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What would an interstellar spaceship look like?

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    starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 11,556 Arc User
    patrickngo wrote: »
    brian334 wrote: »
    patrickngo wrote: »
    brian334 wrote: »
    jonsills wrote: »
    Most bacteria and viruses don't even like to cross species barriers here on Earth. Try as you might, you can't catch parvovirus or feline leukemia, much less tobacco rust or dutch elm disease. Why would you assume an alien virus, native to an entirely different evolutionary chain, would find us useful or tasty at all?

    Because assuming they are not dangerous is playing Russian Roulette. Most aren't harmful, sure, but what if one isn't?

    And such life forms need not actually be harmful, but still outcompete Terrestrial life on its home turf. Soil for planting is more than clay and sand; it is alive. To grow what we need to live a complex soil ecology must be established in direct competition for resources with the surrounding biosphere. And alien life has had time to adapt to its environment.

    It is much simpler to watch alien life, but otherwise leave it alone.

    simpler,but so is doing nothing until the sun expands and kills your homeworld.

    Because, guess what? that is a thing that is definitely going to happen (though barring some major incident, not while you're alive.)

    the process of life, of being alive, is to resist entropy. Nature is a competitive environment and species go extinct all the time. they were doing it before we came along, they'll be doing it after we're all gone.

    I'm going to give you the utilitarian argument, because that's the one a lot of self-styled 'naturalists' seem to miss.

    Manned flight isn't about taking pretty pictures, or setting records, or spectaculars. it's about the fact that our species, our civilization, including all those folks who love Nature and hate technology, can die in a single burning instant, and if we don't spread out from this single solar system, that goes from 'could' to 'will.'

    Exploration is about survival. You don't explore to take nice pictures and win nobel prizes, you explore because eventually you'll need to go there, to get out, to spread beyond the single fragile basket perched precariously on a cliff face.

    going there? means you're going to have to do that thing that Nature does-you'll have to compete with the local ecology (if there even is one), you'll have to accept that extinction happens, and accept that you don't want it to happen to YOU.

    But I don't advocate doing nothing. In fact, I am advocating going to the stars in just a few generations, once we get a handle on key technologies like a long term power supply and a stable closed biosphere.

    And while I strongly advise we not mess with alien life other than to study it, our current experience shows that only one in eight planets can harbor life. Include some large moons and the ratio is 1:30 or so. Even if life proves to be common in the universe there's going to be a lot of empty real estate waiting for development.

    well, the odds are strongly against other life being compatible with ours, even if it's a carbon/oxygen/iron based format like evolved on Earth. means the odds are strongly against anything out there having compatible enough proteins not to be a fatal poison, or having compatible enough protein structures that WE aren't fatal poison. that means if a world is 'earthlike' it's still going to be "ours versus theirs". Likely we'll have to encroach and wipe out competing biospheres anywhere that can actually handle earthlike lifeforms, and in the rarest cases,where the protein structures ARE roughly compatible, local diseases will likely be a danger to earth-descended life as well.

    It would be extremely disturbing if any aliens we encounter look just like us with maybe a few differences caused by environment. So having 4 feet or 7 feet tall human-looking aliens due to having a stronger or weaker gravity compared to Earth.
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    rattler2rattler2 Member, Star Trek Online Moderator Posts: 58,205 Community Moderator
    starkaos wrote: »

    It would be extremely disturbing if any aliens we encounter look just like us with maybe a few differences caused by environment. So having 4 feet or 7 feet tall human-looking aliens due to having a stronger or weaker gravity compared to Earth.

    Disturbing... but also kinda possible. Humanoid forms are kinda... useful in interacting with ones environment. But then again we could run into non-humanoids.

    Only time will tell.
    db80k0m-89201ed8-eadb-45d3-830f-bb2f0d4c0fe7.png?token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJzdWIiOiJ1cm46YXBwOjdlMGQxODg5ODIyNjQzNzNhNWYwZDQxNWVhMGQyNmUwIiwiaXNzIjoidXJuOmFwcDo3ZTBkMTg4OTgyMjY0MzczYTVmMGQ0MTVlYTBkMjZlMCIsIm9iaiI6W1t7InBhdGgiOiJcL2ZcL2ExOGQ4ZWM2LTUyZjQtNDdiMS05YTI1LTVlYmZkYmJkOGM3N1wvZGI4MGswbS04OTIwMWVkOC1lYWRiLTQ1ZDMtODMwZi1iYjJmMGQ0YzBmZTcucG5nIn1dXSwiYXVkIjpbInVybjpzZXJ2aWNlOmZpbGUuZG93bmxvYWQiXX0.8G-Pg35Qi8qxiKLjAofaKRH6fmNH3qAAEI628gW0eXc
    I can't take it anymore! Could everyone just chill out for two seconds before something CRAZY happens again?!
    The nut who actually ground out many packs. The resident forum voice of reason (I HAZ FORUM REP! YAY!)
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    starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 11,556 Arc User
    rattler2 wrote: »
    starkaos wrote: »

    It would be extremely disturbing if any aliens we encounter look just like us with maybe a few differences caused by environment. So having 4 feet or 7 feet tall human-looking aliens due to having a stronger or weaker gravity compared to Earth.

    Disturbing... but also kinda possible. Humanoid forms are kinda... useful in interacting with ones environment. But then again we could run into non-humanoids.

    Only time will tell.

    Not humanoids, but humans and only humans. Star Trek used the excuse of some alien race seeding the galaxy so humanoids are the most common shape for sapient beings. Another possibility is that God created us and all other alien races in his image. Have no idea how evolution could be used to explain every sapient race looking exactly like humans.
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    mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
    starkaos wrote: »
    rattler2 wrote: »
    starkaos wrote: »

    It would be extremely disturbing if any aliens we encounter look just like us with maybe a few differences caused by environment. So having 4 feet or 7 feet tall human-looking aliens due to having a stronger or weaker gravity compared to Earth.

    Disturbing... but also kinda possible. Humanoid forms are kinda... useful in interacting with ones environment. But then again we could run into non-humanoids.

    Only time will tell.

    Not humanoids, but humans and only humans. Star Trek used the excuse of some alien race seeding the galaxy so humanoids are the most common shape for sapient beings. Another possibility is that God created us and all other alien races in his image. Have no idea how evolution could be used to explain every sapient race looking exactly like humans.

    I think a big topic in general of evolution and even before evolution in the traditional sense is the question:
    "Is all of this a random fluke allowed by the laws of physics, or do the physical laws actually imply the formation of certain matter arrangements that eventually turn into life?"
    "Even if you take somewhat different preconditions, but the same laws of physics, do eventually the same things happen?"

    I recently read an an article on some theoretical research for the "Physics of Life" where a scientist suggests that "life" is a natural result of the laws of thermodynamics. He suggests that at least under certain conditions, groups of atoms will naturally restructure themselves so they consume more and more energy, basically increasing entropy more rapidly. He has (simplified) models that seem to confirm this. It's still a far step from applying this to real world chemicals or life, though. But in general, life can be seen as exactly such "group of atoms", as we constantly consume energy and our consumptions tends to increase (as we grow, make off-spring... and so on).
    Star Trek Online Advancement: You start with lowbie gear, you end with Lobi gear.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    I find it highly unlikely that an alien would resemble anything Terrestrial. Given the vast differences among Earth life, which appears to all have evolved from a single ancestor, it would be a huge coincidence that any alien would have evolved similarly on a world with a very different original species and environmental factors.

    Imagine corals, for example, attempting to breed without a moon to aid them in their coordinated spawning cycles. Now multiply this by about three billion years of other differences, and the animals responsible for so much carbon reduction in Earth's oceans have either never evolved or they have evolved in such a way that they never resemble corals at all.

    Star Trek says that most life was seeded by The Preservers, which resulted in the evolution of large numbers of humanoids, but for most of three billion years humanoids have been completely absent from our environment. The emergence of protosimians is an extremely recent phenomenon. It would take some serious genetic programming to seed worlds with life that requires billions of years and quintillions of generations to achieve its programmed function. Preservers are awesome!

    But there is a Panspermia theory which says that life is transmitted through space, possibly trapped in water-and-hydrocarbon ice, and this explains the almost immediate rise of life once Earth cooled enough for life to survive. A reduced version of this theory says Mars was the original habitable world. Both of these theories fail to explain the single original species issue, given that there must have been multiple arrivals from spacefaring organisms.

    If interstellar panspermia is more than just a theory, we might go to the stars and discover life everywhere based on the same principles as our own. But even in that case, the independent evolution of other world life would be unlikely to result in humanoids.

    But if life is rare, we'd have a huge ethical responsibility to preserve, or at least not disturb, it.
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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,409 Arc User
    Four limbs are a reasonable compromise for dealing with a terrestrial environment. Any number from three to six would leave at least one appendage free for manipulation, while not using too much brain real estate for coordination of said limbs (a whale has a brain far larger than yours or mine, but most of it is taken up with the job of running that enormous body and navigating in three dimensions).

    That still leaves quite a lot of room for differing forms, obviously - for instance, Niven's Known Space gives us humans, kzinti, kdatlyno (lacking eyes, they navigate by sonar - their artwork is best experienced by touch), Pierson's puppeteers (three legs, the two "arms" are long flexible necks with flat, brainless heads that serve as hands - the brain is located between the necks), and grogs (the distant descendants of the thrintun who once ruled the Galaxy, their immature form is presapient and four-limbed - at maturity, the adult settles onto a rock, the brain develops further, the limbs atrophy, and they use the last remnant of their ancestors' telepathic control of others to impel small animals to come climb into their mouths). Niven and Pournelle together also gave us the Moties, the only known sapient aliens in the Empire of Man, which have two legs, two small and agile right arms, one massive, powerful left arm, and a "spine" that's built up out of a series of three long bones with ball-and-socket-style joints. (Their ultimate ancestor would appear to have been a sort of six-limbed rat-equivalent, with the various mutations arising from possibly millions of years of cycles of nuclear war caused by their unusual life cycle.)

    Carbon is regarded as the most likely basis for life because it forms long molecules with other elements with minimal energy input - it's basically the TRIBBLE of elements. Silicon is slightly less profligate, and also requires more energy to form long molecules, so it's a less likely candidate for the basis of life.
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    mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
    It is an important thing to consider that we're definitely not made up from some weird form of matter. We're not using gold and Strontium or whatever as basis, all life on Earth uses some of the most common elements in the universe as basis. This is an argument that we're not that might not be that special, and if we're looking for life elsewhere, we should expect it to based on the same. And from there, certain similarities in form, shape and details might follow. But that still leaves a lot of room for practical incompatibility... Horses can digest grass, we can't.
    Star Trek Online Advancement: You start with lowbie gear, you end with Lobi gear.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Niven's aliens are awesome examples of extrapolation from what is known. And when he gets it wrong, (Protectors, for example,) it is usually due to the advancement of the state of the art rather than his mistaken understanding of the science. (When Protectors were first dreamed up it wasn't long after the discovery of Lucy, and DNA sequencing was not yet known. The search for 'the missing link' was on at full speed, and while Lucy was but the first of the protohuman discoveries to come, Niven used what was known at the time to explain the supposed gap in the evolutionary record of humanity.)

    Star Trek has never been overly concerned with science. In fact, most of the science in Trek got there via retcon. Science fiction runs from 'real' science to 'speculative' science, (another way of saying fantasy.) Star Trek and Known Space are almost at opposite ends of this scale, but both weave science and fantasy to create their stories.

    Either way, the idea that there is a 'natural' uniformity of appearance or function appears to me incredible due to the variety of forms which have evolved on Earth from a common ancestor in a common environment. There are certainly things we know based on our experience, but you should see some of the odd forms which evolved in a computer program created by Mr. Sims. Motility comes in a weird varity of forms. The idea that we understand all the ways a creature could use to manipulate objects is questionable given the many varieties of motility which either never evolved or which quickly evolved out of existence on Earth.

    This doesn't mean I reject the idea of parallel evolution. Look at sharks, ichthyosaurs, and dolphins for an example of this in action. But the variety of forms of fish alone demonstrates that nature as we know it loves variety.
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    rattler2rattler2 Member, Star Trek Online Moderator Posts: 58,205 Community Moderator
    brian334 wrote: »
    But the variety of forms of fish alone demonstrates that nature as we know it loves variety.

    While that is true... we should also considera few other things. While Sharks, Ichthyosaurs, and Dolphins are different species, they have similar body profiles suited to their natural environments. And if we look at the various species of big cats, they all share similar body types despite having evolved in different environments, for example the Bengal Tiger vs the African Lion vs the American Couger/Mountain Lion.
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    I can't take it anymore! Could everyone just chill out for two seconds before something CRAZY happens again?!
    The nut who actually ground out many packs. The resident forum voice of reason (I HAZ FORUM REP! YAY!)
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Bengal Tigers and African Lions share an ancestor recently enough that viable hybrids are possible. Cougars aren't much farther removed from that point of divergence on that family tree. Heck, Felis Familiaris is a modern descendent of the common ancestor of all cats which evolved only 30 million or so years ago, and so Felix is also a cousin of those big cats.

    Alien life would have had at least three billion years of divergence if there is a common ancestral species. Given what happened to cats in 30 million years, imagine one hundred times that amount of time. Also, consider that much of that time was while the original species were microbes which had hundreds of generations per year evolving to suit an environment other than Earth's.

    Interstellar craft, no matter the time they are intended to be between stars, must carry what is needed to start a new biosphere capable of sustaining humanity. What we inherited on Earth is billions of years of soil creation. Soil is the key. Simple sand and clay are not enough for the average plant: there are fungi, anaerobic and areobic microbes, insects, worms of various types, and complex interactions between them, the importance of which is still being studied.

    This key technology trumps any other consideration, and it is a primary reason I am an advocate of a Mars colony. If we can learn to desalinate Martian dirt and grow the life forms which are required to break down the minerals required to fertilize the plants we require both to eat and to feed our livestock, we'll have overcome one of the major hurdles to realizing an interstellar colony ship.
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    starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 11,556 Arc User
    Parallel evolution could apply to technology as well. If interstellar ships requires a ring shape to create the proper warp geometry, then alien and human ships will have a similar look. Star Trek is filled with variations of warp drives even though there are other interstellar technologies available.

    As far as soil technology being a part of an important part of interstellar colonies, it all depends on if we want to remain as a planetary creatures or not. Some asteroids contain ice and/or carbon so it is possible to live off of asteroids provided we can convert Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen into food.

    Personally, I am not a fan of terraforming since it completely destroys a planet's ecosystem to satisfy our desires. Genetic engineering colonists to adapt to a planet's ecosystem is far more ethical and cheaper.

    Starting a Mars Colony seems to be extremely premature due to the distances involved compared to starting with a Lunar Colony. If something goes wrong on the Moon, then it will only take a few days for a rescue mission while it will take months for a rescue mission involving a Mars Colony.
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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,409 Arc User
    In most SF universes, there's only one way to exceed lightspeed (Known Space's hyperdrive, the Empire of Man and their Alderson Drive, the hyperspace of Babylon 5, etc). Brin's Five Galaxies universe is unusual in that there are at least five known drives; which ones you use dictate a lot of your ship's appearance (the Streaker, in Startide Rising, was a repurposed Thenannin hull, studded with long reality anchors used with the Level 3 hyperdrive so you could get back to your home continuum when you shut the drive down).

    If designers had maintained attention to the supposed limitations of the warp drive in Star Trek, all warp ships would feature geometrically-balanced warp engines with some separation from the hull (as with the paired nacelles of the Connie, the triple nacelles of the Federation-class dreadnought and the Galaxy-X, or the quad nacelles of the Constellation-class heavy cruiser). However, someone came up with a really neat-looking compact design for the Defiant-class, so that particular limitation had to go by the board. Pity, I think, but it is what it is.

    So, in partial answer to the initial inquiry, what your starship looks like depends on what it's supposed to do. If it's a sublight generational ship, it might well look like a large hollowed-out asteroid, with drive units (or a large crater left by the bombs, if it's an Orion-drive craft) at the aft end, and probably a completely unnecessary but emotionally satisfying window at the bow. It it's superluminal, it all depends on the characteristics and limitations of your drive systems.
    Lorna-Wing-sig.png
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    rattler2rattler2 Member, Star Trek Online Moderator Posts: 58,205 Community Moderator
    Well... in defense of the Defiant, while the nacelles are not seperated from the main hull on pylons, they are still paired and set up in a way that they can "see" each other still by dipping below the hull. So in a way the Defiant still follows the established rules of Trek Warp Drive. My theory on single nacelle ships like the Kelvin is that they have two sets of warp coils in their nacelle rather than just one, which allows for the single nacelle ship to still follow the "paired nacelles" rule most species follow. But then we have ships like the B'rel and the D'kora who have no visible nacelles whatsoever.

    And technically Babylon 5 doesn't have FTL at all. All travel is still done at sublight. Its just that sublight travel in Hyperspace covers greater distances. They just enter an alternate dimension, travel through it, and pop out where they want. In a way it would be like comparing two hikers taking different trails. Both are traveling at the same speed, but one is taking a longer, roundabout way (normal space) while the other is taking a more direct route (hyperspace) to reach the same location.

    I'll throw a couple more FTLs out there.
    Battletech's Jump Drives. The Kearny-Fuchida Drive allows for instant FTL jumps up to 30 lightyears, but then have to spend up to a week recharging either by use of a Solar Sail or "hot loading" with the Jumpship's fusion reactor. Some people suffer from Transit Disorientation Syndrome, aka Jumpshock, after a jump.
    http://www.sarna.net/wiki/JumpShip

    Wing Commander's Jump Drives. The Jump Drives used in Wing Commander allow for ships to transit from one system to another at predetermined points in space. Generally the activation of the Jump Drive manifests as a form of Wormhole opening. In this way, ships are able to leapfrog from system to system. In Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom, it was mentioned that the TCS Vesuvius was limited to a standard jump route to Sol, while the smaller BWS Intrepid could take a faster route to intercept due to her smaller size, implying that some Jump routes may in fact impose limits on which size ships can transit.
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    I can't take it anymore! Could everyone just chill out for two seconds before something CRAZY happens again?!
    The nut who actually ground out many packs. The resident forum voice of reason (I HAZ FORUM REP! YAY!)
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    terlokiterloki Member Posts: 287 Arc User
    rattler2 wrote: »
    But then we have ships like the B'rel and the D'kora who have no visible nacelles whatsoever.

    Well this probably isn't canon at all, but the B'rel owner's manual says that the warp field is generated using plating in the wings as basically very flat "coils" and charging the whole assembly with plasma. Though why they fold up out of line-of-sight for warp travel in that case is another matter.
    Admiral Katrina Tokareva - U.S.S. Cosmos, Yorktown-class Star Cruiser
    Admiral Dananra Lekall - R.R.W. Teverresh, Deihu-class Warbird
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Aside from Alcubierre Drive, I'm unaware of any real science which would result in effectively FTL travel, and so far the AD is just an interesting math problem. I hope it turns out to be something more, but I cannot count on it to get us to the stars.

    By the same token, I discount cold sleep and artificial gravity. While both may prove possible, we cannot extrapolate them from what is known today.
    starkaos wrote: »
    Parallel evolution could apply to technology as well. If interstellar ships requires a ring shape to create the proper warp geometry, then alien and human ships will have a similar look. Star Trek is filled with variations of warp drives even though there are other interstellar technologies available.

    As far as soil technology being a part of an important part of interstellar colonies, it all depends on if we want to remain as a planetary creatures or not. Some asteroids contain ice and/or carbon so it is possible to live off of asteroids provided we can convert Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen into food.

    Personally, I am not a fan of terraforming since it completely destroys a planet's ecosystem to satisfy our desires. Genetic engineering colonists to adapt to a planet's ecosystem is far more ethical and cheaper.

    Starting a Mars Colony seems to be extremely premature due to the distances involved compared to starting with a Lunar Colony. If something goes wrong on the Moon, then it will only take a few days for a rescue mission while it will take months for a rescue mission involving a Mars Colony.

    I'm counting on those asteroids, and Kuiper Belt objects, which have the elements of life to fuel and provision my proposed interstellar craft. But what is the most efficient way to convert those elements into forms from which our bodies can derive nutrients? Our bodies need sugars and amino acids, not raw elements. Plants do this, and they do it best in living soil in which the various life forms competitively cooperate to break down dirt into forms which can nourish plants.

    Again, I don't advocate we ever inhabit a world with an existing biosphere. I advocate we colonize and terraform worlds which are more like a warm Mars: barren but within the liquid water belt of a mostly stable star. Aside from the ethical considerations concerning conservation versus the destruction of habitats, there are practical reasons to avoid interactions between Terran and alien life.

    Starting a Mars colony may well prove premature, but there are huge incentives to begin on Mars first, not the least of which is an abundance of CO2 and nitrogen in its atmosphere from which we can derive both oxygen and food. Luna, sadly, lacks any atmosphere at all, so the creation of farms on the moon would require importing vast amounts of water and air.

    Fear of failure is a real concern, but not one which should prevent the attempt. I'd take a one way trip to Mars today even if I knew the colony was doomed because even in failure great accomplishments will be made which would allow the next attempt to learn and do it better. Plus, my death on Mars would add 100 kilos of biomatter to the future Martian ecology.

    Politicians fear failure because it would cost them too much in prestige and popularity. Politicians are effectively cowards, following the path of least risk. This is also the path of slow or no growth and stagnation of progress. Gain only comes from risk. This is a problem risk takers can solve, but only by getting out there and trying.

    Look at the risk undertaken by the first humans to migrate out of Africa. Many died along the way, and many more died building a life in new lands. Thanks to their attempts, we now dominate the planet, but all our eggs are still in one basket. It's time for us to take the next step on our migration to the stars.

    Plan for the risk, but don't let it stop you. Learn, adapt, and then move on to the next step.
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    starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 11,556 Arc User
    brian334 wrote: »
    Again, I don't advocate we ever inhabit a world with an existing biosphere. I advocate we colonize and terraform worlds which are more like a warm Mars: barren but within the liquid water belt of a mostly stable star. Aside from the ethical considerations concerning conservation versus the destruction of habitats, there are practical reasons to avoid interactions between Terran and alien life.

    Starting a Mars colony may well prove premature, but there are huge incentives to begin on Mars first, not the least of which is an abundance of CO2 and nitrogen in its atmosphere from which we can derive both oxygen and food. Luna, sadly, lacks any atmosphere at all, so the creation of farms on the moon would require importing vast amounts of water and air.

    Fear of failure is a real concern, but not one which should prevent the attempt. I'd take a one way trip to Mars today even if I knew the colony was doomed because even in failure great accomplishments will be made which would allow the next attempt to learn and do it better. Plus, my death on Mars would add 100 kilos of biomatter to the future Martian ecology.

    Politicians fear failure because it would cost them too much in prestige and popularity. Politicians are effectively cowards, following the path of least risk. This is also the path of slow or no growth and stagnation of progress. Gain only comes from risk. This is a problem risk takers can solve, but only by getting out there and trying.

    Look at the risk undertaken by the first humans to migrate out of Africa. Many died along the way, and many more died building a life in new lands. Thanks to their attempts, we now dominate the planet, but all our eggs are still in one basket. It's time for us to take the next step on our migration to the stars.

    Plan for the risk, but don't let it stop you. Learn, adapt, and then move on to the next step.

    We have to create a Lunar Base anyway due to the scientific and industrial applications of building on a planetary body with a negligible atmosphere. Most hazardous industrial processes and scientific research could be done on the Moon safely. There is no need to worry about some deadly toxin getting into the atmosphere and causing thousands or millions of deaths if it is done on the Moon. Just vent the toxin into space and let the cold vacuum of space deal with it. Besides, most of the technology used in creating a Lunar Base would be used to create a Mars Colony and we can further refine the technology by going to the Moon first.
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    markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
    starkaos wrote: »
    As far as soil technology being a part of an important part of interstellar colonies, it all depends on if we want to remain as a planetary creatures or not. Some asteroids contain ice and/or carbon so it is possible to live off of asteroids provided we can convert Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen into food.

    Personally, I am not a fan of terraforming since it completely destroys a planet's ecosystem to satisfy our desires. Genetic engineering colonists to adapt to a planet's ecosystem is far more ethical and cheaper.
    Soil isn't that hard to make. We do it all the time on Earth.

    Also... you're assuming the target planet HAS an ecosystem.
    brian334 wrote: »
    Bengal Tigers and African Lions share an ancestor recently enough that viable hybrids are possible. Cougars aren't much farther removed from that point of divergence on that family tree. Heck, Felis Familiaris is a modern descendent of the common ancestor of all cats which evolved only 30 million or so years ago, and so Felix is also a cousin of those big cats.
    that's um... nice... but for a second example let's look at the Thylacine(AKA Tasmanian wolf/tiger).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnT5vNE7LMI
    Looks amazingly similar to a wolf or big cat doesn't it? Yet it's a marsupial.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Yes, and sharks look a lot like ichthyosaurs, which look a lot like dolphins. That's a fish, reptile, and mammal. Australian Possums and American Oppossums are on very different branches of the marsupial family tree, but they look similar enough that a layman might not be able to tell they aren't closely related species. There are certianly many examples of evolution in which very different species evolve similar shapes to deal with similar problems.

    But there are many more which do not. Crabs and lobsters, for example, share a common ancestor with insects and spiders. There are many arthropods which appear similar, but there are multitudes which do not for every similar pair. Who would even inagine a devil ray is in any way related to a great white shark?

    As for soil creation: it's not as easy as most people think. Topsoil is a prized commodity to growers, and they tend their soil like it was itself a crop. When extending plantings farmers have a three billion year old soil culture to work with. A new planet won't have this, and very likely also has toxins of various kinds which 'dirt farmers' will have to extract before they can even begin to grow topsoil suitable for planting Terrestrial life.

    I'm not saying it's too hard, give up before we start. I'm saying to look at each problem realistically and solve them. That's technological advance.
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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,409 Arc User
    brian334 wrote: »
    A new planet won't have this, and very likely also has toxins of various kinds which 'dirt farmers' will have to extract before they can even begin to grow topsoil suitable for planting Terrestrial life.
    For instance, on Mars we'll need to figure out a way to leach the perchlorates out of the soil - they're useful for rocket fuel, but lethal to most life forms (down to the bacterial level).

    Luna has most of the problems of Mars coupled with most of the problems of space. Personally, I'd prefer to put manufacturing facilities in free space, as then you can take advantage of the microgravity environment for manufacturing (perfectly spherical ball bearings, for instance, or alloys that normally separate out due to gravity). You'd want a centrifuge to enable processes that require gravity as well, of course.

    On the other hand, there's ice at the Lunar south pole, hidden in craters that have never seen the sun (if anyone tells you to stick something where the sun doesn't shine? That's where it goes). It's also possible that there may be ice beneath the surface, as postulated by Heinlein in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, where ice mining provided both air resupply and water for growing crops.

    Also, NASA has recently figured out why astronauts on extended microgravity missions start to develop terrible nearsightedness (which doesn't always go away after landing) - turns out that in zero g, cerebrospinal fluid pools around the brain and optic nerves, putting pressure on the nerves. Next step is to figure out what the minimal level of gravity is that's needed to prevent this - I would think it would probably be at any level at which you can instantly tell up from down, but it may be more than that. If it's over 1/6g, lunar colonization doesn't work; over .3g, and Mars is right out. On the other hand, if it's as little as .1g, it should be possible to build deep-space ships with rotating sections for that level of gravity, and our hypothetical starship might start to look like a titanic version of the Discovery One from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It would have to be much larger, because the lifesystem would have to be able to handle more than three people for a period much, much longer than the film's two-year flight to Jupiter.
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    starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 11,556 Arc User
    brian334 wrote: »
    As for soil creation: it's not as easy as most people think. Topsoil is a prized commodity to growers, and they tend their soil like it was itself a crop. When extending plantings farmers have a three billion year old soil culture to work with. A new planet won't have this, and very likely also has toxins of various kinds which 'dirt farmers' will have to extract before they can even begin to grow topsoil suitable for planting Terrestrial life.

    I'm not saying it's too hard, give up before we start. I'm saying to look at each problem realistically and solve them. That's technological advance.

    Then there is the issue of growing plants on different planets. Terrestrial planets had millions of years to adapt to Earth's environment. If we terraform an alien planet into an exact copy of Earth, then we could use the same topsoil found here. However, gravity, atmosphere, native bacteria, and other factors could require specially formulated topsoil for edible terrestrial plants to grow on alien worlds. We already see certain foods change their flavor by growing them in different countries.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Yeah, as I keep saying, if there is life already there, skip that one and move on. Find a world without life and terraform there.

    And @johnsills, the 2001:A Space Oddessy Discovery has two major problems: a weak point where the rotating portion of the ship joins the nonrotating part, and a majority of the ship has no pseudogravity at all. This is an issue with cylinders, spheres, or any solid object. An incidental issue is just how fast such a small radius object has to spin to simulate gravity.

    Why build a ship with a rotating part when the whole thing can easily spin? And why not extend that radius so that your pseudogravity can be significant? Just build the rotating part of Discovery and leave the spindle part out.

    That brings us back to the bicycle tire shape.
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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,409 Arc User
    The "spindle" on the Discovery One was to set the NERVA-style nuclear fission engines (the drive system Clarke thought would be best, at the time) far enough away from the lifesystem that they wouldn't have to worry about the radiation. Depending on what drive system you're using for your ship, that might not be a concern - for instance, if you're using an advanced variety of VASIMR drive for constant thrust, and running it off a nice proven design like a nuclear fission reactor.

    My understanding is that there are technical reasons why you don't want your thrusters spinning along with the rest of your craft, but am not intimately familiar (yet) with the complexities of design involved. It may well be that anchoring your drive to a spinning framework would not in fact cause any problems. On the other hand, you'll want that tire to be enormous, in order to avoid Coriolis issues.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    It already has to be big to hold life systems for a minimum of 200 people and their livestock and enough farm acreage to sustain them.

    And fission is not my first choice for a power supply due to the necessity to operate breeder type reactors to maintain a supply of radioactive fuel, due to the short half-life of highly radioactive elements. Even thorium reactors would require refueling in a voyage which could potentially be hundreds of years or more between launch and the establishment of a viable colony. It would certainly work, but nuclear fission power isn't my preferred power supply.

    Typical fission fuel rods last about six years. They can then be reprocessed to extract the unspent U238 for re-use, along with plutonium and other short-lived radioactive fuels for the manufacture of new fuel rods. This means that if the nuclear powered craft can't get where it needs to be in six years, a major undertaking of the crew will be in processing the nuclear fuel to breed more nuclear fuel in a game of diminishing returns from a finite resource.

    Nerva type engines also suffer this handicap, in that they provide diminishing returns over time, and you cannot carry extra fuel because radioactives continue to decay whether you are using that decay to boil water or not.

    Which is why I chose fusion power. It uses up fuel, but you can carry a lot of deuterium ice which also doubles as a crash shield for very tiny objects which might impact a fast moving ship in interstellar space. We don't have reliable deuterium fusion yet, but with luck it is coming soon. And deuterium fusion might lead to hydrogen fusion, but that may not occur soon enough or may prove to be unsustainable. We're not ready to do fusion power from any fuel yet, but there are already fusion reactors which work at a net power loss and some interesting experiments coming in the next two decades which look promising for real 'clean' energy. (No such thing as clean energy because if nothing else there will be waste heat, which could prove useful to an interstellar craft far from the home fires of Sol.)

    You are correct that spin will cause issues, not the least of which is flexion between the engine mounting and the spaces between the engines. My bicycle tire will wobble, and that will create a cascade of structural issues, but think of the tire as a suspension bridge which is whipped by winds. The Tacoma Narrows bridge comes to mind as an example of the problem, but it is a solveable problem. My proposed .001g electrically powered ion thruster engines might actually prove beneficial due to the very limited ability that such engines have to apply stress to the structure.

    And now you've given me an idea: Nerva type motors to provide high thrust for the first years, with diminishing returns over time as their nuclear fuel supplies degrade, and ion engines to continue to accelerate to the 'halfway' point, and to put on the brakes the rest of the way. When the craft reaches its destination the Nervas become engines for exploratory craft once the colonists find a source of radioactives to power them.Heck, build them into the craft before you go and mount the craft as if they were demountable engines.
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    mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
    Since we don't have efficient fusion reactors yet, I would probably try to avoid relying on them in my speculation. On the other hand, that might just break the whole idea of interstellar spaceship.

    As I learned a while ago, fusion reactor shielding might be bombarded with neutrons an will need replenishment over time. This could make it just as problematic as fission reactors. The stuff that's technically fuel might be easily attainable, but the thing you're shielding the reactor with might turn into your actual fuel problem.
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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,409 Arc User
    I had left out fusion because we don't know how to do it yet. Recent work in Europe indicates that we may be able to develop a fusion reactor within 20 years, but I've been hearing that song for most of the last 50 years, so...
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    markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
    edited August 2017
    brian334 wrote: »
    As for soil creation: it's not as easy as most people think. Topsoil is a prized commodity to growers, and they tend their soil like it was itself a crop. When extending plantings farmers have a three billion year old soil culture to work with. A new planet won't have this, and very likely also has toxins of various kinds which 'dirt farmers' will have to extract before they can even begin to grow topsoil suitable for planting Terrestrial life.
    Oh, I've done it. The easy way is to take existing topsoil mix it with non-soil dirt, and grow something in it. Sounds time consuming? Enh, you could at least in theory make it in large batches in a giant tumbler and dump it on the ground with grass and clover seeds mixed into it. But as you said, that only works if there aren't any toxic chemicals.
    Then there is the issue of growing plants on different planets. Terrestrial planets had millions of years to adapt to Earth's environment. If we terraform an alien planet into an exact copy of Earth, then we could use the same topsoil found here. However, gravity, atmosphere, native bacteria, and other factors could require specially formulated topsoil for edible terrestrial plants to grow on alien worlds. We already see certain foods change their flavor by growing them in different countries.
    Heh, "other factors", actually you left out one of the most important, sunlight. Plants don't have the ability to absorb the entire visual spectrum. Lots of people think Chlorophyll is green, well... some kinds are. But some are red, yellow, or blue and not all plants have all of the forms. Thus you would need to choose plants that can absorb the light of whatever sun their new home has. For example: Bluegrass would do well in red sunlight, but poorly in blue.
    jonsills wrote: »
    The "spindle" on the Discovery One was to set the NERVA-style nuclear fission engines (the drive system Clarke thought would be best, at the time) far enough away from the lifesystem that they wouldn't have to worry about the radiation. Depending on what drive system you're using for your ship, that might not be a concern - for instance, if you're using an advanced variety of VASIMR drive for constant thrust, and running it off a nice proven design like a nuclear fission reactor.

    My understanding is that there are technical reasons why you don't want your thrusters spinning along with the rest of your craft, but am not intimately familiar (yet) with the complexities of design involved. It may well be that anchoring your drive to a spinning framework would not in fact cause any problems. On the other hand, you'll want that tire to be enormous, in order to avoid Coriolis issues.
    I think it depends on the exact specifics of the drive system in use. Any drive system that's designed to have a single point of thrust wouldn't work well unless it's the center of the wheel.

    This reminds me of a book I read once where there was a group of giant clam-like aliens who used dumbbell shaped ships. Each section had a set of engines and whenever the ship wasn't doing precision movements, they'd make it spin to create artificial gravity.
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    starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 11,556 Arc User
    Considering that it will take decades or for any type of interstellar ship to be developed, using forms of travel we are familiar with is premature. Great for giving a reasonable explanation to science fiction novels, but that is it. After all, we might come up with some new form of travel in the next few decades or use something that we consider ridiculous like prayer, ritual, or moral indignation.
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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,409 Arc User
    Yeah, that hasn't been working out that well for poor Kim lately - the only reason she's still around is because the city's robots took a liking to her and helped her build a full-prosthetic body.

    And we're trying to figure it out based on known physics, because unknown physics can take us straight into Sufficiently Advanced Technology territory (although I'm hoping there doesn't turn out to be a stardrive that's powered by human sacrifice...).
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