Let's first agree that by 2050 China will be entirely dependent on nuclear power and probably still have an engineering-heavy political leadership. As France does currently. So they'll be able and perfectly willing to build nuclear spaceships and nuclear launch cannons. Which means that cheap access to space will happen no matter what American aristocrats and lawyers want.
Personally I think it's a fantastic idea and I'm glad I'll be able to say 'just shut the fuck up' to rabid anti-human eco-zealot freaks. That just leaves open the question of whether humanity will ever WANT to go out into space before the resources of this world are completely exhausted and/or poverty, disease and ignorance have already been eradicated. The short answer to that question is: no.
Most space advocates just assume that going out into space is a good thing. Not good enough.
Helium-3: I just love the utter stupidity of this one. The justification for going into space is helium-3 for fusion, and the justification for helium-3 is going out into space. And none of these retarded cretins notice the circularity. Nor do they care that fission is so much cheaper than fusion can ever be that fusion will just never be economically viable.
Gold or other precious metals: why? What the fuck for? Seriously, we've got more than enough gold for our industrial purposes. Do we really want to go out into space to cater to some dumbass' vanity? Let's come back to mining gold in space after gold on the ocean floor has been exhausted. The ocean floor is a lot cheaper and more accessible.
Platinum and other mineral catalysts: now there's a good reason to go into space. However, we only need thousands of tonnes of platinum total, and we might find substitutes for platinum as our materials science advances, so platinum isn't a good reason to build a million tonne space delivery system.
Solar power: the sun shines 24 hours a day in space, and there's no pesky atmosphere to get in the way. That's fucking great! The only problem is we don't need solar power when we've got nuclear power plants!
Avoiding biowar: yes, biowar plagues designed and dispersed by lunatic morons working from their garages are in our future thanks to synthetic biology. One of these might even cause human extinction. Just think of what would happen if some nut created a version of HIV transmissible through the air. A great thought to warm the cockles of your heart.
So won't nuts try to escape the Earth in a panic, fleeing in droves? Yes maybe. Well, no. Why try to go out into space and then building a completely disconnected artificial life support system when you can just get on with it and build your completely disconnected artificial life support system down here on Earth? It's going to be a lot fucking cheaper and affordable!
Science and exploration: sorry buddy, this isn't a commercial reason to go out into space. Science and exploration can be used to justify absolutely everything. Hey, why not go see what's down in the Mariana Trench? For Science! Hey, why not vivisect a human being? For Science!
Intercepting nuclear missiles: this is just about the only good reason to go out into space. Without a nasty atmosphere in the way, blowing up missiles using a laser beam is ridiculously easy. The same thing for seeing them coming. The only problem is that without a nasty atmosphere in the way, kinetic kill rounds (delivered by the railguns the military is working on) are unstoppable. And protecting against nuclear missiles is a lot cheaper on Earth anyways since all you have to do is put up a cheap plastic dome around your cities. Moving your cities out into space is overkill, ridiculously expensive overkill.
Even weather, telecommunications and surveillance satellites are going to be obsoleted by UAVs and aerostats. The only thing satellites provide is rapid whole-earth coverage. And for that you need to be in low earth orbit, not geostationary or beyond orbit.
Short of preventing large asteroid collisions there just aren't any compelling reasons to go out into space in the 21st century, and probably not in the 22nd century either. And large asteroid collisions are sporadic, not guaranteed.
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