Can we "bootstrap" a solar system civilization by making what we need in space from stuff we find in space? BB pal Tom Kalil in the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, interviewed former NASA research physicist Dr Phillip Metzger about this very idea. From the White House blog:
In a recent article, you and your co-authors called for "affordable, rapid bootstrapping of a solar system civilization." What do you mean by "bootstrapping" in this context?
If we want to want to create a robust civilization in our solar system, more of the energy, raw materials, and equipment that we use in space has to come from space. Launching everything we need from Earth is too expensive. It would also be too expensive to send all of the factories required to manufacture everything necessary to support a solar system civilization.
Ultimately what we need to do is to evolve a complete supply chain in space, utilizing the energy and resources of space along the way. We are calling this approach "bootstrapping" because of the old saying that you have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Industry in space can start small then pull itself up to more advanced levels through its own productivity, minimizing the cost of launching things from Earth in the meantime. Obviously, this isn't going to happen overnight, but I think that it is the right long-term goal.