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Re: starship-design: Mission Structure

Hi Nick, welcom back online!

> Hi everyone.

>Kelly wrote:

>>This presuposes you want and can afford a colony there.  Given one would
>>very expensive to maintain (all those long supply flights), its unlikely
>>be maintained.  Be self sufficent would require a huge population and
>>investment in equipment.  Which seems unwarrented.  We also haven't
>>identified a reason to colonize there.

>>If you did want to colonize their you wouldn't want to go to the planets.
>>Its harder to find and process raw materials their, and since you can't
>>the biosphere anyway, build a space colony.

>What's the point of a hugely expensive manned trip there and back? With
> advances in computer and robot technology, probes could surely perform this
> task at much reduced cost, and with a powerful communication laser / maser,
>wouldn't even need to make the return journey. The only motive for a manned
> flight would be an extended stay and a very thorough on-site inspection of
>the planets / stellar system. If this is to be done, I don't see that a
> permanent presence would be so much more difficult or expensive. Compared
> to the cost of shifting many millions of tons from Earth to TC within a few
> years, the cost of maintaining a presence in-system can't be all that
> astronomical. You wouldn't need a continuous flow if supply flights. Food
> and supplies would be taken on the initial flight, and a major component of
> the mission would be to set up a self sustaining biosystem, either on a
> planet or in space (I feel that a planet, despite the disadvantages of the
> gravity well, would have such psychological advantages that it should not
> be dismissed lightly). Biotechnology is one of the most rapidly advancing
> areas of knowledge right now. I think we can be fairly confident that
> within a hundred years or so 'designer' organisms could be created
> specifically for colinization purposed. A pathfinder probe sent before the
> main mission to gather data on the planet(s) might make it possible for
> plants to be engineered to survive in the 'open,' which would make
> planet-bound base easier to set up - space would not have to be made within
> the base for food crops (of course, plants/algae for oxygen generation
> would still have to kept within the base. For maximum efficiency, I would
> envisage separate, specisialist organisms designed for the two main
> purposes of food and O2).

Several good questions, some with no firm answers.

The ship as defined would be capable of a stay of several years, which should
allow fair extensive rough surveys of everything, but a much longer stay
would not be possible without a much great sized flight.  Say at least 10-100
times the scales we were talking about to sustain a more indefinate
colony/base.  Given that the origional team would be geting rather old anyway
(thus risking that they and their ship couldn't make it back) you might as
well just expect follow on flights every 5-10 years.  I can't see how we
could justify the much larger initial flight to a place we don't know of any
particular reason to want to stay at.

Avoiding any plantary bioshpere is important for 2 reasons.  First you'ld
want to study it, which teraforming it would make impossible.  Secound it
would be EXTREMLY dangerous to the crew.  Discovering a biohazard could
easily decimate the crew before they could deal with it, and make earth
unwilling to allow them to return, or other personel/supplies to be launched
to them.

In general scaling up from an expidition that could hang around for a few
years, to one that could hange around for decades would increase the scale
and cost by orders of magnitude.  Given its hard to imagine people funding
the smaller flight, the larger seems impossible to justify.  Certainly
science has never been a reason to fund projects of this scale, and the
novelty of seting up a non selfsustaining colony doesn't seem practical (and
also never worked in the past).  

As an example consider how this would play if we were discusing seting up a
colony in Antarctica.  Certainly the south polar reagions of this planet are
far more habitable then any other planet were likly to find.  Seting up the
colony would be rediculasly cheap in comparison.  But why would we set up a
city of hudreds of thosands of people (probably the smallest scale capable of
being self sustaining) in antarctica, or the deep oceans, or isolated deep
deserts, etc?  It could be technically chalenging, could be a base for
scientific investigation, be an area where a new culture could develop, make
it harder for humans to be whiped out in case of a global catastrophy, etc...
 But would any of those justify the huge initial expence to the public? 

> The other relevant technology, also undergoing rapid advancement at
> present, is virtual reality. The psychological impact of spending long
> periods of time - perhaps an entire lifetime - away from Earth would be
> diminished, perhaps eliminated, by the availability of highly realistic VR
> systems, possibly indistinguishable from reality. Updates could be sent 
> regularly from Earth to keep the simulations up-to date. TC could be kept
> no more than 10 years (or whatever the Earth-TC light distance is) behind
> Earth in this way. The idea of replacing reality with simulations might
>seem a horifc idea to us, but we must bear in mind the social and
>collective psychological changes that may well occur in our culture as VR
>is developed. I can imagine the distinction between reality and simulation
>that seems so important to us being much less of an issue in a generation
>or two (of course, colonists would still spend most of their time in the
>'real' world doing scientific research and construction work.) We must
>therefore consider the possibility that getting home might not be a major
>issue for the colonists - or at least that people for whom this would be
>true could be chosen for the mission. 

I think you overestimating the importance of VR.  Yes the could watch old VR
TV from earth, and image pictures from the teatons would be nice, but also
keep being a disturbing contrast from your situation.  I.E. things are
happening in the huge rapidly changing culture technology back on Earth and
in the solar system.  But you are stuck in a small ship/base, with a few
people, knowing your more and more professionally dated.  In fact you might
correctly suspect that back home people are building large careers out of
analizing your data.  While you are to busy to do more then collect and
forward it.

> A large enough gene pool for a
> self-sustaining colony could perhaps be squeezed into the Asimov (are we
>still calling it this?), 

I never called it that.  ;)

< snip genetic concerns>

> I really believe that some kind of colonisation is required to justify a
>manned mission of the scale we have been considering. The only benefit
>that, in my opinion, could possibly outweight the almost globally crippling
>cost of the program would be a major social advancement of humanity (a two
>starsystem culture - I have thought of many advantages of such a culture
>which I won't go into here). A colonization  mission would add so much to
>the return from the massive investment, for a proportional increase in cost
>which, for a culture presumably with colonization experience within the
>solar system, would not be excessive.

>Nick Tosh

The question is how even to justify a colony, much less how to use a colony
to justify the mission.  Siccessfully colonies are not build for the sake of
building colonies.