TV scientist Brian Cox says we need to move industry away from earth.
TV scientist Brian Cox says we need to move industry away from earth.

Billionaires’ plan to ‘flip civilisation’

TV SCIENTIST Brian Cox says there's a solution to Australia's energy crisis, and it's different to anything we've heard from our politicians so far.

The popular British astrophysicist, now touring Down Under, says cutting back on our energy use by turning off lights and air conditioning is not the answer. And neither is commissioning extra power plants.

Instead, he says we should move the production of energy away from Earth and into outer space, and our planet should become purely residential.

"There's enough metal, metals, in the asteroid belt to build a skyscraper 8000 stories tall and cover the earth in it," Cox told "Imagine that. Essentially, an unlimited amount of resources sat there in the asteroids.

"We've been to the asteroids already. There are companies now, particularly on the west coast of America, but also in Luxembourg in Europe, that are focused on mining those asteroids.

"So we're right on the edge of flipping our civilisation to a thing that just exists on the surface of a single planet to a thing that exists in a solar system, and that's the first step to building a multi-planetary civilisation."

Cox said the idea may sound fantastical but "it isn't science-fiction" - rich entrepreneurs including Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have already set the wheels in motion for the idea to become reality.

Professor Brian Cox says the way to solve our energy and climate crisis is to move energy production into space. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Professor Brian Cox says the way to solve our energy and climate crisis is to move energy production into space. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Amazon CEO Bezos, who has now surpassed Bill Gates as richest man in the world, owns a Seattle-based rocket company called Blue Origin, which manufactures spacecraft that can fly into the atmosphere, return to Earth and be used again.

These vehicles - and those made by others - are transforming the economics of space travel, which could change everything about how the world operates.

"The reason that (Bezos) is putting his money and his time and his energy into building rockets is that he thinks that the way to save our planet, the way to protect and grow our civilisation is to move off the planet, or move certain things off the planet.

"He said to me that he would like to see, in his lifetime, the Earth zoned residential ... so if you imagine a planet that's zoned residential and all the energy intensive stuff and resource intensive stuff that currently we do here on the Earth, which damages it, is moved off. We do more of it than we do now - but we do it off the planet."

Cox, presenter of the popular Wonders of ... BBC series, says our ultimate goal should be to use more energy, not less. This will allows us "expand civilisation", improving living conditions in developing countries and advancing in technology and science.

"We've already industrialised space, if you think about it," adds the professor. "We all use communication satellites all the time, we're used to seeing television pictures beamed around the world, we use satellite navigation systems, our weather forecasting comes primarily now from satellites. But the next step is to really begin to build heavy industry up there, start going getting the resources that are available beyond Earth and converting them into things ... And I think it's an extremely exciting time.

"What sort of world do we want to live in? We want to live in a world I think where the future is more interesting than the past. Where we're doing things that are more interesting than we used to do.

"There's a bit of a tension at the moment because in expanding our capabilities and our civilisation we're at the stage now where we are damaging this world that we rely on. So we can't carry on doing that. So how do you resolve that tension?

"The tension can be resolved by doing less, which is not a future that I want. I want to do more but I want to protect the planet at the same time. Well the answer is, you do more off the planet."

While some space enthusiasts may want to leave Earth and colonise Mars or the Moon, Cox says most people would favour the lifestyle here. That's why he and other global leaders in technology are pushing for industry to move into space - not humans.

Unless of course, you want to be one of the pioneers, overseeing our new space mines.