[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

starship-design: New Starship Classes

Hello Lee,

Thank you for your answer.

I was surprised about your introdcution of a new ship called Pahtfinder. 
It's a good idea, but I strongly disagree with your proposed crew of 10 
- 20 specialists.
First of all, even a relatively small ship would still need decades for 
a two-way mission to a neighbouring star system. And no matter how 
thoroughly you plan a mission, there is always the risk of unexpected 
events. And for a small crew, a loss of five members in an accident 
might deal a severe blow to the whole mission. But for a ship the size 
of the Explorer class, with a crew around 700, such a loss could be far 
easier compensated by the rest, because a large crew offers a much 
better and more stable social base from which to operate.

The second objection is just an innocent question: What should 
Pathfinder do? Just monitor an alien star system? A robot probe could do 
the same job - and much, much cheaper. Especially if you consider that 
most of our neighbouring stars won't show any signs of life, I think 
it's wiser to send unmanned probes first. Imagine the following 
"Exploration crews failed to find life in the 20 nearest star systems - 
NASA Directors thrown in jail for wasting 100,000,000,000,000 Dollars"

To send an Explorer class ship would only be justified if something very 
special is found by one of the Pathfinders:

1. A terrestrial planet or moon with a Gaia-style biosphere and possibly 
MILLIONS of alien species,
2. A lifeless, but still Earth-like world suitable for colonization and 
eventual terraforming, and thus worth further investigation,
3. Something really strange, e.g. an alien artifact, left behind by an 
exploration crew in the distant past, which couldn't be recovered by the 
Pathfinder probe.

For your proposed sequence of ships (Pathfinder -> Explorer -> Caravan), 
I think it would be helpful to view them in the historical context in 
which they are most likely to happen.

1. A small and relatively fast interstellar probe (WITHOUT any human 
crew!!) could be launched within our own lifetime (well, at least 
mine...). If they are designed for a one-way mission and equipped with 
high-resolution cameras and powerful senders, multiple star
systems could be screaned simultanously. So we will have plenty of data 
to imagine what is "out yonder". If there is sufficient public demand, 
this could be achieved by a combined international effort.

2. If one of the three conditions mentioned above is met, we can start 
preparing an Explorer mission. Because an Explorer Starship will 
inevitably be a giant vessel costing almost unimaginable sums of money, 
we need a large, planetary-scale economy (called "Type I" by
Kardashev). That means we need a world government, ore mines on several 
asteroids and one or two cities on Mars and dozens of interplanetary 
ships cruising around - in other words, a situation unlikely to be 
reached before the next 200 years.
And even then we must take greatest care that the mission will be 
successful even under the worst circumstances. To understand what I 
mean, let's consider the example of a powerful nation engaged in a 
high-tech war. Even if they succeed in blowing their enemies into 
oblivion, they will suffer dearly - not from physical destruction, but 
from the loss of a far too large portion of their national whealth. Even 
a small but sophisticated anti-aircraft missile costs more than most 
people can spend within 10 years, only to be shot once and never seen 
again...In war, you literally throw your money out of all windows.
Now return to our Explorer craft. If such a vast ship is build, it means 
an immense strain even for a powerful civilization. We construct and 
launch it in the good hope it will return something useful...All right, 
if it does indeed. But then, if contact to the ship is broken and never 
again resumed, if the ship is lost in interstellar space, all the money 
invested will be gone - for nothing. Such a loss of resources may crush 
even a global economy.
So we should be careful not to undertake such a massive project too 
(That's also the reason why I am HIGHLY sceptical about your mission 
plan - I hardly believe that an Explorer Starship can be launched as 
early as 2050)

3. Now to your Caravan colony ship. If you plan a different class for 
colonization, that implies it will be several times larger than 
Explorer. But to make things worse, for a really effective
colonization task (well, setting up a city of 1 million inhabitants and 
all the supporting infrastructure) you need more than one ship - I 
think, four of them is still a conservative guess. Then again, the 
inevitable question arises: Who in Heaven's Name can afford PAYING
For interstellar colonization, we need more than a global economy - we 
need a stable, Solar System wide community, with several billion people 
living and working outside Earth: on Mars, the Asteroids, Ganymed, etc. 
In other words, we need an economic basis approaching
something like a stellar civilization (Type II in Kardashev's model). To 
be honest, this will take at least one or two MILLENNIA to achieve.

But then, a very simple question arises: Why bother with a class of 
ships which will only be launched in an era as distant as the Roman 
Don't you agree that engineers of the 4th Millennium will have much more 
sophisticated technologies from which to build a starship?


I hope my arguments don't cause any disillusionment for anyone. But as 
far as starship design is concerned, I think it is important to stick to 
the ground and don't make steps too fast. From the first time I found 
your LIT-pages I was fascinated by your concepts because they are 
reasonable - they don't move too far into the realm of Science Fiction. 
But if you plan interstellar colonization before have gathered any 
experience with interstellar travel at all - Well, you will inevitably 
run into problems...

Your idea of different ship classes is a good one - but I think it is 
really wiser to send unmanned, small and relatively cheap Pathfinder 
probes first and let them do the remote sensing. Parallel to this we 
could refine the design of the Explorer class, which could be send out 
once an alien world raises our special curiosity.

It would also be helpful if someone could give a very rough overview of 
the costs of both Pathfinder/Explorer ships - so that we have a vague 
sense for the sheer dimension of this task and know how many Sponsors to 

So long

Christoph Kulmann

Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com