Now that fans of The Expanse can breathe a collective sigh of relief with Amazon and Blue Origin mogul Jeff Bezos stepping in to save the cancelled show, Bezos made it known he believes space colonies don’t just exist in science fiction.
Shortly after making the announcement while receiving the Gerard K. O'Neill Memorial Award for Space Settlement Advocacy at the National Space Society's International Space Development Conference, Bezos sat down with journalist Alan Boyle to explain his own vision of the future—which isn’t too far from that of the show. He believes that spaceflight company Blue Origin is the first hope for the Earth and humanity when it comes to the final frontier. Not that Earth is going to be cancelled by some greater intergalactic network, but sending industries and colonies out of the atmosphere could save our planet from destruction.
Bezos idolizes O’Neill and wants to realize the late Princeton University professor’s dream of space colonization. O’Neill’s 1977 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space is an escape from the Cold War era that imagines floating human colonies. He foresaw our species living in habitats that were built with materials from the moon and large asteroids, grounded by simulated gravity, and running on the radiation absorbed by solar power satellites.
Random factoid: if you want to see these concepts in action, they heavily inspired the anime Mobile Suit Gundam.
“As soon as I read it, it made sense to me,” Bezos told Boyle (via Space.com) of O’Neill’s visionary book. “It seemed very clear that planetary surfaces were not the right place for an expanding civilization inside the solar system."
He believes that building our own colonies in space will bring us closer to Earth and avoid the limited space provided by other planets, which may be too far for people who still want to return to the home planet now and then. Unless some sort of mass-extinction event was imminent, would people really want to rocket to a planet light-years away and abandon Earth forever? Bezos doubts that, but he also doesn’t believe we can go much longer as a society without stagnating as a result of finite resources.
Avoiding stagnation means shifting heavy industry such as mining and smelting into space and reserving our planet for residential areas and lighter industries like assembly. Bezos also wants to help entrepreneurs reach beyond earthly limits. These are the reasons behind why he founded Blue Origin, which is now developing the reusable New Glenn and New Armstrong rockets.
"In the not-too-distant future — I'm talking decades, maybe a hundred years — it'll start to be easier to do a lot of the things we currently do on Earth in space because we'll have so much energy," he said.
Meaning, some of us could be seeing The Expanse come to life in our lifetime. It’s almost impossible to say whether that is scary or strangely exhilarating.