Earth’s billionaires say manufacturing's future is in space

Musk hopes to build Teslas in an off-planet factory & Bezos advocates moving heavy-emission industries to space. We take a look at space manufacturing

This week, researchers announced that there's now a 66% chance Earth will pass the 1.5C global warming threshold between now and 2027.

"We are now within reach of a temporary exceedance of 1.5C for the annual mean temperature, and that's the first time in human history we've been that close," said Prof Adam Scaife, Head of long range forecasts at the Met Office.

The manufacturing and construction sector is responsible for 6.3bn tonnes of GHG emissions per year - the third most polluting industry, behind transport and energy. 

Humanity’s need for manufacturing new cars, phones and electronics, vaccines, medical devices and robotics will never decrease, but what if there was somewhere we could manufacture, without causing damage to our planet? Manufacturing in space might be the answer - which will add a whole new set of questions for the supply chain.


Manufacturing Tesla’s off planet

On planet Mars, the atmosphere is primarily CO2 with some nitrogen, argon and a few other trace elements. This means that by compressing the atmosphere, space colonists could grow plants. 

From a manufacturing perspective, gravity on Mars is 38% of Earth’s, which means heavy-lifting tasks undertaken in manufacturing would not be so taxing on man or machine. 

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter, is eager to build an off-planet factory to manufacture Tesla vehicles.

"I'd like to see [an off-planet factory] before I'm dead. That would be cool," Musk said, suggesting that it could happen within 40 years.

Musk stopped short of listing any of the potential benefits of this or discussing how to get heavy materials off the planet.

However, moving manufacturing from Earth to space would reduce emissions, which is something another billionaire is intrigued by. 

Moving polluting industries into space

Blue Origin opened with a vision of people living and working in space, for the benefit of Earth. Blue Origin sees a future where people can use the limitless resources of space and move the most damaging industries into space, to safeguard the Earth.

"When we move out into the solar system, we have infinite raw materials," said Jess Bezos, Executive Chairman of Amazon and Founder of Blue Origin. "We do have to take care of this planet. Right now… we pollute the planet. We can move all heavy industry and all polluting industry off of Earth and operate it in space," Bezos said. 

Realistically, Bezos knows he won’t see this idea come to fruition - but he has started the journey with Blue Origin. 

"What Blue Origin can do is build a space vehicle that is operable, commercial and inexpensive and becomes the infrastructure that the next generation can use to take those big steps," he said.

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