Visualized: The Race to Invest in the Space Economy
Humans have long viewed outer space as the final frontier.
Our thirst for exploration has brought whole nations together to create more advanced technologies─all in the pursuit of discovering the outer reaches of the universe.
Today’s infographic from ProcureAM highlights the exciting journey humans have taken into outer space, and the economic boom across industries as a result of this quest for discovery.
With an ever-expanding universe, how far have we gone?
Our Connection with Outer Space
Humans have been fascinated with space for millennia, using the planets and stars to navigate, keep time, and discover scientific facts about the universe.
Since the 1960s, humans have also been traveling into space and pushing the limits of our technological and physical boundaries with each excursion.
A Brief History: Humans in Space
- 1957 ─ First satellite launched: Sputnik1
- 1961 ─ First human in space: Yuri Gagarin
- 1965 ─ First human spacewalk: Aleksei Leonov
- 1969 ─ First human on the Moon: Neil Armstrong
- 1984 ─ First untethered spacewalk: Bruce McCandless
- 1998 ─ First modules launch to begin construction of the International Space Station
Nations around the world have used these trips and technological milestones to drastically improve life.
Reusable rockets and advanced satellite technology enable greater innovation on Earth through higher-quality broadband internet, 5G cellular networks, and the Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices.
The Space Economy is Ready for Lift-off
Three major sectors are dominating the global space economy today:
- Products and Services
This sector drives the majority of commercial activity in the space industry. These products and services meet specific needs in telecommunications, location-based services, and monitoring and observation.
Production of space vehicles such as rockets and rovers, ground and space stations, and receivers such as satellites, receivers, and terminals for internet and TV are also booming. As the global population grows, our need to stay connected to each other evolves.
Most modern government space agencies are actively monitoring and tracking space to offer better resources and services for their citizens, including geopolitical monitoring and missile tracking.
Can lower costs, new technology, and increased commercial activity make space the next trillion-dollar industry?
The Next Frontier: Investing in Space
Investments in space-related industries have shot up in recent years, rising from US$1.1 billion in 2000-2005 up to $10.2 billion between 2012-2018.
This meteoric growth is due to fewer barriers in the space industry, which was previously restricted to governments or the ultra-wealthy. Private sector companies are responsible for much of the growth. Since 2000, Goldman Sachs estimates that $13.3 billion has been invested into newly launched space startups.
These companies, backed by titans such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, are pledging to support innovations from the practical to the fantastical, to boldly go where none have gone before:
- SpaceX ─ powerful satellite Internet service
- Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources ─ first commercial mines in space
- DoubleTree Hilton ─ first company to bake cookies in space
- Blue Origin ─ deep-space exploration
And with recent technological advancements, these goals are edging closer to reality.
For example, take space tourism. While costs are still astronomical, Blue Origin and Virgin Atlantic are banking on the idea of the first space vacations taking place as early as 2020─and growing in popularity from there.
- Dennis Tito paid $20 million to become the first space tourist in 2001
- Prepaid tickets for 90-min suborbital flights in 2020 with Virgin Galactic are going for $250,000
The Future of the Space Economy
Advances in satellite and rocket technology mean that costs are declining across the entire commercial space economy.
Because of this, the global space industry may jump light years ahead in the next few decades.
For the first time since our journey to the stars began, the final frontier is well within our grasp.
A Visual Introduction to the Dwarf Planets in our Solar System
Since dwarf planets started being classified in 2005, nine have been recognized. Here we visually introduce the dwarf planets in our solar system.
Pluto and the Introduction of Dwarf Planets
Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been a bit of a puzzle.
For starters, not only is Pluto smaller than any other planet in the solar system, but it’s also smaller than Earth’s moon. It also has an extremely low gravitational pull at only 0.07 times the mass of the objects in its orbit, which is just a fraction of the Moon’s own strength.
At the same time, Pluto’s surface resembles that of terrestrial planets such as Mars, Venus or the Earth, yet its nearest neighbors are the gaseous Jovian planets such as Uranus or Neptune. In fact, Pluto’s orbit is so erratic that it led many scientists to initially believe that it originated elsewhere in space and the Sun’s gravity pulled it in.
These qualities have challenged the scientific view of Pluto’s status as a planet for years. It wasn’t until the discovery of Eris in 2005, one of many increasingly identified trans-Neptunian objects (objects beyond the planet Neptune), that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) defined criteria for classifying planets.
With Eris and other trans-Neptunian objects sharing similar characteristics with Pluto, the definition for dwarf planets was created, and Pluto got downgraded in 2006.
So what are dwarf planets, how do they differ from “true” planets and what are their characteristics?
The History of Dwarf Planets
A dwarf planet is a celestial body that almost meets the definition of a “true” planet. According to the IAU, which sets definitions for planetary science, a planet must:
- Orbit the Sun.
- Have enough mass to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium and assume a nearly round shape.
- Dominate its orbit and not share it with other objects.
Dwarf planets, along with not being moons or satellites, fail to clear the neighborhoods around their orbits. This is the primary reason why Pluto lost its status: because it shares part of its orbit with the Kuiper belt, a dense region of icy space bodies.
Based on this definition, the IAU has recognized five dwarf planets: Pluto, Eris, Makemake, Haumea, and Ceres. There are four more planetary objects*, namely Orcus, Sedna, Gonggong and Quaoar, that the majority of the scientific community recognize as dwarf planets.
Six more could be recognized in the coming years, and as many as 200 or more are hypothesized to exist in the Outer Solar System in the aforementioned Kuiper belt.
Ceres is the earliest known and smallest of the current category of dwarf planets. Previously classified as an asteroid in 1801, it was confirmed to be a dwarf planet in 2006. Ceres lies between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt, and it is the only dwarf planet that orbits closest to Earth.
Here is a brief introduction to the most recognized dwarf planets:
|Name||Region of the|
|Orcus||Kuiper belt (plutino)||247||4.75||910||26%||1|
|Pluto||Kuiper belt (plutino)||248||4.74||2377||68%||5|
|Haumea||Kuiper belt (12:7)||285||4.53||1560||≈ 45%||2|
|Quaoar||Kuiper belt (cubewano)||289||4.51||1110||32%||1|
|Makemake||Kuiper belt (cubewano)||306||4.41||1430||41%||1|
|Gonggong||Scattered disc (10:3)||554||3.63||1230||35%||1|
Interesting Facts about Dwarf Planets
Here are a few interesting facts about the dwarf planets discovered in our solar system:
Ceres loses 6kg of its mass in steam every second
The Herschel Space Telescope observed plumes of water vapor shooting up from Ceres’ surface; this was the first definitive observation of water vapor in the asteroid belt. This happens when portions of Ceres’ icy surface warm up and turn into steam.
A day on Haumea lasts 3.9 hours
Haumea has a unique appearance due to its rotation, which is so rapid that it compresses the planet into an egg-like shape. Its rotational speed and collisional origin also make Haumea one of the densest dwarf planets discovered to date.
Makemake was named three years after its discovery in 2005
Makemake’s discovery close to Easter influenced both its name and nickname. Before being named after the creator of humanity and god of fertility in the mythos of the Rapa Nui (the native people of Easter Island), Makemake was nicknamed “Easter bunny” by its discoverer Mike Brown.
Eris was once considered for the position of the 10th planet
Eris is the most massive dwarf planet in the solar system, exceeding Pluto’s mass by 28%. As such, it was a serious contender to become the tenth planet but failed to meet the criteria set out by the IAU.
Pluto is one-third ice
The planet’s composition makes up two-thirds rock and one-third ice, mostly a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. One day on Pluto is 153.6 hours, approximately 6.4 Earth days, making it one of the slowest rotating dwarf planets.
Exploratory Missions and New Planets on the Horizon
With newer technology rapidly available to the scientific community and new exploratory missions getting more data and information about trans-Neptunian objects, our understanding of dwarf planets will increase.
Nestled in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the asteroid Hygiea remains a controversy. Hygiea is the fourth largest object in the asteroid belt behind Ceres, Vesta, and Pallas and ticks all the boxes necessary to be classified as a dwarf planet.
So what’s holding back Hygiea’s confirmation as a dwarf planet? The criterion for being massive enough to form a spherical shape is in contention; it remains unclear if its roundness results from collision/impact disruption or its mass/gravity.
Along with Hygiea, other exciting dwarf planets could be soon discovered. Here is a quick rundown of some serious contenders:
Discovered in 2004, it is a trans-Neptunian object in the Kuiper belt, approximately 850 kilometers in diameter. As of 2018, it is located about 44.8 astronomical units from the Sun. Salacia’s status is in contention because its planetary density is arguable. It is uncertain if it can exist in hydrostatic equilibrium.
(307261) 2002 MS4
With an estimated diameter of 934±47 kilometers, 2002 MS4 is comparable in size to Ceres. Researchers need more data to determine whether 2002 MS4 is a dwarf planet or not.
(55565) 2002 AW197
Discovered at the Palomar Observatory in 2002, it has a rotation period of 8.8 hours, a moderately red color (similar to Quaoar) and no apparent planetary geology. Its low albedo has made it difficult to determine whether or not it is a dwarf planet.
Varda takes its name after the queen of the Valar, creator of the stars, one of the most powerful servants of almighty Eru Iluvatar in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional mythology. Varda’s status as a dwarf planet is uncertain because its size and albedo suggest it might not be a fully solid body.
(532037) 2013 FY27
This space object has a surface diameter of about 740 kilometers. It orbits the Sun once every 449 years. Researchers need more data on the planet’s mass and density to determine if it is a dwarf planet or not.
(208996) 2003 AZ84
It is approximately 940 kilometers across its longest axis, as it has an elongated shape. This shape is presumably due to its rapid rotation rate of 6.71 hours, similar to that of other dwarf planets like Haumea. Like Varda, it remains unknown if this object has compressed into a fully solid body and thus remains contentious amongst astronomers regarding its planetary status.
*Note: The IAU officially recognizes five dwarf planets. We include four additional dwarf planets widely acknowledged by members of the scientific community, especially amongst leading planetary researchers like Gonzalo Tancredi, Michael Brown, and William Grundy. There are many more potential dwarf planets not listed here that remain under investigation.
Razor Thin: A New Perspective on Earth’s Atmosphere
Earth’s atmosphere is thousands of miles long, but only a fraction can sustain life. Here’s a look at how small Earth’s habitable zone is.
Razor Thin: A New Perspective on Earth’s Atmosphere
Earth is the only known planet that sustains life. Its atmosphere provides us with oxygen, protects us from the Sun’s radiation, and creates the barometric pressure needed so water stays liquid on our planet.
But while Earth’s atmosphere stretches for about 10,000 km (6,200 miles) above the planet’s surface, only a thin layer is actually habitable.
This graphic, inspired by Andrew Winter, shows just how small Earth’s “habitable zone” is, using the state of Florida as a point of reference.
Earth’s Like an Onion: It Has Layers
Our planet’s atmosphere is made up of a unique cocktail of gases—roughly 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, with trace amounts of water, argon, carbon dioxide, and other gases.
It’s separated into five different layers:
- Exosphere: The uppermost layer of our atmosphere that melds into outer space.
- Thermosphere: Begins at around 80 km (50 miles) above sea level and extends to approximately 600 km (372 miles), reaching temperatures as high as 2,000°C (3,600°F).
- Mesosphere: Around 30 km (19 miles) in range, meteors burn as they pass through this layer, creating “shooting stars.”
- Stratosphere: Home to the ozone layer, which is responsible for absorbing a majority of the sun’s radiation.
- Troposphere: The closest layer to ground. It stretches about 7–15 kilometers (5–10 miles) from the surface.
The troposphere makes up approximately 75-80% of the atmosphere’s mass, as it’s where most of the dust, ash, and water vapor are stored. But only a part of this layer is suitable for human life—in fact, the atmosphere’s habitable zone is so small, several mountain ranges extend beyond it.
Reaching Into Earth’s Atmosphere: Extremely High Altitudes
Elevations above 5,500 meters (18,000 ft) are considered extremely high altitude and require special equipment and/or acclimatization in order to survive. Even then, those who choose to venture to extreme heights run the risk of getting altitude sickness.
When it comes to the world’s tallest mountain ranges, the Himalayas are the highest. At their peak, Mount Everest, the Himalayas reach 8,848 m (29,000 ft) above sea level.
|Mountain range||Highest mountain||Height||Countries|
|Himalayas||Mount Everest||8,848 m||Nepal, China|
|Hindu Kush||Tirich Mir||7,708 m||Pakistan|
|Kongur Shan||Kongur Tagh||7,649 m||China|
|Daxue Mountains||Mount Gongga||7,556 m||China|
|Pamir Mountains||Ismoil Somoni Peak||7,495 m||Tajikistan|
|Kakshaal Too||Jengish Chokusu||7,439 m||China, Kyrgyzstan|
|Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains||Gyala Peri||7,294 m||China|
|Kunlun Mountains||Chakragil||6,760 m||China|
|Cordillera de la Ramada||Mercedario||6,720 m||Argentina|
|Tian Shan||Xuelian Feng||6,627 m||China|
|Hindu Raj||Buni Zom||6,542 m||Pakistan|
|Cordillera Occidental||Chimborazo||6,263 m||Ecuador|
|Alaska Range||Denali||6,191 m||USA|
|Saint Elias Mountains||Mount Logan||5,959 m||Canada|
|Eastern Rift mountains||Mount Kilimanjaro||5,895 m||Tanzania|
|Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta||Pico Cristóbal Colón||5,700 m||Colombia|
|Caucasus Mountains||Mount Elbrus||5,642 m||Russia|
|Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt||Pico de Orizaba||5,636 m||Mexico|
|Alborz||Mount Damavand||5,610 m||Iran|
|Yun Range||Jade Dragon Snow Mountain||5,596 m||China|
|Bogda Shan||Bogda Peak||5,445 m||China|
|Cordillera Oriental||Ritacuba Blanco||5,410 m||Colombia|
|Armenian Highlands||Mount Ararat||5,137 m||Turkey|
|Rwenzori Mountains||Mount Stanley||5,109 m||Congo, Uganda|
Despite the dangers of extreme altitude, hundreds of mountaineers attempt to climb Mount Everest each year. On Everest, the region above 8,000 m (26,000 feet) is referred to as the “death zone,” and climbers have to bring bottled oxygen on their trek in order to survive.
Life Beyond Earth
Earth is the only known planet with an atmosphere we can survive in. And even on Earth, certain areas are considered dead zones.
But there may be other life forms out in the galaxy that we haven’t discovered. Recent research in The Astrophysical Journal predicts there are at least 36 intelligent civilizations throughout the galaxy today.
So life may very well exist beyond Earth. It just might look a bit different than we’re used to.
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