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Re: Engineering Newsletter

Timothy replies to Kelly:

>I think the central difference between us is your expectation of being able
>to colonise a world and self sustain a colony or base with only a couple
>hundred people.  

Indeed, that seems to be the difference between us, Zenon has a bit other
attitude, saying that people should decide for themselves what they want (to
which I do not agree completely but also do not disagree completely, it's
like smoking, it's bad but not bad enough (No... I don't smoke)). Where
Zenon and I do agree is that staying at TC may be less dangerous than flying
all the way back home.

>Currently a self sustained society needs millions of people to keep going and
>cities full of hardware.  I might be willing to accept that we might be able
>to do it with tens or hundreds of thousands of people in 50 years; but not
>hundreds, and certainly not with what a ship could carry.

I've doubts about that, a lot of things are unnessary renewed also a lot of
effort is used to develop new things, if we would maintain the current level
of technology and not innovate, we probably had a lot more spare time.


>> - 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.

What I meant is that a new planet would give us more than Antarctica could,
I don't mean that it could be a place to live, but a place to get much new
scientific information.

>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.

OK, take 1 engine that could acclerate itself and 19 other engines, than the
other 19 engines didn't need to accelerate themselves anymore so they could
use all their power to accelerate the ship.

>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.

Storing fuel doesn't need much that much facilities.

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

We would not live on those planets, we would do research in spacesuits or
with remote controlled robots. Maybe after we had figured out an anti-dote
against most diseases we might want to live there. I don't see why good
planets without live could not be used.
Slowly I'm thinking of not going to a planet to live there: The main
advantage of a planet are its ore resources, (assuming you can't live there
without spacesuits. So why would we want live on a planet at all,
space-stations could live near asteroids for their ores, the could fly away
whenever they had enough materials.
This does not mean that going to a planet to research it isn't useful!

>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.)

Aaagh 20 years of drinking porrige, OK I'm out, I won't go anymore.
Although we could bake some bread or won't flour hold for that long?
Nah, bread and porrige that still isn't eatable. 

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

That makes Kevin's array-building even more difficult. Also doing any real
research would not be possible. Besides that 3 years research for 15 years
of travel is not acceptable, it would really be a waste of man power. So I
think your idea of the goal of the mission isn't right.

>>>Most of them will never be able to go to the planets. After a while none of
>>>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.

Huh, I can't follow you, am I right that you are against refueling or
building beaming arrays? If so, than the trip may indeed become very difficult.

>> 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.

Yes, but once you have the same base things are a lot less different.

>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.

Yes, we have also very powerful medcines, take penicillin, it has a very
broad range, and can kill many diseases at once, probably a lot of
extraterrestial ones too.

>> 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?

I don't know, maybe there are other interesting subjects where everyone like
to discuss about. Or we should summarize and break up but that sounds so
hard after 1.5 years of writing.

>> Even on a planet 10 ly away?
>I'm assuming we're not stupid enough to go on the planets.

Oh yes, I forgot that :))

>> 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.  

Why not even a lifeless ones assuming they have almost the right gravitation?

>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.

A lot of things in the current civilization are too easely discarded of, a
lot of things are bought new because a single part needed to repair the
thing is more expensive or not possible to buy. Besides that a lot of
appliances aren't build to repair. I can give you dozens of examples where
an easy single repair can save a whole apparatus but you have to do it
yourself because others can't or won't repair it. Also a lot of the current
resources are use for devellopment not for reproduction. On TC we don't need
to worry how we can make faster computers or better lightbulbs for the first
few decades. So this is why I think that a lot less people are needed than
you suggest. The things that really need to be renewed are a lot less and so
you need a lot less people.

>> 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.

So now we do not only have a no engine but we also don't have a crew who
does want to fly the ship, if there was an engine. This discussion gets
easier by the minute :) I guess that we also don't have anyone who wants to
build it if it was possible.