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In this speech, retired U.S. Air Force General Steven Kwast (ostensibly fired for promoting a U.S. Space Force over objections from the outgoing Secretary of the Air Force) suggests the U.S. space strategy is not moving in the right direction(s). He then makes several staggering claims about the potential benefits from a proper space strategy which would benefit the entire human race (not just one nation under God).

The claim which is most difficult for me to fathom is that in the future, we can use space to "[provide] fresh water for every human without the need for aquifers or pipes." I figured that with as many Elon Musk fans as are on this site, maybe someone would have heard of this? If it is fiction/already debunked, I would like to know that too.

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  • $\begingroup$ I tried to add spaceforce as a tag to this question, but I do not have sufficient reputation to make it happen. Anyone game to do it, let me know and I will make the question a community wiki... $\endgroup$ – brethvoice Feb 27 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that spaceforce is a valid tag anyway, he made the speech after he had anything to do with it. $\endgroup$ – GdD Feb 27 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD many people hope Kwast becomes the new Chief of the U.S. Space Force. Without a spaceforce in place to guide national strategy, Kwast fears China will lead the way and "profit from the multi-trillion dollar space marketplace while simultaneously acquiring global domination." Is anyone on here tracking any of this, or is it just taboo to discuss because we are an international forum? $\endgroup$ – brethvoice Feb 27 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ There's no taboo @brethvoice, questions get asked that the community thinks are worth asking. Take from that what you will... $\endgroup$ – GdD Feb 27 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ @brethvoice We have had questions on the Space Force before, but we just used military and united-states rather than creating a new tag. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Feb 27 at 21:08
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The article says that the page has been adapted from Kwast's speech, so it's possible someone transcribed something wrong or misunderstood. Taking an excerpt:

With the right vision and strategy for space, America can develop the means to:

  • Deliver unlimited, clean, affordable energy to every human on the planet without power lines or terrestrial power plants.
  • Provide fresh water for every human without the need for aquifers or pipes.
  • Build a new low-cost internet that is designed to be secure so that every human can connect, share, and learn with assured privacy and data safety.
  • Defend Earth against small asteroids like the one that hit Russia in 2013.
  • Develop a deterrence capability that will render ICBMs and nuclear weapons useless relics of the past.
  • Revolutionize manufacturing by acquiring and deploying resources from space and in space.
  • Provide a shelter in space where we can protect and preserve people, seeds, and life-saving medicines, so humanity can recover from any unexpected contamination, illness, or disaster.
  • Design defense capabilities to preserve our economy, our people, and our sovereignty, and to allow our allies to defend themselves instead of sacrificing American lives.
  • Reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters by managing the eyes of hurricanes and the funnels of tornados with energy from space.

While I don't agree that these all would be workable the potential is at least there, with one exception which is the one about fresh water. I really don't have any idea what he's talking about there. A far-off possibility could be mining water from asteroids, but frankly that's nonsense as we have plenty on this planet already and it wouldn't deliver water to people's homes. We don't need more water, just better water management.

So my guess is that someone's got something from his speech wrong.

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    $\begingroup$ GdD, is it possible he is thinking about water recycling systems developed for space becoming commercially viable for Earth use? If possible, that would theoretically eliminate the need for aquifers and pipes to homes, assuming you replace the water loss due to inefficiency with shipped water. However, I'm not sure why we would go as far as to eliminate pipes where they already exist, though maybe he's just thinking new pipelines don't have to be created. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Feb 27 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ Clean water isn't really that big a problem @brethvoice, we don't need anything radical, we just need to stop wasting it, and manage our aquifers better. $\endgroup$ – GdD Feb 27 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ It's possible @called2voyage, although every single other one of those bullets has to do with something taking place in or being delivered from space. Water recycling would be a big departure from that theme. It's hard to see why you'd need a space force for that. $\endgroup$ – GdD Feb 27 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ cheap energy means we could run dehumidifiers, and drink the water from those $\endgroup$ – JCRM Feb 27 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds like he just noticed how excited everybody gets whenever there's a report of finding water on Mars (or elsewhere), and failed to understand that the reason it's exciting has nothing to do with needing the water here on Earth... $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Feb 28 at 14:23
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The speech is available in full here: https://dc.hillsdale.edu/News/Latest-News/The-Urgent-Need-for-a-U-S-Space-Force/ It's extremely general and non-technical. He talks about getting water from the Moon (!) at 20:25 into the video but does not discuss how.

To sum up, there were no specific technical proposals in the speech, about water or anything really. I would characterize it as simply a call for action to create the Space Force based on his concern that China will seize control of space otherwise.

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One possibility is converting seawater into potable water. Given for the sake of argument there is "unlimited" energy, it could be used to power desalinization plants. However, I do not see how to get water to homes and businesses without some type of pipes and infrastructure.

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What does space have to do with water for every human? I'm not sure what specifically Steven Kwast is thinking of, but perhaps one or some combination of:

  1. Already farmers use space satellite multispectral photos to decide how much fertilizer and additional water to apply to crops. Better resolution, more frequent satellite passes, and more timely data releases could help them better control watering and fertilizing, reducing the amount of overwatering / underwatering / overfertilizing. "How satellites are making agriculture more efficient"; "Satellite imagery boom for farming" Because most water used by humanity is used for irrigation "CDC: Agricultural Water", and agricultural pollution is one of the main contributors to water pollution "Wikipedia: Agricultural pollution", more precise control of watering and fertilizing could free up a lot of drinkable water for direct human consumption, without any new distribution pipes or tapping into any new aquifers.
  2. There seem to be several ways to collect water that technically "work" without pipes, but currently those ways are infeasable because they require too much energy. "In places where water is scarce, could a dehumidifier collect water from the air that would be potable?"; "Thirsty MOF sucks more water from air"; "Water-From-Air Technologies Can Help Solve Drinking Water Scarcities"; "Water harvesting cube". Given the previous parts of his speech ("unlimited, clean, affordable energy to every human on the planet"), techniques that were prevously unfeasable because of energy costs may become feasible.
  3. As more and more people go to space, more effort will go to develop better ways of recycling and purifying water for those people -- perhaps even people on Earth could use those same techniques, without installing any new pipelines, when they have easy access to water that is not potable (they have water pipelines that are currently contaminated, or they live next to an ocean of salty water, or etc.) to purify that water.
  4. Many people predict in the distant future, far more people will be living off-Earth than on Earth. "Asteroids can also support over one million times the amount of capacity the earth can sustain for human life." -- Steven L. Kwast, "America's Spacefaring Future" It's far more efficient to supply to people off-planet with water in the form of chunks of ice from asteroids, comets, water-ice-rich moons, etc. rather than shipping liquid water through some sort of astronomically long pipes.
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As this seems to be at best a thought experiment, I might make the guess that he might be tying together control of space with weather control (because after all, space and the sky are all off in the same direction). If that assumption was correct (which I couldn't speak for one way or the other) then controlling space means you could control the rain, which is a primary source of clean water. The only difficulty with that is that history has shown that governments divide humanity, so if the US were to win the control of space, guess where the abundant fresh water would be.

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    $\begingroup$ Is there any evidence from the speech that "he might be tying together control of space with weather control"? You could well be right since rain doesn't need pipes, but I didn't hear that in the speech. I might have missed it, I didn't listen to every word of it. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Feb 29 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble, this is entirely conjecture on my part. I was just trying to posit a reason why he might have come up with that particular conclusion. $\endgroup$ – Michael Jordan Feb 29 at 15:11
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This is from a friend of mine who is in the space industry, so I am posting on his behalf:

"I frankly don't believe that Earth will ever be drinking water from space (unless it is luxury water for rich people). The reality is that water from asteroids or the moon will be used primarily for rocket fuel and sustaining colonies in space. Bringing water back to a planet that is 70% water makes no sense at all."

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  • $\begingroup$ For context, here is the question as I posed it to my friend (with a link to this page): "Please answer if you can, or send along to anyone in the know about fresh water supplies minus aquifers and pipes and what that has to do with space..." $\endgroup$ – brethvoice Apr 3 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ The surface of the oceans is 70 % of the planet's surface. But you cant drink a surface, you need a volume. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Apr 3 at 16:22

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