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Re: Engineering Newsletter

Kely Re:Timothy replies to Kelly:
> >Oh, I still say there is no significant difference between a suicide
> >and a flight where the crew are abandoned with enough supplies to last
> >their life.  I am frankly shocked that you and Tim could seriously suggest
> >such a horrific and ruthless option.  Thats like sending a team to
> >on a one way trip to the pole with no resuply and recovery runs!  "Hey
> >go there, explore, radio back what you find, and here's 50 years supplies
> >parts for you to live out you life with."
> Summarizing what I write in this letter:
> - We have to discuss what is necessary for a small colony.

If it is to be self sufficent.  It would need the resources of a small
country now.  (Thou no current country is self suficent, the current estimate
is about 7 million people to maintain current society.)

> - You can't compare Antarctica with a new planet full of life.

True, Antartica would be far more habtable and survivable, but its the best
quick example I could come up with.  Then again, since antartic is so much
easyier to settle, and we don't.  Why would we settle in another star system.

> - We (or I) don't see it as dropping people without any regard, but as a
>   organized lifetime adventure.

When the gear runs out.  It will be far less adventurous, and much more

> - Do things break down or get lost faster than one can repair or replace

In aircraft, one lists how many man-hours of work per hour of flight. For
exploration gear it could get that bad.  I'ld expect the hab deck could keep
going for a couple decades with minimal repairs.  Probably the same for the
heavy power and water systems.  The mini ships and shuttles, or ground rovers
would probably be geting tired after a few years of hard use.
> How had you planned to connect the torus-shaped hab-rail to the ship? The
> loads of a 100 metre arm should be multiplied by 100!

See my Web page.  In general the hab-deck track is attached to the outer

> >You keep missing the point that the ship doesn't need to be generating the
> >power to accellerate the fuel.  Tus it would need as much fuel for power.
> > The over all energy expenditure of the systems is irrelavant.
> It is indeed clear to me that the ship does need less power, because it
> doesn't need to accelerate its own fuel. But if the over all expenditure of
> the system is irrelevant, why is it such a problem to accelerate a
> ship:fuel combination? Such a ship would accelerate, it just needs a lot of
> engines (or one very powerful one).

That asumes the engines can provide the thrust equivelent to 1,000,000 times
their own weight.  No engines now made can do that.  The best fusion engines
I've heard specilated about can do 6 times there weight.  We could probably
expect that to go up to 20, but not a million.

> By the way I still don't see how you possibly can say that the amount of
> energy needed doesn't matter. (Yes, I know as long as we have no working
> method...)

If it doesn't need to be carried by the ship, it doesn't effect the ability
of the ship to function.  That gear can stay at home and be serviced by
facilities and people thatthe ship doesn't need to carry.

> >Would you say the same about missions to the Earths poles?  Fairly common
> >trivially cheap compared to this.  A far, far more habitable environment
> >any alien planet is likly to offer.  Yet no one has attempted to colonize
> >Antartica.  What would be the point?
> On the poles you won't find a whole new planet full of life. If we indeed
> knew there were only a few boring planets with nothing more than dust, we
> would probably go somewhere else or not go at all.

Doesn't matter for survival.  Planets with Bio-spheres would be
uninhabitable.  Actualy its unlikely any planet would be habitable to us.

> ------ Now I'm
> interested to know what would be the minimal amount of machines to start at
> a reasonable level. (say the level of our current technology, meaning
> pentium-computers, Scanning microscopes etc.)
> I've not a good idea of what to take, do you? (Has this subject been
> discussed before?)

Several times.

> - Life sustaining habitats.
> - Nano tech would be a great help for ore extracters
> - Machines to make simple metal, plastic forms.
> A lot of these machines we probably need on the Asimov during its 25 year
> mission, most computer won't last for 25 years continuous work. Taking with
> us a lot of reserve chips seems a bit too simplistic to me.
> (Even the food growing-machines are nessecary, eating 10 year old food all
> the time is yuck)

The heavy equip probably can give a 40 year service life.  Computers can do a
couple decades if well made, and are light enough so several sets of spares
can be carried.

To keep down the weight I was figuring no food rasiing on the ship.  Instead
20 years of standard frozen foods in cryo, and 20 years of concentrated
rations.  The rations are only for use for the ship to hold on for rescue if
they can't make it back.  (I was assuming a standard mission of 20 years
round trip.  Thou we may need to streach it a bit more.)

> >Again you seem to be assuming they have tremendous resources of equipment
> >time.  They would be extreamly limited, and given the dangerous nature of
> >their mission.  They are probably going to be losing stuff (people and
> >equipment)  fairly quickly.  Without Earth benificent supply runs.  They
> >going to be in bad shape fairly soon.
> How fast are they loosing too much supply in a two-way mission? Even such a
> mission should stay there for about 10 years researching planets.
> They will be loosing stuff but if it goes in the rate you are predicting,
> then every mission is suicide.

Again I was expecting shorter missions, with a 2 maybe 3 year layover in

> >> The people going there aren't the people who really want to retire,
> >> are people that are born for exploration and research. (They really
> >> My guess is that they wouldn't sit all the time in some ship or
> >> compartment,
> >> but that they would allow themselves to go to the planets surface (in
> >> spacesuits).
> >
> >Most of them will never be able to go to the planets.  After a while none
> >them will be able to as the equipment runs out.  If they have to plan on a
> >long stay, they'll have to curtail exploration fairly quickly in order to
> >save the equip for more practical uses.
> That may indeed be the case, but a 10 year exploration with 100 people is
> hardly enough to do any real research of a complete solarsystem. Not to
> mention refueling or building complete beaming-arrays (only advanced
> nano-tech or anti-matter might overcome that problem).

Which was 
one of the reasons why I was arguing against such things.

> >No its more fundamental than that.  Theirs just too many people.  The more
> >people the more corrdination efforts.  For example I worked in the Space
> >Station Freedom headquarters along with a few thousand other people.  NONE
> >us actually worked on the space station.  We worked to coordinate
> >between all the groups.  The more people, the harder it is to keep
> >informed.  On a big goverment project, everyone has to know what everyone
> >else is doing.  The more agencies, the more paths of interaction.  Since
> >governments tend to demand everything is monitored to the finest detail.
> >vast bulk (maybe 80%-90%) of the group effort is in meeting and reports to
> >keep everyone else informed.
> What if everyone informed themselves? It's like the internet, people make
> information available, othera read it and if they don't agree, they discuss
> it with the author, after discussing they come to a common conclusion (if
> not, that's because of stubbornness) which is made public again.
> Also not all people need to know about everything in such a big project,
> there are many specialized groups, but they should not loose the survey of
> the project.

Doesn't really help.  Instead of everyone getting to gether in a meeting
where everyone presents their material and discuses it.  You have people
doing the same thing one at a time over the net.

> >> Maybe even one country is too big?
> >
> >Certainly one buracracy is!
> Then there may be a big problem, because such a big project would need a
> of people.

If the project is organized by a small central group running autonomous
projects.  Its possible.  Add in multiple governments and you have a big

> >Why not radically differnt?  Life on earth is all based on a couple of
> >chemical and anitomical tricks.  There isn't anything special about those
> >tricks.  MANY others would work as well.  I imagine most life out their
> >be radically different from that here, and may have a few times as long as
> >Earth had to develop.
> The main tricks are based on storing and retreiving energy in and from
> molecules, that energy comes from the sun or from planet-heat (vulcanos).
> Are there many easy reactions that can do that back and forth. (a cycle
> reaction is probably to unlikely)-----

Lifes a lot more complicated then that.  But if it all has the same chemistry
it can counter attack.  But the subtel chemistry and biostructures that
immune defenses use could be completely wrong to deal with the threat.

> >I suggested that a few months ago and got no interest.  I suppose it moves
> >this project from a serious attempt to figure out if we could do it in
> > To a science fiction club.
> Then we should end the discussion about engines with the conclusion that
> only exotic fuels and/or enormous powerstations could make the trip
> possible. The techniques needed are only in a early theoretical stage and
> the size of what is necessary is (almost) beyond imagination and

Then what else is there left to talk about?

> >> You can never tell :) people are worring about many things (like
> >> colliding with Earth or the Asimov :))
> >> If humanity ever becomes extinct, it will be likely that it is not
> >> of natural disasters.
> >
> >Well nature is our worst enemy, but then we are very hard to kill.
> Even on a planet 10 ly away?

I'm assuming we're not stupid enough to go on the planets.

> >More to the point we could built fleets of O'Niel sized space colonies
> >for far less than this project.  And they wouldn't have the resorce,
> >and communication limits of a star colony.
> You say these colonies are dependant on Earth, what if such a disaster
> happens, then they won't have much resources any more.

The colonies in Sol space can develop rapidly and become very large.  Because
they could pay for their own way they could afford that, and pay for all the
supplies and equipment they'ld need. Should Earth be trashed somehow.  They
would at least have all their resources and the resources of the other
colonies to draw on.  What they need they could  trade the recovering Earth
civilization for.  (Or salvage from the remains.)  Unlike a couple hundred
people in another star system.  Who just have to hope the folks back home
stay rich enough to pay for the supply flights.

> >I would say just the oposite.  Life on a T.C. colony will be hard and very
> >limited.  The planets would be ignored, and the platform colony would need
> >lot of work to equip and maintain.  They would be far more dependant and
> >under the control of whoever runs the supply flights, then a similar
> >in Sol space.
> At sol there can't be planet based colonies because of the wrong gravity.
> (only Venus has a comparable g but it's a bit hot out there)
> You keep saying that it takes a lot of effort to keep the colony working, I
> wonder if that is true: Do you need to repair a lot in your house? (not a
> personal question) OK, a house on a barren planet would be different, but I
> cannot believe that everyone is constantly busy repairing things.

Again you can't use the planets.  

Of course people are constantly busy repairing or replacing everything!  What
do you think most of the efforts of civilization go toward here?  We're
constantly working to maintain and replace everything from homes and cars, to
worn out cloths and paper clips.  Except here we have a trmendous industrial
advantage due to the scale of those operations.  On a colony world it would
be harder, and take longer.  We'ld be forced to try to keep old equipment
runing that really should be replaced.

> >If you didn't already have the credientials,you wouldn't be offered a
> > (You would be stunned at the credentials NASA can require for astrounauts
> >that only get to fly every yeear or three.  On the other hand the turn
> >rate among the astronuate is pretty high.  They are highly competative
> >people.  After they do this, they want new chalenges and get bored.
> Probably the normal astronauts are suited for such a trip. If they indeed
> want new challanges every few years, they are probably on the wrong trip.
> This trip is a carreer for life, even if you make it a two-way trip.

Who would volenteer for a trip that could take deacdes but only give them a
couple years work in the star system?  Or even worse if after that you are
abandoned in the starsystems with nothing to do but last out as long as the
ship holds out? Or worse yet, expected to slave away maintaing the thing,
like being traped in a decades long Apollo 13 mission.