This is a great place to learn and make new friends! The other day I learned from my new friend David Lindel that thanks to nanotechnology astronaut’s suits is going to be more flexible and comfortable to wear. This can facilitate work in outer space. I am just a common citizen without the technical background or expertise required in the space industry. I do my living as a small animal veterinarian actually practicing in the state of Georgia. Since childhood besides animals, learning about space and science was also very attractive to me. That’s the reason I enjoy so much the discussions here at the International Nanoscience Community and sometimes try to contribute with my blog.

One of the things that worry me about the future is that the general public seems not be connected to the ideals of exploration and colonization of space. How can we change that? I think part of the problem is that people feel that they are not getting something from the space program. Sadly people only thinks about NASA or other space agencies when something goes wrong, as per example news about love affair triangles, drunken astronauts or the infomercials on TV. How many of us had seen those infomercials about products that use technology developed by NASA? The other day a laboratory equipment representative came to our hospital to show us a $10,000 blood testing machine. He was pushing very hard in selling that piece of equipment to us and his way of distinguish how his brand was superior to others in the market was pointing to the fact that his machine uses technology developed by NASA. Is the name NASA becoming just part of cheap advertisement slogans? Looking at recent infomercials it seems that the only good products derivated from the space program and available to the population is the Craftmatic bed. In a world where perception is everything, can we show to the common citizen that the space program means more that pretty pictures from stars, comfortable beds or stainless steel cookware?

Some people believe that mining asteroids can provide the economic push for the development of a new space industry and eventual colonization of our solar system. But what kind of materials can we bring from near asteroids that can produce a profit and keep us asking for more? What about water? Everybody seems to buy water bottles. The water bottle industry is probably a billion dollars market around the world. People are always looking to buy those expensive bottles of waters from natural springs located in a remote part of the world or glaciers. It is expected that with the effects of pollutants and global warming those sources of water are going to be scarce in the near future. Without sources of fresh and clean water this industry may come to an end sooner or later. But if nanotechnology can provide us with the correct tools to work in outer space, we may be able to begin mining ice or water from nearby asteroids. Asteroids can serve as a source of fresh pure water that never has been polluted by human contaminants. The devil is in the details of how to bring that water from asteroids to us thirsty inhabitants of Earth.

Let’s forget about the bottle water industry and take a look somewhere else. What about the jewel industry. We probably don’t have to look for uranium, gold or silver to make the mining of asteroids profitable. What about just bringing some rocks and allowing some talented designers to create art pieces using only that raw material. I am very sure people will pay money to have a pair of earrings or a neckless made from materials obtained from an asteroid. I can see the Shop Network selling the last “asteroid belt collection” of bracelets on Sunday.
In other words, instead of hoping to find exotic materials in space with the purpose of creating a profitable space industry, let’s begin with creating an industry based on more simple materials as per example water and rocks. Let’s take it from there and see how the general public reacts before getting complicated with other kind of projects.

Dr. Feneque graduated from the University of Puerto Rico College of Agriculture in 1991 and from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1996. He actually resides and practices small animal medicine in the state of Georgia, USA.

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Comment by Jose Feneque, DVM on July 20, 2008 at 7:12pm
David, thanks for your comments. Yes I am very excited about the new finding of Phoenix and I really enjoy looking at the pictures of the ice caps provide by the the Mar's Explorer. Definently Mars may be source of water in case of emergency. The question is how much water is left on Mars. So the research and exploration of the red planet needs to continue. I agreed with you that we may need to be concerned about a future fresh water shortage instead of putting too much emphasis in the current oil crisis.

More of the 97% of the water in our planet is saltwater and the other 3% is fresh water. Only a fraction of that 3% is considered potable or drinkable water. With the world population expected to double in size during the next 50 years plus the effects of global warming and pollution we are on the way to an event bigger than the current “oil crisis”. The reduction on drinkable water sources can produce major economical and societal changes. The rich countries of the future are going to be those who can manage and better preserve their sources of fresh water. That the reason some financial advisors are recommending to long term investors to gets stocks or shares on the water market today while they are cheap, because in the next 20 to 30 years water is going to be considered the “new oil”. After all you can’t drink oil or used it to irrigate crops. A lack of sources of drinkable water can shake the foundations of humanity.

Many of you would say what the heck this have to do with nanotechnology? Well, maybe a little or maybe a lot. A water crisis can motivate our governments and private industries to go beyond low orbit and into outer space to look for new sources of water. Nanotechnology can provide us with not only with better astronaut’s suits but also with faster spacecraft engines and better tools to work in space. Long term protection from cosmic radiation may be another of the benefits of nanotechnology research.

Nanotechnology can also provide us with new filtration systems able to remove toxic chemicals and bacteria from polluted water sources here on Earth. Plus the nanotechnology research can help us to improve and promote more desalinization programs which can help to ameliorate the demand for fresh water.

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Comment by David Lyndel on July 19, 2008 at 9:43am
Hi Dr. Feneque,
I'll humbly call you Jose. My father is an engineer that could have retired years ago but likes his work too much. A few weeks ag he and I were having a conversation via our weekly phone call. Both of us agreed wholeheartedly that vets have to be intelligent and good at analysis. He and I actually agreed. One for the books. We are both dog enthusiast and get attached to our pets all too quickly. Thank you for kindly considering me a new friend.
Are you excited about the Mars Phoenix and its evidence of water on the so-called Red Planet. One thing is for certain new colonists there would need to learn to live off the land. That would include using materials on the planet for construction. I was glad when Dr. Stephen Hawking used his fame to call for colonizing planets. I remember an ex-US president saying before the UN how the nations of the world would set-aside their petty differences if threatened by an extraterrestrial source. The late communicator could have been referring to other lifeforms but just as likely an asteroid. If there is other intellligent life in the Universe it would be amazing. However if we are the only truly self-aware beings in this neck of the galaxy then we have a responsibility to preserve the life known as humanity.
I completely agree we should be focused on finding water and minerals to life. I was shocked but not necessarily surprised to find out how little of the Earth's water is potable. Now wide regions are experiencing extended droughts. Some whine over mandatory water restrictions over watering their lawns but the crisis is deeper than that in Australia, Africa and the southeast US. Doctor you have hit the nail on the head! We worry about the oil running out but it would be even more dire for the water to run out.

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