Due to the technical challenges involved, however, they will be on Mars later than the US-led coalition. The Chinese will also have mastered spaceplane technology, enabling them to service a larger space station. This program will attract international cooperation too, mostly of Asian and African partners.

It's not clear to me which of these two blocs India will choose to join.

Overall, between 2020 and 2050 spaceflight will show technological and scientific breakthroughs greater than between 1990 and 2020, mostly because of a shift away from the massive heavy-lift programs that eat up all the budget and have few credible applications outside human spaceflight. We will see so many amazing scientific discoveries. I am looking forward to having the leisure time of old age to read all about them.
« Last Edit: 04/25/2022 07:54 pm by marcus79 »

Offline Polaroid

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #9 on: 04/25/2022 09:35 pm »
I think armed forces of many nations will be much more active in space by 2050. Space planes will be operated by most great powers, both for civilian and military use. Advanced version of Starship is used by US Space Force, Air Force and Marines for point to point travel, LEO and to travel to the Moon. Mars has a permanent base, a program similar to the Artemis Accords, with about 50 astronauts mostly from the US, Canada, EU and the UK.

There are numerous permanent bases on the moon, both commercial and government.

"The Bezos" is a huge space station in LEO, used for science and recreation.

China has a number of space stations in LEO, one orbiting the Moon and two permanent bases on the surface of the Moon. China has an active program to mine asteroids.

Russian HSF program has all but ended, but Russia does maintain one obsolete station in LEO.

Virgin Galactic have announced they will start regularly flying paying customers next year.

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #10 on: 04/26/2022 03:38 am »
Virgin Galactic have announced they will start regularly flying paying customers next year.
That made my day.  That is Funny and probably an accurate prediction.
 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

Offline high road

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #11 on: 04/27/2022 11:42 am »
- Space tourism continues to be a marginal activity in space, riding on the back of other activities rather than the reverse.

- large scale (Orbital Reef) commercial space stations are finally starting to be commercially viable, after several decades of 'build it and they will come' delusions, as technology for in space production finally matures and production levels grow to the size of needing large scale space stations.

- Following the demize of Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin has petered out. Whatever viable product/service was there has been bought up by an oldspace company.

- There is/are one or more outposts on the moon for exploration, but more for one-uping China, who also have a base there. There is also a limited oxygen production plant supplying propellant for the return trip, but it can't compete with propellant launched from earth for trips to Mars. There may be a metals production plant as a byproduct of this (in the case that it's not just extracting propellants from ice), but otherwise no viable ores have been found, as it all relevant ores require hydrothermal, vulcanic and biological processes to form. Iron, even though it's the easiest to extract from regolith, is of limited use without enough carbon to make steel, materials to reduce smelting temperatures, or an easy way to get rid of heat.

- Following the death of Musk, Mars projects have stalled. There is a base for research purposes, but a large part of the people who went there, have returned. There is no mining other than regolith gathering, as mining requires a huge amount of water, which comes at a significant cost on Mars. Let alone the backlash of highly visible polution. Local food production has yet to earn back its setup costs, and is being phased out as it adds considerable additional labour costs, that are no longer affordable in light of declining population. On the other hand, with facilities already being there, largely unused and thus with plenty of spare parts, limited local food production will last for quite a while yet.

Europe has projects running on all of the above, but no stations or bases owned by ESA or national governments. Roscosmos still comes up with new amazing projects every other month, but none have materialized or proved to be gamechanging.

Without competition, Starship has not improved beyond what Elon wanted for Mars, nor reduced its price per launch below 2020 F9 prices. (although with the demise of Musk, the company may split one way or another in multiple companies that could compete with each other). While it is the goto launcher for commercial flights, oldspace companies are still propped up by governments. A handful of smallsat companies are still in business, but that hand has been in a fight with Amber Heard. (I'll have forgotten what this means by then, so less than five)

LEO is congested with satellites, requires considerable coordination and red tape, and limited cleanup efforts have begun.

Offline eric z

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #12 on: 04/27/2022 06:15 pm »
 The space policy threads will still be dominated by arguments over SLS, even though the program was phased out years before.

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #13 on: 04/27/2022 07:20 pm »
The space policy threads will still be dominated by arguments over SLS, even though the program was phased out years before.
I predict SLS/Orion will get 8 flights before the program ends.  When Starship is flying at a tiny fraction of the cost of SLS and New Glenn gets a reusable second stage, even Congress will finally get it.  I'm betting there will be an attempt to keep Orion alive by flying it on New Glenn.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #14 on: 04/28/2022 05:26 am »
The space policy threads will still be dominated by arguments over SLS, even though the program was phased out years before.
I predict SLS/Orion will get 8 flights before the program ends.  When Starship is flying at a tiny fraction of the cost of SLS and New Glenn gets a reusable second stage, even Congress will finally get it.  I'm betting there will be an attempt to keep Orion alive by flying it on New Glenn.
Orion could be much more viable if decoupled from the SLS launcher. Lockheed Martin should consider flying it on the Falcon Heavy and figure out how to supplement the current puny service module or replaced it with something more capable. The current Orion launch abort escape capability can be descoped substantially minus the SLS. However the Starship becoming operational will pushed the Orion into the dustbin of history.


However back on topic.

By 2050 following the wedding of Musk's grandson to Jeff Bezos's granddaughter that lead to the creation of the TeraCorp AmazonX that dominated system commerce, logistics, manufacturing, transportation and web service with corporate HQ at Arcadia Planitia. The old homestead of the Musk family.  :P

Offline jebbo

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #15 on: 04/28/2022 06:09 am »
For fun, I've tried to revamp the old ULA "Cislunar Roadmap" they did a few years ago, with 5, 15 and 30 year projections ... and here's my latest 30-year (2051) projection. Probably nonsense but fun to speculate ;)

--- Tony

Offline spacenut313

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #16 on: 05/17/2022 10:36 pm »
Over the next 5-10 years launch costs will probably come down materially from reusability, new materials/fuels, SpaceX-driven cost efficient production methods etc. This will mean space will become more accessible and lots of new applications will probably begin to emerge in the following decade or so, such as space tourism, space logistics/delivery, space-based solar power, moon/asteroid mining etc.

Citigroup had a go at what it could look like by 2040 - https://www.citivelocity.com/citigps/space/

All very exciting stuff! :)

Offline Riviera69

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #17 on: 05/22/2022 02:32 am »
The most exciting thing will be space travel. If we could go in time to 2050, to see what it will be like.

Read the article below
https://interestingengineering.com/life-in-2050-a-glimpse-at-space-in-the-future-part-i/

A real new business is coming soon

Offline sanman

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #18 on: 05/22/2022 03:50 pm »
By 2050, Starship will have been long retired after serving as a mainstay workhorse space vehicle. By then there will be an even larger and even more capable workhorse vehicle in service.

There will be plenty of robots on Mars, even if human have only a light token presence there (most likely in orbit). The decision to use robots as an easy low-risk path to Mars exploration and colonization will have proven to be the best of all worlds, with unprecedentedly capable robots transmitting back volumes of vital data and important discoveries risk-free. AI will enable robots with extreme versatility and capabilities. There will be surface exploration at the Martian poles, and even the Martian underground.

The human presence on the Moon will be greater, through a permanent continually-staffed Moonbase. Flights to the Moon will be as routine as flights to LEO are today. With the ISS long gone, the Moonbase will be the new routine destination for manned flights. Lunar surface EVAs will be common. But manned missions to Mars will still be a relatively novel and more expeditionary thing.

There will be at least a half-dozen launch providers among private companies, in addition to various govt space agencies.

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Predictions for 2050
« Reply #19 on: 05/22/2022 05:38 pm »
By 2050, Starship will have been long retired after serving as a mainstay workhorse space vehicle. By then there will be an even larger and even more capable workhorse vehicle in service.

There will be plenty of robots on Mars, even if human have only a light token presence there (most likely in orbit). The decision to use robots as an easy low-risk path to Mars exploration and colonization will have proven to be the best of all worlds, with unprecedentedly capable robots transmitting back volumes of vital data and important discoveries risk-free. AI will enable robots with extreme versatility and capabilities. There will be surface exploration at the Martian poles, and even the Martian underground.

The human presence on the Moon will be greater, through a permanent continually-staffed Moonbase. Flights to the Moon will be as routine as flights to LEO are today. With the ISS long gone, the Moonbase will be the new routine destination for manned flights. Lunar surface EVAs will be common. But manned missions to Mars will still be a relatively novel and more expeditionary thing.

There will be at least a half-dozen launch providers among private companies, in addition to various govt space agencies.
This sounds very plausible.  This outcome would not surprise me in the least.

 

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