Volume 6, Issue 3, Fall 1984
William K. Hartmann
Space Exploration and Environmental Issues
New discoveries about materials and solar energy raise the possibility of a long-tenn shift of mining, refining, and manufacturing from Earth’s surface to locations outside Earth’s ecosphere, allowing Earth to begin to relax back toward its natural state. A little-discussed ambivalence toward the potential of space exploration exists among environmentalists. One camp sees it as a human adventure that may allow a bold initiative to improve Earth; another camp shies away from “heavy technology” and thus distrusts efforts as massive as space exploration or utilization. Due to impending resource depletion on Earth, we may have only until the mid-twenty-first century to pursue the promising potential of space exploration to alleviate environmental problems of Earth. Subsequently, there may be too litde industlial base to support vigorous exploration and exploitation of resources in space.