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RE: starship-design: Numbers needed for Colonization

On Wed, 29 Apr 1998, Christoph Kulmann wrote:

> Hi Bjorn,
> >And YES a planet is maybe NOT neccesary for the colony to survive, but 
> it
> >probably IS neccisary for the endevour to make "economic sense" even in
> >the long run. (If the target star system doesn't have planetary bodies 
> you
> >wanna exploit, why go there???)
> ==> A very, very good idea...

Yes Indeed... :-)

Personnaly, I doubt if humanity will even be prepared to pay the cost of
much more than a "plant the flag" mission as long as there is not at least
SOME ideas for how to exploit other star systems availible...

> >> 
> >> Which brings us back to the need for survey. Without a good prior 
> survey, we
> >> won't have any idea what we need to colonize a planet with. Face it, 
> some
> >> amount of Terraforming is going to be necessary no matter how Earth 
> like a
> >> planet may seem. 
> >
> >Actually I disagree with this... It's probably MUCH more easy to adapt 
> the
> >colonists than the planet if the changes are small. For exsample with
> >Vaccines, imunization or other "artificial" bio-medical solutions then 
> to
> >try to change the whole microbiological Eco-system of the planet. This 
> may
> >of course also have large social/moral/ethical concerns as well as
> >practical problems. (For one thing, it might be inposible for "Earth"
> >humans and "colony" humans to interact personally w/o risk of plagues.)
> >
> >

First, I'm NOT a biologist so this is in kind of "laymans" terms...

> ==> As a biologist, it seems rather strange to me how many people think 
> of colonizing a terran world with it's own biosphere. In my opinion one 
> of two things will happen:
> 1. The alien ecosphere and the genetic/biochemical composition of it's 
> species is closely similar to ours; this is the worst case, for it means 
> that the colonists will encounter millions of microorganisms and other 
> small creatures AGAINST wich they don't have any resistancy, but FOR 
> wich they are the most ideal place to start their own colony...
> Look at Africa for similar scenarios and remember HOW LONG it might take 
> to develope a vaccine even against a virus known in as much detail as 
> HIV.

1) assuming how FAST medical/biochemical reserch is going at the moment
(IMO), I do not think that it'll be imposible somehow "give" the colonists
some kind of resistency. There are many (Hypothetical) ways to do this,
for example it might be posible to introduce "local" genes concerning
Imuno systems trough genetic engineering... I'm sure there are LOTs of
others as well... Even so, there probably WILL be setbacks and thoughout
it's history diseases propably WILL be a large threat to the colony, BUT i
personnaly think that the advantadges of using a "terran" world are worth
the risks!

There are also two other important points. 

1) Diseases and parasites are Often (IIRC) quite particular about their
hosts. (We don't get infected by contact with other sick Earth mammals
very often. Do we???)

2) Most diseases are usually EITHER very virulent OR very deadly, but
usually not both. (IIRC) That would NOT usually be in their Evolutionary
interest... This should give the colonists the neccesary time to develop
imunno systems capable of defending them. This will probably have some
cost in lives lost, but i still feel it would work with good medical care,
quarantine procedures etc...

> And still on a terran world there is the possibilty of large (say 
> T-Rex-sized) predators which don't make any racial difference in 
> choosing their dinner...

I would say that this is the least of our problems... There are LOTs of
large dangerous predators on Earth, but most of them are on the way to
becoming extinct! I'm perfectly confident that we could do the same on
purpose on another world that we have managed to do by "accident" here.
When it comes to large life-forms, I'd be much more concerned with what
we'd do to their chances of survival then the other way around. (Unless
they are Sentient of course... That's an entirly different matter.)

> 2. If the alien biosphere is fundamentally different form ours (e.g. a 
> planet with microbial ecosystems miles beneath the surface or a surface 
> environment with a different temperature regime, much higher pressures 
> or a different atmospheric composition) then there is no problem with 
> contamination; but why should we found a colony on a world as 
> comfortable to humans as the entrance to Hell??

Because as long as it produces MOST of what we need to survive (food,
water, air) it's a lot Cheaper/less industrially tasking than terraforming
a "dead" planet... $$$ not Comfort is likely to be the deciding factor

> In case of colonization, it seems much better to choose a Mars-like, but 
> sterile Planet/Moon. I think its much, much easier just to warm a planet 
> and install a thicker atmosphere than to fight against alien lifeforms 
> every single day. You can still explore the aliens from your base on a 
> terraformed world.

Sure, I agree that it is EASYIER... But it's also MUCH more resource
intensitive and mor expensive... You'll have to transport a LOT of extra
payload to Terraform a world even if you can use raw material from the
target star system... (Mostly biological stuff, i would guess)

Besides, a planet with a long Ecological history is much more likely to
have more interesting resourses for exploitation. (I.e. the different
Chemical conpounds there will be much more complex than the simple Oxides
& silicates comon to lifeless worlds.) 

> Christoph
> P.S.: in all other points, you are right.
> ______________________________________________________
> Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com

Just a few thoughts...


PS: If we're just gona Terraform a lifeless "rock". Why just not pick
Mars??? Makes all this several LY star-voyages kinda unneccesary...
(and there are LOTs of other candidates in the solar system as well.)