April 25, 2006

Colonizing space : a lot of trips and a lot of stuff to move

Technologically we could colonize space using Orion rocket technology. We could have and could still land thousands of people and tens of thousands of tons of supplies and equipment. Making a viable self sustaining colony. It would take a president with 100 times the vision of Kennedy to have done this.

Costs have to come down for space and there needs to be a space based economy.
What is the economy for a moon colony ? Platinum maybe. helium three in the future. tourism.
The orbital economy, space based solar power, tourism and entertainment.

We have a longer wait for more countries and companies to get into the space game. this will make colonization and space more competitive and progress less dependent upon a now quite ineffective US government space program.

Reference on historical colonization.
About 350,000 people migrated to the Americas in the 1600's. 1.5 million in the 1700's. By 1670, There 500 crossings going up to 1500 by 1730. Each of the ships could carry up to 200 or so colonists. Many were moving tons goods back and forth. Various supplies one way and furs and other stuff the other way.

Point being: to colonize space. You have to make a lot of trips (or move a heck of lot of stuff in fewer trips) and move a lot of stuff and live off the resources that are there. Plus there should be economic reasons or strong societal reasons for it.


RikkiM said...

There's another issue to colonizing space -- it will not be safe to travel for long distances in space until we develop a method of shielding the travelers from protons and other particles that can go through pretty much everything we know about now (except maybe water).

bw said...

Here is some reference to some new light weight ideas for shielding. Plus simple configurations of surrounding crew with the water and supplies that they need. On the moon or Mars people can either dig in or pile the dirt onto their building structures.

Lunar electrostatic radiation shield

Magnetic radiation shield
Space radiation has two distinct problems. One is that cosmic rays expose one to 80 millisieverts per year, well above the maximum safe occupational threshold of 50 mSv, and well above the healthy population maximum of 3 mSv. Another, separate issue is that solar flares occasionally emit very large amounts of soft x-rays, and energetic particles. When these events occur, they can exceed 4 sieverts, the lethal dose for half the population. The most interesting result of the studies was the discovery that large space habitats are effectively shielded by their structure and air, which easily exceeds the two meters of steel needed. Smaller habitats could be shilded by stationary (nonrotating) bags of rock. Sunlight could be admitted via mirrors in radiation-proof louvres.

Various liquids and supplies for stations and large, long term space vehicles can be arranged to surround the crew.

bw said...

btw: Rikkim, I appreciate your comment.

One other aspect is that with bigger ships, transporting hundreds of people there will have more supplies , structure and mass to provide shielding.

I also think that by developing non-chemical propulsion (magnetically inflated superconducting cables to make multi-kilometer solar collectors and concentrators. 200MW achievable in about 5 years, 18GW in 10-15 with significant investment. Using that to power some ion or MPD drive, could provide something with high thrust (thousands of newtons) and high ISP (10000-30000). 3-9 days to Mars on a close pass.