An interesting read from the Space.com boards by a poster named night_shadow_1,
This is offered as a solution to the ever-increasing issues of our world's dwindling resources, and, lack of available viable habitat. Keeping in mind that our world is a finite (and ever over-crowding) habitat in itself, and, that we're all essentially imprisoned within it until we resolve our restrictions on mass extra-solar mobility and habitation, I see a dire need for our species to move ahead by leaps and bounds rather than through the current "baby steps" methodology.
So I propose the following:
4 Fundamental changes for evolving our current "space exploration" endeavors:
1. Save costs by converting our extra-solar unit designs from unique platform chassis to universal ones, and, introduce unique operational components as aftermarket additions. We've been designing "new" satellites for decades. Even though many of the chassis assemblies & components have experienced vast evolutionary advancements, as far as general applications go, the baser principles of the designs and operations of satellites have remained the same. As such, we should easily be able to find many ways to universalize & mass produce those baser chassis assemblages & adapt upgradable compartmentalization within them for refitting them with newer components in place of older ones as the demand to do so arises. Maybe then we would experience more of a cost-effective measure of longevity in the service lives of those units (as we've long experienced with the auto industry) rather than the constant short-term obsoletism that has been scene in the computing technology industry. This may, in fact, allow the obsoletism of computing technology to continue as it apparently is destined to do without the need to scrap entire satellite chassis. Recycling is, after all, the big fad of the century.
2. Start using our "shuttles" as shuttles & the ISS as a(n) construction yard/assembly plant. Use our shuttles to ferry pieces of chassis and components of larger haul assemblages to the ISS for building truely viable space-bound vehicles and habitats. And I mean real vehicles that can sustain long-term long-ranged repeat travel, and, real habitats that can sustain whole cyclical communities (along with bio-diverse nutrient resources & routinely relaying extra-solar traffic) for generations, not just a handful of specialized researchers for short periods. It has been expressed many times over that the costs for luanching even the smallest average payloads into space (as pre-assembled units) are ecceedingly costly. Argueably to costly. Let's start using what we've already built to expand by building more, bigger & better than before.
3. Implament municiple constructs, and universal commerce, into space-bound vehicles & habitats. Just as we have utilized localized governance, and corporate sponcorship, to forward the socio-economic potentials and securities of all other Earth-bound human developments, by all means it is long overdue that we allow these sociological & financial mechanisms help us establish & promote the advancement of extra-solar travel & habitation. First off, I'm sure it would be acceptable for everyone if we treated some of the available spaces within extra-solar habitats (currently only includes the ISS) as publically/commercially leasable real-estate just like we do here on Earth. Zoning and all would be included. And, I don't care if there are Microsoft billboards on the walls of public areas of extra-solar habitats, and/or, orbital CocaCola billboards along the routes of extra-solar traffic, if it means we actually have those things to work with. Obviously, it needs to be within reason but, it is far more unreasonable to think we can sustain the developments of such endeavors without including any such mechanisms within them. How else are we to establish sustainable mass extra-solar commerce and habitation? We simply can't without them. Look at the stagnation in the results of the past three decades of a purely scientific set of endeavors of our world's government's in space. Then look at the leaps and bounds made by the commercialization of low Earth orbit by corporate satellites.
4. Include hi-profile/profit entertainment attractions into the mix. I (as well as I'm sure many others) would love, and pay well, to see extreme extra-solar athletes duke it out in zero-G arenas if the arenas were outfitted appropriately. A zero-G version of boxing (or wrestling) on pay-per-view for instance would make a mint right from the start. We could start the ball rolling by having those astronauts that keep complaining about bordom and wrestlessness form a set of extra-solar sports leagues with their expected down-times slotted for them to have at it in unused portions of the station. Maybe even start including a couple of well known atheletes (or pseudo atheletes) into the crews of future missions specifically for that purpose. Imagine the revenue generated from a couple of icons of wrestling (like the Undertaker & Stone Cold Steve Austin) going at it in space. Have a couple of the biggest names in illusion/magic team up to perform in space. A Chris Angel-Mind Freak special comes to mind. Also, include golbal-cast performance arts of major acts. MJ & Bono and there crews would probably love to play the ISS in Global-cast or do live shots of them bangin around in the payload bay of the shuttle. Maybe have Jackie Chan and Jet Li have at it zero-G style in a fake no-holds-barred martial arts act. Flashy showmenship, weapons and all. And the world would eat it up and pay through the nose to say they saw it live. The proceeds for any one of these acts alone would pay for the expenses of getting them there and back several times over with loads left over to finance the advancements of more of the same. Just look how much each of the aforementioned make in a single average show of similar coverage without the benefit of recognition of promoting something as pioneering & inspiring as Extra-solar entertainment. Lastly, indoctrinate a global holiday where the world has a day of orbital fireworks shows viewable from anywhere around the world. You can call it a celebration in recognition of our species' first successful venture into space and/or to pay homage to "our choice to do something about the threat of space junk" (relate it to what ever you want). The show would be amazing and inspiring, and thusly, extremely profitable for every business and governmental body promoting it.
OK, that's all you get for now. I'm tierd and need to sleep.
The only permanently sustainable habitat for life is a mobile one.