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Re: starship-design: Mission structure

> From: Nick Tosh <101765.2200@compuserve.com>
> 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
> possible!).

I agree, but in one sence the two techs are locked together.  current
estimates are that it requres (with current tech) a population of several
million people to maintain an independant, selfsustaining, industrial
society.  (Obviousl a pre industrial society take far fewer, but couldn't
survive as a space colony.)  

I'm willing to assume for discusion, that high tech in the mid 21st century
could lower that to 100,000.  But given that our current ship designs can
carry less than a thousand people at hellish cost.  This two order of
magnitude passenger/cost jump would be EXTREAMLY hard to justify.  If you
assume the tech is much higher than that (i.e. lowering the number of people
need to sustain the society), you have to assume it invalidates a lot of the
assumptions of our basic designs and mission concepts.

So, a colony stays outside the bounds of the possible.  Beyond that we'ld
have to argue about why they'ld want to set up a colony in a place they know
nothing about (except its hard to get to and support)?