The promise of the Spacefaring Age - the era of human activities in space - is that it will link human expertise to the unlimited resources of space. When that linkage is established, the people of Earth will be supplied with an abundance of energy and material resources from space; the solar system will be explored in depth; human settlements will be established on multiple planets and moons; and voyages to the stars will be undertaken. The present "closed Earth'' mindset - of limits to human potential related to the depletion of Earth's resources and the vital need to preserve Earth's environment - will be replaced by a much grander "open space'' vision of broad-scale human advancements based upon access to unlimited resources and the opening of endless frontiers.
Within the coming decades, unmanned spacecraft will land on the Moon and begin experiments with in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). One of those robotic devices, after maneuvering to a suitable location with guidance from Earth-based controllers, will use a mechanical arm to scoop up a sample of lunar soil. Through a series of manufacturing steps, the onboard materials-processing unit will use the soil sample to fabricate a functioning solar cell. This "proof of concept'' ISRU experiment - even if it produces only one milliwatt of power - will mark a critical milestone in the advancement of humankind on the space frontier. The use of tools and the energy and material resources of space to generate electricity and create new tools, anable the development of self-sustaining human activities in space independent from Earth resources will evolve. A significant expansion of space exploration and development activities will then occur, and the full promise of the Spacefaring Age for the benefit of all humankind will be realized.
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