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Re: starship-design: Mission structure
> From: Nick Tosh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Kelly, I just don't agree with you. I think that setting up a permanent
> colony would be a small matter in comparison to getting a massive
> exploration vessel to a nearby star system. The construction, biotechnology
> and genetic engineering (not to mention entertainment and psychological
> health) technologies are likely to advance much more rapidly in the future
> than relativistic speed propulsion technologies, which can surely have no
> application apart from the one we intend. We have been focussing on how the
> nearly impossible task of interstellar propulsion can be accomplished, but
> perhaps we've given insufficient consideration to the technologies which
> will continually advance due to a host of other applications. We should be
> thinking about how these can be used to our advantage. It is essential to
> consider the nature of technological advance when 'planning' future
> projects. What will have to be developed specially (expensive), and what
> will be available in any case (good value)?
> This is, of course, a matter of opinion, as neither of us knows for certain
> what areas of technology will be most developed in the coming decades.
> Speaking for myself, when I consider the technology required for setting up
> a completely self sustaining colony independent from Earth, I feel far more
> optimistic about the feasability of the concept than I do when I read about
> maser powered ion engines and the like (fascinating though such ideas are).
> This is a subject which has to be thought out in much more depth (as does
> the question of whether a colony is desirable, which, being a much more
> subjective issue, I feel we can leave until we have decided whether it is
There was some discussion on the mission types rather long ago
(mostly, my quarrel with Kelly on one-way missions :-).
I want to sum up briefly my opinion on this matter:
- Note that the prerequsite for starting the interstellar
mission is prior start of the COLONIZATION OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM -
i.e., at least establishment of permanent, ALMOST self-sustaining
bases on the Moon and Mars, possibly some small space bases/colonies,
routine interplanetary manned trips, at least, say, within
the orbit of Jupiter, asteroid mining facilities and factories.
Without this, construction in space of the huge starship,
capable of sustaining significant crew
without constant resupply for tens of years, as well as
the solar-system-wide supporting propulsion system
(huge orbiting masers/lasers, etc.) is simply not possible.
Hence, the technology for building significantly large
self-sustaining manned bases in space will be available
at the time, that is, building of the space colony or
long-duration self-sustaining base in another star system
will be quite feasible and much easier than we may think today.
- However, building somewhere. light-years away, a really
independent colony starting new permanent human habitat there
seems still a huge undertaking for me. I think, to establish
something of the sort will require a whole flotilla of starships
and tens of years of construction of all necessary infrastructure,
possibly including terraforming of some planet.
- Therefore, a much more realistic solution for me is
establishing a LONG-DURATION OUTPOST BASE.
That is, it calls for a so-called ONE-WAY mission.
What is a difference, from the point of view of the crew,
between the one-way mission and the colonization mission?
There is a SINGLE difference: there is NO PROCRERATION
on the one-way mission. Only this, nothing more!
Hence, from technical point of view, the one-way mission
is simpler and requires much smaller resources, becoming
feasible in the "early colonization of the solar system"
conditions outlined above. Technically, the one-way mission:
-- can have much smaller crew (as the questions of genetic diversity
and all sociotechnical specialization variety are absent);
-- requires no provisions for rearing and educating children,
which include additional crew, much more elaborate
environmental control, education facilities, much more
storage (or on-board industry) for all things for
children and young;
-- the outpost does not have to be indefinitely sustainable -
it would suffice to stay operational till the longest
possible natural life of the crew, which means some 50+ years
only, certainly less than 100.
- The outpost may be later transformed into a permanent colony,
if the conditions in the target system show to be good enough
and the technological advances within the solar system during
the time of the trip and initial exploration phase (this means
some 20 years of Earth time...) will allow for sending follow-up
starships with enough resources to establish a colony.
So, I thing that the course of events will be like this:
- robotic "pathfinder" probe (testing the starship technology
and preliminary assessing of the conditions for subsequent stages);
- one-way outpost construction mission;
- possible follow-up colonization expeditions.